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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, Dec. 13, 2002; Noon ET

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 Wednesday, 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 30-something repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that’s about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

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."

Carolyn Hax: Hi guys. Just wanted to say thanks for all the happy thoughts you sent in. It wasn’t until last week’s session was over and I was reading the outtakes that I realized that they outnumbered the nastigrams about 1,000 to 3. (Or 6, if you count the few who are doggedly still at my throat today. A special thanks to you!)

Annual holiday mayhem begins at 1; first hour is for the normal abnormalities.

Keeping the peace: Hi Carolyn --

At what point do you fight back? I have tried for years to get a good relationship going with my cousin. We were great friends as kids, but once she hit high school she became very snobby, and very superficial. Now, she's out of college, and a bit better, but we have totally different priorities.

She's sort of high maintenance and spoiled, can't even go downstairs without makeup and is always saying who is ugly, fat and a loser, she has a very hard, cynical edge (and not in a good way). I ask her about her job, how she is, the guy she's seeing. Trying to get her talking. She gives me one word answers and throws out barbs constantly.

Last year she asked my age, and I told her (surprised she didn't remember as she is only two years younger than me) and she said "Huh, I thought you were way older than that." I laughed it off and left the room. She also in a veiled way mentions that she thinks I am fat (I am a size 8, she is a size 2.)

As a result by the end of the holidays I feel completely burnt out. I love my relatives and she is the only negative spot. I don't want to avoid her, because it just feels like running, should I just dish it back? I have the ability, I just figured it'd be easier on the family to not say anything. Now, I am just loathing the idea of spending time around her.

Carolyn Hax: Howdy. Why does confrontation count as the only strong or brave answer? Ignoring somebody unpleasant can be just as courageous as taking her on, if not more so. Avoid her as you can, and when she insults you, either laugh and leave the room or just say there's no need to be rude.

Washington, D.C.: Carolyn --

How do you define emotional manipulation? And what's the best way to deal with it?

Carolyn Hax: I'd define it as someone's attempt to make you feel responsible for their happiness, two classic examples being the emotionally manipulative lover's "If you leave me I'll kill/hurt myself," and the emotionally manipulative mama's "You never call me any more, I guess you don't love me." The best way to deal with it is to recognize it for what it is and not succumb to the guilt, which means not doing whatever it is you're being coerced to do.

Carolyn Hax: Sorry guys, cable modem just got a case of the slows.

Dumb, Ariz.: Carolyn,

Just curious as to your opinion on my situation. I have recently started "seeing" someone new. By "seeing" I mean sneaking around with. She's afraid of getting out of a long term relationship for fear of the emotional trauma. Personally, after a lifetime of doing the "right" thing I am actually quite fine with the situation as it is and perfectly content in taking things day by day. Is there any moral justification for this scenario, or am I just going straight to hell? She's real cute if that helps your answer at all.

(Thought I'd give you an easy one today. Merry Christmas).

Carolyn Hax: No, no moral justification. (Thanks!)

Carolyn Hax: Hell is what I'd call life with such a spineless person, no matter how cute, so, yes to that.

Confused in Washington, D.C.: What do you do when you meet a guy you really like and find interesting and want to get to know -- and you know he feels the same way about you -- and then guy and girl end up coincidently going out with mutual friends one evening and then kissing at the end of the night and guy says he had lot of fun and will talk to you soon. But soon hasn't arrived yet -- a little less than a week ago). Is he all of a sudden not interested? I really think that something could come of this but don't want to push or seem desperate. So do I leave him alone? Is the ball in either of our courts? Please answer!

Carolyn Hax: If he's interested, he's probably trying really hard not to look interested. If you want to see him, ask him out. If you skew old-fashioned, wait a week and then ask him out.

Pullman, Wash.: Hi Carolyn:

My wife and I have had our fair share of marital strife during our five-year marriage, and found an excellent psychologist to help us develop tools and exercises for the purpose of working through some major issues. This experience and the valuable lessons learned are virtually priceless. Here's the scoop: we have some very close friends in our community (a married couple) who are dear to us. However, their relationship is fraught with unhealthy methods of conflict resolution. They are both very good people. He is a rigid "old fashioned" kind of person who believes his word should be the last. She plays the martyr and has a low self-image. We are worried about the long-term health of their relationship. One of my strongest personal philosophies is that it is only appropriate to give advice in two circumstances: when someone's life is at stake, or when someone has asked for it. Assuming they have not asked, is there anything we can do to help them other than just being there to support them or providing a good example? Your advice would be greatly appreciated. By the way, we both love your column. You're the best thing to happen to advice columns since Ann Landers.

Carolyn Hax: Thanky. I think you have a good philosophy going and shouldn't mess with it here, if only because you don't want to have the evangelized-ex-smoker thing going. But don't underestimate the power of a kind example, either. If he interrupts her, you can wait till he's finished, turn back to her and ask, "You were saying?" I think you'll find many subtle opportunities to validate her; spare none of them.

The cousin problem: I don't have a solution, but a couple of questions -- since this is a family gathering, is this cousin attacking anyone else, or just you? Maybe it's something that needs to be settled in a closed room, just the two of you.

If she's obnoxious to EVERYONE, she must be bothering more people than just you. How does the rest of the family handle her?

Carolyn Hax: Good questions, thanks.

Arlington, Va.: I know this is a non-holiday question, but I could really use your advice.

My sister is getting married in a few weeks, and she has recently asked me and my brother to read a scripture at their wedding. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but #1 I really don't feel comfortable talking in front of people #2 my family doesn't totally support this marriage. Even though we've tried, her fiance has been impossible to get to know and it's made it very hard to see how this relationship is right, and #3 religious issues.

So, do you think I should suck it up and just read for my sister's sake, or get out while I still can? BTW, telling her how I feel won't really help. She's very stubborn and every time anyone brings up anything about how we don't really know her fiance, she gets VERY defensive. (major issues there that we haven't begun to break).

Thanks for your advice!

Carolyn Hax: 1. If you have some concrete and legitimate reason to object to the groom, don't read.

2. If you just don't know the groom well and are filling in the blanks with unsubstantiated misgivings, suck it up and read.

3. If her feelings are more important to you than her issues or your misgivings, see 2.

Dertown, Md.: So if I tell my boyfriend I don't feel he loves me because I truly feel that way is that being manipulative or am I telling him how I feel?

Carolyn Hax: If you feel he doesn't love you, then it's fine to say so.

If you use an example to illustrate it -- "I don't feel you love me because you rarely take an interest in my football habit," then that's even better, because it gives him something to consider and either confirm, discuss or rebut.

If you say, "If you loved me, you'd watch football with me," you've phrased it as a threat, which is manipulative.

washingtonpost.com: STOP with the DSL comments. She doesn't see them, and you're wasting my time having to look at them. -- Lisa.

Rockville, Md.: PLEASE tell me what "I don't have time/energy for a relationship, but if I did, you would the first person I would want to have one with" REALLY means. Does it mean I simply don't like you enough to devote any time to you?

Carolyn Hax: It means that, until further notice, there is no relationship. There isn't much to gain from the particulars.

Anonymous: My friend's husband made a pass at me at a party. I think he had too much to drink, and his actions were wholly unprovoked and not reciprocated. I found his actions repulsive, and told him so. He apologized and asked me to keep quiet. I made no promises. Do I keep quiet, or spill it to my friend. She is actually a very good friend, and I am afraid that her husband could hurt her. But I also am afraid that telling her could hurt our friendship.

Carolyn Hax: First offense, possibly alcohol-induced, dealt with appropriately on the spot? I'd drop it.

FWIW, I don't think the potential harm to your friendship is the reason not to tell. I'd say it was that the potential harm to her marriage might be disproportionate to the errant husband's offense. But if he pulls something like it again, that's a lech of a different color.

North Carolina: Carolyn,

I seem to attract, and am attracted to women with, um, issues. Needy, high-maintenance, drama queen type women. I recognize the pattern, but I don’t know how to break out of it. I’ve met these women in pick-up bars, work happy hours, social gatherings at a friend’s house, and even the bookstore. After each one I say ‘never again’, but then it happens again. Do I just miss the signs? I am beginning to wonder if there isn’t something subconscious going on. These women don’t throw fits the first night. I mean, you see and hear about certain women going from abusive jerk to abusive jerk -- and the thing is, these guys don’t hit them on the first date either. Any perspective you could offer here would be great. Or am I just “cursed” to a life with Scarlett O’Hara/Daisy Buchanan?

Carolyn Hax: I'm going to go with, "missing the signs." Do you have any female friends? If not, why not, and if so, why don't you find them attractive?

Fairfax, Va.: I live with 23-year-old daughter. I was single parent from the time she was 2. I honestly did my best while raising her. Last night she accused of physical and emotional abuse. Granted there were times when I spanked her too hard but I stopped that as soon as I became aware of it. she said I belittled her daily and said what a horrible relationship we had. I remember it as stormy but thought it was the usual teenage time. I am devastated and don't know what to do.

Carolyn Hax: Did you concede that you know you made some mistakes, like spanking her too hard, but that you did your best and that you're devastated by the thought that you might have failed her? And that you want to make things right? This looks like a job for a family trip to a therapist, but it's worth a try to get the discussion going without that. That will involve complete honesty from you, not just a defense of the things you felt you did right or an automatic mea culpa for the stuff she says you did wrong. Good luck.

Dertown, Md.: Thanks Carolyn, that gives me good insight. That is exactly what I say "I feel you don't love me because you show no interest in my interests" and I am told I am attacking. So can you have a relationship with someone who has no interest in your likes/interests or does that mean they don't love you?

Carolyn Hax: You -can- have a relationship with someone who shows no interests in your interests; the question is whether you -want- to. Love is a many-flavored thing.

Northern Virginia: First, congrats on your upcomming babies. Stock up on sleep.

My issue is that my wife does not think I do enough around the house; however, I think I am pulling my weight. We have an 8-month-old, and she is a stay-at-home mom. I do most of the cooking, feed the child in the morning and evening. I also take care of any middle of the night issues (which are thankfully rare, and lately have involved letting the dog out). In addition, I do some cleaning (not that much, I admit). On weekends, I usually spend 8-12 hours on maintenance projects around the house. Oh, and I earn the money to keep us in the house.

The problem as I see it is that my wife sees my work time as time away, or "my free time." So, in her opinion, my personal time is from 7:45 a.m. (when I leave) until 6:15 p.m. (when I get home). I do not see it that way, hence the conflict.

It has gotten to the point where she is threatening to take the baby and go back to her mother. I am at my wit's end.

Oh -- one other problem, with the extra expenses and my wife not working, money is very tight!

Carolyn Hax: Does she have a night off? Do you? Do you have a night off together? Never underestimate the power of structure -- having black-and-white calendar items can go a long way toward making sense of gray things like time.

Speaking of gray -- you've listed a lot of valuable things you do, for which you should get due credit, but what's -she- doing throughout? If the answer is, "being primary caregiver to 8-month-old from waking till bedtime, seven days a week, with spot relief from husband," she's got a point and needs a break. Even if it's just to take over house maintenance while you bounce the baby. Again, you need your time, too, but a parent at home with an infant doesn't get a lunch break, and a parent at work does. That alone can create a resentment gap that the parent at work may never fully comprehend. My advice, comprehend it. Acknowledge it. Then work, very very pragmatically, from there.

Georgetown Girl: I am due to go to a Holiday party tomorrow. The problem is that my date is planning on proposing -- IN FRONT OF HIS ENTIRE OFFICE! To make matters worse, I HAVE NO INTENTION OF SAYING YES! A mutual friend spilled the beans to make sure that I showed up -- and she was asked for advice on the ring so this is the real deal!

I like the guy OK and he is a great friend, but not love and not marriage! So do I let on that I see this coming to my date, pretend to be sick and not go, go and decline in front of everybody, what?

(Why oh why do they do these things? If he really knew me well enough to get engaged, then he would KNOW it is out of the question!)

In deep reindeer poop!

Carolyn Hax: You've been given a rare gift--the opportunity to stop a train wreck. Tell him you know, tell him no. Sigh.

Lighter side of the Holidays: Grew up celebrating Christmas even though we're Jewish. At age 6, I offended some old-lady aunts at the Hannukkah party by singing about Rudolph. My Uncle Jono made up new words on the spot and I've remembered them ever since.

Herman the Hannukah Candle
Had a very shiny light
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it's bright
All of the other candles
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Herman
Join in any dreidel games
Then one foggy Hannukah night
A rabbi came to say
Herman with your light so bright
Won't you be my shammus tonight
Then how the candles loved him
And they shouted out with glee
Herman's the best Hannukah candle
In the whole of history

I know, very silly. But it saved me from getting stiffed on gelt that year.

Carolyn Hax: Well will you look at the time. Sorry guys! It's 16 minutes past holiday time. And thank you Herman, for lighting up the Death Chair.

Carolyn Hax: Or, as Lisa messaged me today, "Well spank me, it's Christmas!" Don we now our pants of bacon, fa la la la la,
la la

Blur of Recognition: Dear Carolyn:

I was the drunk husband making a pass at a friend, which was rebuffed. I was horrified at behavior in the morning, and the pass is way in the past (10 years ago). This first offender learned from mistake, and was glad it was not revealed to my wife at the time.

Carolyn Hax: Drunk on eggnog, right? So I can post this? Thanks.

Chicago, Ill.: Just wanted to share a lovely holiday tradition in my house. Every year my parents go to midnight mass. As soon as they leave, my brother and I go to the only convenience store open at midnight on Christmas Eve and spend $5 to buy them the crappiest presents imaginable. Last year, this bought us expired "tinned meat," a dusty New Kids on the Block water bottle, a set of press-on nails, and a plastic spoon. We then wrap them in the most extravagant way possible in a limited amount of time. The press-on nails, for example, went in a refrigerator box with a mannequin wearing a Richard Nixon mask popping out. My mom cried.

While it's no bacon pants, it's totally become the best thing about Christmas since we all grew up.

Carolyn Hax: Bravo.

Missouri: Luckily I am going to miss the big extended family get together this year. My extended family is not close and I find these events to be superficial and awkward. How do families end up like this and what do people do to get through the hellish hours of mindless conversation and health stories?

Carolyn Hax: They end up like this because they agree to it; they get through it by any means necessary. Cooking and washing dishes are sneaky ways out, by virtue of their being so virtuous, and they keep hands unavailable for stranglings.

The next question of course is -why- they agree to sprawling family events, and my suspicion is that they'd be secretly bereft without them.

PSA: For everyone writing in confused about the origin of all the holiday references, we clarified in the Dec. 10, 2001 discussion. (Which I quickly found by typing hax, live online and bacon pants into google. Y'all are on the Internet -- I have faith in you.)

-- Lisa, wearing elf shoes

Carolyn Hax: And a paddle.

Adoption? Marriage?: Carolyn,

I just wanted to know how one goes about joining one of these families with the best-ever holiday traditions - what I wouldn't give to take part in the Death Chair fun, the Reindeer Poop Award Ceremonies, and/or the Midnight $5 Present Run...

Not that my family's bad or anything, but how can ordinary compare to extraordinary?

Carolyn Hax: That's just it -- these are ordinary, or they start that way, until they age into the sublime. Sense of humor, though, is not optional.

North Carolina again: I have several female friends. One whom I dated for a couple of months, one of whom the romance was much shorter. For what it's worth, they think that it's not about missing signs, or anything subconscious. They think that I simply like drama and like feeling really needed. They have generally been right on these issues, but I was looking for another opinion.

Carolyn Hax: Please stand by while we pause for first-hour follow-up.

I think that -is- missing signs and being slave to your subconscious, precisely. Things you dig in women -are- the signs of impending drama. So you need to find out the -reason- you dig these things, and then recognize when that reason is affecting your judgment. Hate to recommend therapy twice in the same chat, but that's what it's all about -- understanding your counterproductive behavior patterns, and then learning to spot and override them when you're out introducing yourself to the rest of the world.

Home of Reindeer Poop: As the person who originally submitted the story about my screwy family's tradition, I have to say what a kick it is that people still remember. I'm heading home to Hagerstown tomorrow and am trying to think of a recipient who can unseat the reigning Osama bin Laden.

Any suggestions?

Carolyn Hax: Trent Lott? Cardinal Law? And that's just from today's headlines.

Holiday tradition... fish what?: Every year my family plays a game called "bunko" we roll dice and take down scores. It's cutthroat and there's usually a huge group playing.

The winner gets something like soap

And the loser gets an expired can of fish a----les... seriously. It says it on the can. Is it bait? Is it food? It's never been opened and everyone's scared to ask. It gets passed down every year

It's fun!

Carolyn Hax: I want a fact-checking staff for some of these.

Buffalo, N.Y.: My holiday question:

Several years ago, I went home for the holidays with a bad cold. On Christmas Eve, I had recovered enough to go to Midnight Mass with the family.

I was in the pew next to a brother-in-law when I unexpectedly let go with a powerful sneeze. As I came to, I noticed a giant hocker on the back of the guy in front of me.

I was immediately faced with the etiquette dilemma of what to do since he was completely unaware of his state.

I decided to have an uncontrollable fit of laughing in church. My brother-in-law followed suit.

Carolyn, what should I have done?

Carolyn Hax: You ask that as if you had other options.

Philadelphia, Pa.: I'm an atheist who is going to be spending Christmas with boyfriend's family (only 36 hours or so). They have no idea that I'm an atheist. How do I deflect any inevitable questions about religion? (I've already told BF several times that if he's "embarrassed" by my atheism, he needs to get over it, just as I've gotten over his very hairy back).

Carolyn Hax: Actually, I don't see why questions about religion are "inevitable"; in my own experience, there have been extraordinarily few occasions where the only honest reply has been, "I don't believe in God." Like, two. Even over Christmas, you can decline a plea to attend church with, "No thank you, I'm not religious."

So is he "embarrassed" by your atheism? That seems to be more of a problem.

Holiday traditions: For the past several years in my family the gag gift has been a beautifully framed photograph of Uncle Jimmy's armpit. The picture is so disgusting as to defy description. Every year at the family party the last person who got it has to foist it on somebody else, but it must be disguised; once it's opened it can't be given back. This year the giving falls to me -- I'm thinking Victoria's Secret gift box and pink tissue paper.

washingtonpost.com: Picking myself up off the floor now. -- Lisa.

Carolyn Hax: The pew loogie didn't meet your floor standards, but this did?

Virginia: Our extended family does a goofy gift swap game (White Elephant, I think they call it).

One of the hot items this year (we do ours at Thanksgiving) was a tube of Boudreaux's Butt Paste (it's on the Internet, so you can see I'm not making it up).

We decided that on the Top 10 list of Things You Don't Want To Say During the Holidays, "Oh no, someone stole my Butt Paste!" is probably somewhere near the top. Or the bottom. We couldn't decide.

I have a great and loving family, by the way, who also and at the same time drive each other crazy. Families can be both, usually are. Love each other, for crying out loud! Life is too dang short.

Carolyn Hax: Actually, life is long for most of us, but I agree with the sentiment.

Austin, Tex.: Just thought I'd pass along our family's holiday tradition. After both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner we break out the family copy of "The Silence of the Lambs" and watch it.

It all started innocently about eight years ago when rented a bunch of videos for the holidays and "Lambs" ended up being one of them. We were all so grossed out by watching it and having such a hootin' hollerin' time with it, we now do it every year.

You know it's the holidays in my family when my sister starts asking for the fava beans and a nice chianti - ffffth-th-th-th!

It's no death chair or fruitcake football, but it's ours!

washingtonpost.com: It puts the lotion in the baaaasket! -- Lisa.

Carolyn Hax: Precious!

More holiday traditions: Every year for the past 25 years, I have gotten a potato in my stocking (nothing else, just a potato -- they give me the rest of my gifts later). It's an old Irish tradition. When we were younger, though, my brother got jealous (imagine that!) and had to have a vegetable of his own. The tradition grew until each member of the family got an annual produce item -- a potato, a bell pepper, and orange, and a mushroom. And my family wonders why I don't bring dates home.

Carolyn Hax: Because they'll wind up in your stocking?

ar ar.

Very, Impressed: This is, I believe, the best Christmas gift story I've ever heard. If Chicago, Ill., is male, I would like to propose. If Chicago, Ill., is female, I would strongly consider changing my sexual orientation.

Carolyn Hax: That's what I call a powerful story.

A Loyal Holiday Chatter: Pew Loogie! Pew Loogie!

What else would get me in the holiday mood?

Carolyn Hax: We are all beyond help.

Washington, D.C.: Maybe we need a "How to not throttle family members during this season of peace and love" chat.

Carolyn Hax: I think we're having it.

Washington, D.C.: The best holiday tradition we've instituted recently is for everyone to draw a name at Thanksgiving. Then at Christmas instead of a gift, you have to write the person a note telling them what you appreciate about them. It has really help me think about people I take for granted sometimes.

OH, and the dorky thing, we have waaaay too many presents (I think) and open then one at a time youngest to oldest, so we have a quiz to make sure that people are paying attention. At least there is a prize!

Carolyn Hax: This is wonderful, except I know that the contents of my first annual note (and every successive one) would be, "doesn't make me write down what I appreciate about him/her." Happiness is accepting how stunted you are, I guess.

Los Angeles, Calif.: Several years ago, my beloved cat passed and our family had her cremated. She now resides in a small box on a living room table. Each Christmas, we have a few people over. Each year, some unsuspecting guest is invited to "pet the kitty."

Carolyn Hax: "I appreciate that you are sick sick sick."

Maryland: Am I the only kid who left pizza and beer for Santa instead of milk and cookies?

Carolyn Hax: Kids, take note.

Washington, D.C.: My father videotapes the whole gift-opening thing. Mom, dad and I have to sit near the tree and take turns opening gifts and explaining who the giver is and what the present is for the camera. No one has ever watched one of these documentaries in the past 32 years... but whatever. My BF is unaware of our very geeky practice and will be spending Christmas with my family. Do I forewarn him or let him figure out the surprise on his own?

Carolyn Hax: Ambush, definitely.

Frederick, Md.: Carolyn,

Did your dad write his version of Twas the Night Before Christmas yet? Please share!

Merry Merry to you and yours!

Carolyn Hax: Thanks! I think he did write it, and I even thought to ask him for it earlier this week. Unfortunately, it was right before I forgot to ask him for it.

HOWEVER: I happen to have 1992's edition on my desk, by chance (was sorting through some old papers last week). Give me a moment to type ...

Carolyn Hax: Twas the night before Christmas,
and all through the grounds
not a creature was stirring,
not even the hounds.

The stockings were hung
by the chimney, on a nail.
They were purple and brown,
we got them on sale.

The children were nestled
all snug and secure,
the sheets were white satin,
the nightshirts, velour.

And ma in her kerchief,
and I in my cap,
were just drying out
(spilled beer in my lap).

When out on the lawn
there arose such a fuss,
I stepped on the cat.
His name was Russ.

I'd go on, but I'm afraid you'll hold it against me.

Pizza and beer for Santa: Funny kid story. Chatting with my 5-year-old yesterday about making cookies this weekend and leaving some for Santa when he said he wanted to leave a Guinness for Santa, "cuz' they make (me) so happy."


Carolyn Hax: That's a fine son you have there. Nicely done.

Lovely Christmas Tradition: A couple of years ago my mother unwittingly started a Christmas tradition.

She's getting ready to serve up the roast, and she's got the gravy ready to go ... uh-oh, no gravy boat, where did it go?

Fast-forward to the dinner table, whereupon we find that the gravy has been served in a cow-shaped pitcher.

As we discovered, the thick dark gravy poured realistically out of the cow's mouth.

The moment was only improved by my husband simulating the sounds of a cow retching.

The cow pitcher is now lovingly referred to as the Distressingly Realistic Vomiting Cow.

Carolyn Hax: Thief! Lisa, where's the Hax family retching chicken pitcher story?

Never mind. I won't press charges.

Arlington, Va.: Holiday tradition? We all get loopy on mixed drinks and watch Uncle Mike urinate on our neighbor's Christmas lights display.

Carolyn Hax: He does this every year. Interesting.

Bad gift: My dad just told me that he's attending a holiday white elephant party and is going to be "getting rid of a God-awful Klezmer Nutcracker CD" that's been sitting around. He couldn't remember where he got it. I didn't remind him that I bought it for him, as a serious gift -- I liked it! Don't feel like I can ask for it back now, though.

Carolyn Hax: Oh noooooo.

But you -have- to ask for it back. It's a legend waiting to be born.

washingtonpost.com: Chicken pitcher story.

You say it there, it comes out here. -- Lisa

Carolyn Hax: And with this unsettling barfing noise. Thanks!

Washington, D.C.: PLEASE give us the rest of the Night Before Christmas!

Carolyn Hax: Oh OKAY:

Away to the window
I flew like a bird,
tore open the shutters
and stepped on a turd.

The moon on the breast
of the new-fallen snow
showed four trash cans, three kittens,
two hubcaps and a crow.

When what to my wondering
eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh
with skid landing gear.

The little old driver
was lively and agile.
He had partied last night,
and was feeling fragile.

More rapid than eagles
his coursers they came,
and he whistled and shouted
and called them bad names.

There's the next installment.

New York, N.Y.: Went to a holiday white elephant party last year clutching a wedding gift. A green, metal frog candlestick, about a foot tall, with froggie standing up on his two back legs. This came from a family member who said it was a "unique gift for a unique couple!" The great thing was that the woman who received it at the party adored it. We enjoyed watching her tenderly rewrap it for the trip home.

Carolyn Hax: Aw, a hoppy ending.

White Plains, N.Y.: My mother teaches kindergarten. Last week one of her angels stood up in the middle of the room and started telling everyone that "Santa Claus doesn't exist. So you are all full of sh-t. And my mom told me and she doesn't lie."

The other kids threw stuff at her. Why do parents feel the need to spoil Christmas for 5-year-olds?

Carolyn Hax: Um, I think these particular parents have to answer to some other things first.


Holiday Traditions: We all try to get the most sentimental present for my mom, and the take bets on which one will make her cry first. It works well; we all really think hard about what would mean a lot to my mom, since she does so much and we all get a kick out of it.

She thinks it's funny now, too. I think one day she'll starting rigging it with my dad...

Carolyn Hax: Not as sick as our usual fare, but I'll allow it -- especially if there's real money changing hands.

Carolyn Hax: Still here, just skimming for a farewell post (after which I'll finish typing Pops's TNBC).

Fairfax, Va.: Unbelievably gross white elephant gift: Vintage 1965 rubber and cloth head of Bavarian man, green hat with feather, wrinkled and leering, reddish distorted lips. Pull the string under his chin, a tape comes on with horrible mocking laughter, and he, I kid you not, spits!!!! a little battery-powered motor compresses a rubber bladder. Brilliant. I love German humor.

Carolyn Hax: Somebody has to. Oh, and for the person who asked what a white elephant gift was -- it's when a bunch of people re-wrap and exchange bad gifts they've gotten in the past. Stay tuned for the Christmas Hoover, and then it's story time!

Any post divorce holiday traditions out there?: I ask because years ago, my mother took the Christmas tree in my parents' divorce but forgot to take the ornaments. With no time to buy a new tree, my dad and I decorated our upright vacuum cleaner with the ornaments. It's become a annual tradition that we call "Home for the Holidays with the Hoover" While we do have a real tree every year now thanks to my stepmom, we still start the holidays by decorating the Hoover.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks, to you and the rest who were generous enough to invite us into your freakish homes for the day. My faith in chat-kind is renewed! Happy weekend, and type to you next Friday.

Carolyn Hax: Now Ronald! Now Donald!
Now Billie and Jaime!
On Milly, on Silly!
On Tilly and Slimy!

To the top of the porch,
to the top of the wall,
up the front stairs
and in the back hall,

As dry leaves before
the wild hurricane fly,
where do they go?
And do we care why?

So up to the housetop
the coursers they flew
with a sleigh full of toys
and a purple canoe.

Then in a twinkle
I heard on the shingles
Santa Claus farted
and the sleigh bells jingled.

As I drew in my head
and was turning around,
down shot St. Nicky,
straight through to the ground.

He was dressed all in fur
from his head to the floor.
His clothes were all bought
at a secondhand store.

A bundle of toys
he had flung on his back.
Most of them worked
when you gave them a whack.

His eyes how they twinkled;
his dimples, how merry.
His toenails were longs,
and his nostrils were hairy.

His droll little mouth
was drawn up like a bow--
It says in the book,
so it must be so.

The stump of a pipe
he held tight in his teeth.
Tobacco discolored
his whiskers beneath.

He had a broad face
and a round little bottom.
He had diet pills galore,
but he usually forgottem.

He was chubby and plump
and of sallow complexion.
His strange line of work
was a cause of infection.

A wink of his eye
and a twist of his face
were remnants, I think,
of encounters with Mace.

He spoke not a word,
but went straight to his duty.
Filling stockings was fun,
but who paid for the booty?

And laying a finger
aside of his nose
(it was bright red and puffy --
it looked like a rose),

He sprang to his sleigh,
to his team gave a call.
They didn't understand,
being reindeer and all.

But I heard him exclaim
as he drove quickly away,
"This job's the pits
but it's three squares a day!"


That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

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