Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Friday, May 24)

May 24, 2013

Attention readers: This week's chat started at 11 a.m. ET - one hour earlier than usual. It will resume its normal time next week. Thank you!

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, May 24, 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 forum, home of the Hax-Philes and Hax fans. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hi, everybody. Thanks for coming an hour early today.

It's that time again--this is Haley's last day as my producer. We've been here before, but it occurs to me that I've never really explained what my producer does. Here's what it looks like from where I sit:

She has to go through hundreds of questions, with an eye to what I'm able to answer, what will be interesting to readers, what won't sound the same as the dozens of questions she has already sent me. If she sends too many, I have trouble finding things; too few and I can run out of usable material.

Follow-up posts have to advance the discussion somehow, and I ask that I get a representative sample of what's coming in.

I ask her to flag the questions of people who appear to be at risk of self-harm.

She has to do this for three hours when chats are normally one hour. The software is high-strung, so occasionally things just lock up on my end, hers, or both. This was more of a problem in the past than it is now, but recently my laptop crashed on its own, just for old times' sake.

Most of the time, I will not communicate with her at all in these three hours, because I am completely absorbed in what I'm doing. I try to type a hello in the beginning and goodbye at the end but sometimes I'm reading questions, I notice it's 11:59 and off I go--and at 3-yikes-17, I need to be somewhere and off I go. Apparently I can't advise about communication and communicate at the same time.

When I do "speak up" (IM, basically), it's usually to type something like, "There's a col frm about 6 mos ago on breakups can't find Help?" Other times, I'm answering a Q and I'll throw out there, live, "Hey, Haley, any chance you can ..." blah blah blah. Or, I'll ask the poster to write back with more information, and Haley will have to find it, even though the person often doesn't identify the follow-up as a follow-up, or signs it differently, or just doesn't write back at all because the Q was submitted three days before the chat and the poster won't know till transcript time that I asked a follow-up question at all.

I will go weeks without asking anything like this, then ask three times in one chat.

I've met Haley in person once. (Right Haley? Once?) (See what I do to her?)

Oddly, my last 273,404 producers have gone on to other careers. 

So, Haley, congratulations on your big move, and thanks for being ringmaster of our little Friday circus.

(... And Bethonie, there's the job description. Good luck.)

 

Hi Carolyn, I am the new anxious mom from the online chat adapted column on Tuesday. Now my son is about a turn a year and I feel so much more relaxed about everything. I think your comments about surrounding yourself with more relaxed parents was HUGE. Around the time I asked the question 6 months ago - I actually started meeting up with a group of new moms at my work that don't necessarily make all the same choices as I do, but definitely share a similar work/balance perspective, etc. This has been huge! The other thing I wanted to mention that my group discussed is the role of hormones in feeling anxious and crazy. I think I was on a major hormonal roller coaster when I wrote in for your advice. That roller coaster has since stopped and i feel like myself for the first time since getting pregnant. The other last piece of the puzzle for me was just realizing that making decisions with regard to my baby - it was just going to be a longer process than making decisions about other things and that is ok. I needed to allow myself the ability to waffle back and forth about things and get used to the idea of something, which normally I don't do and don't value. I now get - that in this realm of my life - it is fine for me and doesn't speak less highly of my decision making abilities or mental capacity or whatever. Anyway - I just wanted to provide an update and maybe share a few things I realized about myself that might be helpful to other new moms that are feeling similarly. THANK YOU!!!

You're welcome, and thanks so much for the update.

The LW writes that her boyfriend has been friends with his ex-girlfriend for 17 years and that they dated for 8 years- assuming they dated and then became best friends, they've known each other for 25 years... but the LW also says the ex has been with her husband for 30 years. So... were they dating during the marriage?

I can't see any other way to read it. Dated and went to couples' counseling.

I think any notion of these two (the boyfriend and the ex) as traditional-relationship people has to be abandoned. When the LW sees what's there clearly, vs. seeing it in terms of what she wants (boyfriend as her best friend, for starters), then she can make a useful decision. 

Dear Carolyn, This question is going to sound fake, but it's real. I'm really torn up about it and I don't know how to proceed. I'm in my 30's. I met this guy in a different city and we had a few great dates. We've been keeping in touch until we can see each other again. We haven't spoken of commitment or anything like that. Here's the issue- one night I was casually googling his name. Very innocently- I swear- I just thought I could see some of his work projects or something like that. But what I came across was an article about the trial of his father for murdering his mother. I am absolutely sure it is him, it says his full name as one of the sons. I was shocked, and I feel absolutely horrible, for a number of reasons. I feel like I invaded his privacy, and now he doesn't have a chance to tell me on his own time. But I also feel a little scared. He mentioned very briefly that he had a difficult family that he wasn't ready to talk me about yet, but I wasn't picturing anything close to this. We are so casual at this point, but I don't think I want to stop talking to him just because of the sins of his father. But I am a little scared. How do I bring this up to him? - I wish I never googled.

No no no, it's good that you Googled. This is the world we live in now, and I don't think any sensible adaptation to a new way of living is to construct your own little bubble where the present is not invited in.

You bring this up the next time you see him. You remind him that he said he wasn't ready to talk about his family yet, and you respect that, but that Google told you a few things you weren't expecting to hear. Say you're not asking him to talk about it until he's ready, but you wanted him to know that you know so he doesn't have to worry about how to start the conversation. Then you listen and watch carefully. 

That is, if you get to the point of seeing him again. I don't think it's right or fair to rule him out based on this alone--if people from messed up situations were undatable, then there would be a lot of lonely people doing life sentences for other people's mistakes. However, we owe it to ourselves and the other person to give careful thought and scrutiny to everyone we choose to date, messed-up background or not--so don't retreat from hard questions and scrutiny just because you feel bad for him. If this information has given you an "aha" moment about something that didn't feel right about your dealings with him, then heed it, don't rationalize it away in an effort to be "nice."

You're already well on your way to making the "nice" mistake. Feeling guilty for Googling public information? Think about what you're saying here.

I urge you to put reading "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker at the top of your to-do list. Not only will it give you sharper eyes through which to see this guy and his situation, but GdB also is himself the product of a violent home. 

Hi Carolyn: Is it normal to have fights so serious that you contemplate breaking up? My wonderful S.O. and I are engaged and while I love my S.O. a great deal, we have been having some fights lately that have led me to consider putting off the wedding. I've noticed that I only have these thoughts when we have long, drawn out fights about, what I consider, insignificant issues. Once we recover and talk it through together I go right back to walking on clouds. I care deeply my S.O. and I do envision a life together, but I'm starting to think that these thoughts might be a sign of cold feet. I guess I just want to know if this is normal.

Normal, maybe, but divorce is normal, too.

In the early stages of your next long, drawn-out fight, do something different. Not dysfunctionally so, and not different for the sake of different, but instead something different that you select from a short list of actions that fall under the categories of kidness, good communication, self-discipline and integrity.

For example: "This feels like the beginning of another long argument about something small. I'm going to take a few minutes by myself to sort out my thoughts." Or, "I'm hearing you say [paraphrase of your SO's position]. Is that accurate?"--followed by listening as your SO clarifies, if you've gotten it wrong, or promising to give that view some thought, if you've paraphrased it accurately. Then do give it thought, and see whether it's about a core value of yours or just about  a habit of needing to be right.

However you choose to do it, aim this change at remaining calm and giving yourself room to think about and identify any larger issues driving these petty fights. If your SO won't give you that room, then that's already a bigger deal than whatever you're fighting about.

If you do find yourself convinced  this is more than just frayed nerves, then there are two things you must not avoid out of fear: premarital counseling, and postponing the wedding. You don't have to postpone, you just need to treat it as if it's a legitimate option, vs a dreaded last resort. You never want fear of public humiliation or lost deposits to decide the course of your life.

A few months ago, one of the most important romantic relationship of my life disolved. It was a relationship that was on and off for about 10 years ( we meet while we were both too young and struggled together to grow up). We lived together for while, and I was going to marry this man until I realized- I didn't love him anymore. My current issue is on how to move on while keeping that important part of my life, do I throw all our pictures? all the gifts? do I give it back? Some guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Don't do anything with the gifts or photos that you can't reverse. Whatever you're unsure about, box it up and put it away for a time when your feelings aren't so raw.

Rings from broken engagements are the exception. If the recipient of a ring is the one who called things off, then ring goes back to the giver.

Oh, and pets, too--exceptions. Don't box up the goldfish.

Hi Carolyn, A very strange new version of peer pressure has reared it's head in my friend group. My good friend just recently got engaged, and since has really upped her gym time. Before her engagement she would ask me if I wanted to go to yoga with her, and I would decline because it's not really my thing. She seemed fine with it. During all this I started a weight loss plan and have been trying to lose weight on my own and exercising how I like. Our mutual friend who is also part of the wedding started going to yoga, spinning, and on runs (which I'm also horrible at) with her about 3-4 times a week. They talk about it in group texts with me, sometimes saying "you should come"! I've always been bigger than my friends, and this is starting to feel very uncomfortable for me. Like they're pressuring me to go with them so I'll lose weight and be as thin as them for the wedding. How do I let them know that I really don't want to go and that their constant asking makes me upset and self-conscious? -YOGee no thanks.

Go no-frills: "Since your engagement, it seems to me that you're asking me to exercise with you more, and 'No, thank you' is not working as an answer. Am I reading this correctly?"

Regardless of what she says, you'll probably need to lay out plainly that you prefer to get exercise your own way, thanks, and that having to say no all the time is an odd position to be in with a good friend--but the point of asking directly is to hear her motivations from her, since that's much better than your filling in those blanks with your worst fears.

 

My religion has only one house of worship nearby, and it isn't a good place for me to be. I feel the need to be part of a religious community, and for the past eight months have been attending a house of worship belonging to a different religion, while still privately practicing my own religion. I LOVE the new house of worship! Everyone there is respectful of my beliefs, and there is zero pressure on me to convert or participate in activities that are counter to my beliefs. I'm freely welcomed to participate in those activities that are compatible with my beliefs. I know I can never fully be part of this religion, but after eight months of hesitancy I want to dive in and become more fully involved. Would that be totally stupid? Is this all going to blow up in my face some day, and should I get out now? Or is what I'm doing a reasonable approach given that it isn't a good idea for me to attend my own house of worship? I would love any feedback from you and the nuts. An optional follow-up question, if you do advise sticking around, is how I can rein in my tongue and stop blurting out questions and comments that are best described as blasphemous. I do it partly because I'm often bewildered by the new religion, and partly because after all the time spent in my own religion, where it didn't feel safe to ask questions or express opinions, I'm like a volcano that is finally exploding because too much pressure has built up. No one seems to mind my questions or comments, but I feel guilty about them and am trying to learn to shut the heck up again. I did it at my previous house of worship, so I should be able to do it at the new one too, right?

I am so spectacularly ill-equipped to answer this question that I just might get the answer right: Talk to a/the spiritual leader of this congregation. 

Hi Carolyn I am re-writing my query from earlier this week to make it sound a little less glassbowl-y. In the past I have been very generous with friends' charities. I usually sponsor people for bike rides, walks, haircuts for cancer, etc. I also used to write pretty large checks (250 bucks for a long bike ride... much less for a haircut, etc). Then in 2012 I had five-figures in vet bills (not a typo). My kitty died in January. I declined all charity requests in 2012. This year the season is starting up again and while I'd like to give, I will not be giving nearly as much to each friend request. I feel really cheap and chintzy, though, because while 2012 I took a big hit I can surely afford to give more - but it would be at the expense of "me things" (and yeah, I guess huge vet bills last year were also a me-thing). So my question was - given that I do all these self indulgent things - is it worse to give nothing at all to a charity request, or, give a *much* smaller amount than usual? I'm embarrassed to write checks for 25 dollars for a haircut, for instance, when the friend knows I just took a really nice vacation. Hope that sounds a little better.

Apparently it's flog-yourself-for-existing day. (Not a paid holiday, as you'd imagine.)

It's always best to give what you want to give and feel comfortable giving--whether that's $0, $5, $100, $1,000 or $1.2 million.

If you're asking what -looks- worse, then giving 10 bucks is probably going to risk attracting more "huh?" attention than not giving at all, which would likely go unnoticed--but making decisions based on a calculation like this is an egregious violation of the best-practice of giving what you want to give and feel comfortable giving. And, as one who has tried to raise money for a cause, I promise that the idea of someone not giving 10 bucks after a nice vacation for fear of looking cheap would leave me sucking my thumb in a corner.

So, yeah, write the $25 check. 

As someone with similar googleable "skeletons" in my family closet, I would really encourage LW to think about exactly why this information scares her. The possibility of progressing to the point of having to meet the father? What other people will say when they do the google? What she would tell their eventual kids? A little voice telling her that this explains something that she hadn't fully realized was bugging her about this guy? If it's anything other than the latter or something else that is personal to her relationship with him, I would really encourage her to give this guy a chance. And if she can't let it go and realize that it's not really about her or even him, then she should admit to herself that maybe she's not the gal he needs. No one needs to feel like they are being punished for the crimes of their relatives.

Suitable for framing, thanks.

Also please go into this conversation with your friend NOT assuming the worst. It could be that she is herself motivated to exercise more if a friend comes along and she is thinking of you in that warm, collaborative context. If that doesn't work for you, fine, but be pleasant about it, it doesn't mean she is commenting on your looks. She might just enjoy your company.

Yikes, not that. Thanks.

Thanks for putting up with us for all this time, Haley! Hope whatever's next is great! Welcome to Bethonie!

Thank YOU! The 'nuts have always been my favorite WaPo chatters/commenters to work with (shhh, don't tell the others). Also, Bethonie has actually been producing the Hax chat on the days I've been unable to over the past couple of years, so she's got it down. I'm sure it will be a smooth transition.

Haley, in her last act of keeping me on the rails, has reminded me to remind you there will be no chat next Friday. Holy Spanx, it's my 25th college reunion next weekend. (I initially typed it "ruinion," which makes more sense.)

Wow, it's that accepted to Google someone? If a guy I was dating told me he did it, I'd think he was a crazy paranoid creep. If I were the guy in this scenario, I'd feel like my privacy had been massively invaded and I'd never call her again.

"Crazy, paranoid creep"? You're entitled to your beliefs, and to use them to screen out people who wouldn't be a suitable mate for you. Given that you feel so strongly, I hope you do talk about it with people you date. I warn against saying upfront that you would drop anyone who Googled you, and even against actually dropping someone for it, because then you'd screen out only the ones honest enough to admit they did--but it's a great opening into the workings of your mind.

That said, think carefully about any decision to blind yourself in service of principle. A Web search is not the last word on anyone, but it's readily available, free, public information, and as such it's a tremendous ally of truth. 

Also be sure to give any kids you have some seriously generic names. 

Dear Carolyn, I'm friends with a group of 6 men and women who have known each other since college. One of our old college friends just moved to the area and has started hanging out with us (she has no other friends in the area). Where in college she was pretty in a kind of goofy, careless way, she is now a bombshell who keeps her body in meticulous shape, has money to spend on things like hair and nails, and shows up everywhere dressed to the nines. It's not like the rest of the women in the group are slobs--we definitely try to look nice--but she eclipses us all. Hanging out with her one-on-one is actually pretty nice, but hanging out with her in groups drives me crazy. My male friends treat her like she is the Messiah, giving her credit for being smarter, funnier, and more interesting than she actually is. Even though she has a boyfriend, she is an incredible flirt and diverts all the attention away from everyone else when we go out in all-female groups. I like her as a person, but barely; I think most of the positive attention she gets is solely because of her looks. How do I learn to relate to and be nicer to this person, given that I resent her so badly?

Embrace this little nugget in your question: "just moved to the area." Novelty is her friend, and time is yours.

She is apparently your friend, too, so make some extra effort to be hers. That being with her one-on-one is "actually pretty nice" is a memo to you: It says her looks have the potential to give her a pedestal among admiring men, but cost her the kind of leeway that people like you, who actually like her, would grant her if she weren't hot.

In that light, it's hard to see the attention she gets as "positive." That's one way to keep any resentment in check. 

 

Submitting early because of a meeting: Hi Carolyn, Do you have any advice for staying friends with an ex? My boyfriend and I decided to break up this weekend. He was one of my best friends before we started dating, but our relationship didn't work out (we had some problems communicating). We've both said we want to stay friends, especially given our history. Even though it didn't end on a bad note, I'm still terribly sad and lonely. I'm also terrified that I'll screw up this friendship in the aftermath. Any tips for navigating through this? From your previous article/chats, it sounds like you have a great relationship with your ex, so I was hoping you'd have some words of wisdom for both of us. Thank you. I love your chats and columns.

Thanks for the kind words. 

I do have a great relationship with Nick, and I think it works for us because we both found our own ways to leave any anger behind. It doesn't happen overnight or just because you decide to, it's a process, and it starts with taking blame for anything you did instead of seeking vengeance or even advantage for something done to you. 

I also don't think you can make a friendship happen just because you want it to, or just because you're afraid it won't happen. You both have to be, naturally, something the other person wants in a friend, and you both have to be comfortable enough with your new status to be genuinely happy when the other person finds new love. Then it will happen. 

 

I have never really wanted children, but I ended up getting married to a man with two teenagers from his first marriage. To be honest, I figured they'd not need much parenting - and it's not like they need a new mom. Only I seem to have ended up the Designated Bad Parent - I'm always the one that ends up telling them 'no, we can't get a dog' or 'if your grades don't improve, you can't go to the thing'. Whenever I try and bring it up people say I should be glad I get on with my husband's ex-wife and that they back me on on discipline. It's just...I don't want to do it! I know I have a responsibility to the kids, but do I have to be the bad guy?

Of course not, but you would have to live with the resulting household if you decided not to draw the lines you're drawing. The fact that you stepped in says you already made this calculation and chose to stand firm, although it might not have been as much of a conscious choice as you would have liked.

That's the kids part. The marriage part says your spouse has stood by (and enjoyed the advantages) as you've stepped in to handle the hard work for him, and apparently for the kids' mom, too. That's the thing that needs a closer look, ideally in marriage counseling or with just the two of you, some calm afternoons and a good book on step-families ... a reference I just tried and failed to find for you in my resource folder.

It was a reader-recommended book, so I'll throw it to you guys. Have a good one to plug?

Anyway, however that discussion goes, you still have to reconcile this with yourself. For that, looking to what you always/never wanted tends to be singularly unhelpful. What is helpful is looking at what you actually have, and deciding how best to manage that--for the good of all involved, since that's how families work. Good luck.

Haley's done a great job! Can you (or she) fill us in about what she'll be doing next? Just curious. Good luck, Haley. We'll miss you, although I think Bethonie will do a very good job, too.

Hello, reader! I hadn't planned on answering any questions like this today, but since so many people are asking (you guys really are the best), here's your answer: I'm moving to New Orleans next week for another media job that I just couldn't pass up. I'll also be much closer to my loved ones, so I'm pretty excited about that part. I'll certainly miss this group though, that's for sure. Thanks for all the kind words today, everyone. They really mean a lot.

My sister is the bombshell, She is movie-star gorgeous, fashionable, and also a smart, kind and generous person. I'm reasonably attractive, but on a mere-mortal level. When I'm in public with her there is an obvious difference in the way she's treated, especially by men. They are more attentive, more courteous, more charming, etc. etc. etc. It used to drive me batty, but now I find it kind of interesting---like I'm observing some kind of anthropological experiment. My advice: Be kind to the bombshell and don't let your insecurities get in the way of her attributes. Also, not for nothing. There are advantages to being someone who has never had the blessing/curse of being the prettiest one in the room. That's a lot of pressure, especially as you get older.

This, starting at 4:35 ("Six Feet Under" link).

Please stop competing with her! Stop looking at her hair, nails, clothing, etc. You have said so much about her appearance, and not a word about her as a person. Start treating her as a person. Also, you will be doing yourself a huge favor if any time you catch yourself thinking "I can't compete with that" you would just stop competing. Seriously.

This too, thanks.

I moderate an on-line sports forum where I have always used my real name as my screen name. I gave a suspension to a line-crossing poster, who then created a false and inflammatory "news item" that would show up whenever anyone googled me. So the point is, not everything you read when you've googled someone is an honest reflection of who they truly are, and I believe it's best to keep that in mind-- and not impulsively discriminate against someone-- for infor you saw upon googling them. .

Right--that's part of what I meant as "not the last word," but it's better spelled out, thanks. 

My sister in law recently discovered, not by talking to a doctor, but by her own decision, that she is allergic to Gluten. She cut it out of her diet, and claims that she feels 1000% better. I'm very happy for her, but... I do not believe that I am allergic to gluten. And I'm getting very resentful of her claiming that everything that's wrong in my life is due to eating it. If I'm tired, it's because I didn't sleep well last night (and again, my insomnia is not due to eating gluten!). If I have the sniffles, its because I've been around people with colds, not due to my diet. I have tried telling her firmly that I don't have a gluten allergy, and my husband also told her to knock it off, but nothing seems to make a dent in her crusade. What can I do or say to get her to leave it alone? (If it makes a difference, I think its silly that she self-diagnosed, but I haven't said so to her, and if she really feels better, then fine.)

Resentful? Not just annoyed?

She found a hammer, so everything looks like a nail, and this condition of hers is as old as, ha, gluten. If it helps, your hammer is a frustration with food fads.

With someone in the hammer phase, your choices are limited to riding it out, avoiding it/her, giving life without gluten a whirl (why not, right? Here's a link I found useful, which also makes an argument for going easy on the self-diagnosis trend), or batting the nuisance away with gentle humor.  

Another why-not-right? suggestion is to stop telling her "that I don't have a gluten allergy," since that's obviously not persuasive to her. Instead, try this tack: "I am hearing you, and realize you feel strongly about gluten. I feel this topic is coming between us, though, more than my diet is coming between me and good health. Is there anything I can say to put it to rest for good?" 

Might not help, but at least you'll have a "last word" on the record, freeing you to say things like, "This is me walking away from this conversation topic ...," ideally with a smile and a wave, as you leave the room.

Hi Carolyn! How do you find the line between compromising and settling? When is it worth putting in effort and energy to address problems and when is it better to just walk away? Personally, I'm thinking about this in relation to romantic relationships but it also seems applicable to work, platonic friendships, and family relationships. Thanks.

A clear-eyed assessment of how effective the "effort and energy" will be, how long you'll have to keep at it, and how open you are to the idea of maintaining that level of work indefinitely/for the rest of your life, is the key to a good decision. Also useful, not being blinded by wishful thinking about what you have and where things are headed.

Online only, please: My friend has been dating this guy for about a year and he's helped her lose that final 15 pounds, which is great. However, when she's out to dinner with us, he'll text her the calories of our drinks and food and how much she'd have to exercise to work it off. So she doesn't eat or drink when she's out with us. The latest incident of this was for a friend's birthday, where she sat on her phone texting about the birthday cake and margaritas she skipped. They're sort of a co-dependent couple that got serious really quick and while that mostly results in minor annoyances (hiding them on our FB feed to avoid 100 kissing photos), we do worry that this calorie texting is a sign of a larger problem. We don't see her much so we don't know if he's constantly pressuring her to forgo all vices or anything, since they're together 24/7. The one friend closest to her (the birthday girl from before) plans to bring up our concerns to her. She's likely to get defensive about her boyfriend, which the other friend is prepared for. What's the best approach for this?

I could try to parse the details, but I think the answer is actually a general one: As long as her response to a truth or a challenge is to get defensive, her relationship will be unhealthy--be it with this guy or any other.

Whether that poor health stops at immaturity/codependency/annoyingality or crosses over into his controlling her (or her controlling him) is often a matter of luck, that each of them stumbles across someone who won't do harm.

Best approach? Encourage good communication and choices, and don't shy away from the truth just because someone won't like it.

That's it for today. Goodbye and thanks again to Haley, and see the rest of youse in two weeks. 

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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 New England with her husband and their three boys.

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