— It's Hair
It’s Hair: If you know it’s dumb, and know it’s hair, and know it’s a little quibble about someone you love bunches, and know it doesn’t pass the if-we-switched-the-roles-or-genders test, and you love that he doesn’t meddle in your appearance — and if you say all these things to him out loud, owning them — then you can in fact ask him to break out the weed-whacker without being an utter jerk, just for you and just because.
You may feel better for saying it all.
He may refuse, too. Fortunately, I don’t have to be there for that.
Dear Carolyn: What are some polite ways to put off postpartum visiting by in-laws, and how long is too long? They tend to be quite critical at the best of times, and get worse around big events like weddings and graduations. They're vaccinated, so no dice using that as an excuse.
Anonymous: “We’re limiting visits at first.” Or bonding, or acclimating. Then state when you’re open to visits.
The wording, though, is a tenth of the battle at best. The 90 percent is trusting you’re entitled to stand up to people who aren’t nice to you.
You are, you can. Please do. Better to tempt their outrage than roll over to meanness. Congrats to you both.
Dear Carolyn: I was 72 yesterday. All the people I send cards to, even gifts to some, did not acknowledge my birthday at all. I've done a tremendous amount of work lately in helping one family I'm related to with a funeral, the care of the gravesite, decorating the grave for Easter, etc. — not a single one of them reached out. It made me very sad to think I've invested so much into these one-sided relationships. Can you offer me any perspective on this that would make me want to stay in touch with these relatives?
C: I’m sorry about the bad birthday.
The quickest perspective: It’s one day.
You may see it as a small thing they could easily have done, but if it’s small from that angle, then it’s small from their side, too. It’s one miss — during a difficult time for everyone and acutely so for one family. (Though of course it would have been nice if they’d managed some contact anyway.)
If there’s more to work through here than this, then I offer perspective in the form of a mental flow chart:
●These may not be one-sided relationships, but instead different-sided. You send cards and you care about birthdays, for example, but not everyone does, or responds in kind. Others prefer to do their part through weekly calls or hosting big holidays or fixing things for you or whatever else. To feel connected through such mismatches, pay attention to their forms of giving and appreciate them for what they are vs. dwell on what they aren’t.
●If their forms of giving are nonexistent, then appreciation is out, obviously. In that case, you look for simple explanations. Is their negligence only a recent phenomenon? Can you blame it on grief or covid or some other circumstance besides the relationship itself?
●If so, then you stay in touch because that’s what loved ones do — they recognize signs of others’ troubles and suspend or just minimize their own expectations until the trouble passes.
●If it’s not a recent thing — if these loved ones have always taken from you without giving much back — then you think about your reasons for staying in touch. Is it for companionship? Then it’s time to cultivate other sources, other ways to get what you need. If it isn’t about companionship, is it principle or duty? Is it the satisfaction of giving? Then you can keep doing your part knowing it’s to make yourself feel good as much as it is about helping them, and mentally release them of any obligation to you.
●If you do attend to them on principle, and if that no longer feels good enough, then it’s okay to be done. It’s okay to tell yourself you put in the work, you served your beliefs and now it’s time to invest yourself in other things.
The pragmatist gets a flow chart, too: If you want something for your birthday, then plan it yourself. Set up a family Zoom call, invite them over, send out self-addressed postcards, call them and say it’s your birthday. It’s better if they think of it, sure — but not so much better that it’s worth the risk of waiting all day to feel good. Don’t get mad, get busy.