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Carolyn Hax: Rocking the boat on parents’ dream vacation


Dear Carolyn:

In the mid-1990s, when I was 22 and my brother was 18, our family took a Caribbean cruise. It was fun, but not so much fun that I cared to go back again.

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

Now that my parents are in their late 60s and retired, my mom has gotten it in her mind that all four of us should take another cruise together as a family. They have even offered to pay.

Aside from not having an interest in the cruise, I am also not interested in taking a family vacation. I am single and in my late 30s, and a family vacation smacks of desperation, a way of saying, “Oh, how sad, he didn’t want to go by himself, so he went with Mommy and Daddy.” Also, traveling anywhere with my parents is never a simple process (I suppose that can be said of a lot of people, though). In short, a cruise might be a vacation for my parents, but it would be anything but one for me.

I have repeatedly explained that neither a cruise nor a family vacation (wherever the destination) interests me. Nevertheless, the badgering continues.

(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

For the record, I take my own vacations, usually by myself. I also see my parents about once a month, so it is not as if I ignore them and am being “guilted” into a vacation. Any thoughts?


Disclosure 1: I see badgering as one of the Deadly Relationship Sins.

2: I believe adults can say no to a vacation for whatever reasons they want, except possibly to their intimate partners.

3: I have no interest in a cruise, though I’d go with my mom if I could.

Opinion, finally: That’s your reason for refusing to go, fear of looking desperate? To whom?

And what’s wrong with, “It was important to my mother,” should people you hope to impress sidle up to you on the Lido Deck? If these people are unimpressed by your doing something nice for your ol’ mom, then it’s okay for you to be unimpressed right back at them.

It also takes a certain stubbornness to use a trip at 22 in the mid-’90s as the template for your visions of this proposed trip.

To be fair, that your parents are difficult is a fine reason not to want to travel with them — but I hope you’ll put that reason into context and decide, knowing they (and you, for that matter) won’t be around forever, whether there’s anything that would move you to say yes. Would a more interesting destination do it? A just-this-once stipulation? An understanding that “a vacation for my parents” is a gift, one you might want to give?

Also project to 10 years from now; will you look back on this no with regret? What if your mom or dad dies or gets sick?

If you’re hearing violins at this point, my apologies. That’s not my intent.

It’s just that people can be absolutely sure they don’t want to do something, absolutely solid in their reasons, and absolutely entitled to those reasons, and still be wrong in a way they don’t give enough credit: the big-picture, emotional, just-because way. I’m not advising you to say yes, just to think more broadly about that no.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at



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