The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: Dad dismisses teaching career as a waste of time

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)

Carolyn Hax is away. The following is from May 21, 25 and 30, 2008.

Dear Carolyn: I am 28 and married. My father feels I am wasting my time and skills in a job that pays so poorly (high school English teacher). He thinks I ought to go to law school, like my cousins. I’ve been teaching for four years, and while it hasn’t been easy, I’m really passionate about it and feel as though I’m making a difference. My parents frequently go on cruises, and each time I’m bombarded with tales of people they’ve met who are successful in business, law, etc. Presumably, the intent is to encourage me to pick something else. How do I handle my father’s nitpicking in a respectful way?

— Stressed in California

Stressed in California: Presumably, these successful cruisers were so talented they taught themselves in high school?

And how respectful is it of your dad to call your career a “waste?”

Never mind. My arguing your worth to you is as far beside the point as your arguing your worth to Daddy. Your profession is your business, not his. While it’s certainly nice to bask in parental approval, a functioning adult certainly also knows it’s not necessary.

So, stop giving him traction. Ask him, once, to please respect your choice and stop pressuring you. For any further meddling, it’s, “Appreciate the concern,” change subject (or, for cruise anecdotes, “How nice for these people,” change subject). Daddy loses more than you do, ultimately, from his refusal to see who you are.

Dear Carolyn: I have a guy friend who’s always very generous. Every time we go out, he gives the credit card well in advance to the waiter, so I don’t get a chance. Even when I have my friends with me, he pays for everything. I don’t want to seem like I’m taking advantage, so I don’t invite him out as often. I buy him a gift as a thank-you, but I feel like his generosity outweighs what I get for him. What is the best way to return his generosity?

— Too Good to Be True

Too Good to Be True: Someone who goes that far out of his way to pick up every check is inviting people to take advantage.

Not that you should, of course; you’re right to reciprocate. However, it’s not about protecting him from the abuse of his generosity. That’s his responsibility.

Your shared duty is to keep the friendship from getting so out of balance that you feel infantilized. If your gifts aren’t sufficient, in your opinion, then make it clear it’s a matter of dignity for you to be able to pay. Think about it: Your current strategy for acknowledging his generosity includes avoiding him. That alone suggests something is off.

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend and I are the same height. He thinks he is short and doesn’t like me to wear heels that make me even the least bit taller. He doesn’t say so, exactly, but he sulks if I try to wear them. Is it really my job to make sure he always is happy, or is it okay to be a “heel” once in a while?

— M.

M.: Whether you wear flats when you’d prefer heels, or wear heels when you’d prefer a date who wasn’t sulking, dating someone immature will always cost you something. As always, it’s a matter of deciding whether his other qualities are worth that particular price.