The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Father needs to recognize extent of damage caused by wedding boycott


Dear Carolyn:

My son is planning a small wedding for June. This will be his second marriage, and also his fiancee’s. They are planning a ceremony on the beach in California near where they will be joining a bike ride for AIDS. My husband does not like the idea of the wedding in California, nor does he approve of the AIDS event. He also feels that our son has been disrespectful and he does not feel like supporting his choice of venue.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My son was legally adopted by my husband over 20 years ago, and my husband has always been a responsible parent. There is a lot of love, but it is not expressed, and my husband does not show physical affection. I know that his refusal to attend will hurt our son very much, but I don’t know what to do about it.


Step 1, make sure you didn’t leave something out of your letter, because this seems like an extreme reaction to the state of California.

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

If your husband truly is harrumphant against beach ceremonies/AIDS rides/second weddings, perhaps? Then, Step 2: Point out to your husband that sometimes all it takes is a single choice to cement one’s legacy as a complete jerk, and that he’d best recognize this wedding boycott as one of them.

The wedding is about love, the ride is about charity — and what would your husband’s huff be about? Self-righteousness? The superiority of his values over his son’s? Your husband’s superiority period?

Ask him if he believes his causes legitimately supersede his son’s. Ask if any of them is worth the damage, likely permanent, his boycott will do to his relationship with his son, daughter-in-law, and any children they have. And with you, no?

If his answer to these questions is yes, then there’s little I can advise you to do, except be darn sure your son knows that you deplore his father’s choice, and that you’ll be there with bells on yourself.

Dear Carolyn:

Do you have a litmus test that can be applied to flirting vs. just being charismatic and charming?

I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older and taken better care of myself — I was morbidly obese in high school and now am healthy! Yay! — I seem to be “accused” of flirting more, though I think I’ve tried to keep my personality the same.


I can suggest two litmus tests.

1. Do you behave the same way around everyone? Someone charismatic will “flirt” with people male and female, old and young, attractive and un-. They will “flirt” with cameras, mirrors and possibly house pets. Flirting, on the other hand, comes out around only one sex, or only attractive people, or only other people’s dates, etc.

2. Are you flirtatious without knowing it, and only asking this because others have called you on it, or are you aware of yourself becoming flirtatious when there’s some hard-earned, naughty attention in it for you?

Both of these, unfortunately, are highly susceptible to rationalization, so here’s a litmus test for the utility of litmus tests: Are you one who sees other people as generally to blame for your problems, or are you one to identify and admit at least some element of your culpability in every problem you have?

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at



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