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Tell Me About It author Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax
(The Post)
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Tell Me About It
Hosted by Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2001; Noon EDT

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."

Shout out from Queens: Ummmm, what's up with your response to Maryland's relationship with a racist? " . . . nice to hear New York City is officially bias-free. Except Queens of course." Carolyn, I expect more from a New England or maybe that's my Queens bias showing . . .

washingtonpost.com: When I read that I so knew there'd be a Queens shout-out. -- Lisa.

Carolyn Hax: You guys both so missed it: The question included a derisive mention of Archie Bunker, archetypal racist, who hails from ... with me now?

Almost 30 in Washington, D.C.: Dear Carolyn,

Thanks for the great columns. I am hoping this will be one of the lighter questions of the day.

I will be turning 30 in a month, and I am looking forward to it. However, some of my girlfriends already seem to dread this next decade. The end of the 20s seems to really faze some people. I'd like to be able to offer some positive insight. Can you or the peanuts give some thoughts on the cool stuff about being in your 30s?

Also, a shoe question -- do you know a good place that can restore leather shoes? I hate to part with great shoes!

Carolyn Hax: Being in your 30s means you're not dead yet, and from there you have to make of it what you're going to make of it. If I had to guess, these girlfriends of yours also whine about the absence of good men and looking fat in pants.

Los Angeles, Calif.: Dear Carolyn,

I've been dating my boyfriend for more than two years. We're both going into our senior year in college and things seem to be going well. We are both in love with each other, but I don't think I could marry him for several reasons. We have our differences but I think we've been able to live with them because of the space that being at the boyfriend-girlfriend stage allows. I am worried about staying together another year because it will be all the more difficult to go our separate ways . I feel like we both need some time to experience other people and places before settling down. My friends say it will be all the worse to break up later because we will have developed such a deeper bond by then (we haven't had sex yet but probably will if we stay together), but it seems silly to break up with someone with whom you're really in love just to avoid a deeper and I feel necessary separation process later. Could you please share your thoughts on this situation?

Carolyn Hax: My only thought is that you're thinking a whole lot, so I'm wondering what your gut says.

Ashburn, Va.: Dear Carolyn,

My husband of four years has been having more frequent outbursts lately. While not directed at me (usually some chore he is trying to do) I find the loud swearing upsetting and embarrassing (I'm sure the neighbors can hear). I told him I don't like this and when he does it I get knots in my stomach and I feel afraid (although it isn't directed at me). He does this every year when he puts up the Christmas tree, and I've kind of made that into a joke, but it is becoming more frequent and has happened twice this week. It is awful. I told him I am afraid of him when he is like this but he says I shouldn't be and he is just overwhelmed with the pressures from work and school. What should I do? I can not tolerate this behavior and I'm afraid it will escalate. Am I stupid for putting up with this?

Thanks for your advice.

Carolyn Hax: Wait wait wait. You're not "stupid" for "putting up with this" -- your "husband" is in "trouble." A guy who admits to being overwhelmed and who is having more and more frequent outbursts needs help, fast. Hold his hand and get him some.

Somewhere, USA: Hi Carolyn, I'm a fan of your straight talk and hope you can give me a good dose of it. Pretty early on in my current relationship I realized she was not "the one" but before I could tactfully end things, she was hit by major bad news. Her mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I didn't want to add to her feelings of abandonment. And, I do genuinely like her, just don't see myself spending the rest of my life with her. Long story short, her mom suffered for a year and she has had a rough time coping with her death. Very understandable. She has just re-entered the workforce (I've been supporting her) and is slooooowly pulling herself back together. Lately I have recognized that this truly is a dead end situation for us -- we even talked about it many months ago and each said what we'd need from the other to make it work and neither of us has tried to provide the other with such things. How do I gently end things without adding to her stress right now? I know I'm probably not giving her enough credit for being able to take care of herself and am not doing either of us any favors by prolonging this. Insights?

Carolyn Hax: We're all such pain-evaders, it's getting a little ridiculous. I know you mean well, but you want to break up "without adding to her stress"? Can you arrange a coma? Or cryogenics, perhaps. A slow-acting general anesthesia.

Be firm, be fair, be careful not to pile on any more stress than necessary. That's all you can do. If you had asked me then, I would have said to do it regardless of the mother's illness, though with some tasteful, compassionate distance from the initial diagnosis or her final days, obviously.

Fists clenched in New York, N.Y.: Hi Carolyn and Lisa,

Submitting question today because hopefully I will be basking in the sun on the beach Friday. But -- alas, I will return to read your on line chat as always.

I've submitted it before but now the situation is getting worse. I could really use your advice. I'm friends, bordering possible romantic relationship with a man 15 years older. Everything is kosher there -- he's divorced, single, etc. He treats me well and we get along famously. The problem is that he is friends with four other women my age (late 20s) who are pretty and seem to have a lot going on for them, except for their attitude. They do everything in their power to make me feel uncomfortable when I'm around him. Recent examples of this have been unwarranted verbal abuse and snapped fingers in my face. For example, one girl will just randomly yell profanity at me inside of bars when she drinks. If we end up at a function that they aren't, they will continually call his cell phone all night long to try and persuade him to join them!

I know this sounds hard to believe, but outside of trying my best to ignore them no mind, I have done NOTHING to offend them. In the past year, I have even gone out of my way to be nice but eventually gave up.

It has been said that one of the girls likes him hence her immature behavior. However, does that warrant their pack like attack on me? I think what it really means is that most of them are left without an attractive man to dote on them and buy them drinks for the night (their safety net) when he is out for me. He doesn't like it either but he doesn't seem to stand up for me enough to put an end to it.

I have a very large diverse group of friends. The time I spend with him is maybe once or twice a week. No where else have I experienced this type of behavior. I try not to let it bother me but ultimately their immature nasty behavior puts a damper on my evening as it does his. I know you should say ignore them but I can't and I feel that his friendship with them will hinder any possible opportunity for romance down the road.

I have been the better person so far but I'm ready to b&-%-h slap somebody soon.

Carolyn Hax: If he is aware of the extent of it and does nothing to stop you from suffering from it, bag him. Some time, it IS that simple.

Over 30 and Love It: My motto for being in my 30s:

Old enough to know better, young enough to learn.

That about sums it up!

Carolyn Hax: ... and still somewhat elastic. Thanks.

Springfield, Va.: I broke up with my long-term girlfriend nine months ago (I'm 35, she's 31). It was a painful break for both of us, but she took it especially hard. No one would ever call us friends now, but we have run into each other a few times and managed to be friendly/civil. Meanwhile, I was blown away by an incredible woman I met seven months ago and I recently proposed to her. Here's my question: Is it my responsibility to tell the ex about my engagement, or should I leave it to the mutual friend grapevine? I don't want to rub my happiness in her face, but it also seems cowardly to have someone else tell her this news, which I know will upset her. What's the right thing to do?

Carolyn Hax: Oh, absolutely, tell her yourself. Grapevine baaad. Actually, you should write a letter so she isn't forced to react in front of an audience.

Urbana-Champaign, Ill.: Dear Carolyn --

I'm a 20-year-old female and have never been in a committed relationship, and am completely lacking any sexual experience. Is this really abnormal? I've always believed in waiting for the right person to get into a relationship with, but it doesn't seem like he'll ever materialize.

Too picky?

Carolyn Hax: I can't possibly tell from so little information. The best I can suggest is that you cultivate as rich a social life as possible, with both men and women, and ask yourself whether these other, non-romantic relationships are healthy. If all the machinery works, then making yourself happy on your own and being patient would be the answer.

Rockville, Md.: I feel your response to the two soon-to-be college freshman in today's column was harsh and misleading. Similarly, I had a boyfriend of a year and a half when I first went away to college, and battled with the idea of breaking up so I, too, could spread my wings. Fortunately, now, as a college graduate I am still with that same boyfriend, despite the many pressures we have faced to break up. How unfair of you to assume that a 17-year-old is incapable of falling in love, and making that relationship last, even while in college. While there are many facets to college life, all, can include having a boyfriend or girlfriend. Whoever said people cannot grow up together or "spread their wings" together? The choices you make throughout college are what allow you to "spread you wings" and grow into a mature adult, while the choices you make involving a relationship, do require the upmost maturity. For the "truly in love" the consequences of an irresponsible act, can outweigh the desire to commit that act for fear of losing that which is closest to your heart. As a young person in a society rampant with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, I adamantly disregard your advice, and hope that other young people in college and who are truly in love will do so also.

Old Fashioned

Carolyn Hax: Oh BROTHER.

That's all I have to say to anyone who cites the risk of STDs as a reason to stay in a relationship.

One partner asked for freedom, and the other partner denied the request. 2 plus 2 = history. Sorry.

Carolyn Hax: To the 27-year-old D.C. guy -- call the D.C. Rape Crisis Center NOW, please: 202-333-RAPE. And write back after you do, either here before 1 or at tellme@washpost.com. I want to know you're taking care of this. Thanks.

Washington, D.C.: May I respond to somewhere, who says:

"I know I'm probably not giving her enough credit for being able to take care of herself and am not doing either of us any favors by prolonging this"?

AMEN brother. Don't presume to know what's best for her just tell her the #$%- truth. My ex has told me about the many things he held back from me because he didn't want me to take it the wrong way, or he didn't want to give me false hope, etc. It is so condescending, and YES you just prolong the agony by assuming you know best how to protect your delicate, shrinking flower from harm. Give it to her straight, I bet she can take it.

(Oops, did that sound bitter?)

Carolyn Hax: Yeah, but you got it off your chest. Thanks for the other side.

New York City, N.Y.: Carolyn, I have slowly begun to realize that one of my long time friends is verbally abusive and huge control freak. I would like to end the friendship because it is not doing anything good for me. It's easy to find help when it's a boyfriend or something, but for a friend the rules for breaking it off aren't so clear. I'll be moving out of her area in a few months so that will make it easier, but my real problem is that in the meantime I feel used, stupid, controlled, blinded, and dumbfounded for having put up with it so long. Do you have any advice for people about how to regain their strength and mentally get over an abusive relationship?

Carolyn Hax: Why don't you treat is as any other breakup? I've never really understood, or agreed with, treating romantic relationships and friendships as different institutions. Either way it's an emotional bond. In this case, it's a bond you need to sever ASAP, and I think you'll get a refreshing strength rush if you simply tell this friend you're tired of the BS and you're taking your attention elsewhere.

Adams Morgan, D.C.: Carolyn: a word of advice to Springfield about telling is ex about his engagement...

Don't put anything in your letter about how you know it will upset her. That's like salt in the wound. Just tell her you wanted her to hear it from you.

Carolyn Hax: Good point, thanks.

Fairfax, Va.: Hi Carolyn and lovely Lisa,

I am the world's worst procrastinator! I put distasteful things off, and I worry about them, so I put them off and worry more -- a vicious cycle. I also find myself starting things, getting them halfway done, and then going on to the next thing. Any suggestions on how to deal with this? Am I nuts or normal?

washingtonpost.com: I think a friend of yours wrote in earlier:

McLean, Va.: Hi Carolyn. I have a friend who procrastinates a lot, in everything she does.

What resources are there in the D.C. area for chronic procrastinators? Any groups/meetings/workshops?


Carolyn Hax: The only anti-stalling tactic that has ever worked for me is to get the stuff I dread most out of the way first ... but I was a pretty bad procrastinator once, so if it could save me it's probably solid. Nick once commented that I earn my leisure, and I've always liked the way that sounded.

Springfield, Va.: Out of curiosity -- how does spreading one's wings translate into the risk of getting an STD? In my experience, most of the people that stay attached to high school sweethearts don't make many friends and truly adapt to college because they are always in their rooms talking/typing to their boy/girlfriend or are afraid to go out without that person being there.

Carolyn Hax: Perhaps the writer was using a more gutter-level interpretation of the phrase. Speaking of Nick, he and I had a good howl over that. The final wording in the column was "Flap those babies," but we came up with a few choice alternatives that could never see Post-sponsored daylight.

Carolyn Hax: Oh, and I agree on the not-mixing point. It's a huge contributor to my bias against hanging on, especially now that I've logged some reunion mileage -- I've noticed, both with high school and college events, that the classmates who were firmly coupled are far less likely to show up, or to really dive in and mingle when they do. Some chicken-or-egg possibilities there, I suppose.

San Diego, Calif.: Carolyn -- love the column.

I am 24 years old and 3,000 miles away from my parents' divorce. However, it reaches out to pull me in every now and then. My father doesn't want to pay spousal support, my mother is going to have to sell our childhood home and maybe the car my father bought her while he was feeling guilty about the affair he was having. My dad lives with this other woman now and is talking about bringing her out here in the fall when he visits me and our extended family (including his parents) who live in Southern California. I can't help being angry at him right now. I think that he owes my mom a lot -- I think that he should realize that he gets to move on with his life with a new (much younger)woman and lots of money, while my mom has little chance of new relationships and will never make the kind of money he does. I also have NO interest in meeting the other woman. I want to write him an e-mail or letter telling him all of this, but my friends say it is my parents' divorce and I should just stay out of it. I don't know what to do. I still love my dad, but I feel this building up inside of me, distracting me from my happy life in the sun. Any advice? Write? Don't write? Stop speaking to him?

Carolyn Hax: By wanting you to meet the new woman, your dad is giving you an opportunity to weigh in. You can, if you're up to it, tell him that you want him to be happy -- but you can't in good conscience meet the new woman and be all happy for him as long as you feel your mom isn't getting her due. He does right by her or alienates his kids, right? That's the emotional reality? So let him know that. Again, if you think you're up to it.

Washington, D.C.: I am struggling with suicidal feelings. I can't get the thoughts out of my head. I'm not really immediately needing to call a hotline, it's not like that yet, but I am so scared and depressed, I don't know what to do. Please help. Thank you.

Carolyn Hax: Oh dear. Not needing a hotline doesn't mean you should wait around until you do. Scared and depressed are both fixable problems, I promise, having been both. Please click here (when my glam producer makes it a link for me, thank you GP)


For a list of information and counseling resources. The National Mental Health Association Information Center might be the best bet -- 1-800-969-6642, then press 4.

(Just in case, 1-800-SUICIDE is the emergency option.)

Philadelphia, Pa.: Dear Carolyn --

Love the chats, thought sometimes I feel like most of the questions that get posted seem to be emergencies (abuse, depression). I fully recognize that these people need immediate support, but for those of us who at the moment are experiencing less drama than that, could we have a chat dedicated to non-emergencies? Something for those of us who currently are dealing with career choices, exes who are being pouty, and shoe options.

Call it a banal chat. I've been date raped, my father was not exactly non-abusive, and frankly I'd like to celebrate the fact that I got help, dealt with the reality that s%&t happens indiscriminately. I'm pretty happy if for the next couple of years the worst things that happen to me are that I have to sit through two meetings with a higher-up throwing a temper tantrum or having a guy I like not call me back after the third date. Bring on the fluff, doggie tales and the survivor/moved-on stories!

Carolyn Hax: Deal. Next week?

Annapolis, Md.: It being Friday, I have a light, although important, question for you.

I am heading up to New York City this weekend for a going away party for a friend. It is being held at an Irish pub in Manhattan.


It became apparent to me, as I was packing last night, that this summer I have fallen into an old khakis, strappy tee, and Teva sort of mellow clothingness. Being in Annapolis hasn't helped me update my wardrobe towards the hip side. Now I am in a quandary. I have time to stop and pick something up, but I don't know what! I watch "Sex and the City," but I think that is a bit too hip for this. Plus, where the heck do they get their airbrushed bodies?

Can you or Lisa offer and good advice? We will also be hanging out in the city tomorrow and on Sunday. Please help me!

And include shoes! Right now, I have a pair of low, brown sandals and brown clogs. I'm thinking maybe black slides? Or something? I was thinking Payless -- for quick and cheap.

washingtonpost.com: Can't go wrong with anything black. -- Lisa.

Carolyn Hax: Dunno, a black snorkel might attract the wrong kind of attention.

Can't lose with wearing your usual uniform, because it's you, you're comfortable with it, and it shows that even New York can't intimidate you out of your fashion rut. Have fun.

Carolyn Hax: There, sneak preview of Fluff Week 2001. Thanks, guys, type to you Monday. Don't get arrested or anything.


That was our last question today. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

© Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company


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