A morning monster, tamed only by caffeine

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 21, 2011

Dear Carolyn:

My fiance and I have been together for three years. He is, to put it gently, not a morning person. In fact, the slightest interaction with him before he's had his coffee can provoke a torrent of hostility, bordering on verbal abuse. Being talked to like this always triggers, in me, feelings of rage and disbelief. I have to restrain the immediate urge to fight back and defend myself, or else an argument ensues, and let me tell you, there is no more draining way to start your day than an early-morning fight with Mr. Nasty.

Now, the obvious solution is to just avoid him until he's had his coffee. He is actually a completely normal and kind person once caffeine has entered his bloodstream. However, he doesn't drink coffee in the house. His ritual is to stop at Starbucks on his way to work, where he puts in long, long hours as a professional chef. The 45 minutes before he leaves the house can be the only time we have to speak to each other about events unfolding that day, as well as general household business (we live together and have a dog). I need some outside perspective here.

Mr. Nasty's wife-to-be

Okay: Your tiptoeing around him is neither obvious nor a solution.

The obvious solution is just for him to start his day with a trip to the coffeepot at home. If he won't make even that small adjustment in his routine to stop himself from verbally abusing you, then you move to obvious solution 2: Get out. Don't even consider entrusting yourself to someone who's okay with being hostile to you.

Dear Carolyn:

How does one best acknowledge/apologize for one's own apparent hypocrisy? I have two children I adopted from Romania, both autistic. When I first became a parent, I was self-righteous about it to the point of outrageousness - some friends of mine rightly accused me of judging them for birthing instead of adopting their kids. I'm not proud of this.

I later got married and now we're expecting a bio baby. I will be shocked if I don't receive a lot of jokes/grief about this. Any advice?


By "apparent," please tell me you mean "readily seen; visible," and not "seeming."

Either way, you earned the grief, so my advice is just to square yourself and take it: "I deserve all the tomatoes you can throw. I'm not proud of how self-righteous I was, and I'm sorry." With any luck, they'll be as tolerant of human frailty as you wish you had been.

I hope this won't be the first time you're apologizing, though, because that would mean you waited till you were pregnant. With the baby set to expose you any day/week/month from now, you're essentially confessing because you're about to get caught. That won't help your credibility.

Still, there are three things your timing doesn't affect: You did a brave and compassionate thing, adopting special-needs children; you're (apparently) holding yourself accountable for getting puffed up about that; and . . . congratulations. Even when the message is tough to deliver, good news is still good news.

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