The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: Don’t blame the messenger, divorced parents. Your behavior is wrong.

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared on Nov. 5, 2003.

Hi, Carolyn: I'm in my teens, and a few years ago my parents divorced. They often used me as a go-between for them. I know that this was wrong and that they shouldn't have and that they said they wouldn't, but they did. I had to go through therapy for this.

My problem is now they're still at it. They say, "Tell your mom/dad this and this," and if I don't want to, they get angry at me. They also get angry when I deliver a message, saying stuff like, "Your mom/dad shouldn't send messages through you, it's detrimental, so you tell them from me . . ."

How do I get this crap to stop? I'm so sick of it, and nothing seems to be working.

— Confused in Idaho

Confused in Idaho: The only way I can stand to say what I have to say is to say this first: None of this is your fault. I hope I’m the 400th person to say that. And that you’re the first to believe it.

Now my blue news. One thing will work, but it’s unjustly, grievously, utterly on your shoulders. Say no to your parents. Say it every time they try to make you their carrier pigeon. Say you love them, say sorry, say no. Say they’ll have to talk to each other.

As I’m sure you’ve deduced, that means openly withstanding their anger when all you want is their approval. Which is why your parents’ behavior is an outrage; they should be raising you, not the reverse. But since right and wrong aren’t compelling enough to stop them, their innocent kid saying, “Blame me, but I’m not budging” is apparently what they need to hear.

Dear Carolyn: This is one of those teenage things that drive me crazy. Last year Daniel and I started dating. Before that we were good friends. Since we were both too "busy," we decided we were just together — no title. That was fine by me, but it filled me with insecurity (the teenage thing I'm talking about). Point is, we didn't keep in touch during [break] and now we act as if nothing ever happened. I took that as a big hint this untitled relationship was not going to work. So now I want to talk to him about what happened, but I don't know what to say.

— 16-Year-Old Puppy Love

16-Year-Old Puppy Love: You don’t want to look stupid, he doesn’t want to look stupid and, guess what, nobody wants to look stupid.

The only difference between your teenage thing and a universal adult fear is the ability to keep it in perspective. At least until your late teens, it’s normal for yours to hover somewhere between none and none.

But accumulate enough humiliations over time, and you’ll figure out that worst-case fears rarely come true. And when the worst does happen, and Daniel points at you in a crowded hallway and laughs, and your face burns so hot your hair catches fire, and you have to come in the next day charred and bald, you’ll figure out you cannot only survive it, but also thrive. Except for that lingering facial twitch.

Go up to Daniel. Ask how he’s been. (Save “What happened?” for when he’s receptive.) You’ll either get your old friend back or get new courage to leave him behind.

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