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Tell Me About It author Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax
The Washington Post
Tell Me About It Later, Live
T r a n s c r i p t

Hosted by Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, February 14, 2000, 8 p.m. EST

Appearing every Friday and Sunday in The Washington Post Style section, Tell Me About It offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there - really recently. Carolyn Hax is a 32-year-old displaced New Englander and eight-year newspaper veteran with still-married parents, three older sisters, a mad-artist husband and way too many shoes. Her "expertise" (she added the quotation marks, we didn't) is in bad dates, school pressures, strict parents and dubious decisions, and she specializes in stupid teenage stunts, which she likes to call "learning experiences."

Tonight's talk ended at 9 p.m. Check out the transcript below or read Carolyn's column from today's Post. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column. Until next Monday night (or Friday at 12 EST), feel free to e-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.


Austin, Texas: Carolyn: Love the chats & column...sorry if I'm whining here, but how do I best cope with my hurt feelings from not being invited to a former roommate's wedding? It's true that we hadn't kept in touch since college graduation two years ago... but two of the other roommates were asked to be bridesmaids, and from what I understood, they hadn't exactly been terrific correspondents either -they hadn't heard from her in over a year until she suddenly announced she had moved to Boston, was getting married and wanted them to be bridesmaids-. I guess the bride and I weren't as close as the bridesmaids & bride, but it still stings...is that wrong? If I haven't received an invitation by now for an April wedding I can safely assume I'm not invited? Is it best to just brush it off and say, "Well, that's one less person to invite to my wedding."? A little history: I've had minor fallings-out with this group of friends, true, but it's nothing compared to the soapy, fiery melodramas I kept walking into between the bride and one of her bridesmaids!

Carolyn Hax: There there, you can whine here. It's tough to be dissed. But all the information you need to mend is in your question: You weren't that close to her when you lived with her, you didn't stay in touch (YOUR choice as much as hers) and she tends toward the dramatic. If you were invited to the wedding, you'd go, have a decent enough time, and then resume not keeping in touch with her ever after--which means you probably shouldn't be there. Let it go.

Washington DC: Hey, Pregnant girl here -from Friday's chat-

I would like to say a big thank you to Carolyn and to the other women who emailed advice. I called the VA Center for Women this weekend, but it was not what I expected -they wanted me to make an appointment for counseling, when I thought I could talk directly to someone on the phone-. But I'm sure that once the nausea is gone and I have more information on what's happening to me, I'll feel better.

Thanks a lot.

Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry, I should have made that clear; it's not a hot line. I'd still consider the counseling though. Nothing to lose by it. Thanks for writing back, and I second your thanks to all the people who offered other information.

Austin, Tex.: Hi Carolyn,

Happy Valentine's Day. Love your advice.

I broke off a two-year relationship last summer. Tried to be friends, which worked for a while, but then I realized how angry I was at him -- he cheated earlier in the relationship. I've gotten on with my life, but it still hurts sometimes, and even though I've tried to be good about it for the sake of our mutual friends and work connections -who wants to be known as the one who's still hurting?-, I find now that I just don't want to have anything to do with him. The hurt and anger are beginning to fade with time, but I think it's going to take a lot more. Am I just whining? I don't feel like I'm dwelling, but is that what's going on? Should I have gotten past all this by now?

Carolyn Hax: Hello, and thanks.

What I don't understand is this fixation with making everything work. He cheated on you early, and you stayed with him? Even though you were, I assume quite rightly, pissed? And now you think something's wrong with you because you don't want to be friends with him?

This guy was a jerk. The sum total of what you owe jerks is, "See ya."

Somewhere In Georgia: I read Friday's transcript and want you said to the 20-year old who was bad at talking to girls. I am a 29-year old guy who cannot talk to girls. A guy who has had only had a handful of dates in my life and never have had a romance, girlfriend or even been in love. I have just started therapy over this, but do not think it is working. I do not think my life will change, I might feel better but still be alone. So, I hope this guy takes your advice, so he does not end up like me. I wish my someone would have helped me when I was his age. I feel like I have wasted the best years of my life.


Carolyn Hax: No no nononooooonnnoooo! Come on! The learning-to-talk process is the same at 12 and 20 and 29 and 80: You try, you risk making an ass of yourself, you occasionally do make an ass of yourself, and you move on to someone else. If you're not up to the cold introduction, get out there and do stuff you enjoy that also forces you to interact with other human beings. Team sports and volunteering are great practice. Get a part-time job in a coffee shop, or, better, as a bartender.

Has your therapist ruled out a possible anxiety disorder, BTW? Lots of buzz recently about treatable shyness, though how much of it is reliable, I haven't checked yet.

Alexandria, VA: I'm sending this early because I'll be leaving on business later today -the only one in the office unmarried, so I get to leave on Valentine's Day-.


I've blown it really bad. My ex-BF -call him Brad- and I are originally from the Bay Area. I moved out here for career purposes and to avoid a stalking ex-husband. Brad and I had been seeing each other for about a year and were in love.

I arrived here in June and had a difficult time adjusting. I missed Brad and my family. Long story short, Brad moved out here to be with me with no job offer, no friends except me, nothing. He had a hard time finding a job at a similar level to his hold one because he's in advertising, not technology or politics.

And for some reason, the moment he moved out here -at my urging-, I got nervous and felt like I was being tied down. Eventually, I had an affair with my boss and left Brad. He was shocked and deeply hurt.

Five months have passed and now I realize that Brad was "the one." He was a stabilizing force for me. He held me honest to make sure I did the right things in life. He kept me centered and happy. I have turned into a b-tch. I don't like myself at all.

I want to go back, but I don't know how. Our break up was messy. I lied the whole time and have never apologized to him for hurting him so. My friends tell me that it's his fault for reacting so angrily to the break up, but I'm the one who cheated -I've never told anyone.-

Do you think that if I just threw myself at the mercy of his court that we could start up again? I'm considering just coming clean and begging for another chance. But I am concerned that too much damage has been done.

I wish I could turn back time and were still in Berkley.

Please don't publish this in the newspaper.

Thank you.

Carolyn Hax: I have not the slightest idea whether you will win him back, but you lose nothing by trying--if it's the right thing to do. Two things, though, on that topic: It's not a mate's job to keep you honest, it's yours, and you blew it. If you're scraping after Brad to get your stability back, don't bother. Freaky ex + freaking out at Brad + affair + lies = you sound like a mess. That's probably the main source of the self-loathing you feel. You should solve that on your own, before you drag anyone else into it.

Second thing: Brad should get an apology regardless. Say you're sorry, say your problems got in the way, say you're working on them, say goodbye. When you're strong enough, then you can go back and beg.

San Francisco, CA: Dearest Carolyn,
PLEASE help me with this issue: how does a woman deal with a creepy male coworker? This guy is relatively new to our company, and I have to work pretty closely with him. My first impression of him was that he's majorly socially awkward - he seems unable to engage in normal casual conversation until, I guess, he feels comfortable with someone. Like, when you ask him a pleasantry, you get a full report and then some. Or you get a one-word answer. Sometimes he gets stuck on a topic and keeps talking about it, even after the conversation has moved to other subjects.

Other coworkers have subtly commented on this, and while I am careful not to become entangled in any sort of gossipy situation, I feel somewhat validated in my thinking. We are in a heavily people-oriented business, so I find it strange that he's gotten this far in his career without overcoming some of that. Anyway, I figure that's his problem, and he needs to deal-not deal as he sees fit.

BUT, lately, he has offered some personal information that is SO not necessary for me to hear, i.e., medical problems, marital strife, etc . . . Last week, he asked me what he should get his wife for V-Day, and he qualified that by saying something to the effect of "I can't get her what I really want to - she'd never go for it, and besides, we're not honeymooners anymore." Yuck - I need to know this? I can't tell you how uncomfortable I felt after that. While I HATE to blow things out of proportion, I felt like it bordered on sexual harassment. Part of the problem is that he's about fifteen years older than me, and I sometimes feel like he's trying to, I don't know - impress me? relate to me? Do I chalk it all up to the above-mentioned social ineptitude? I find myself avoiding him whenever possible, but I know this isn't always going to be feasible. How do I manage to have a civil, pleasant WORKING relationship with him without being subjected to what I take as his misguided attempts at friendship?

Carolyn Hax: Before you get too far into the harassment territory, try keeping him at arm's length with humor. To his Valentine's Day ickyness, respond with the gag du jour: "That's SO much more information than I needed," then leave if you can. Etc. It's a nonthreatening way to tell him he crossed a line. If that doesn't work, then you can go with the more direct "I'm sorry, that's a bit too personal for me."

Greater DC Metro Area: Carolyn,
Enjoy your chats, but am sorry to see you are having a special Valentine's Day chat tonight. This is a really un-Valentine type question, more like marriage-on-the-rocks.

Here's the problem. My wife and I are going to counseling. You would approve of this, right ? You seem to advise about half of the people who write to you to get counseling. But I've not seen much of anything about what next. Like how long should you go before giving up, realizing it's not going to work?

We have been married 8 years and have been going to this counselor for five months. The reason is infidelity, a one-time thing. I wonder if people ever really get over this kind of thing. Mr Counselor is of no help in this regard. So I'm asking a complete stranger. What do you think ?

Carolyn Hax: That V-day Special thing didn't come from me. I'm just doing the usual gig.

I do recommend counseling a lot, and I appreciate this opportunity to expand on my viewpoint: I don't believe in permacounseling. I like the idea of a referee who'll get the two sides talking in a less accusatory, more constructive way. Once that is accomplished, though--assuming it ever is--the couple has to make a decision. Can they do this? Can they live with this? Can the cheatee take the leap and trust the cheater again? Or at least put his/her whole heart into trying? Yes or no.

Phila, Pa.: Happy Valentine's Day!

-submitting this early because I have plans for V-day at 8pm.-

Anyway, Carolyn, as much as I love you and usually adore your advice, I don't agree with you on one point. During Friday's discussion. someone asked how to throw a birthday party w-o soliciting presents, and you posted a response from another reader suggesting that they just make it a party, not mentioning that it was their birthday. Once at the party, they could have b-day cake , etc. You agreed, saying this was a good idea. Now maybe this is just me, but if I went to a party that turned out to be a birthday party, I would be embarrassed that it was a birthday party and I did not know about it, much less bring a gift. Just thought I bring my slant to the table. Maybe I'm just abnormal. That's all! Love you all, and happy V-day!

Carolyn Hax: If no one else brought a gift, either, what would you have to be embarrassed about? How could you know the unknowable?
I'm sticking to my guns here. If it helps, though, I'm usually the abnormal one.

Washington, DC: Congratulations Ms. Hax I was lucky enough to catch your appearance on NPR's Talk of the Nation today great work! I feel as though I'm present at the birth of a new advice guru for the ages: a less sanctimonious, more realistic, more in-touch, and nicer -though still challenging-, "Dr Laura" for my generation -and for others several older friends of mine -single and not- read you religiously-.

But enough gushing -however much deserved- - here's my question: how do I go about getting back in touch with formerly-close college friends that I abruptly -and without explanation- cut off contact with after graduation? For all extents and purposes I was ashamed and depressed that I wasn't going on to grad school or a high-powered job after graduation -five years ago- as so many of my friends did so I stopped talking to them, not responding to their phone calls or e-mails. Admittedly this was a crappy and stupid thing to do I think I was just tired from four whirlwind years of high-pressure, high-expectation college and frightened that, for the first time in my life, the focus wouldn't be school. Things have gotten better emotion-wise and though I still haven't gussied up the courage to apply to grad school and my job is not something I'm thrilled about, I don't feel as bad about myself as I did right after graduation. But how do I re-establish contact with my college friends? I really do care about these people -although I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to feel good about myself, let alone about my friends in the years following graduation- and I want to show them that I'm still interested in them and their lives. Do I call them -yikes!- and explain "Gee, I was so focused on myself and my pathetic life that I couldn't be bothered to return your phone call of Jan 14, 1996?" Figuring out a way to do this is tough for me since, though I think phoning them would be the best way, I, one, am not the best conversationalist on the telephone -I always lose my train of thought- and two, am not sure these people even want to talk to me anymore. Right now I'm thinking e-mail, but fear that this approach may be too impersonal and that it lets me off the hook too easily. Your opinion and ideas would be appreciated.

Lamer in DC

Carolyn Hax: Thank you! Glad I didn't suck.

The way to go about this is to call them up and explain that you're out of your jerk phase now, yay, and you're sorry you ever had one, and you'd like to stay in touch this time. I know I'd forgive you. It'll help if you start with the one you felt closest to, and draw confidence (I hope) from that. It's nowhere near as bad as you think.

Richmond, VA: This question may have been better suited to last week's Wedding chat, but I'd like to ask anyway.

What do you think of the "traditional" first dance as a couple? If you're into it, what are some of the choices you've heard that really resonated; conversely, what are some songs that really made you wonder what the couple could have been thinking?

Carolyn Hax: None has made me wonder because it's the couple's special thing; what do I care what they play? I'm still waiting to hear, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," though...

Pick what you like.

Arlington, Va: Hey Carolyn!

I'm struggling with something that feels a bit silly, but here goes anyways...

My best friend and I went to the mall shortly before Christmas. She told me she wanted to buy me something special and had me trying on all sorts of very pretty dresses -and expensive--at least for me-. We finally agreed upon a gift certificate because nothing that night was right for me. She enthusiastically agreed.

It is not February 14th and no certificate. It has hurt my feelings. I brought it up around Jan 20th or so and mentioned that it hurt my feelings. She got angry with me for being hurt and said she just hadn't had time to get it.

I have not said anything else because I feel like I'd sound "money hungry". It is not the "gift" but the "I want to do something special since your friendship means so much to me" and then nothing happens.

Have I said enough? Does it warrant saying something else? I've tried to forget about it but the small hurt won't go away.

Thanks for listening!!!!

Carolyn Hax: Not only should you not say anything further, you might look into time travel to relive January. You are right to expect something since she said something was coming, but Gift Law says you can't ever ask, "So, where's my gift?" Sorry about that.

California: Carolyn, we love you and all, but I'm sure that we would have understood if you postponed the chat so that you could be with your husband on Valentines Day!

Carolyn Hax: Oh no--am I a terrible wife?

Bethesda, MD: Dear Carolyn,
Ugh! I feel really bad asking this question, but here goes. I've been married for 8 years, the last several unhappily. No abuse or other horror, was just too young to make wise choice.-Been through counseling, so don't go there please!- I've decided to stick it out awhile longer for the young kid. Hubby meanwhile is in denial. Thinks things "are getting better everyday." Problem: he bought me diamond earrings for Valentine's Day! 1. We can't afford it, which he knows. 2. I really don't want-need them. 3. I REALLY don't want-need them from him. How do I respond? Since he kind of left the present out for me to find, it was easy to avoid initial response. But, I DO need to say something soon.

Carolyn Hax: Be honest, and say they're beautiful, but you both know you can't afford them? Or set them aside for the kid? Or, if straight male kid, for kid to give to his future bride?

Washington, DC: Hi Carolyn and Mary. This is a funny question.

I'm a 22 year old guy. I have what some might consider an inordinate number of pretty, blonde female friends -we're talking 4 or 5-. I consider myself blessed with the number of friends I have, and, though I'm not dating anyone right now, my romantic interests are for one person alone. It crosses my mind that that fact might have something to do with my proliferation of girl friends. Anyway, I also have plenty of male friends with whom I probably spend most of my time, but I suppose I'm a bit closer to the girls in my life. It strikes me as an excellent situation for a college student to be in.
Recently, one of my -pretty, blonde- friends pointed out that I seem to have an awful lot of pretty, blonde friends with kind of similar personalities, and she thinks it's really weird, and not necessarily good for me. So I'm asking what you think. How about guys who have a lot of female friends? Especially pretty ones?

Thank you.

PS: Catch Tony Kornheiser's mention of you? I believe his words were "Carolyn Hax, what a babe." Congratulations, I guess.

Carolyn Hax: Never thought I'd be typing this, but your pretty blond friend is thinking too much.

And I did see that Kornheiser comment because my neighbor tipped me off yesterday. Did you notice everybody laughed?

Wash,DC: Carolyn,
Enjoy the chats and your direct responses.
Whew--what a quote from you-- about Troy Aikman and being married,etc.
I've had marriage on my mind since my boy friend of 2 1-2 years asked me to marry him two weeks ago. A small but vocal minority of friends has been blunt that I should not marry him b-c of the difference in our levels of formal education--mine is higher. They say I'll get bored with him, outgrow him,etc.
He is a carpenter and I am a computer geek.
And I love my job and the field. And when work is over I want to go home and be with a regular guy and have a regular life, you know.
So I wonder how important this similar background stuff is. It does sometimes seem like marriage is a losing proposition today.

Carolyn Hax: So this is all from friends? AAAAGH. What do YOU think? Do you see the two of you growing together, as a couple, as a team? That's what matters. He could be an [expletively] brilliant carpenter, and you the luckiest geek on Earth, and your friends could be meddlesome harpies. If the doubts are yours, heed them; if the doubts are your friends', slap your friends.

As for marriage being a losing proposition, not so. You just have to have that funky combination of love and hope and realism and dedication and a sense of humor helps. I wish you could see what I see. The best to both of you.

Washington DC: I recently attended my High School's Valentines Day dance with a guy friend of mine whom I've know since kindergarten. We went as just friends, or so I thought. Now he asked me out again, but I have no interest in him. How do I tell him?

Carolyn Hax: Nicely. Accept the date, and specify "as friends, right?" Say you want to make sure you have the right impression. That way he can say, right, as friends, and have some ego cover to hide behind.

Time for some Valentine's Day takeout. What do you think, chili? Thanks for not pelting me with jewelry questions, and type to you Friday.

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