Carolyn Hax

Washington, D.C.

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. Besides the daily column, Carolyn has a weekly live online discussion (noon Fridays), the Hax Philes forum and a Facebook page. She also has a policy of saying yes when NPR calls but avoids TV like something forgotten in the back of the fridge; the feeling appears to be mutual.

Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys and medium brown dog, Billy, but sees D.C. as “home.”

Sign up for Carolyn Hax's column, delivered to your inbox early each morning.

Chat with Carolyn

Tackle your problems with Carolyn every Friday from noon until she falls on her keyboard. Plus dip into her deep archives.

Nick Galifianakis

See more of Nick’s artwork

Hax Philes

Hax Philes are your place to weigh in and help your fellow Haxies. Share your thoughts on dilemmas that came up in recent chats and columns. Or comment on one of the Hax Philes Open Threads, where we discuss anything and everything that's on your mind.
  • Books by Carolyn Hax:
  • Tell Me About It: Lying, Sulking, Getting Fat ... and 56 Other Things Not to Do While Looking for Love
  • Buy on Amazon
Recent Articles

CAROLYN HAX COLUMN

(Advance for Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, and thereafter.)

(For Hax clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My mom is a first-time grandmother and refers to my niece as "my baby." I can tell it irks my brother and sister-in-law, but they don't say anything. Other than when she asks if I've seen "[her] baby" and I respond that no, he was at work, but I did see her granddaughter, can I say anything? Or do these things pass when the next grandkid comes?

-- Grandma's "Baby"

Grandma's "Baby": Oh, my, you have a chance to be a saint here.

"Mom -- I know you're over the moon for your grandbaby. You're a great grandma. Please trust me here: Calling the baby 'my baby' is, I'm guessing, getting under Brother and Sister-in-Law's skin. They haven't said anything to me, I'm just calling what I see. And I assume they've said nothing to you, I'm sure because they know how great you are and don't want to sound mean. But, fit a 'grand-' in there, or switch to Pookie, or something."

You're just in a great position to say this one for the team.

By the way, saying that "her baby" is at work is hilarious.

Re: Grandma's "Baby":

My mother-in-law called my daughter -- first grandchild on both sides of the family -- "Nana's baby." As in, she repeated the words "Nana's baby" endlessly in a madness-inducing loop of baby talk whenever she visited us during my daughter's first three months of life. My husband, bless his heart, asked her to stop. And bless her, too, because she did stop.

-- Daughter-in-Law

Daughter-in-Law: And bless you for this ray of hope.

Dear Carolyn:

My mom was recently diagnosed with dementia. Now that she is in the care of a doctor, I'm really struggling with something: She refuses any personal care-related things, like washing or cutting hair, or cutting fingernails, etc. These aren't necessary, but I do think they are more than strictly cosmetic. She is also starting to look rather strange.

At the same time, I'm trying to respect her continued autonomy and her refusals have gone on for weeks. How should I handle this?

-- Struggling

Struggling: Your life with your mom is going to include a lot of changes like this one, and there's an entire community out there that has seen it before and helped others respond, adjust, accept. Please find a resource for caregivers/family members that suits your needs -- you can ask the doctor who diagnosed your mom, or the office staff, if there's a resource coordinator -- or just your local search engine in a pinch. Line up the source(s) of information and support now, while you have only a question or two, so they're comfortably at your fingertips as new things arise.

Good for you for being there for your mom.

Hey, Carolyn!

When I told a co-worker that food is kind of my "thing" -- I write a food and baking blog, and yeah, I like food -- she said, "Eat to live, not live to eat." Can I tell her to kiss my big Irish peach?

-- Food-Shamed

Food-Shamed: Absolutely.

Feigned incomprehension would be a nice touch, too. "I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying I should be you?"

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

CAROLYN HAX COLUMN

(Advance for Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, and thereafter.)

(For Hax clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn:

My sister's daughter, "Abbie," and my daughter, "Karen," have always been very close. So when Abbie asked Karen to be her maid of honor and officiate at the ceremony, Karen was thrilled.

At the time of the engagement, my sister made it known to me and Karen that she was concerned my daughter would bring COVID-19 with her from New York, where cases have been high. The bride did not express any fears to us.

Karen made plans to drive 12 hours, not fly, to the wedding venue, to quarantine before the wedding date and to take a rapid coronavirus test before leaving home.

Due to the pandemic, the wedding plans changed to include only immediate family and Karen.

Six weeks before the wedding, Karen contacted Abbie to get a wedding update and to ask about plans for testing other family members traveling from other cities. Two days later, Abbie told Karen she no longer wanted her in the wedding. She said she would not ask anyone else to be tested.

My daughter is heartbroken, disappointed and a little angry, too. Since then, several calls and texts to my sister and brother-in-law to extend birthday wishes -- only messages with birthday greetings were left -- have gone unanswered. The bride has also not answered Karen's messages.

My fear is that my sister's avoiding us will evolve into a major family feud and a prolonged breakdown in communication between the two families. I am completely fine with no longer being invited to the wedding, but feel the decision to exclude my daughter was coldhearted, unwarranted and mean, especially since Karen was willing to "go the extra mile" for her cousin. I feel very badly for her. Should I just wait it out?

-- Mother of the Ex-Maid of Honor

Mother of the Ex-Maid of Honor: Short answer, yes.

I left the long story intact, mostly, because the first thing people want to know about a rift is what caused it.

Yet the more times I read it, the more I think it doesn't matter.

Your sister and her family made up their minds; they have their reasons; their reasons for not having Karen travel to the wedding, even quarantined and tested, are at least defensible; their reasons for applying different standards to different family members are possibly not defensible -- but only they really know what they are; and there may be more to this but you have no way of finding out since they've gone silent (indefensible, in most cases).

That's what we have.

And it's a lot, but not enough to justify saying anything definitive about anything they've done or are going to do.

What I do know for sure is that you control your part of whether this "will evolve into a family feud."

That means you can decide this "mean" decision will divide you and your sister.

Or you can decide to wait to see what happens next.

Or you can decide (BEG ITAL)you(END ITAL) won't be the reason this causes a rift.

Since you're asking me, and since there's enough division in the world to hold us for the next decade or six, my advice is to choose, upfront, to drop it -- before you're even sure what you're dropping.

I think you'll feel better.

And you can always change your mind.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

CAROLYN HAX COLUMN

(Advance for Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, and thereafter.)

(For Hax clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My husband's sister has a sensory processing disorder. She was diagnosed right before our wedding and when she told us, my husband said it really clarified a lot of his childhood. She explained to us that most of her life is overcoming this and she would like family events to be as accommodating as possible.

My husband and I are sympathetic, so we always have events with no media on in the background. We crate our dog, put away the loudest toys, serve familiar and basic foods. My husband's family is local and my family is not.

This Thanksgiving, we are hosting my extended family. I do not want to invite my sister-in-law or my husband's parents. It would be really hard, if not impossible, to keep the noise level down. My kids will be playing with their cousins, my Dad will want to watch football, and my husband and I will be focused on cooking. I would like to see my in-laws after the holiday instead.

My husband thinks we should invite everybody, but let his sister know we cannot accommodate her, and she can decide if she wants to come. What do you think?

-- Host

Host: I think this is a no-brainer, if we cut the question down to its basic elements: You want to exclude your disabled in-law for being disabled.

Right? So, nope.

Your husband has an elegant solution -- it shows you value her, want her to join you and understand she might want to opt out the noise. Why didn't you agree to it right away?

Re: Sister-in-law:

I wonder if Host actually has chosen a terrible reason as cover for a simpler reason -- that holidays are usually with her husband's family and this year she wants to celebrate with only her family. She doesn't want his parents there, either.

It seems that isn't an unreasonable ask, but she should own her preference rather than try to pretend that she is just trying to protect the sister-in-law.

-- Anonymous

Anonymous: If that's what Host really wants, then that's what Host needs to say.

Carolyn:

I didn't agree to it right away because I am afraid she will say yes and then get overwhelmed. I don't see my family often, and I would really like to have a holiday where I don't feel like I need to control or change everything for my sister-in-law. It's a lot of stress and mental energy. Does this make me a terrible person?

-- Host again

Host again: No! Just an iffy communicator, maybe, if you haven't said all this out loud. Please be honest with your husband and work together on it: Either plan a second celebration with his family on the weekend, or include the sister-in-law and agree this particular gathering is a no-accommodations deal. None.

In fact, it sounds like time to revisit your expectations at family events. It's imperative that you're inclusive -- and it's also important for your sister-in-law to know when to step away to a quiet place when she's overwhelmed. Meaning, you create a hospitable environment, then pass the functioning within that environment to her. It's not reasonable for you to create the environment AND manage her experience within it.

Again, all good stuff to talk about and plan for with the spouse.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

About
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. Besides the daily column, Carolyn has a weekly live online discussion (noon Fridays), the Hax Philes forum and a Facebook page. She also has a policy of saying yes when NPR calls but avoids TV like something forgotten in the back of the fridge; the feeling appears to be mutual.

Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys and medium brown dog, Billy, but sees D.C. as “home.”

Sign up for Carolyn Hax's column, delivered to your inbox early each morning.

Chat with Carolyn

Tackle your problems with Carolyn every Friday from noon until she falls on her keyboard. Plus dip into her deep archives.

Nick Galifianakis

See more of Nick’s artwork

Hax Philes

Hax Philes are your place to weigh in and help your fellow Haxies. Share your thoughts on dilemmas that came up in recent chats and columns. Or comment on one of the Hax Philes Open Threads, where we discuss anything and everything that's on your mind.
Books
  • Tell Me About It: Lying, Sulking, Getting Fat ... and 56 Other Things Not to Do While Looking for Love
Links