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August 26, 2011

11:59
A.M.

The best, worst and weirdest of Carolyn Hax Live

Total Responses: 154

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on washingtonpost.com. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three boys.

Carolyn's Columns
Past Chats
Way Past Chats
The Hax-Philes

About the topic

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Carolyn was online Friday, Aug. 19 at noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Past Carolyn Hax Discussions

Way Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions
Q.

Jodi Westrick :

Morning everyone! I'm here one last day, and it only seems fitting to wrap my time up with a "Best of" Carolyn Hax chat while she's on a much-deserved vacation. What are some of best, worst and weirdest questions you've seen in Carolyn's chats or columns? What advice would you have changed?

Q.

Jodi Westrick :

We'll start things off by reviewing some the timeless stories that seem to be referenced continuously: bacon pants, death chair, shark bait... Are there any I'm missing? Let me know and I'll find them so we can review.

Of those three above, what do you remember most about them? Why were they so funny/memorable?

Q.

Is this like the Dear Prudence chats have been the past 2 weeks?

If so, I like it! Thank you for bringing some fun to Friday since Carolyn's absence is felt.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Yup! We're sad when Carolyn's not on every week too!

– August 26, 2011 12:01 PM
Q.

Bacon pants

I will just come out and say this: I do not know what the heck bacon pants are, or why this is funny. Please clue me in.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

The origin of bacon pants seems to come in this Jan. 19, 2001, chat. In response to a LW (someone from a column, I believe), someone wrote, "Texas: Ma'am, there are bastards and there are capital B cross the t with a hot-poker Bastards. I think that Frustrated marriagin' guy (bovine citified jackass) should step in front of a fast moving person conveyance, or for the lady's sake, perhaps go for a long coastal swim at dusk wearing bacon pants."

It seemed to be one of those phrases that you peanuts went crazy for and then referenced different ways in which you'd use it in that chat and subsequent ones after.

Do you guys have any favorite memories of bacon pants?

– August 26, 2011 12:02 PM
Q.

favorite columns, least favorite topic

I would imagine many people will say they're sick and tired of wedding questions, but I actually enjoy them. I don't care for the recent trend of more dog questions, though; they seem to make the fur fly in the comment sections!

Carolyn Hax is what brought me to the Washington Post website, and her columns are what keep me coming back.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Glad to hear it!

How does everyone else feel about wedding questions?

What do you want to see more or less of?

– August 26, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

chum

there was a guy Carolyn nicknamed chum -- as in shark bait. he had an affair with his wife's boss, or something like that
A.
Jodi Westrick :

The original Shark Bait questioner and Carolyn's response coming up!

Did you agree with what she said? Would you have said anything differently?

– August 26, 2011 12:11 PM
Q.

The original "Shark Bait" question

From Aug. 7, 2009

Somewhere, USA: Realtime crisis. I had an affair four years ago with a woman I met at my wife's office. The woman pushed and pushed for a more serious commitment, but I decided to focus that attention on my marriage and backed out of the affair. I never told my wife--I don't believe any good would have come of doing so.

Now it's now. My wife had several lateral moves throughout the year and as of this Monday will be reporting directly to that woman, to whom she refers as "the one you liked from that party." Because they were in different offices for those four years, the woman never interacted with my wife, which is the only reason my wife never found out how much the woman hates her.

I have two fears now that my wife and the woman will be in the same workspace every day: (1) that it will affect my wife's career negatively (her number one enemy is in power over her) and (2) that somehow my wife will find out what happened four years ago. Is now the best or worst possible time to come clean? Or is there anything I can do to prevent damage?

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Carolyn's Response:

Can I just say,

Wow.

I don't want all the responsibility for this one on me, so I'm urging everyone out there to weigh in if you have something constructive to say. But the only answer I can see here is that you tell your wife what happened. You can't send an unwitting victim into shark-infested waters, especially not when you're the only reason she's a victim in the first place.

Okay everyone, have at it.

– August 26, 2011 12:11 PM
Q.

Ugh, wedding

if Carolyn (or Prudie, or Dear Abby) have to answer ONE more question saying, "Yes, you have to send Thank You Notes", I will be the one jumping into a shark infested tank wearing bacon pants. Enough already. :-)
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Noted! Do you guys think "Thank you" notes are a lost art? Why don't people want to write them any more?

– August 26, 2011 12:12 PM
Q.

Forever outlawed: "Big girl panties"

Don't forget the "put on our big-girl panties" debacle! I remember the day that someone (Carolyn, I think) got so annoyed with that phrase that she outlawed it forever.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

I remember that! It was in this Sept. 24, 2010 chat.

What do you think? Overused phrase? Don't care?

– August 26, 2011 12:14 PM
Q.

Holiday hootenannies

The holiday hootenannies are always my favorite!
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Did you know that the "Death Chair" phrase originated from a Holiday Hootenanny? Background coming right up...!

– August 26, 2011 12:16 PM
Q.

Jodi Westrick :

Here is the origin of the "death chair" story, from the Dec. 4, 2000 Holiday Chat:

The Original Story:

Hi Carolyn! Here's our family holiday tradition:

Black olives (and other green ones and pickles, but those get ignored) go into a lovely bowl on the table, about midday. Olive platter is covered in plastic wrap. All day long, the plastic wrap is carefully lifted and black olives are "stolen" from the tray by all family members.

At dinner time, grandma dramatically enters with a SECOND can of black olives, and the bowl is refilled, and we cheer and clap.

A small, odd tradition, but comforting. I know I can count on those black olives to be there, waiting for me in Buffalo as the snow piles up outside.

We have other wacky things we do, like everyone getting a lottery ticket and dad sitting in "the death chair" but I won't get into those. Happy Holidays!

And the Follow-up:

You asked... (from the family with the Death Chair)...

It's really not that horrible. There is a chair at the end of the table that is labeled the Death Chair, because all of the men that sit there have been the most recent to pass on... Grandpa sat there, then Uncle Wally, and now Dad bravely accepts the challenge. He's had good luck and has been sitting there for about 15 years now. Hasn't died yet.

Yes, us snowbound folks get a little twisted around the holidays.

Q.

Why don't people want to write them any more?

I don't care why they don't want to. They have to, and all the advice columnists out there need to keep hammering this home.
Q.

Thank you Notes

I think parents have stopped teaching (making) their children write them - so the children don't think they have to. When he was younger, I'd hand write the Thank you part and include a picture he drew. Now that he's gotten older, he hasn't had occassion to send any out. And people really do LOVE when they get Thank you notes! I bought a stack for when someone goes above and beyond helping me at work - and I got many Thanks for the Thank you cards.
Q.

Jodi Westrick :

Anybody remember the "hot potato baby" question? Was Carolyn's advice spot on?

Q.

re: Thank you notes

e-mail thank yous are fine for gift cards, but if you sent out paper invites, I would expect you to reply to gifts with paper thanks as well.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Good point!

– August 26, 2011 12:21 PM
Q.

Why people don't want to write thank you notes anymore

I don't know that anyone really ever enjoyed it in the past - they just whined less, got on with it and stopped trying to justify not writing them.
Q.

Therapy recommendation

I think Carolyn often suggests that people see therapists. Some see that as her punting a question she should answer, but I think it's okay for her to suggest. However, often the people cite financial issues, and I wish Carolyn would realize how difficult it is for people without money to see a therapist. While there are ostensibly programs to help people, these are few and far between and are often still unaffordable. A "sliding scale" fee for a therapist who normally charges $100 an hour is not affordable to most people who need to go at least once per week. So, they cut their rate to $50/hour - that's still $200/month! Programs for lower-income people often have looong waiting lists, require onerous paperwork (to prove one's lack of income) and have really low income requirements. It's really very difficult for people who make little money and don't have mental health coverage to see a therapist. Even when I had coverage, I was paying $80/month out of pocket, which was a lot to me.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

What do you guys think? Agree?

– August 26, 2011 12:25 PM
Q.

No more weddings or crazy brides, please

All (or almost all) of the wedding questions have come up before. Maybe Jodi can compile an archive of them, like a FAQ. Actually that might be handy for any issues that come up again and again. Us regular readers are tired of seeing the same questions addressed several different times.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

In the past, I think we had one chat dedicated to just wedding questions, or at least part of the chat was just for wedding questions. Did you guys like that? Would you want to do that again - keep all the wedding questions in one chat and try to keep them out of all the other ones?

– August 26, 2011 12:27 PM
Q.

e-thankyous are ok for giftcard .... really?

Why is an e-thankyou ok for a giftcard? Is it because people have put less thought into it? Are we ranking gifts? And if so ... what about a giftcard for a large amount of money v a 'thoughtful' gift that is not worth much? I don't understand this rationale at all.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Looks like we have some disagreement about emailing thank yous.

– August 26, 2011 12:27 PM
Q.

On Thank You notes

I actually enjoy writing them now. But as a child they were the WORST. I had severe undiagnosed ADD, and for every milestone my mother would give me a stack of note cards and a list and command me to slog through the thank-yous. Literally, I would go crazy. Forcing an ADD child to complete the same semi-complicated task over and over again is kind of cruel. I could literally feel my brain bouncing off the inside of my skull. Yet it was necessary. I don't know what would have made it easier as a kid - there was no way to make it pleasant for me. Perhaps turning it into an art project in addition to a writing project? That's kind of how I deal with it now. I buy interesting and assorted cards, add stickers and stamps and chatty notes. It's FUN to write thank-yous now, and I don't mind the extra time it takes. And it's BECAUSE of the ADD, which is the ironic part. Go figure.
Q.

comings and goings

Jodi, does the earth always shake and the oceans roar when you change jobs? ;-)
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ha! Mother Nature sure did a great job making my last week here quite the exciting one.

– August 26, 2011 12:29 PM
Q.

Seeing a therapist

My husband is a therapist (at a college) and one of his favorite parts about that is that he doesn't have to deal with insurance, paperwork, etc. It's true, even with coverage seeing a counselor can be expensive. I think that therapists can be extremely helpful and I encourage people to use them, but perhaps Carolyn should be more aware that money can definitely be an issue.
Q.

Update from new mom who didn't want to be one anymore?

Maybe two years ago, Carolyn ran a heartbreaking letter from a woman with an 8-month-old baby who said she realized she didn't want to be a mom. I'll never forget it -- it appeared after I had just recovered from post-partum disorder and it could have been me that wrote it. I have been thinking about that LW ever since. If you're still out there, LW, please let us know how you are doing!
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Yes, please do!

– August 26, 2011 12:30 PM
Q.

On Thank You Notes

I (mid-20s) recently received a ring from my great grandmother from a relative (60s) I was meeting for the first time, who visited with her grandchildren (6 and 9). In the moment I couldn't properly articulate how much it meant to me and a week later I handwrote a letter and included small gifts for her grandsons. A few weeks later I received not only a thank you note for my thank you note from her, but also two precious drawings from her grandchildren with thank you notes of their own. It brightened by day that these boys I had just met drew me pictures and wrote me notes. Don't underestimate the power of a thank you note!
A.
Jodi Westrick :

I love this! Thanks for sharing.

– August 26, 2011 12:33 PM
Q.

8-month-old baby letter

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Thank you!

Do you all remember this? What did you think of Carolyn's advice?

– August 26, 2011 12:35 PM
Q.

Therapy - sliding scales

I'll probably get some flak for this, but also: you get what you pay for. When I was young and broke I was seeing one of those "sliding scale" therapists -- this was back around 1980, I think she charged me $9 a session. I could pay it... but her advice was TERRIBLE. You know how, with a good therapist, you're led from insight to insight, and it's kind of amazing? Well, with this person, she would come up with something from left field that had absolutely zero to do with ME or MY life, and then accuse me of resisting when I pointed out that it didn't fit. Urgh! Nowadays I'm in therapy again, my insurance covers all but a $10 co-pay which is not a big deal at my current salary, and this guy is wonderful. Anyway, my two cents.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Another good point.

– August 26, 2011 12:35 PM
Q.

re: wedding questions

Given that the archives are not searchable, I appreciate seeing the wedding questions come up again. Is it really that big of a problem? Can't you just skip over a question you don't want to read, Regular Reader?
Q.

I remember "bacon pants," but

I still prefer the bit about naming a rock band "Bar Stool Concussion."

A.
Jodi Westrick :

I think this was before my time, but it sounds amazing. Do you remember whenabouts this came in? Was it a column or chat?

– August 26, 2011 12:36 PM
Q.

Dope in the bathroom

Maybe someone else better remembers the details, but one of my favorite holiday stories from the holiday hootenannies was the one about much of the LW's family all smoking pot in the restroom... I immediately emailed that my niece and said, "See, our family is completely normal compared to this!!"
A.
Jodi Westrick :

From the 2008 Holiday Hootenanny of Horrors:

Washington, D.C.: This is one for the books: We are not going home (across the country) for Christmas this year because of Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving we had twenty people over to dinner including my husband's family and my parents. The afternoon started with me in the kitchen preparing the meal and most of the crowd in the living room snacking on hors d'oeuvres. As I continued to replenish the trays I watched as the most expensive ingredients were being depleted at a much faster rate than I would have thought. I then realized that my Mother in Law was sneaking into the kitchen filling dinner plates with smoked salmon, caviar, and handmade (by me) gruyere cheese puffs. How does one respond to that? Why was she doing it? Because she and her son, my brother in law, were high and had the very expensive munchies. This annoyed me but what can you do, family is not always convenient. However when they proceeded to go out on the patio and light up I freaked. Have I mentioned my father is a federal judge? Oh and that one of the guests who had not yet arrived date was a DEA agent? All things all of the guests knew, as we had just been discussing the guest list.

I did what any insane/sane person would have done -- I flushed the bag of weed and smashed the glass pipe with the flat side of my cleaver and tossed it into the fireplace. Most people at the party had no idea what was going on. For some people, please don't smoke in my house is not understood, but for my family apparently even fear of prosecution is not enough. Hence the cleaver! So can "smash the pot pipe with a cleaver" be a part of the holiday song next year? LOL

Carolyn Hax: Hm. It works so far:

Smash the pot pipe with a cleaver,

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

– August 26, 2011 12:39 PM
Q.

Speaking of moms

I also remember the woman who was pregnant and found out her husband was cheating with her sister. I'd love an update from her too.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Eesh! Anyone remember this or know if there was an update?

– August 26, 2011 12:40 PM
Q.

I hate getting thank you notes

Just for the record, not everyone likes receiving them, though of course I'm not ungracious about it. A verbal or email thanks is more than enough for me and to follow it up with a card just seems overkill. I thought their intended purpose was to actually thank the gift giver back in the day that paper-b=based communication was often the only way to do so. Now they just feel like more paper clutter that I feel vaguely guilty about finally recycling them after letting them sit around for far too long. For the record, I also prefer evites and email. Cards are slightly different, as they are usually pretty and can be decoration as well.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Interesting perspective!

– August 26, 2011 12:40 PM
Q.

Carolyn Quotes

Ooohhh, I have a file on my home computer where I've cut and pasted dozens of quotes from Carolyn over the 10 years I've been reading her column. (I can admint that when she's not here - seems less stalkery, somehow.) Next time she's on vacation, I'll submit them. Two that I'm paraphrasing: "Decide what your minimum level of acceptable treatment is, and then do not accept less, even from someone you love, love love." And "Parental praise rolls off of the child, but parental criticism is radioactive. It has a half-life measured in decades."
Q.

Update from Myrtle

Hey - quick update from Infertile Myrtle here. One round of IVF down. Not pregnant. :( Went on 3 week vacation and am feeling much better! In the middle of another IVF cycle now but apparently I'm a "poor responder." Ah well. At least I feel better!
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Thinking good thoughts for you, Myrtle!

– August 26, 2011 12:41 PM
Q.

On wedding questions

I used to get annoyed by them, but I'm coming around to the view that the wedding questions are really a microcosm of relationships. Or maybe a laser focus on them. Choose your metaphor. Anyway, because so many people load so much importance and meaning onto The Wedding, many of these questions are really about a relationship dynamic -- with a prospective spouse, or, at least as often, with a parent/sibling/relative/friend/group of friends -- that the heavily-loaded Wedding has shined (shone?) a spotlight on, or flushed out into the open, or [again, choose a metaphor]. So, in that sense, the questions are usually not so different, underneath, as any other questions.
Q.

To Therapist, or not to therapist, that is the question

To readers who complain about Carolyn recommending a therapist... Sometimes that is what is needed, and if she doesn't say it, she isn't being fair. Sometimes there is no pat answer to the quandary being posed for answering. (Would that the answer "Write thank you notes" solve everyone's problems!) Maybe Carolyn or the WaPo could look into resources for low-cost or no-cost therapy. And if you don't have time for therapy, make time. It's that important. Really. It helped me get out of the destructive do-loop that made up my life for the first 30 years. When you get used to dealing with problems in a maladjusted way, you need therapy to learn WHY you are doing that and to help yourself change.
Q.

Today's colunm

Did anyone else think Carolyn was a little harsh on LW for being proud of her friend's accomplishments? I've been proud of my friends' and family's accomplishments many times without feeling like I was being condescending about it. How else does one recognize the hard work that went into that accomplishment and celebrate it?

A.
Jodi Westrick :

What do you guys think? Too harsh?

– August 26, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Sliding scale fees aren't a panacea

Even if the scale slides all the way down to zero, or close enough to make it financially easy, a person with a lot of job and family stressors probably will have trouble setting aside time for themselves, and if finances are a problem they may need a therapist that is convenient to public transportation, which could still take them an extra hour or two each way. Access to services is usually more of an issue than the actual service fee. See, that graduate degree did come in handy eventually. :)
Q.

Thank you notes

My problem with thank-you notes is that they always feel phony. When you have to write a lot (newlywed here) you end up repeating a few formulaic phrases or spending far too long trying to come up with the perfect three or four lines that will express your depth of gratitude to the person. Even when I receive one it feels like something someone wrote because it is the polite thing to do and it feels insincere. I would much rather call someone and express my thanks, that way I have more words to express my thanks, they can hear my gratitude in my tone of voice, and I can find out how they are doing.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Is there a way to write thank yous without sounding phony? Any experts out there?

– August 26, 2011 12:47 PM
Q.

Questions about being single

Been a huge Carolyn fan almost from the beginning of the column and chats. Her advice is generally spot-on and her writing is brilliant, especially on the spot in the chats. But -- I feel like she's grown less patient over the years when people write in with struggles about being single (I'm talking non-whiny people). She takes many more questions about kids now, which is understandable, given that she has kids and now has that knowledge. Since she's a public figure of sorts and her ex-husband is her cartoonist, we know more about about personal life than she'd probably like. But it makes me wonder if she's ever been single for an extended period of time, and can muster empathy for what that feels like. Doesn't seem like it sometimes. (But I'm still a huge fan.)
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ooh, interesting take. Do you guys feel like her advice focus has changed over the years? Good? Bad?

– August 26, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

re: thank yous

I feel that if you are able to express a personal, heartfelt "thank you" in person, than that is sufficient. I just don't see the point in double-thanking via mail. Now, if a gift was shipped to you or opened after an event, I think it's nice to call to thank the person or send a card.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ah, what do we think about an in-person thank you? Better or worse than email?

– August 26, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

Thank you note cycle

My husband and I laugh about the thank you note cycle perpetuated by his very old-fashioned mother. We'll open gifts together at Christmas, and she expects a thank you note, so we'll send one. (Which is already overkill, according to convention.) Then she sends us a thank-you note for that note. That's where we get off the train, though. I just can't see sending a thank you-thank you-thank you note.
Q.

Not too harsh

I thought Carolyn brought up an interesting aspect that I hadn't thought of. It's useful to examine one's own past behavior and expectations in the light of changes to a friend's personality. Yes, I'm often proud of my friends and family, but not in a possessive sense, yet I know people who are "proud of" those who they think reflects on them.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

One for the not too harsh column...

– August 26, 2011 12:49 PM
Q.

Thank you notes

I love thank-you notes! They totally give me the warm fuzzies about having nurtured a relationship with a gift. I smile for at least an hour and keep the things as bookmarks -- so nice to run across when you're having a bad day.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

I tend to use thank you notes as bookmarks too. It is nice to see familiar handwriting from family members, etc., when you live far away from home.

– August 26, 2011 12:49 PM
Q.

Thank you notes

When my children were too little to write, I would take their 'dictation' word for word (no matter what they said) for their thank you notes. I found the ones written to my grandmother recently as we were cleaning out her house after her death. They are absolutely hysterical (2 year olds have a very different world view!) and priceless.
Q.

Holiday Hootenany

That 2008 Holiday Hootenany is a doozy. I'm dying with laughter at my desk. Really, we just need those always linked-to on the main chat page, so we can get humor therapy.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Good point! I'll leave that suggestion with the next producer!

– August 26, 2011 12:51 PM
Q.

re: e-thanks for gift cards

Perhaps I didn't express that thought clearly enough. I don't rank gifts and actually have no qualms with e-mail thanks. I consider gift cards a form of electronic gift, making an electronic thanks (e-mail) appropriate. I think packaged (can't find a good term here) gift would be more appropriately replied to with a paper thanks. In all cases, I think a personal thank you (face to face, phone but not voice mail/message) is the best.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Thanks for clarifying!

– August 26, 2011 12:51 PM
Q.

Saying 'I Love You'

I, too, have ongoing compilation of my favorites of Carolyn, and here's a snippet from a chat in 2004 - "Falls Church, Va.: Hey Carolyn, Welcome back! Here's my question: My boyfriend and I have been together almost four years, and he has yet to tell me he loves me.... Carolyn Hax: Control freak with a capital eek. People who love you won't hide the candy and make you beg for it. When you leave, I predict gushers of relief. Charlottesville, Va.: Uh Carolyn, why does refusing to say "I love you" make the guy a control freak? Sounds more like he's just being honest. Carolyn Hax: He feels it but won't say it till he's ready to get married? Holy barf. I emphatically agree with myself here. Sorry."
Q.

Which questions do I like/want more of...

While I like the wedding ettiquette stuff, I love the relationship questions that all have the same answer: why are you with this person? It's that smell the coffee "he's just not that into you" or "you deserve better than that" responses being drilled into my head that led me to make a major decision in my relationship.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ah, yes. Those are some of the most heartbreaking questions to read that come through the queue because often the answer is obvious, but the LW just can't see it.

– August 26, 2011 12:52 PM
Q.

8 month old baby letter

Funny, that one didn't stick with me, and I think that may have been because I had no kids at the time. Now that I have a year old, beautiful baby boy, that letter totally crushes me, and I feel haunted by it. I am completely the person Carolyn describes who wants to just grab and hug that little boy. I guess sometimes life experiences really do dramatically change your perspective....
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Interesting how our advice and views can change over time, isn't it?

Do some of you feel the same way looking at responses and letters from long ago?

– August 26, 2011 12:53 PM
Q.

Oh, the Birthday issue

At this point, it should be a drinking game when Carolyn responds harshly to an adult with a complaint about their birthday. Her responses are so predictable at this point (and sometimes laughably harsh)!
A.
Jodi Westrick :

It's true! Is there a cut-off age for celebrating your birthday?

– August 26, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

My problem with thank-you notes is that they always feel phony.

They won't feel phony to the recipient, who is only getting one of them as opposed to the many you have to compose. All you have to do is thank them for the specific gift, perhaps stating how you'll use it.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Good point!

– August 26, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

thank you note cycle

Something written that begins with "thank you for your note" and continues with news and observations is called a LETTER. Most people won't be familiar with this.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ha! Touche.

– August 26, 2011 12:56 PM
Q.

questions

I agree that more of the questions she answers nowadays are kid-related, and that she's sometimes not too kind/sympathetic to the single folk.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Interesting!

Do you think that's just a habit of growing older? That your viewpoint has changed? Like how someone in their 20s may look at someone in their teens and feel they're overreacting? And so on and so forth...

– August 26, 2011 12:56 PM
Q.

Singlehood

Yes, I agree that Carolyn has become less empathic about being single. It's harder the farther you get away from it. Her response often seems to have the message of "deal with it" or "it's not that bad," when the reality is we live in an extremely couple-centered society. Married people do tend to forget this. She seems to be less harsh with people who are struggling with infertility, another difficult blow in a child-centered world. I can't imagine she would ever say "deal with it" to them. I still really like her and her advice, though.
Q.

therapist

You can also go to a local university and see what they can offer.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Good idea.

– August 26, 2011 12:58 PM
Q.

Crazy brides etc

I don't mind these questions. Maybe someone reading it that day sees themselves in the crazy mirror, then reads all of the comments on how negatively they impact other people. maybe, just maybe, that crazy bride will be less crazy or decide not to be bridezilla-ish at all. Saving the world from just one bridezilla makes the repetitiveness worth it.
Q.

Love Thank You Notes

Would you believe that my ex-boss wrote everyone individually in the department a thank-you note and left them on their desks on his last day with the company? He simply thanked us for our hard work and how much he enjoyed working with us over the years. This was 2 years ago and I still have the note on the wall by my computer. People, write the thank you notes. They can really make someone's day.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

BRB, writing some notes....

– August 26, 2011 12:59 PM
Q.

In her defense:

Carolyn tries to recommend low-cost therapy resources. She regularly recommends the Women's Center. I've been reading Carolyn since my mid 20s. Now, in my mid-30s, I feel like she's helped me grow up. She's even answered my questions fairly regularly. Sometimes she's been harsh but often I deserved it. She seems to me like the wise older cousin/sister I never had.
Q.

My fave Carolyn knee-jerk response

"You already have all the information you need to make this decision."
A.
Jodi Westrick :

So simple, but so spot on.

– August 26, 2011 1:00 PM
Q.

Isn't cost of therapy really about motivation?

Many people who say $50 is too expensive spend hundreds on a TV. The idea that "I don't have time", "It's too expensive", etc, etc. simply means that you're not prioritizing this change in your life.
Q.

re: someone's answer about weddign questions

I always tell people: your wedding is how your marriage will be. If he isn't listening to you now, he won't later. If future MIL is unbearable, and you don't like how she's responding, it won't get better. It is totally and completely true. If you and spouse can get thru the weddign planning and teh wedding, and come out better for it (i.e., you are bound together, not bickering about this or that) then your marriage will be all the stronger in the end.
Q.

2008 Hootenanny

Oooh. I forgot that one had the "WHAT FIRST HUSBAND?" story.
Q.

Thank you notes

I have 22 nieces and nephews and no children of my own. I LOVE to shop for presents. That being said, after the kids are about 10, if I don't get a thank you note or a call or ANY acknowledgement of the gift, from then on, they get cards, People work hard to find the right gift, take the time to send it and usually get it there on time. Call or email or send a card. JUST THANK THEM...or the presents will stop.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

I feel like this is a common question/reaction that we see in the queue quite often.

Do you guys agree?

– August 26, 2011 1:01 PM
Q.

to therap or not to therap

Carolyn may not always be right when she suggests therapy BUT when she does, it should be taken (by the OP as well as anyone who thinks the problem's not "that" big a deal) as a heads-up: when someone with Carolyn's expertise thinks it's that big a deal, maybe, just maybe, you should at least reconsider.
Q.

thank you notes

I know my husband's southern family needs the thank you notes, so they get those (with kid pix and sometimes kid drawings). I KNOW my aunt LOVES to hear from my kids and talk with them on the phone, etc, so she gets phone calls, and she is VERY appreciative.  Sometimes she also gets notes, too, so I can send her stuff. but she LOVES to talk with the kids, so I know that is thanks to her.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Interesting! Do you guys think the type of thank you note you send depends on the person?

– August 26, 2011 1:02 PM
Q.

heartfelt thank you notes

When we were writing thank you notes for our shower and wedding, my husband and I wanted them signed by both of us, so after we each wrote a few, we swapped them to sign names. I was brought to tears by reading his - he told a favorite memory of the gift-giver, or told them what specific trait that he admired in them and hoped to carry forward. He would mention the gift and thank for it as well, but the note was much more than a simple thank you for a gift - it was for what that person meant to him in his life. I immediately grabbed all of my old notes, tossed them in the recycler, and did the same. It's been over a year since our wedding and friends and relatives still come up to us and say how touched they were by our notes. And it reinforced, in our minds, keeping our wedding small and intimate - it's hard to write things like that about someone you don't know well.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ah! Such a good story!

– August 26, 2011 1:03 PM
Q.

Big girl panties _ NO!!!

I can't stand it when people use it. I have seen it used on other websites in comments and in chats. I feel like my head will explode if I see it again.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Eep! We will refrain from using it then!

– August 26, 2011 1:03 PM
Q.

Proud of

Actually, I think the "proud of' call out was harsh. I use that phrase, very sparingly, but it's when I'm literally proud of my friends as in I want to brag about their accomplishments/decisions: an Ironman triathlete, frequent blood donator, adopted an at-risk kid. I am proud of my amazing friends, so shoot me.
Q.

Carolyn & Nick

We cannot speak so highly of Carolyn without mentioning the genius of Nick. For those who do not yet have his book, I *highly* recommend it. Although his work is not apparent in the chats, his drawings sometimes are the best part of the columns.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Yes! Nick is a great artist. Check out his website here, Facebook here and purchase his book here.

– August 26, 2011 1:06 PM
Q.

so many times

I have started to write to Carolyn in chats, and after spelling out what was wrong, and reading it, and hearing carolyn in my head...well, I know what to do. She's given me a lot of advice over the years (when I *haven't* written in). And it's been great.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

You're not the first person to write in saying this. It's true! I've found myself telling friends, "Well, you know in her chat on Friday, Carolyn said this about XYZ..." Her advice sticks with you!

– August 26, 2011 1:08 PM
Q.

"Bar Stool Concussion."

I found a reference to the above band name, but it wasn't a Carolyn Hax moment. It was from a chat by "The Web Hostess"

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ohhh!

– August 26, 2011 1:09 PM
Q.

The Lightning Round!

I'm really enjoying this fast-paced Q&A chat. I realize that Carolyn's usual answers take more time, thought, and careful word choice -- and I don't begrudge her that -- but this is fun!
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Yay! Glad you're having fun - I am too!

– August 26, 2011 1:10 PM
Q.

What i would like to read

I love wedding questions! I also like to hear about cohabiting.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Thanks!

– August 26, 2011 1:10 PM
Q.

2008 Hootenany

I forgot about the "I'll kill you like I did my first husband" until you posted this! Another classic.
Q.

Harshness to singles

I absolutely agree! She has been pretty harsh to people with roommate issues and in the early stages of dating as well. I seem to get the impression that people should deal with their situation and make the best of it or get out of it. I feel that is kind of harsh-- who isn't going to need advice and some sympathy as they are trying to become a couple or live with a roommate?
Q.

Pride

Reading the comments on the "proud" thing from today, I think people use the word in two wildly different ways. In one it's a cloying, sick-sweet preant thing, in another it's an expression of admiration.
Q.

Thank you notes

Our 19 year old nephew always struggled with writing thank you notes until, after many reminders, we gave him thank you notes for his birthday one year. Luckily he has a good sense of humor and now sends really funny and effusive thank you notes.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Nice trick!

– August 26, 2011 1:12 PM
Q.

Re: Thank You Notes

I usually wasn't allowed to play with a present growing up until Dad had stood over me while I wrote a thank you note, and when I was younger he also read it to ensure that it was acceptable. Now it's forever embedded in my brain that thank you notes are mandatory. My husband's parents didn't make him write notes, so he tends to forget more often. It's all about habit forming in very early childhood.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

I think when I was 12 or so, I wrote a thank you note to my aunt for a very belated birthday gift and ended with "Better late than never!" I've never seen my dad get so upset. He ripped it up and told me to rewrite the note. I now check and doublecheck my notes to make sure I don't say anything weird/off-kilter. I think it's true that it depends on what you did as a child.

– August 26, 2011 1:15 PM
Q.

Phony thank you notes

I remember receiving a thank you note from my cousin after her wedding, and while it didn't sound phony, it didn't sound particularly sincere, either. It was clear that she'd developed a template to use over and over again for everyone. It was along the lines of, "Dear_____, Thank you for the _______. It was really nice. Sincerely, ____." While I appreciate the note, something about it made it seem like it was written by a little kid (as in, "my mom's making me do this, and this will get her off my back"), and it really made me laugh. I realize I shouldn't mock people's efforts to follow etiquette, but something about it just struck me as really forced (and for whatever reason, really funny). Maybe you just need to know my cousin.
Q.

I'm proud of my friends too!

I agree the response was a bit harsh. I have a great friend who I've known since high school. I had no idea what he would do with his life - could have gone any number of ways. He's now an amazing dad of three, has worked with special needs kids and is a family therapist. You betcha I'm proud of him and have told him as much.
Q.

What Carolyn means to me

I thought I would never recover from the death of Ann Landers (who was the expert at recommending experts in the field of the question), but Carolyn has filled her shoes admirably.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

So very nice.

– August 26, 2011 1:16 PM
Q.

Thank you notes

Required for: wedding & shower gifts, any gift not opened in the presence of the gift giver Not required for: gifts opened in the presence of the gift giver (when thanks is given verbally) When in doubt: send a note. Most people I know are equally happy with a phone call as with a thank-you note, but if you know someone prefers a note, send a note.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Huh, interesting! Do you guys agree?

– August 26, 2011 1:16 PM
Q.

Harsh about Singles, Weddings, Birthdays

I agree that Carolyn can be harsh about people's feelings about being single, their weddings and their birthdays. I find her advice interesting and a useful perspective to consider, but at the same time, I discount it somewhat and think to myself "Well she has established that she's a grouch about weddings." (or singles, or birthdays.) I do this much in the same way I consider the oft-spouted opinions of my crotchety great-aunt.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ha! Interesting way to look at it!

– August 26, 2011 1:17 PM
Q.

Too old for bithdays

I never stopped celebrating my birthday with my family and netiher have my parents. When it's your birthday, you get to pick your favorite place to eat and someone else pays for the meal. Cake & Ice cream will usually follow the weekend after - who wants cake after a big meal? Children still get presents to unwrap. Adults get practical low cost gifts, it depends on what they need at that point in time. Ex: One year my son thought up a beautification project for my hosue, so they came and planted plants in my yard. Every year the grandkids make something for Grandma and she gets a fresh set of pictures of the grandkids. The main reason I stopped getting presents - I was pregnant and my kid needed more gifts than I did.
Q.

In defense of Carolyn's "proud of" response

Some chatters apparently use this phrasing too. I shared Carolyn's reaction -- no matter how awesome I think my friends are, it just wouldn't occur to me to say I'm "proud of" them, because I had nothing to do with it. Sure, I'm "happy for" them, or "impressed by" them, or "in awe of" them, or whatever -- but I'm proud of my own accomplishments (and would be proud of my kids, if I had them). To me, it conveys a claim of some share of responsibility. And I think I would feel a bit condescended-to if a friend said it to me. But maybe it has different colloquial uses. Regardless, people should not overlook that Carolyn saw it in combination with the LW's specific complaints about her friend -- that she used to be "easygoing and understanding" and now isn't -- and CH believed those words, together, were meaningful.
Q.

It's true! Is there a cut-off age for celebrating your birthday?

How about when you can drive (16 in most states) or join the army (18)? I could understand those that want to extend it to when you are legal to drink (21) as the "last hurrah" and milestone for celebrating your birthday (with a bang and a gulp)
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Interesting! Does that mean "Over the Hill" parties are faux-pas?

– August 26, 2011 1:23 PM
Q.

Under 30 No More :(

Carolyn's initial column was geared at the under 30 crowd! I loved "that" Carolyn - so snarky and funny. These days.... eh, I usually find myself skipping most of the questions. They just aren't that interesting. It's become more "Family Circle" and less "Calvin and Hobbes".
Q.

People are People and Even the Best of Them Suck Sometimes

One of my favorite quotes. The full quote was, "I don't think it's particularly constructive to 'revere the memory' of anyone. People are people and even the best of them suck sometimes..." The context, I think, was someone who was conflicted about the death of a loved one. I hope someone reads this quote at my funeral. It's so honest.
Q.

Jodi pic

Since you're the host today, not Carolyn, shouldn't your picture be on the page? This one will suffice if you don't have another handy.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Oh! That is an old photo. How 'bout I share one with me wearing my favoritest of shoes?

Speaking of shoes, is anyone sad that there don't seem to be a lot of questions about shoes any more?

– August 26, 2011 1:24 PM
Q.

On-going threads

I love when the OLW writes back in and we get updates...like the Jersey guy (was that his name?) from (last?) year. Or when people write back in telling us the (pitiful) thing they did, etc. that they didn't mention in the first letter...too funny!
A.
Jodi Westrick :

I remember him! I wonder if I can pull up his update...

– August 26, 2011 1:25 PM
Q.

Re: Thank You Note Cycle

A dear, sweet relative used to send thank you notes for thank yous, until I found a way to slip into the conversation (in reference to myself) that I'd read that it was a faux pax. She wasn't offended and now I don't have to figure out where to step off the thank you note ride.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Is it really faux pas? I didn't know this!

– August 26, 2011 1:25 PM
Q.

early dating

I don't know that Carolyn's been so harsh to singles. But I find myself with a mixed response when she tells people who've been dating for 4-6 months that they barely know the other person. 6 months of dating can mean very different things. And her 2 year rule makes no sense at all for more mature people, who a) know themselves a bit better (I hope), and b) might want kids some day while they still have the chance.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Any one else agree?

– August 26, 2011 1:26 PM
Q.

Re: Carolyn & Nick

Yes! I'm so glad that we can celebrate Nick's contributions here, too! His cartoons are the icing on the Carolyn cake!
Q.

Thank yous/letters

When my much-older brother passed away, my SIL gave me a pile of cards and letters I'd written him over the years - and that he'd saved. My absolute favorite is one that I wrote when I was 5 yrs old. The fact that he kept them, and the fact that I can now look back at them mean a great deal to me.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Again, another sweet story. Thank you for sharing!

– August 26, 2011 1:26 PM
Q.

Carolyn doesn't disapprove of birthdays

She disapproves of adults whining that no one threw them a party this time.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ah, that's a good point.

– August 26, 2011 1:27 PM
Q.

Why we read

Does anyone have any interesting thoughts on why we're all so hooked on advice columns? I find that many of the questions and answers I read have little to do with me, but I can't pull myself away. I feel like it's almost an early form of reality TV - using other people's problems to distract you from your own.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

That's an interesting question! Anyone have any ideas?

– August 26, 2011 1:28 PM
Q.

Big Girl Panties = Less fabric?

The big girl panties comment cracks me up. Mostly because when I was growing up I thought being a "grown up" or becoming a woman meant small sexy underwear. I was raised by my dad, so these weren't allowed, and if found in the laundry they magically disappeared. So now when I hear put on your "big girl panties" I can't help but laugh because I think "well, they won't hold much!!"
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Chuckling at my desk.

– August 26, 2011 1:28 PM
Q.

Thank-yous

I agree that people should be thanked for gifts received. However, I find completely and utterly distasteful those who insist on a WRITTEN note for a gift or they will no longer give gifts to that person. When I give a gift to someone it comes with no strings, no attachment, no further action required. I've heard (read) a lot of responses calling a gift recipient selfish, etc. if he/she doesn't show gratitude in the particular manner the giver expected. However, I think it's the other way around. Someone thinking that a phone call or in-person thanks was not good enough is the selfish one in my opinion.
Q.

Thank you notes

Unless a gift is opened in the gift-giver's presence (in which case no note is needed, but is still nice) email is not an acceptable form of thanks, in my book. A written note takes more time, thought, and effort. When in doubt, send a note. Better to over-thank than to under-thank and risk offending the giver.
Q.

Adults celebrating birthdays

Can we be clear that Carolyn has no problem with adults celebrating their own birthdays, as long as they do so at their own expense and in a generous spirit, rather than demanding that their friends and family spend time and money on them, or whining that they don't?
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Important clarification.

– August 26, 2011 1:29 PM
Q.

birthdays

I was so grateful and happy when I turned 21 and my friends took me out to dinner. it was to some really cheapo place. but it was great to be acknowledged. we had a GREAT time. would I have been depressed if no one cared? nah...to quote someone else "you're an adult now..."
Q.

Thank you notes Phony? Give me a break!

Weddings these days include "spontaneous" choreographed flash mob dances interjected into the reception (or worse, the ceremony), and you complain that the thank-you cards are phony? Riiiight. I don't think anyone expects a trip down Memory Lane in their thankyou card, especially if the gift-giver turned out to be someone's long-lost 2nd cousin or the groom's parent's former business partner. The best thank you cards include the following: 1. Acknowledgement of the specific gift, if possible. 2. Appreciation of the trouble/expense the gift-giver assumedly went to in order to acquire and then give the gift. 3. When applicable, an enthusiastic sentence involving the gift's future use. (In the case of well-meaning yet hideous/impractical gifts, you don't have to imply that this item will be used by YOU, per se, if it's headed to the Goodwill. Alternatively, skip this step and elaborate on #2.) Dear Aunt Betty, Thank you so much for attending our wedding, and also for the egg cups shaped like kitty cats! It was a very thoughtful gift, because not only do I love kittens, but Peter loves hard-boiled eggs. Breakfast will be very fun with these egg cups! Thanks again for being with us on our special day as well as your lovely gift, Love, Donna and Peter.
Q.

why we read

Definitely an interesting question....for me it boils down to reaffirming that other people have problems too, and that often their problems are more complicated than my own.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Excellent point.

– August 26, 2011 1:32 PM
Q.

Anyone have any ideas?

Advice columns are stories, and we all like stories. They're short stories, too. They're a source of gossip ("can you BELIEVE the jerk who wrote to Hax today??") and they're a source of inspiration ("gosh, I never would have thought of that. that's a great idea/a different perspective/an answer I can use.").
A.
Jodi Westrick :

A bonding experience, if you will.

– August 26, 2011 1:33 PM
Q.

Carolyn's M.O.

Today's answer is an excellent example of how she approaches the craft of giving advice. A letter-writer will complain about someone else's issues and Carolyn will zero in on the writer's own issues. Does she make it a point of picking out the letters where the writers aren't aware that they have these issues?
Q.

Re: Too Harsh on Proud?

I don't think so, I think it was approriate given the entire letter, taken in context. "Proud" does imply a certain amount of ownership/responsibility/control - the definition actually refers to "excessive self-esteem." While perhaps just a usage error by the writer, the rest of the letter really bore out that first impression - i.e., slightly condescending, and perhaps somewhat irked that the friend who was previously praised primarily for being - what was it? Flexible, agreeable? - now was asserting her own opinions/views/agenda. Still may be off base, and Carolyn was careful to note that it might be wrong, it was just an avenue to explore - but it's the kind of close reading that I appreciate from her, and why I think she is so far superior to any other advice columnist out there - she really listens for what people are saying, and tries to figure out what the real problem is/may be.
Q.

being proud of friend

I think Hax was spot on. I had a friend who would be so proud of me at times--and disapproving when I acted in a way that didn't validate her way of thinking. We're no longer friends.
Q.

Re: Why we read

I love other people's problems! I love Carolyn and Amy and Prudie and Dan and... I also get little bits of advice that ~I~ should take. And Carolyn has a way of separating the wonderful endearing quirks that make us who we are from the pathological traits that make us toxic. And, finally, she's the reason I read The Gift of Fear, which is as worthwhile as she always says it is.
Q.

Single vs. Married and Answers

Here's my take: After having been single -- and now married with a toddler -- I can say that, hands down, the problems I've had as a wife and/or mother TOTALLY overshadow any problems I experienced when I was single. Yeah, it sucks to be the only single person at say, the next wedding, but compare that to a spouse who's cheating, or a marriage that's disconnecting, or a child born with a disability, or the crushing guilt a parent may feel, and so on, and you tell me which one warrants a more thought-out answer.
Q.

birthday cards

And if I travel across the country to see my mom on her birthday, why should I have to bring a card? I thought a card is what you send if you can't come in person. But she was really disappointed. Yes, I'm clueless, but I just don't get it.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Interesting... Is buying a 99 cent card appropriate in this case? Or do you think she would have been just as upset?

– August 26, 2011 1:37 PM
Q.

Favorite columns

Some of my favorite moments from Carolyn have been the how-to-live-your-life suggestions. This one from 2000 has been one of my favorites:  -- She called it her "one-size-fits-all, carping-diem stump speech." Sometimes, I wish I could embroider some of her bits of advice onto a pillow, sleep on it, and let it enter by osmosis.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Love it!

– August 26, 2011 1:37 PM
Q.

post-youth birthdays

My birthday was a week ago. I invited friends to my house for dinner. Each person fixed a course (I prepared the entree and provided the wine), and what we really celebrated was friendship. I made clear that the dinner was the only gift I wanted. Birthdays are worth celebrating, in as much as LIFE is worth celebrating. And as someone dealing with cancer, I'll take as much life, as many birthdays, and as fabulous a group of friends as I can get!!
Q.

Arlington Gay

I love, love, love the wedding questions, the more bizarre the better. They always remind me how glad I am that my husband and I eloped.
Q.

2008 hootenanny

In the name of all that is funny in this world, thank you so much for posting that link and thanks to Carolyn for hosting the yearly hootenanies!!!
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Aw, shucks!

– August 26, 2011 1:38 PM
Q.

Why therapy?

Because people and their problems are complex and UNIQUE. One generic answer from a non-trained relationship columnist in an anonymous forum is not going to be able to take all of the unique factors into account and give the perfect solution for problems than could take hours of individual one-on-one conversation. I *love* Hax, but I agree with her most of the time. These people often need more than Hax can provide even in a single column of advice.
Q.

Re: Why people don't want to write thank you notes anymore

I'm actually afraid to write them because I don't know what to say. Either way risks making the other person angry - not sending a note at all or sending a note that reads as if the language was lifted from a website.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Really? Do you like to write in general?

– August 26, 2011 1:39 PM
Q.

Carolyn is awesome

I really, really enjoy her columns. I usually agree with her advice or find it sparks me to think of something in a different way. Even when I don't agree, I understand Carolyn's reasoning because she spells it out. That being said, I will continue to celebrate my birthday with my husband, because Carolyn's world of no adult birthdays is too sad for me!
Q.

Thank You Notes

"Do you guys think "Thank you" notes are a lost art? Why don't people want to write them any more?" I think most people think an email should be sufficient. That's just how people communicate now, and they're mostly not in the habit of writing personal letters. People don't keep stamps and stationery lying around like they used to. So it's more of a big deal to write a letter. The alternate viewpoint is "this person took the time to buy and wrap a gift, you should take the time to handwrite a note." But chances are, these days, the person went online and ordered the gift sent directly to the sender, so they put in about the same effort as an email thank you would take to send. Now, if you're saying that no email or telephone call thank you at all is required when you get a gift, you're a selfish cretin who doesn't deserve gifts. Or gifts of bacon pants only.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

I see what you did there.

– August 26, 2011 1:40 PM
Q.

"spending far too long trying to come up with the perfect three or four lines that will express your depth of gratitude to the person"

It doesn't have to be perfect, but it should take a little time and effort. What amount of time is "far too long" to show some gratitude? Why is it so hard to muster sincere thanks for a gift? We're all not Shakespeare, and they might sound repetitive to the person who's cranking out 20 of them at a clip, but not to the recipient(s). Also another practical point about thank you notes -- sometimes you are also providing a basic confirmation that the gift was received. I've sent a few gifts out into the world with no idea if they reached their designated targets because I never got a note/call.
Q.

Infertile Myrtle Suggestion

Try accupuncture for infertility. My best friend tried for several years - including IVF - took a break from it all, tried accupuncture and is now pregnant !! Works for many ! Good luck !
Q.

Thank you notes

we have a firm rule in our household regarding thank you notes: if you get the gift in person, open it in the presence of the giver and say "thank you" at that time, that is sufficient. if you get the gift through the mail or it's opened later (wedding, shower, some parties, etc) then you send a hand-written thank you note...no exceptions. when my daughter was young, it started with drawings; she's 14 now and writes thank you notes with absolutely no hesitation or whining.
Q.

not that harsh about singles

Hang on, I have to stick up for Carolyn here! One of the best pieces of advice she gave was about centering your life on what you have, not on what you lack. In that sense, her answers about being single are consistent with her less-controversial replies about fear of rejection (I loved that column), or taking control of your reactions, or working with what you have. Most situations -- romantic, career, geographic -- will be less than ideal at some point, and her point is that you learn to roll with them while actively seeing the best of it. For me, at least, the alternative seems a lot less appetizing. What was that quote I liked: "It's your life. It's your happy to find." One more person who saves her responses coming out of the woodwork!
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Excellent.

– August 26, 2011 1:41 PM
Q.

2008 Hootenanny

Can you link to the 2008 Hootenanny?! Thanks!
A.
Jodi Westrick :
– August 26, 2011 1:41 PM
Q.

2-year rule

I think the 2-year rule makes perfect sense. I've never wanted to get married -- and in fact I'm over 50, not married, but have been living with my honey for 15 years this weekend -- and in all the dating I did before I met him, two years was definitely the make-or-break point. I found that every man I dated started to feel tension at that point -- it was like we had to either get married or break up! (I never felt the tension, I'm perfectly happy "dating" forever!) So there were a lot of breakups at about that point in the relationship...
Q.

Therapist Affordability

I live in NYC, where almost all mental health professionals simply don't take insurance. There are some sliding scales or getting therapists in training at hospitals, but it's still expensive (and doesn't allow you to be with the same person for years if, for example, she is a resident right now). I would be considered fairly well off for my age, but it's a matter of priorities--do I save for grad school and pay my rent, or pay for therapy? Maybe mental health is the most important to Carolyn, but really--my mental health will deteriorate if I have the pressure of huge grad school loans. Conclusion: Net happiness increased by saving for grad school.
Q.

Re: Why We Read

I've been an advice column addict for years, but I hate most reality TV. Maybe because I have the assumption that the letters are "unfiltered," as opposed to reality TV which I always suspect is manipulated for maximum drama. Although I find myself more and more trying to spot "fake" letters in advice columns (not Carolyn, she's usually good at avoiding these, but other columnists). TV has made me overly suspicious, I suppose.
Q.

Kids' Grief

This was such a loving way to help parents with their kids' grief.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ah, yes, thank you for sharing!

– August 26, 2011 1:43 PM
Q.

Best of Carolyn

My best Carolyn story is a personal one. Many years ago I was involved with a somewhat troubled woman. After a particularly bad episode, she had locked herself in a bathroom and was threatening to attempt suicide. After talking her down enough to get her out and to secure the pills, I wasn't really sure what came next. I reached out to Carolyn via email and within a few hours, she had written me back with some resources and advice on how to get some help for the woman. I'll always be grateful to her for that and for helping open my eyes that I needed to get out of that relationship. Safely of course.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Thank you for sharing your story.

– August 26, 2011 1:44 PM
Q.

RE: Harsh about being "proud"

By the way, the letter writer for today's column has been posting in the comments. So those who are interested in the more detailed version the the story should check it out.

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Thanks for the heads up!

– August 26, 2011 1:44 PM
Q.

Vegans

I didn't think Carolyn was necessary harsh toward the vegan girl (with a meat-eating boyfriend), but insensitive to a wow level. I have deep problems with veganism as a lifestyle, and I wouldn't be nearly as dismissive as she was. I'm still dying to know whether she got an influx of hate mail after that one.
Q.

Re: Singles

I don't think Carolyn is particularly harsh w/r/t singles. I think she doesn't sugar-coat it, though, and if you're in a wallow-y place, you kinda don't want to hear that all you can do is put yourself out there a little more. I do recall in some past chats, a few peanuts pointed out that since Carolyn has had a partner for most of her adult life, she doesn't quite get the crushing loneliness of a years-long dry spell. That's possibly true, but again, it's advice column that's probably more geared towards action rather than shoulder-to-lean-on sympathy.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Hmm. That's a good way to look at it.

– August 26, 2011 1:45 PM
Q.

Re: Carolyn's M.O.

I don't have a problem with her pointing out a writer's issues - I think she just believes strongly that a person can't make other people change their behavior. So she tends to help the writer change their perspective or how they deal with that person. It makes a lot of sense to me.
Q.

"you tell me which one warrants a more thought-out answer."

You tell me who probably has a greater support system to lean on -- a married person with a family, and the added cultural presumption that his or her life is more important and complicated for having that marriage and those children, or a single person whose biggest problem is always something superficial like being Miss Lonelyhearts at a reception. [gosh darn].

Q.

Re: Singles

I can't really fault Carolyn's approach to single people. It can be tough to figure out what some of these posters want. "Yes, you should settle."? "Yes, you should totally feel jealous as your friends get married, then shun them"? "Yes, the entire male population is composed of selfish pigs who only want shallow 20-somethings"? It's hard to be single in this society, true, but what good comes from wallowing in it?
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Oooh... such an interesting take on this!

– August 26, 2011 1:47 PM
Q.

Two Year Rule

Carolyn DOES NOT have a two year rule! What she says is that it often takes that long for people to become their true selves with each other. Until then, you're showing -- and seeing -- the very best parts of the whole person that you are. I'm watching this unfold in dramatic fashion with a friend who married one year after meeting someone, and now is slowly seeing the parts of him that she didn't see, or overlooked, or didn't anticipate would become as difficult as they are. Of course, this doesn't apply to everyone, but I think it applies to most.
Q.

Carolyn teaches issues analysis

What Carolyn has in common with the great Miss Manners is her ability to cut to the heart of the real issue, in well-expressed terms. She's a Critical Thinking course in herself.
Q.

Wedding q's

I am all for wedding q's! Also, most memorable was definitely the woman with the cheating spouse with the child due within a month or so. I keep thinking about her.
Q.

Birthday Cards

I love sending cards - for any occassion. I send cards when I can't be there in person, for Birthdays of adults. Kids - especially if it's a group birthday - I always put a card with the present, so the kid knows who the present comes from. Has the person written special things in the birthday card? If so, maybe that is what the Mom was missing - the personal message - more than the card.
Q.

RE: SINGLE VS. MARRIED AND ANSWERS

Wow. Because single people never have to deal with betrayal, or feeling disconnected, or have to care for others who can't care for themselves, or have their own dreams denied. Apparently, fellow reader, your life is ONLY important if you're married AND a parent! The rest of us are so clearly worthless in comparison. Get over yourself.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Hm, maybe it's best to think of the classic Plato quote, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

– August 26, 2011 1:49 PM
Q.

Wedding thank-yous

Precisely two months after my daughter's wedding, I had calls/emails from two friends asking if she had received their gift. I had been refraining from asking her how the notes were coming, but this gave me an opening to ask her (and tell her others were asking). She said her friends had told her she had A YEAR to write them. I went to several contemporary wedding websites and showed her that two months was the outside limit (which it was back in my day). She digested the new information and got right on it, but who are these people going around saying you have a year? The longer you put it off, the less likely it will be done.
Q.

Do you guys feel like her advice focus has changed over the years? Good? Bad?

Yes, it has. How could it not? She's aged and changed. And yes, I find the kid questions HORRIBLY boring. But I still like the other stuff.
Q.

Pain is pain

"I can say that, hands down, the problems I've had as a wife and/or mother TOTALLY overshadow any problems I experienced when I was single." My fiance was killed in a car accident the year I started grad school. One of my classmates was broken up with around that time. It was VERY hard for me to hear her going on and on about it, given the circumstances. An old friend, after hearing me complain about it over and over, told me that, sure what happened to me was worse, but that the break-up was the biggest pain she had ever felt in her life, and that's a big deal. That has stuck with me for 14 years. (I should tell her that.) So, give the single folks a break. They have problems, too.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Ah, perspective. Thank you for sharing.

– August 26, 2011 1:50 PM
Q.

Single v. Married

I think you might want to read the chat where the two women wrote in to confirm their belief that single people were more "selfish" than married people, and Carolyn's response. Here's a link . I only wish Carolyn were here to respond to that posting in person, but perhaps that can be arranged. Bottom line, though, do you really think your life is more complicated than the single woman next to you - the one holding down a job, trying to prepare for her retirement on her own, facing the prospect of dealing with illness, aging, and mortality on her own, perhaps trying to care for her aging parents at the same time - not to mention dealing with married friends like you who think their lives are so much more "complicated" than her allegedly "carefree" existence?

A.
Jodi Westrick :

Oh, thank you for sharing this. Please read it if you have a chance.

– August 26, 2011 1:53 PM
Q.

Why we read?

Because there is some comfort in knowing we aren't the only one with a certain problem, and hopefully getting the thoughts/solutions from others can help us with our own.
Q.

Myrtle responds to Accupuncture suggestion

Did that. Frankly keeping up with those appointments as well as all the monitoring only seemed to add to the crazy. Now I'm doing IVF but living my life. Doing Weight Watchers so I'm not still overweight in case I don't get pregnant (I'd been giving myself a pass for far too long.) Exercising. Etc. It's better for me. But thanks for the input! It shows you care.
Q.

Harshest Answer - and my favorite

In1999 I wrote to Carolyn because I couldn't figure out what the hell to do with my life. I was also severely depressed, which I had know way of figuring out. I can't remember Carolyn's exact words, but the gist of it was : Don't just sit there whining - DO SOMETHING! It was kind of a smack in the face; it seemed really harsh at the time (what with the depression and all), but it actually lit a fire under my butt. A career counselor helped me to decide to go back to school and follow a completely different career path, my great partner encouraged therapy, which helped me put down a whole lot of baggage I didn't even know I was carrying. My very patient therapist finally got me to try meds that *really* helped with the depression. 12 years ago I would not have even been able to imagine myself where I am now. Thanks, Carolyn, for the good swift kick.
Q.

Therapy as a punt

How unfair to Carolyn! Not everything is a quick fix; 5 minutes in an internet chat is not enough somtimes. Perhaps we should focus on increasing access to therapy, rather than blaming her for recommending it.
Q.

"Really? Do you like to write in general?"

Actually I love to write. I suppose I'm not comfortable writing about my feelings as myself, as opposed to doing so in anonymous chats like this.
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Understandable. I sometimes find it helpful to think about what I would like to receive in a note or letter and that helps me craft something that I feel comfortable with.

– August 26, 2011 1:59 PM
Q.

Bacon Pants

Finally, something that goes with my Lady Gaga meat dress, hat, purse, and shoes!
Q.

Non-Phony Thank You Notes

I always start a Thank You with either a fond memory of the person "I was sitting down to write this and couldn't help but remember the time we rode our bikes to the pool and I fell in the creek!" or a current event where they live "I hope you didnt have too much cabin fever with the 4' of snow last week?" or with a nice compliment - "I missed your delicious crab dip at the party". Then I end with the Thank You. And send one for every gift if you didn't open it in their presence and didn't thank them in person. Period.
Q.

Jodi Westrick :

Think we opened a can of worms on the singles vs. non-singles topic. Since Carolyn isn't here to respond for herself, I think we'll call it quits on this one for today. But I'm hoping it's something she can address in the future.

Q.

Great Idea!

This is really fun. But Jodi, isn't this making work harder for you today than usual?
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Fridays are typically all-Hax days, so nothing out of the ordinary! But I am feeling extraordinarily sad about not producing this every week!

– August 26, 2011 2:02 PM
Q.

Useful info in the "comments" section?

Has hell frozen over?!
Q.

Best advice

My favorite piece of advice from Carolyn was in response to someone who wrote in complaining about giving up bus/subway seats for pregnant women. Carolyn wrote in response "let me ask you this--what's kind?". That has always stayed with me, and I try to live my life with that mindset.
Q.

Cute shoes!

I can see why they are your favorites. Sorry to lose you -- where are you headed? And will you still be a fan if you are not a producer?
A.
Jodi Westrick :

Thanks! Think we're going to wrap this up soon. I will still be a loyal fan. Like most of you, I've come to depend on Hax's expertise - and I love hearing the advice from all of you as well. Not going far, just entering the world of TV. If you enjoy the world of Twitter, please keep in touch.

– August 26, 2011 2:05 PM
Q.

"eat til we flap"

what does this mean? whatever it is, it's making me laugh.
Q.

Good grief

The helpful suggestions for personalized thank-yous are only reminding me of the fact that you probably know at least ten people in your life who are absolutely lousy at gift-giving, too. If you can get the thing sent at all, more power to you.
Q.

Grow a Spine

I hate the response "grow a spine". Much more often seen in the comments than in Carolyn's answers, but always grating. Often the LW is trying to find the courage to do what s/he needs to do, and is looking for validation. Where can we get these magic Spine Seeds? "Grow a Spine" is so dismissive.
Q.

Hopefully she'll know the way in which I mean this

But I'm "proud" of Carolyn. By that I mean, I admire her and am so happy when she is successful. Nick too. After reading them for 12 years I feel a bit possessive. But hopefully in a good way.
Q.

Jodi Westrick :

THANK YOU EVERYONE! This was a wonderful way to go! I think we uncovered some great topics for Carolyn to look at in the future, as well as some topics that could use some re-hashing as well. As always, if you want to chat more or talk with Carolyn, send in your questions to tellme@washpost.com. Have a great weekend everyone! Stay dry, don't blow away with Hurricane Irene!

Q.

Jodi Westrick :

Also, sorry to all of you whose responses we didn't get to - thank you for chiming in!

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