Tell Me About It,
Hosted by Carolyn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, Feb. 9, 2001; Noon EST
Carolyn will take your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.
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 34-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."
The transcript follows.
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Eau Claire, Wis.: I have known this guy for a little under a year. Awhile ago, he decided we were better off friends and I agreed to be polite. We are good friends, but there is something else there on both sides. I don't know if I should push it and get him to admit how he really feels. Or if I should just tell him how I really feel? Or if I should just continue to ride it out and see what happens. Somewhere along the lines, I know I fell in love with him.
Carolyn Hax: Um, "how he really feels"? You know this better than he does?
If the status quo is making you miserable, tell him you can't pretend to be his friend anymore because your feelings are stronger than that. Then he has a clear choice: all you, or no you.
Seattle, Wash.: Hey there ladies, you guys rock. I hope you could shine some light onto an issue I am facing. I have this guy friend, and we hang out a lot, he has an out-of-state girlfriend, who he plans on eventually moving in with. The other night he really started flirting, we have always been close and stuff, and gave each other backrubs and what not.. but I never thought anything of it. Last night he was really pushing the envelope, tickling me and stuff. I ignored it, figuring it was nothing. Then he made a really blatant move, I got up and went home, telling him he had a girlfriend and should be ashamed. Although I once had feelings for him I refuse to be the other woman. Later on in the week he called and asked me to "hook him up" with some models at the office where I work (I work in fashion) I of course told him no. He said "IF it doesn't work out with the girl I am with...". Isn't he charming? Of course I said no. My question is do I owe it to the girl to tell her that he made a move? She will be moving here and living with him soon. She knows no one in the area really, except me and she doesn't know me very well, I would hate for her to move all this way for this sleazebag (which is hard to say cause he is/was my friend). What do you think?
Between a Rock and a Sleazebag
Carolyn Hax: You've done your part by rejecting this jerk. Unless you're friends with the GF, it isn't your place to tell her.
Sydney, Australia: (No, not Russell, but seriously...)
Please help me.
I met and fell madly in love with a man with a wife and a child and he fell in love with me. For some time, he left his wife and child to be with me, but now he says he is overcome by guilt and familial pressure and for the sake of his daughter, he is attempting to reconcile with his wife. He says he owes it to his daughter to give his marriage one last chance.
He says he still loves me but will understand if I do not want to wait. I am confused, because sometimes he says he wants us to be together, and sometimes he says he'll understand if. I'm not sure if I'm getting a brush off or if he genuinely needs to exorcise his conscience.
Carolyn Hax: I like that -- a conscience exorcism. Wouldn't life get easier after one of -those.-
I don't see what there is to be confused about here. He loves you and would like to be with you, but he loves his daughter more. Good for him. BEcause of that, he's working on his marriage. Good for him. Because he has decided to do the right thing, he's going to follow through by not stringing you along. That's good for you. Accept the reality of the situation and let go for everyone's sake. Maybe the reconciliation will work, maybe it won't, but either way, you'll all be a lot better of if the outcome doesn't have your fingerprints all over it.
No city, No state: Hey Carolyn,
I need your help with a problem regarding my wife and my parents. Last weekend we were all out to dinner and an ex-boyfriend of my wife's came up to our table and said to my wife, hi, do you remember me. My wife said yes, how have you been. Well, the guy was a complete jerk and added a couple of details of sex acts they apparently shared back when. My wife's face got redder than I had ever seen it. My dad got up and asked to guy to come with him. Meanwhile my mom said to my wife, my goodness, dear, your taste in men has definitely improved. That young man can't even speak correctly. He mumbled so I could barely understand a word he said.
When my dad returned to the table she repeated this to him and he agreed.
Now here's the problem: my wife doesn't want to see my parents any more as she is very embarrassed by what the guy said. I have tried to tell her that my parents realize she had a past and don't think it's any of their business, hence the remark about not understanding the guy. What else can I say?
Carolyn Hax: Tell her she can't hide from your folks forever, and the longer she waits to see them again, the larger this will loom in her mind -- and theirs, but use your judgment about adding that. Look at it this way: If she sees them often from now on, the percentage of their time together during which her past sex acts were discussed will be greatly reduced.
washingtonpost.com: Guys, thank you for all of the notes about today's column. It's a technical issue we're working on. -- Lisa.
Doghouse: Hi Carolyn,
Long-time reader here with a need of some advice. Hope you can help!
I have a friend, "Matilda," who lives with her roommate "Esme." Esme has a host of medical problems that keep her pretty much housebound. Esme also has a dog, a little 9-year-old silky terrier. Here's the deal. Esme got the dog before she became ill, and now that she is so physically incapacitated, she is unable to walk the dog. Matilda, who does not have a job and is perfectly healthy, refuses to take care of the dog, saying that it is not her responsibility because the dog does not belong to her. Esme and Matilda are -way- more than roommates. Matilda has gotten into the habit of boarding the dog for prolonged periods of time because she doesn't feel like dealing with it. The dog spent five months in the kennel in 2000, and has been in the kennel for all of 2001 so far. I think this is cruel, and nothing I say to Matilda seems to make any difference to her.
Here's my question: What should I do? I'd take the dog myself, but he isn't housebroken (they never bothered to train him) and my husband is refusing to adopt an unhousebroken dog. Do I end my friendship with Matilda over this? The whole thing is making me very uncomfortable. I've pleaded with Matilda to put the dog up for adoption (apparently someone at the kennel is interested), but she says that Esme would be devastated by the loss of her little pet. I'm at a loss here.
Thanks for your help!
Carolyn Hax: No no not an animal cruelty question. (And advice-columnist cruelty. Are you really going to make me talk about "Esme" and "Matilda"?)
Boarding the dog like that is obviously cruel -- I'm surprised the kennel allows it -- but I disagree with you that M is obligated to become the dog's full-time caretaker. I mean, yes, she is by dint of her alleged humanity and her relationship with E. But if she doesn't want to, she doesn't want to. It ain't her dog. (Feel free to end the friendship, though. What a loser.)
It's her (and E's) incredible half-assedness in the face of this standoff that's really killing the dog. Haven't these people ever heard of a dog walker? Talk to E yourself about her hiring one. You can also try to get her to give the dog up but, frankly, I don't like the odds for a 9-year-old carpet-pooper.
Impressed: This is for No City, No State:
Your parents are the classiest people ever! I mean, that situation takes an awful lot of diplomacy, and it's so sweet how they respected and backed your wife!
Carolyn Hax: I was thinking the same thing, and should have said it myself. Thanky.
Out of Town: For No City, No State. Wow! Lucky wife!! It's obvious that the parents really like her and went out of their way to be classy in an uncomfortable situation!! Now it's her turn. If they had a problem with the whole situation, they wouldn't have handled it so politely, so she needs to grow up. She needs to forget the whole ugly thing ever happened, and learn from it that her in-laws are great people who like her a lot! If anything, she should be able to relax a little now knowing how they will react in a bad situation.
Carolyn Hax: Good point, too, about her owing them something in return for their graciousness.
Washington, D.C.: I don't know if I am with 100 percent on the rock and a sleazebag answer. If she could, don't you think she should save the girl from moving to a strange city just to be with a guy who can't keep his pants zipped? (metaphorically speaking)
Carolyn Hax: But who knows what she's up to? I agree with you to the extent that, if I were that GF, I'd want to know--but when you start trying to interfere with the lives of total strangers, you wind up assuming things you really shouldn't assume.
Leesburg, Va.: I recently had a dream about my ex-boyfriend (and first love). We broke up about a year and a half ago, but when we broke up, we talked about it being temporary. Well, we both moved on...we each dated other people. But after this dream, I was completely rattled. I sent an e-mail to his old address, just out of curiosity. But he responded, and now I don't know what to do. I know he still has feelings for me, he's told mutual friends. And I think I feel the same way. The only problem is that I'm living with someone right now, making it a little hard to break up. What should I do?
Carolyn Hax: Wow, you moved on fast. (And right into the exact situation I keep stomping my feet about. Wanna know why I advise against shacking up? Read this.)
Have dinner with the guy, and see how you feel. If it all comes back in a rush, go home and pack. It may not say anything definitive about your ex, but it says a whole lot about where your roommate stands. "It's haaaard" is a pretty lame excuse for not breaking up.
Lost my Mojo: What does it mean when a healthy woman in her late 20s loses all interest in sex? I'm reasonably stable with a great boyfriend, but I don't think I'd care if I never had sex again. In my promiscuous teens and early 20s, I never would have thought such a thing possible, but now when I crawl into bed each night with my cuddly boyfriend, sex seems more like an imposition than something fun.
I don't know if this is relevant, but I've had some major stresses in my life over the past year, including a seriously ill parent. Still, though, I wonder if that's more of an excuse than a reason. What's your take?
Carolyn Hax: Stress kills more sex drives than even sweatpants do, so it sounds to me like what you're going through is normal. Still, if you're worried about it, make an appointment with your regular doctor and start asking questions. There could be a medical explanation, including low-level depression. Plus, even if it turns out not to be medical, going through the steps can help you past any denial you might have about relationship problems or psychological problems (this might just be the other side of the same promiscuity coin), if there are any contributing to the problem. Also, it never hurts to be extra-good to your body -- eat well, sleep well, get fit. Good luck.
Denver, Colo.: Hi Carolyn and Lisa,
Just in time for the great Hallmark Holiday: father-getting-married scenario.
My father got engaged last July (for the third time). He lives in California and we talk every few weeks, but he didn't tell me until September. He didn't tell my brother until a week ago. Everyone else by this time had been "officially" informed. Dad and brother live in the same city and had seen each other at least three times in the interim, including at my father's birthday party where it would have been an appropriate announcement. Dad told my brother about the wedding by leaving a message on his answering machine.
My father's fiancee has two sons and a grandchild, all three of whom are going to be in the wedding. Dad was in both my wedding and my brother's wedding. Dad has been spending a LOT of time and effort making gifts and celebrating events with future wife and her kids, while we rarely talk now, and his interaction with my brother is, obviously, through the answering machine. Example of dad's level of communication: when I asked if we were getting any step siblings, he said, "Yes." Period.
My theory is that because his relationships with his own family are so messed up, he's starting over with this "new" family where there's less baggage. By the way, he's been in therapy for the past two years, and the more therapy he has the more messed up he thinks his kids become. We had a pretty close relationship up until about a year ago.
I haven't decided whether I should broach this whole communication thing, or tell him I'm hurt because he hasn't shared any wedding plans or asked us to monitor the guest book. Once I say something, even if he asked me to participate in the wedding I'd feel it was out of obligation and wouldn't want to anyway.
By the way, I like my future step-mother just fine, and she's always been perfectly nice to me, but I don't know what she thinks about dad's relationship with his kids other than she's "staying out of it."
Any thoughts? The wedding is only one day, but I can't help feeling like his kids are suddenly "bad" family he doesn't want to deal with.
Carolyn Hax: Just talk to him. Don't say anything about wedding plans -- the day itself is incidental. Just say, now that he's getting married, you feel you've been shoved to the back of the earth. You can't make him change the way he's behaving, but you can at least get the satisfaction of knowing he's aware of how you feel.
D.C.: Carolyn --
Tonight is the big book signing, right? Could you post the time, place, etc again? Thanks. Also, will your friend Lisa be joining as well?
washingtonpost.com: I live to serve. Absolutely. -- Lisa.
Carolyn Hax: It is, and I will, and she will!
Tonight, 7 p.m. at Olsson's Metro Center, 1200 F St., NW. (202) 347-3686.
You're a genius!!: Carolyn, THANKS so much for the suggestion of a dog walker. It's a terrific idea and I feel like an idiot for never having thought of it. I'm calling E right now to ask her if we can get together for a little talk tonight. I'm sure a dog walker would be a heck of a lot cheaper than the kennel, too!
Thanks again. I'm so glad I asked!
Carolyn Hax: I'm not accepting "genius" for that one, but I'm posting this for all those who were going to lose sleep over the poor little guy. Thanks for writing back,a nd thanks for talking to E.
Washington, D.C.: Hello,
After a seven-month split from my boyfriend, we have gotten back together. We've both made mistakes (I cheated on him and moved in with someone else for those someone months) and he's told me of his escapades while away from me. To be frank, they're awful things that I would never have expected he'd do, and I can't seem to get them out of my mind. I now am very VERY suspicious of him, what he's doing -- where he is, etc., etc. He's a full-time student and works while I have a standard 7:30-4 job, M-F. I need help on how to get over this suspicion-jealousy-rage and start trusting him again. He's never cheated on me.
Carolyn Hax: You are aware, I hope, that you have world-class chutzpah.
His escapades occurred while he was -away- from you. (Your word even.) YOUR escapades occurred while you were -with- him. YOUR escapades had a fixed mailing address for god's sake. Grow up or stay away from men.
D.C.: Carolyn, is it unreasonable of me to be upset just because my live-in boyfriend still keeps pictures of his and his ex-wife's wedding in his closet? He says that I should not be mad because I am the only one he is in love with and she is his friend.
Carolyn Hax: He's got a past and he's keeping it respectfully stored in a closet. Drop it already.
St. Louis, Mo.: Dear Carolyn (and Lisa) --
When should someone decide that they will not be friends with their ex? I care about what happens to him and his life -- but our monthly e-mails back and forth have become increasing banal. They hurt my feelings because they highlight how far apart two people who used to be thisclose have become -- the same questions, comments, etc. -- especially from him to me. I feel like it might be healthier to just never e-mail him again -- but don't want to have him think that I don't care -- or that the years that we spent together were not meaningful to me. Is this a stupid question?
Carolyn Hax: Stupid maybe to beat yourself up about it. So the pheromones cleared, and now you see you had not much in common. Nothing wrong with that, or unusual, and it doesn't diminish the value of the happy years. Think of it as a welcome reminder that he's best for you as an ex.
Denver, Colo.: I am questioning something that could be a potentially dangerous situation. I have luckily never been confronted this before and I am curious as to whether or not it is in my head. I am seeing this guy, he is sweet and gentle outwardly almost all the time. However, the other night we were in an intimate moment and he pinned my arms back. I didn't say anything or tell him to stop, he whispered that he could be rough, and in no time the moment passed, he let go of my wrists he was back to being sweet. He is training to be in law enforcement, and has a BB gun that he shoots at his house. While this is just a BB gun I am very much a peace and love, kindler, gentler type person. Is this behavior indicative of a violent personality? Or is it just personality differences? Somewhere in me there is definitely a warning bell, and I want to break things off if this is something to be concerned about.
A Little Freaked
Carolyn Hax: Creepy. He didn't ignore a request that he stop, which is when I'd hand you the map to the exits -- but at the same time, I am never ever going to overrule a warning bell, and you shouldn't either.
BTW, someone was asking what "The Gift of Fear" was about, and that's pretty much it. Denver, you should read it asap. Again, it's by Gavin de Becker and it's all about knowing when to listen to our instincts,a nd what they're telling us. This is a perfect case for it.
Arlington, Va.: One of my best friends is in love with me (he just confessed this to me last week) -– such a great feeling knowing that someone loves you! I care for him deeply and desire to explore my feelings for him. I could easily fall in love with him. But whenever he says "I love you," I get numb. I don't know how to respond. I can't say "I love you too," but I don't want to disregard his statement. What? Do I say thank you? Or can I tell him to stop telling me he loves me until I'm ready to tell him that back?
Carolyn Hax: Tell him that you feel great knowing he loves you, but that this is all so new to you, and you hope he understands that you still need to explore your side of things. Don't stress over it, this is good stuff.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Quick question for you:
I recently started dating this girl. (We've been on two dates, both of which went well, and have a third planned this weekend) I suspect that in the near future we'll become an official couple, but we aren't quite there yet. This makes the upcoming V-day kind of awkward. Any thoughts on how I should treat in considering we are in this pre-couple stage?
Carolyn Hax: Food is good and safe for all situations. Ask her out to a nicer-than-average place.
USA: Hi Carolyn and Lisa --
Very quick shacking up question -- hope I get in under the wire. Boyfriend and I are discussing moving in together, but I'm a little nervous (personal space issues, I'm a slob, he's neat, etc.). Is this normal? Or if I'm "ready" to move in with him should I have no qualms whatsoever?
Carolyn Hax: If you're nervous, don't do it. It's too excruciating to undo. Move in with someone for one of three reasons: If you both know you're ready to marry each other but want to be sure you can share space compatibly, or if you're gay and/or both reject marriage on principle, or if you've done the marriage and kids thing but the spouse and kids are gone now and you're enjoying some later-in-life companionship.
Silky Terrier Lover: Tell your reader to contact Silky Terrier Rescue. Silky's are very bright dogs; even a 9-year-old can be toilet trained.
Carolyn Hax: Okeydokey.
Severna Park, Md.: Hi Carolyn,
Here's a question I've never seen in any of your columns. I have a new boyfriend I've been dating for several months. Here's the problem: he doesn't like to touch or kiss me. He's not gay (he was married for a few years and is now divorced). But I find it strange that we can spend the entire day together, and he never holds my hand or kisses me. When I asked him about it, he said he's simply not interested. Are there any other women out there with men like this? I enjoy talking with him, but the physical intimacy is almost non-existent. When I make an effort to hug or kiss him, he is wooden. Do I want this for the rest of my life? No. I doubt he's going to change. I need some feedback from other women here. By the way, we're both in our early 30s. Thanks.
Carolyn Hax: You've put up with this for MONTHS? Oh dearie dear. Treat yourself a little better than this, please, and get yourself out of the situation. What torture.
He, meanwhile, sounds as if he's long overdue at his therapist's. What a sad life that must be.
(By the way, neither being married nor divorced nor with you makes him straight. I'm not saying he's gay, either -- just saying your proof doesn't prove anything.)
Carolyn Hax: Enough already. Thanks, everybody. Type to you Monday or see you tonight.
Washington, D.C.: For a little freaked in Denver:
Isn't it possible that this was just a "spicing up the sex" issue -- i.e., they were, admittedly, in an intimate moment, and he blurts out a comment about being rough if she'd like? I think his immediately letting it drop when she didn't respond is an indication that this might be the case.
While I understand denver's (and your) concern and i agree with the notion that gut instincts are important -- isn't it possible that this is nothing more than an awkward Seinfeldian "the panties your mother laid out for you?" kind of awkward moment? (Which featured an equally freaked out response from Jerry's paramour...) While his sexual peccadilloes may not be her cup of tea, to turn this into "she's freaked because he indicated he might want more than vanilla sex and he has a bb gun" seems a little bit of a leap.
Carolyn Hax: It is possible, but I have to be -- and she has to be -- so careful. Thanks.
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