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Tell Me About It author Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax
(The Post)
Video: Carolyn Hax on NewsChannel 8 (Feb. 14)
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Carolyn's book, Tell Me About It, is available on borders.com

Tell Me About It, SPECIAL
Hosted by Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2001; 2 p.m. 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.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


To read the most recent responses, click "Get New Responses"
or select "Automatically Update Page."

Gaithersburg, Md.: Totally bummed that I missed you on Diane Rehm yesterday (had training for work)... how did it go?

Carolyn Hax: Hear for yourself! They have it online at www.wamu.org. Thanks for caring...

Fairfax, Va.: I broke up with my boyfriend of several years recently. Central issue: his priorities, which didn't include me. Am I crazy to expect some type of attempt on V-Day -- a card, phone call, etc.? I sent him a card. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: If you enjoy setting yourself up for painful disappointments, you are not crazy. The good thing is, when V-Day passes, you can go back to your usual hobby of banging your head against the wall.

Wondering about my sanity, USA: Hi Carolyn -- love the column and chats!

I never seem to be part of a couple when Valentine's Day comes around, so back in college, I started cutting out red cardboard hearts and dropping them in friends' mailboxes. No notes, no envelopes, just red cardboard hearts. Made me feel less left out of the whole Valentine's Day thing.

I'm still doing this, only, since I don't live on the same college campus as all my friends anymore, I use the U.S. Postal Service. Envelopes with typed addresses, no return address. Still no notes. The people I send these out to are friends (of both sexes), although they do include some former SOs. Most of my college friends eventually figured out who was leaving cardboard hearts in their mailboxes every year, and why I was doing it, but I'm not sure if my post-college friends have figured out who and why they get this red cardboard heart from. And I'm worried that some of them might think I mean these things more personally than I really do.

They question -- is what I'm doing completely harmless, or a sign of some underlying mental instability (most of the rest of my life is normal enough, except for the fact that I seldom date)?

Carolyn Hax: I think it's great. Soldier on.

Somewhar Out Thar: Wonderful Carolyn and lovely Lisa,

For the person who asked on Monday, Olsson's on Friday was rather gnifty (that's a good thing). On a related note, Death Chair! Death Chair! Death Chair!

On the topic of today, is it just me, or is V-Day the stupidest holiday? Singles are embittered, mocked, and/or scorned, whereas those in couples come under the gift-giving pressure. As someone who has been on both sides (single now, and thankful for it), I see nothing good about this holiday. Am I just being a curmudgeon, or are there actually good things about this day?

Carolyn Hax: Other than the one I just posted -- guerrilla cardboard-heart sending -- I see no point to it whatsoever. I am not and have neever been a fan.

Newlysingle, D.C.: Dear Carolyn (and Lisa) --

I really value your advice and hope you can help. I broke up with my boyfriend of three years about one month ago, and am feeling a little sad about V-Day, as well as my weekend nights. First, any suggestions for what I can do tonight? I don't really like the thought of sitting at home alone, but am not sure of any activities that a woman can do by herself.

As far as the weekends go, my friends are all coupled up, and I often join them when they go out on the weekend nights. I realize I am lucky to have this outlet, but am feeling like I should not depend on them for my social life. I am just not sure there are many desirable options for a single girl out on the town by herself. (I really don't have any friends that are single).

I don't necessarily want to "pick up" anyone, just maybe meet some people. I am still healing from my breakup, but think it would be healthy for me to "get out there." I am really busy during the days and enjoy doing a lot of activities. I just find my weekend nights to be a little empty. Any ideas for this newly single 30-year-old woman?

Thanks so much! I really enjoy your chats.

Carolyn Hax: "...but am not sure of any activities that a woman can do by herself."

Anyone up for a group barf?

What happened to ... go to a movie, go to dinner, go dancing, go shopping, read a book over a foofoo coffee thing at a bookstore, work out, work, go to a concert, see a play, go to a gallery opening, annoy a bartender, take flowers to a hospital and ask if there are any sick people who haven't been visited and make an anonymous gift.

You are living in one of the liveliest, busiest, most interesting spots on Earth and you can't think of anything to do because you don't have an arm accessory for it. Puh leez.

Washington D.C.: What do you think of a woman asking a man to marry her? I'm considering it. Has anyone out there done this?

Carolyn Hax: Plenty have. I say go for it the same way men do: Ask in a way you think he'll appreciate, and only when you're pretty sure what the answer will be. Break a leg.

Boston: Carolyn,

Why did you let them talk you into glorifying this nightmare of a non-holiday? I always feel like the theme of the day is "single (unattached) people suck."

Carolyn Hax: just because I'm collecting money to talk about it doesn't mean I'm glorifying it. (see preceding posts)

Washington, D.C.: Why can't those who are celebrating today be more sensitive to those of who are not in a relationship and not celebrating today?

washingtonpost.com: Everyone has someone to love -- mom, dad, friends, grandma, cat -- why not celebrate with them? -- Lisa.

Carolyn Hax: Yeah, what Lisa says. Self-pity is just as pointless today as it is the other 364.

Right here in Arlington: Was wondering what you thought of the "Men and Commitment" discussion today. http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/01/author_barron0214.htm

Also, I'm curious -- how often do you find yourself turning to others for advice? Are there certain people who turn to advice from others more readily? What limits for asking advice do you impose on yourself? Who advises Carolyn? Do you ever see a pattern of people always seeking out advice, who should listen to themselves first, or do you see people who are asking not asking for enough advice?

Sorry so many questions, I just wonder if anyone looks out for the advisee sometimes. Or if the advisee looks out for herself!


Carolyn Hax: I'm sorry, I didn't have a chance to read that discussion -- too busy with multimedia opportunism -- but I'm happy to plug it and will have a look later.

OTher questions: 1. Not often, though I'm getting better about it; 2. I have some friends/family members/colleagues whom I love and trust and rely on; 3. I agree that people who ask for advice ALL the TIME should listen to themselves (because they never seem to listen to the advice).

The adviser (that's what you meant, right?) muddles through more or less like the rest of you guys. Thanks for asking.

Potomac, Md.: I'm getting married in a couple of weeks, and I have my eight closest friends from my sorority as bridesmaids. Six of them have been great, but a couple are being really b----y about the bridesmaid dresses. The dresses cost $850 each, but they're VERA WANG dresses! I got a deal on them so I was able to get the dresses at such a low price. Would you please explain that etiquette demands that a promise is a promise? If you can "talk the talk" and commit to being a bridesmaid, then you better "walk the walk" as well.

Carolyn Hax: I'm not believing any bride questions any more. I think you're making all of them up.

The District: Do you think the type of Valentine gift you get is an important indicator of where your relationship stands?

If you get, for example, a sack of those little candy hearts that say I LUV U etc., should you start packing?

If you get red roses should you begin browsing bridal magazines?

If you get melty chocolates in a heart-shaped box should you run to the loo and put on your red water bra in anticipation?

Those are my guesses as what the three gifts "really mean."

What do you think?

Happy "V" day!!!

Carolyn Hax: If I were feeling evil today, I'd say they all "mean" you're living in a cliche.

Oh wait. I am feeling evil.

D.C.: This question may not fall under the squeezably soft heading of today's chat, but do you think the phrase "afraid of commitment" is just a load of crap?

Carolyn Hax: Mostly. Unless someone has a diagnosable and/or trauma-based intimacy problem, I say it just means a fear of committment to YOU.

Arlington, Va.: Carolyn, Happy Valentine's Day.

Tell us, does Lisa have a secret Valentine?

washingtonpost.com: All of you, of course. -- Lisa.

Carolyn Hax: Should I leave?

Tulsa, Okla.: Carolyn,

I was stumped on how to phrase my question, so I let my cynical (yet oddly accurate) pal take a stab at it:

I am in a relationship with a stable, smart, sophisticated woman, but I have this crush that I can’t get over. The crushee is a sociopath who can’t tell the difference between the truth and a can of beans, who often seeks me out for trysts as soon as her committed BF is out of the room, who won’t have a tryst with anyone unattached (but will have a tryst with whatever idiots in relationships that she can hump the leg of). I have already "done" the sociopath, but am thinking of another round or so, just to feed my ego. Think I can still have a solid, long-term relationship given my "bad-dog" tendencies?

Carolyn Hax: Uh, no, but my bigger quibble is with the feed-the-ego thing. How could the attention of a man-loathing, self-loathing slut be seen as a credit to you?

I want to think like a guy, just for a day.

Washington, D.C.: Carolyn --

I hardly ever date anyone, and usually I don't notice or care, because I am busy doing other things in my life. I am also disgusted by my friends who do nothing but hunt for their MRS. BUT I do like men and sex, I am wondering if there is something unnatural about my not noticing I don't have either in my life for nearly a year at a time. should I see a doctor about it? Or do I just have really high standards -- I don't want to date someone if I am not really into them -- my best relationships were when I was into them at first sight, other relationships (where I dated them anyway) just felt like big hassles (because the guys I dated always expected me to accommodate their schedules and hang out only with their friends, and kicked up a fuss if I dared go see one of my own friends instead of staying home watching TV with them.)

I am just worried because I am getting older (aren't we all?) and I am questioning whether living like this really works anymore.


Carolyn Hax: except for the worrying thing, you're doing everything right.

Somewhere, USA: DEATH CHAIR to both the "woman who can't do anything by herself" and the $850 vera wang bridezilla . . . what PLANET are you people from?

Boo Hiss

Carolyn Hax: no no, don't scare them away. I NEED them.

Washington, D.C.: Had an argument with my wife this morning. How do you apologize for your role without totally capitulating? I really want her to understand her role and not take an apology to mean that she was right and I was wrong. To make this point, however, could reignite the argument.

Carolyn Hax: Then reignite it. You gotta say what you gotta say, and that includes the apology and the point. "I was wrong to blow it out of proportion like that, and I'm sorry -- I do still feel, though, that you were wrong to XXX." Good luck.

Arlington, Va.: I bet you are anticipating a heavy onslaught of stung-by-Cupid’s-arrow questions. May I offer some happy thoughts for those who might be feeling slighted on Valentine’s Day?

A few years back, a married couple invited me and a few other singles over for a V-Day dinner. The idea was simple –- they love entertaining; they love us; why not celebrate the holiday together? We all had such a great time that it’s become an annual tradition, even though we’re not all single anymore. Not your typical prove-your-love-over-crème-brulee dinner that’s become associated with the holiday, but it works for us.

But it wasn’t until I started dating my current boyfriend that I realized how silly all the V-Day hype really is. He’s admittedly low-key about the whole thing.

On the other hand, many of my co-workers are having water-cooler discussion marathons that rival those that followed the last episode of Survivor I. Women are speculating on potential gifts, even engagements. Men who have not made their dinner reservations yet are in HOT water. They look at me in a state of disbelief and say, “you aren’t worried about any of this, are you?”

No, I’m not. I don’t expect a Valentine’s gift, and I won’t even see my boyfriend today because of our work schedules. But it’s a happy day –- as is every day –- because I wake up every morning more in love than I was the night before, and cliché-ridden as this sounds, I am getting a little weepy just typing this. That –- tears aside -– is my gift. And it rivals any chocolates, flowers, gourmet dinner or jewelry I’ve ever received.

So, if there’s anyone out there today harboring still-single animosity or high gift-spectations, please rethink your feelings. It’s a day to celebrate the friendship and love we have, not to worry about what we don’t have. Sometimes the most significant thing someone can give you is an (unwrappable) reminder of what’s really important.

Sign me,

Pierced by a Heavy-Duty Arrow in Arlington

washingtonpost.com: Sane person alert! -- Lisa.

Carolyn Hax: Easy for HER to be, she's in LOVE.

Yes I'm kidding. I love the group-dinner idea. I think I'll buy it some kinky lingerie.

Somewhere, USA: I'm 25, and I've been dating a guy for six months. He's wonderful to me, and I love to be with him. We've got a great thing going.

Problem: he's pretty sure he never wants kids, and I'm pretty sure I do. And I want to do the Mommy thing, too -- stay at home, the whole bit. Of course, all this is maybe 10 or more years in the future.

Is it silly for me to date him? I'm never going to marry a guy who doesn't want kids. But I love to be with him NOW, you know?

Carolyn Hax: Sorry, you've got a choice and I can't make it. Although, you are a mere 25 ... assuming the reports I'm getting out of most marriages are true, then you should stay with him for 5 to 7 years, lose interest, then drop him for a breeder.

Hey. I already said I felt evil.

Re: Guy who argued with his wife: Why not wait a breath or two after apologizing and see if she cops to her part of it, too? I have a good friend with whom I fight on occasion and this is usually how it happens with us. One of us just has to bite the bullet and apologize first, and that frees the other to say, yeah, but I could have behaved better myself.

Carolyn Hax: Good point. Even if he did say it all in one breath, the other person should still cop to her responsibility -- but unfortunately, someone even a micron short of mature might see it as an excuse to get all defensive again. Thanks.

Washington, D.C.: Hey Carolyn. I really enjoy your advice column! The question I have is: do you think it is a mistake to send flowers to your g/f on Valentine's Day even if she explicitly stated that she doesn't like or celebrate the day?

Carolyn Hax: Thanky.

I think it's a mistake to be sooo boring about it. If she doesn't like/celebrate the day, give her something she -can- celebrate. A goofball handmade card or something, or a deeply unromantic dinner. If you have to do flowers, make them black.

WAMU, Tenleytown: Happy Valentine's day Lisa and Carolyn!

Here's the link for the Diane Rehm show audio:


Thanks again, it was great having you here yesterday!

Carolyn Hax: Hey, look at that. Aren't you supposed to be listening to the radio?

Arlington, Va.: I think you should have told Washington, D.C., who wondered (in a boring short story) whether she should see a doctor because she can go a year without dating and not care, that she really needs to call an ambulance and get carted away to the self-absorbed, need for affirmation hospital ASAP.

Carolyn Hax: Hey, with this kind of volume, I'm going to miss a few.

Carolyn Hax: Just so's you don't take it personally -- I have to go AT 3 today, none of the usual just-one-more straggling. I have to rush off to be on Newschannel 8, which I'm pretty much polluting all day today. I'm not kidding, check it out.

Just had to share the laugh with you....: You don't have to post this in the chat, but I thought you and your producer would get a good laugh out of this.

In our workplace today, someone sent an e-mail to the entire company, asking if someone had a vase that she could borrow to hold the two dozen roses she had just received in her office. I mean really, how subtle is THAT? I guess not enough people saw them get delivered this morning.

Carolyn Hax: Brilliant! Thank you.

Potomac, Md.: Yeah, the "Vera Wang" thing was a put-on. Sorry Carolyn, I was just goofing around.

Carolyn Hax: That's okay. But too many of these and I'll have to pass on the real ones, and that would dent my little spirit.

Austin: "No, I’m not. I don’t expect a Valentine’s gift, and I won’t even see my boyfriend today because of our work schedules. But it’s a happy day –- as is every day –- because I wake up every morning more in love than I was the night before, and cliché-ridden as this sounds, I am getting a little weepy just typing this. That –- tears aside -– is my gift. And it rivals any chocolates, flowers, gourmet dinner or jewelry I’ve ever received."

THIS is a "happy thought for singles"!!??

My plan tonight was to cheer myself up by buying myself some chocolates, walking through a flower garden, and making myself a gourmet dinner... seems so very empty now...

Anyone who'd like Miss Enamoured-in-Arlington to take her happy thoughts, happy words, teary eyes and happy face and go stick her happy head in a can of paint, gimme a Hell yeah!

Carolyn Hax: Can of paint! Can of paint!

The Beautiful Southwest: For those who don't want to celebrate today as V-Day but do want to mark it as something special, today is also Arizona Statehood Day. I recommend a card with fun facts about our 48th state.

Carolyn Hax: Now we're just getting weird. I liked hostile better.

washingtonpost.com: By the way, here's video of Carolyn on NewsChannel 8.

North: Etiquette question.

My mom tells me that Valentine's Day is a day to recognize not only romantic interests, but "every woman in your life." She says this partly because she wants a Valentine from me (which is certainly no problem). What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: Just don't buy them all the same pleather teddy.

Okay, I'm leaving now. Bye. Happy sighing/sulking, thanks and type to you Friday.

© Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company


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Tony Kornheiser & Michael Wilbon: These sports experts hold nothing back.
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