Reader: I’m a college student doing an internship at my dad’s firm, using the e-mail address of a former intern that my dad liked and respected. I stumbled across a series of irreverent e-mails from the intern to another lawyer — one my dad is friends with — making fun of my dad. I know it would upset my dad if I told him, but I want to drop a hint to his colleague that her mocking words are not as private as she thinks.

Karla: What’s the difference between snarky e-mails and radioactive nuclear waste with a million-year half-life? Nuclear waste stays buried.

This question came to both me and personal advice goddess Carolyn Hax. For Carolyn, the answer was a no-brainer on the family front: Say nothing to Dad. Let this nasty secret die in captivity.

I agree — with qualifications: If they were plotting to sabotage Dad’s career, he needs to know. If he has bad breath, you could alert him to it without even hinting that everyone is fake-gagging behind his back. Mean but ultimately harmless sniggering over his taste in ties? That information benefits no one. Bury it.

That said, if you’re feeling plucky and promise to keep it playful, you could forward one of the e-mails to your dad’s colleague, signing your name: “Hey, I bought him that tie with my own allowance in fifth grade. He swears it’s his favorite. :-)” No threats, and no glaring at her in the hall later.


You also might talk to in-house techies about recycling e-mail accounts. Ask them to close and archive the toxic account and set up a new one for you, and to do the same for future interns.


Reader: I left a toxic job two years ago, six months shy of my 30-year anniversary. I am fine financially but do not know how to let go of the disappointment over not sticking it out those last six months. I wish I could convince myself that the decision was the right one even though I did not meet my goal.

Karla: You’re thinking, “It was just six months — I should have stuck it out.” Try this instead: “What could I possibly have gained in six measly months to make it worth the misery? A plaque? Flowers? A crummy grocery store cake with gloppy frosting roses?”

Trust that you had good reasons for leaving. If you don’t remember what they were, ask those who knew you at the time to remind you. After two years of regret, it’s time to round up “29 and a half years” to “30 years,” buy yourself a crummy grocery store cake, and get on with enjoying retirement.

Karla Miller lives with her family in South Riding, Va. For 16 years, she has written for and edited tax publications. Send your questions to