Advice columnist

Editor’s note: Carolyn Hax has been doling out advice to readers for 15 years. To mark the anniversary of her “Tell Me About It” column, we’re republishing the very first installment, which ran in The Washington Post’s Style section on Monday, May 19, 1997. Tell us how you’ve used Hax’s advice in real life here.


Before I answer letters, please let me bore you with my personal problems. You should, after all, know with whom you’re dealing.

I’m 30, and I was deemed qualified for this job because I got here in one piece — despite some pretty stupid stunts (though I prefer the term “learning experiences”). I have three older sisters and still-married parents with whom I’m extremely close, and giving them all the praise they deserve would make them gag, so I’ll stop there. They were, though, most of my education. To make it out of the Hax house unscathed, we had to take our work seriously but never, ever ourselves. Pretense got us mercilessly teased, but we never doubted we were loved.

The home chemistry must have worked, because all four of us made it to reasonably well-adjusted adulthoods, via snooty private colleges, no less. They made a deal with us: Reach as high as you can, and we’ll do the rest. We, grateful spawn that we are, took them to the cleaners.

Carolyn Hax (Kim Arrington Oster /The Washington Post)

I’ve been in the Washington area almost nine years now, at The Post for about five of them, and in that time, I’ve acquired a mad-artist husband with a quick laugh and bad allergies, a house that needs work and a lawn full of weeds.

But enough about me.

Dear Carolyn:

This is your father. Haven’t been able to get anything on except The Post home page, and then I was unable to find your site. You can tell us, child. Do you really work there? We’re always here for you.

— Pops

How embarrassing. The column will appear on The Post’s site,; I don’t have my own. is the e-mail address. By mail: Tell Me About It, Style Plus, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Reader(s), this is a hint: Please write. Or my father will make good on threats to send me lurid accounts of my teenage years and insist I face them in print.

Dear Carolyn:

I went out with a guy a while ago and am now still totally in love with him. He broke up with me because of some stupid thing I did. I knew he still liked me afterward, but I’m not so sure about now. I am also afraid that if we do go out again, people will talk about us behind our backs because of what I did. But I still love him and want him back. What can I do? I can’t wait any longer.

— D.

How brave are you? If you can bear his saying “no,” ask him out. If you’re afraid, don’t — but don’t just wait for him, either. Move on. For one, he let you go, even if he did still like you. Has he done something to suggest he’s changed his mind? And another reason: Forgetting about him, and especially finding someone else, is about the only sure way to get a guy’s attention.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t worry about people talking about you behind your back. They probably do that already! It happens to everyone who gets noticed. Ignore it — though if you’re about to do another stupid thing, first imagine what people will say. Maybe it’ll make you think twice.

I have to ask: What exactly did you do?

Dear Carolyn:

I’m only 11 and I just found out that my dad is moving to California. I don’t know what to do. Please help.

— S.B., Washington

I do have advice for you, but I suspect what you need is a big fat hug, and I can’t give that to you. I’m sorry.

Getting a new father is out, so you’ll have to make the best of this one. Does he know how you feel? He needs to, so you can create a new kind of friendship that will survive the distance. If you can both get to computers, e-mail is a great way to share the little stuff that doesn’t seem important enough for a phone call. (It is important, by the way — all of it.) Otherwise, plan a regular way to spend time with him. Call him every Sunday, or write a letter every Friday, keep scrapbooks that you can send out there, anything that can become a habit. You guys should agree on something before he leaves. People who move aren’t gone forever; they just require a little hard work to keep. With any luck, you’ll have whole summers in California to rest.


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