Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, Feb. 3)

Feb 03, 2012

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, Feb. 3 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

Got any of Carolyn's answers or readers' questions from the past year stuck in your head? Submit them for next week's Best of Hax 2011 chat that will take place while Carolyn is on vacation.

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

Hey everybody, happy Friday.

getting these out of the way:

Twitter: @carolynhax and @ngalifianakis


Also, I apologize for not following through on finding a new home for updates. No great solution has presented itself,  and I've had too much else going on to dig for one--but, I haven't forgotten about them. (Misplaced a few, possibly, but not forgotten.)

I need to vent. Why does my sibling ask me what my kid wants only to buy the shiniest toy in the bargain bin? Why do the ladies always hold a roundtable on "What's wrong with my kid" when all the kids are perfectly normal? I bite my tongue during that one because it delays the inevitable "Bad eating habits of my husband" during cake.

Well, at least there's cake. 

My beloved Godmother (and Aunt) is bursting at the seams with excitement for her only child's wedding, scheduled for June 2013 in Hawaii. Their mindset is 'this is not a destination wedding' because the bride is a native Hawaiin(sp?!) and being married in her hometown. The entire family is on the East Coast, and well, it really feels like a destination wedding as far as the expense of getting there, etc . Any suggestions for softening the blow of not attending (unless we hit the lottery and mortgages, childcare, schooling, etc take a lesser bite out of the budget!)?? I myself felt guilty asking our own wdding guests to travel 3 1/2 hour from my hometown to the city were we wed(and I'd made my home 13 years prior) but the sense I get from my Aunt is that this in on-par with The Royal Wedding. There are great expectations here.....h e l p...!

There are only two pieces of information in all this that matter: The wedding is in Hawaii, and you can't afford to go to Hawaii. So, you tell your aunt you're very sorry you'll be missing the wedding.


I've been seeing my girlfriend for about six months. Last night we were talking about a friend's relationship problems stemming from his recent confession of infidelity. My girlfriend wondered aloud, "Why did he even tell her about it in the first place, if it was just a drunken one-night thing?" I muttered something back about lying never being good, and she agreed and we changed the subject. Now I'm thinking more about what she said and wondering if I should be concerned. I'm not especially worried about cheating, but I do place high value on trust, openness and honesty, and now I'm worried that she doesn't feel entirely the same way. Are there other signs I should look for to reassure myself? Or am I overthinking this?

I think you're overthinking how this reflects on her integrity, and underthinking--and under-discussing--the nuances of  "trust, openness and honesty." It is by no means a slam dunk that telling the whole truth is always good. Kant famously posed the question of whether you're obliged to tell the truth if a murderer came to your door and asked where your friend is (I -hate- it when that happens). Since very few people would actually feel obligated--or insist that anyone else was--it's a great starting point for the idea that even good, moral people draw lines in the gray when it comes to telling the truth.

The implications when it comes to relationships and cheating are discussed often here, and I can't think of an instance when people weren't split roughly down the middle between thinking the unselfish thing to do is to confess a onetime infidelity (because peole deserve the truth), and thinking the unselfish thing is -not- to confess a onetime infidelity (because the confesser feels unburdened at the expense of peace of mind of the confessee, who arguably is no better for knowing).

So, consider shelving the impulse to jump to dire conclusions about your girlfriend, and raising the issue again--not as it relates to her or even your friend, but instead as it relates to life and to the deceptively tough choices presented by a decision to take the high road.

And if the wedding were held on the east coast, the Hawaiian bride's family could be writing in. This is just life sometimes.

I know. It really isn't a destination wedding, and no amount if harrumphing will make it so. If the aunt doesn't hear "no" gracefully, then she is crossing a line, but there's nothing the no-sayer can do about that except be gracious and firm.

You don't have to take the whole family. You've got 16 months to save up and send a representative. Share a room with another relative who might be struggling to afford it. This depends, of course, on how close you are to this aunt and godmother, and if she's been there for you in the past.

And how sincerely you want to be at the wedding. Thanks.

We are celebrating our parent's momentous birthday with a modest, yet nice, party. Each of the siblings (except one) is contributing to the shindig. Some siblings who are more well off are contributing a little more cash, others are contributing what they can afford. One sibling, however, is not contributing anything, not helping, and not attending (with no good excuse for any of these omissions). The party favors will have a personalized label expressing birthday wishes to the person of honor. Signed "Love, sibs 1, 2, 3, ...." Should we include the name of the non-contributor on the signature line? Some siblings think we should include the name for the sake of having ALL the names of the children on the label, but others feel that this child did not do anything to deserve being put on the label and should bear the consequence of not being included.

Including the deadbeat sibling's name would be a lovely gift to your parents. Consequences will find this sib, rest assured, so there's no need to force a blemish on the proceedings just to settle that score. 

Hi Carolyn -- Just spent the weekend with my in-laws. Who are wonderful people. They really are -- they're generous, good with our kids, etc., etc. But. They. Are. So. Awkward. SO awkward. I mean, like, they don't talk, they won't call the landline so they don't accidentally have to talk to me instead of my husband, and they contort themselves into all sorts of weirdness so as not to "impose." We have given up any semblance of social interaction when they visit because being around other people is just too much for them. I accept this is how they are -- my question is, since awkwardness tends to beget awkwardness -- how can I tell when I'm accommodating them versus just adding to the awkward? Like, I basically have given up on small talk, because it seems to make them so uncomfortable. I try to disappear when they're around so they can have uninterrupted time with the kids. But then I wonder what contribution I am making to this utter lack of interaction/relationship. And, you know, I would ASK them what they prefer, but I (maybe unfairly) doubt that I will get any sort of honest answer. Or any answer at all. Sigh.

Is there something you can -do- with them? Can you cook dinner, bake with the kids, launch a big involved craft project, go someplace that centers on a kid-friendly activity (bowling, swimming ...)? When people are too awkward to talk, it's usually an act of mercy to present them with a chance to collaborate on something.

I realize this doesn't solve the bigger problem, but sometimes finding a way to bypass a bigger problem is a solution unto itself.

Carolyn, I've been dealing with mild depression on and off for the past two years, on medication for it for the past year. I'm tired of going through "bad" periods where I cannot motivate myself to do my work productively (though I want to). These seem to come back around even though I manage to climb out of it eventually. Sometimes I only lose a day. Sometimes I loose multiple days doing the bear minimum to keep my co-workers from being upset with me. I'm on meds, have friends and take joy in other parts of my life, but i'm not sure how to create a long term fix for myself. I'm not even sure who to ask for help. Is it a life coach, a therapist or should I just keep talking to my mother?

Do you get regular exercise? If not, are you medically able? 

Sorry for the delay--someone at the door.

Also, just to underscore ... if you leave deadbeat's name off, it might just make your parents feel bad about the situation on what should be a great day.

Zackly. thanks.

I absolutely agree with your answer regarding the signature line. But, if I were the gambling type, I would bet a fistful of dollars that the reason the "deadbeat" isn't attending is because of shame/embarrassment because they can't afford to contribute. For a couple years in a row, my brother didn't show up to Christmas without any explanation. This year, I just asked him what the deal was, and after a lot of hemming and hawing he admitted he was too ashamed to show up because he couldn't afford gifts. I felt so bad that I had been bad-mouthing him when I realized that our family traditions (and general large population) had placed burdens in his head that he was too ashamed to admit that he couldn't meet. He came to Christmas after being reassured repeatedly that no one cared a whiff about the gifts, they just wanted him there with us. I would encourage someone to talk one-on-one with the sibling in question and make it clear that his appearance is more important that any contribution to the cost of the party, which has clearly already been covered.

Good point, thanks.

Hi Carolyn, I'm in love with a wonderful guy and thinking long-term with him. But, he is an EXTREME football fanatic and I'm not interested, despite efforts by both of us to get me excited about the game. I feel like the current football season has really put a strain on our relationship, sapping all the time we would normally spend together. I'm also still nursing wounds because he got offered last-minute tickets to a playoff game a few weeks ago and canceled plans we had made together months earlier in order to go. I am very, very self-conscious about coming across as a nag or a shrew. I generally try to be as understanding as possible about it (he actually gave me the chance to veto his trip to the playoffs, and I told him he should go.) Sometimes I join him to watch the game, sometimes I make plans with girlfriends or stay home instead. Either way, I feel like I am making a sacrifice for the sport. Thinking about feeling this way for several months every year is the ONLY thing that gives me pause about this guy. Put in those terms, do you think this is major enough to spell incompatibility, or not that big a deal?

What I think doesn't matter.

If you're ready to accept a life of never making ambitious plans on a Sunday from mid-Aug to early Feb, then you can have a really happy life with a rabid football fan. If you like that he has a passion even if you don't share it, then you can have a really happy life with a rabid football fan. If you can respect his choice of passion, instead of speculating (openly or internally) what's so darn special about men in tights jumping into piles, then you can have a happy life with a rabid football fan.

But if the only way you can see his football habit is as an obstacle to the life you'd rather have, then do both of you a favor and rethink this guy as a viable long-term prospect.

One of those came out as "rabit football fan," which I'd like to see. 

Was the murderer at the door?

Maybe! I didn't open it.

A few tips I've found for dealing with awkward people: Develop an elephant-hide skin and take absolutely nothing they do or say personally. Assume at all times that they mean well and like you. Always greet them with something like, "It's so good to see you!" or "I'm really glad you're here!" Make it very very clear that their presence is a pleasure. Then... stop leaving the room! Talk when you want to talk. It will be as painful as you're expecting at first, but after a while, two things will happen: they'll get used to your presence, and you'll get used to their responses. Life will be much easier if you try to get accustomed to the way they act around the REAL you, rather than the eggshell-stepping you... your carefulness, believe it or not, is amping up the awkwardness on both sides.

Sensible approach, thanks.

Carolyn, will you please help me be realistic about my ex-boyfriend? He broke up with me 1.5 years ago when he started graduate school in a different part of the country. Ever since then, he gets in touch with me every few weeks or months, depending on whether I tell him I need space. Recently, he called me and we talked for 2 hours that went by in the blink of an eye. Two days later, I cried out of frustration with myself/my feelings for him and confusion over his motives. What ARE his motives? Should I be trying to get over him for good, or does his reaching out mean he still cares about me and might want a future together some day?

Will he tell you the truth if you say, "If you're calling me in hopes of getting back together someday, then, okay, but if that's not your intent then you need to stop calling me"? Can you be that truthful with him? If yes to both, then say it.

If no to either one--if you don't trust him to be honest, or if you don't trust yourself to be vulnerable with him--then that's your sign that staying in touch with him isn't good for you.

Hi Carolyn, Thanks for taking my question. My wife and I hosted our friends "Drew" and "Hester" for dinner last January, during which they stated numerous times that they wanted to have us over to reciprocate. It was December before they invited us, and since we did not have a free evening coming up, they promised to ask again a month later. Now here we are two months later and have heard nothing. We feel like it would be inappropriate for us to invite ourselves over but feel insulted that there's been no follow-up invite, to say nothing of the 12 months it took for them to mention it in the first place. Is it appropriate for us to say something? If so, is there a good way to broach the subject that hides our offense at the lateness of the invite? Thanks!

When in doubt, don't take things personally. In fact, the key to a happy life might just be that you decline to take anything personally right up to (arguably including) the point where people say they don't like you and think you smell funny.

Drew and Hester might be lousy hosts, busy, broke, keepers of so  messy a house that guests would have no place to sit, dealing with family stuff, dealing with work stuff, dealing with health stuff, so deep in social debt to gregarious-host friends that they need to reciprocate 10 other invitations before yours and they'll get to you eventually ... whatever. Tapping your calendar impatiently isn't doing either of you any good, is it? If you like this couple, then decide their company is more important than bean-counting and invite them over, or to join you at a favorite restaurant. If you don't like this couple enough to give up the bean-counting, then it's probably best that they haven't called.


What can I do to protect my children from what I'm coming to see as my parents' inherent sexism? I am an intelligent woman. I received my BA & MA from top universities, I had a decent career as an accountant before becoming a SAHM, heck, I'm a member of MENSA, but I've never, ever been referred to as the "smart child". My brother was referred to as the "genius" while we were growing up. What I feel was the last straw was today my dad came over to play with my son after I picked him up from preschool. My son was telling him that he did a lot of work today at school and my dad said "That's good. You have to work hard to grow up smart like your dad." Not your parents, not your mom, but dad. I don't even think my parents could tell me what my degrees are or where I've worked. I'm worried about how this is going to influence my children, and about the messages my daughter in particular will internalize. I know I can't protect them from everything, but they see my parents 3-4 times a week.

Wow. Have you said anything to your dad about this in the past, and did you say anything to him in response to this week's howler?

Not that  you'll change him--I'm just trying to find the right starting point. 

Hi, Carolyn-- I just met my boyfriend's family for the first time at a potluck dinner thrown at their house. I am Mexican American, he is white. I believe I am the first non-white person he has dated. I wanted to bring something a little bit interesting to the potluck, so I did a traditional Mexican dish with the flavors significantly toned down. My boyfriend's mom thanked me for the dish, then hid it in the kitchen and did not serve it. She served everything else that was brought to her, including some very odd dishes brought to her by other people. I was very offended. Was this racism? Should I say something to my boyfriend or to his mother about it?

Ask your BF what he thinks might have happened, sure. I also think it would have been appropriate to ask the mom, "I see you held my dish back; does someone have a dietary restriction I didn't know about?" But don't lob the R-bomb until you get to know a whole lot more about her. 

Carolyn, what would your advice for the boyfriend be? How responsible should he feel for the ex he broke up with to get over him? If he suspects she's not over him but still wants to maintain a friendship, should that be his driving motivation and let her deal with things in her own time?

That's kind of like saying he should satisfy his desire for her friendship without regard for what she wants--and that doesn't sound too good, does it? 

Obviously he also isn't responsible for deciding what's best for her, but there does come a time when it's apparent that two exes want different things, and when people get to that point, they need to act with compassion. It's pretty clear this guy is upsetting his ex with his unclear motives, and so if he loves her and hopes they can get back together someday, then he needs to say so, and mean it. If he just likes to feel the warmth of her love occasionally, then the decent thing would be for him to deny himself the pleasure, knowing it costs her so much. 

Instead of signing that the gift is from x, y and z (which may understandably rub you the wrong way) just sign it "With love from your kids." Your parents know your names, and they can choose whether they prefer the story in their heads that has all of you equally contributing, or the reality in front of them that not everyone's there.

Elegant solution, thanks.

How about the mom who's insulted that her father did not mention her as "smart" to her son take the advise you gave in the immediately preceding answer and not take it personally? Given that her father was talking to her SON, it's not unreasonable that he would mention the child's dad. As you said, not taking it personally will make her happier. I'm surprised that you would ignore your own good advise. I doubt that her father means to insult her or women in general.

I might think that if it were an isolated incident, but it was clear from the question that this was a last straw, not a first offense.

And it wasn't at all about the mother's feelings being hurt, it was about her children's attitudes being shaped by a grandparent whose values the mother finds harmful, from firsthand experience. As a girl devalued by her father, she didn't want to watch as her own girl gets devalued by her grandfather, and as her son gets the message that women aren't smart.

"Don't take it personally" is indeed very useful advice, for adults facing exposure to unpleasantness. Kids' exposure to it is far more complicated.


No, I cannot talk to my parents. If I complain about anything I'm being "too sensitive". My dad thinks I'm a pinko liberal mainly because I think he should put his guns away before my kids come over. But my kids LOVE their grandparents and they're the only grandparents they have. FWIW, I did not have a relationship with my parents from when I was 17 and left for college until when I was 30 and got married.

Then you're going to have to take a multifaceted approach, one that involves gentle pushback in a lot of different ways. Among them: Saying light, humorous things on the spot that challenge your dad's orthodoxy; supervising visits whenever possible, and reducing their length and number if things get unhealthy (and no unsupervised visists to grandpa if you cant' trust him on the guns); being very consistent in your message on gender for the many hours of the week that your dad isn't around; building your strongest possible bond with your kids through consistent warmth, love, and support for who they are vs.--pointedly--for the personas assigned to them by rigid thinkers. 


An example of the lighthearted-but-deadly-serious intervention I'm talking about would be something like: "... and if you work really hard, you can be as smart as your mom." You don't want to throw your husband under the bus every time, obviously, but judicious use can get a strong point across. 

Also remember that despite your father's bias (or perhaps because of it), you have confidence in your intellect and your place in the career world--and you had the courage to set your career aside to become a stay-at-home parent. In other words, you've declined  to be pigeonholed by any orthodoxy, right, and done what worked for you? And you did this with a biased parent, not grandparent. So, it's okay to project that your kids will see past this unhealthy-influence-once-removed, and find their way to an equitable state of mind. Your influence is so much greater, as will be that of their peers. 

Ok fair enough, but what if the ex-boyfriend is clear that he does not want to get back together and wants to build a friendship? The motivation needn't be "feeling her love occationally," but truly trying to build a friendship. How responsible should he feel for her still getting occasionally upset, still clearly holding out hope that it'll turn into something more? I'm not trying to be nitpicky here, but I think your answer is a bit too good guy/bad guy. It seems to me that his motivations can be honorable/positive and still hurtful, so I'm wondering where he should take responsibility for that?

I'm not assigning good guy/bad buy roles, I just think that, when it becomes clear that the friendship causes X pain, then Y needs to realize that the benefits Y is reaping from friendship are costing X more than they're worth--to either of them. Ideally X would be the one to pull the plug, but if X isn't strong enough to act in his/her own interest, then Y needs to do it. 

Seriously--why would Y push a friendship s/he knows is agony to X? 

We had breakfast every Sunday with my very loving, but very into traditional gender roles grandparents when I was growing up. When I was about 14, my grandmother put her fork down casually and told me I was old enough now to start cleaning up after my dad (!) and making my twin brother's bed in the morning (!!!). I looked her straight in the eye and told her my dear brother could start making my bed any time he wanted. Then my dad fell out of his chair laughing. Grandma never made any more suggestions after that. All to say - call your parents on it with some good humor, and your kids will be fine.

Works for me, thanks.

I get this too, not from my parents but everybody. I have a PhD and work FT and am lucky enough to live in a great neighborhood. But, people always seem to ask 'what does your husband do?' (and not followed up with same question for me) Or my favorite variation, 'what does your husband do that you can afford to live in such a great neighborhood?' At first I let it go, but now it is really starting to bother me. How can I respond, without snark?

1. "Whatever I ask him to. Oh, you meant his job? _____."

2. "He lives with me!" [Smile.]

Fun to write, but perhaps not useful, since all you can really do is treat the former as a straight question (since you don't know they aren't going to follow up by asking what you do, until they don't), and treat the latter as the intrusive blunder it is by raising your eyebrows in stage-shock. 


My paternal grandfather was totally racist. Against everyone who was not Danish-American (as my dad says, at least he's an equal-opportunity racist). Among so many things, he would casually use not-nice terms for Irish people in front of my Irish-American mother at the dinner table. But there was no changing him. In addition to setting excellent counter-examples, my parents talked to us openly about the fact that he was racist and that his views were just flat-out wrong. But they also helped us understand that my granddad was still a wonderful man who loved us to bits, and that such views were more common among an older generation (especially among those growing up in big urban immigrant neighborhoods like my granddad). The daughter should have a similar conversation with her kids -- early and often.

Another good one. And the narrowness of his view of worthy people is, frankly, delightful, since he apparently approves of .0002 of the world's population.

That's so insanely rude, I'd be tempted to tell them we're meth dealers or that we run a fee-based clown orgy or something.

"We embezzled it" popped into my mind, but if my brain had served up "clown orgy," I would have shared in my original answer. 

Alternatively: my husband does _____ and I'm a ___________. She can just automatically answer for herself too when asked what her husband does.

Way too sensible for my neurons to serve up. Thanks. 

It could be worse, he could be a baseball nut and have a 7 day a week 6 month long obsession. Football's one day a week, you can get through it. Just know when the playoffs are and make any plans for january knowing the possibility exists that you'll cancel. It isn't about you or his feelings about you or a referendum on your relationship. It's part of who he is, part of who you love. And like most things, if your relationship progresses, it will fade with time and be woven into the fabric of who you are together.

I like this, except for the "fade with time." The passion for football might not fade at all, and if the non-FB watcher counts on that, it could lead to evergreen frustration for them both. Expect his interest to stay the same, even intensify, and -then- decide if this relationship has a future. But, "It isn't about you or his feelings about you or a referendum on your relationship" gets sustained applause.  

I have one of those and I struggled with it for years before I made peace with it. I absolutely saw it as she seems to (its fb or me) but over the years (and some couples therapy) now see it as something he loves, something that gives him pleasure, and allows us some self time- which I think couples need. We're married now, and he will not see a game if we have something else big scheduled, but if not, he'll usually watch the game. It was a give and take- I tried to learn a bit about the game (it was a bribe- if I learned a football fact every day for the season, we celebrated with a spa day- his treat) and he cut back/ missed an occasional game/ watched at home. We found that when I was feeling neglected was when I'd pick a fight about him watching. So basically, we communicate a lot more and both give some ground. But it did take a while, and patience on both sides. This is so timely- right before the biggest of all holidays on his calendar this Sun!

yay for both of you, thanks.

And the sibling is a deadbeat because they don't contribute to a party? And your friends are insulting you because they have not invited you over to their house for dinner within an "appropriate" time frame? Can we all agree to stop assuming the most insulting scenario is the most likely? If we do that, maybe Carolyn can end the chat early today due to lack of any more questions.

What, you want me to sign off? My writing is offensive to you?!

Dear Carolyn, I am really very sensitive about women being referred to, by themselves or others, as "girls" Why is this getting to be the cultural norm? I am 60 years old - and in the 70's and 80's we fought to be taken seriously. What happened? Is there any hope in sight?

It depends on your perspective, but I think there's a lot. To me, "girl" just isn't that charged, and depends on context. If a man says without irony to another man, "I'll have my girl call yours to set up a meeting," then that would get me riled up--but when does that happen except on "Mad Men"? If instead a conversation where a man is called a "guy" includes reference to a woman as "girl," I see that as parallel and perfectly fine. (If you want to talk about the infantilization of American adulthood, then count me in.)

While full equality, in image and pay and safety and media and etc., remains elusive, one of the benefits of the hard-fought 70s and 80s has been that women don't need to be as vigilant about being taken seriously. In many if not most arenas, their work speaks for them.

Just to complicate things ... arguably, sweating the small stuff like "girl" is taken as a gender-image liability, which can be used to support the case for women's progress and for the need for more progress. But, it has also been a signature of empowerment for people to co-opt words once used against them, and I think that's part of what's going on here.

My wife and I are divorcing. I have full time custody of our son. I'd like my son to maintain a relationship with his grandparents as best as possible. Is it appropriate to maintain a friendly relationship with the soon to be ex's parents?

Of course. There's no replacing a connection to half of his heritage, so if you can pull it off (i.e., if the grandparents are cooperative), please do. 

Hello, After a long hiatus from dating, I met a guy that I like, makes me feel comfortable, and is genuinely nice. We're both 40 with no kids. The catch is that he's married. His wife has lived across the country for two years (her choice) and is dying from anorexia (her choice). He supports her financially but does not see a reunion on the horizon. Sadly, they think she may be dead in a few months. I think he wants to file for divorce but is afraid to do this in case she passes. I feel compassion towards them both and do not feel in the position to tip his hand to seek legal counsel. Is it acceptable to continue seeing him, have my moments of 'omg, I'm dating a married man,' and hope her health gets better?

This is just so sad. It's a 21st century "Jane Eyre."

This is between you and your conscience, ultimately, but it does sound as if the spouses are leading completely separate lives. Proceed with more than the usual caution, consider keeping your connection to him at the level of companionship vs. full-blown romance, and see what you see.


It's "gal." Unless, of course, you want to go the "Guys & Dolls" route!

I think that's regional. Or something. Gal makes my skin crawl. But, I don't pretend to have justification. I just live in a guy-girl world. Though boy-girl works too. Dude-chick. All in good parallel.

"So, it's okay to project that your kids will see past this unhealthy-influence-once-removed, and find their way to an equitable state of mind. Your influence is so much greater, as will be that of their peers. " For daughter of the sexist; this is pretty much the tack I took with my kids, although the problem wasn't sexism. My kids and I had, have, pretty close, honest relationships, and my husband and I tried to approach child rearing from a point of supporting them as people. So one day last summer, when we were visiting the grandparents, my 19 y.o. turns to me in a quiet moment and asks, "Has Grampy always been an overbearing [glassbowl]?" I nose-jetted coffee everywhere and halleluyah'd the long payoff.

All triumphs should play out like this. Congrats.

I was trying to be brief, but I guess I could have included a bit more information that led to my conclusion. The mom was very kind to me, but my boyfriend had mentioned before that she was "surprised" that he was dating outside his race. (Strike 1.) Then, when we arrived at the potluck and I told her the traditional name of the dish we had brought, she made a big show of mispronouncing it and a comment that it smelled very spicy -- even though, remember, I had already modified the recipe to account for sensitive palates. (Strike 2). And then not only did she not serve it, she gave it back to me at the end of the night, completely untouched, which I thought would be unbelievably rude in any context. (Strike 3.) Hopefully that helps to spell out why I jumped to my particular conclusion.

Based on that, I agree it doesn't look good. Definitely still talk to the boyfriend, and hold out hope that she's more a xenophobe than a racist, or was raised by wolves, or is linguistically challenged and has sadly been deprived of the pleasure of good Mexican food. 

Me again--thanks for your advice, Carolyn, and thanks to those who offered perspective on it, which I am finding really comforting. As someone pointed out, the issue of this coming Sunday is a loaded one for me; this is the more specific question I really wanted to ask: My man has invited me to join him and friends to watch the game at his house. If I don't go, I forfeit the only time I"m likely to have with him this week (we live about 45 minutes apart, hence the limited time together), and send the message that the quality time wasn't worth the hassle. If I do go, I'm likely to feel lonely and bored (in previous situations like this, I've tried to seek out other SOs in my position, but it always seems that everyone present is genuinely interested in the game). Up close, this does seem like a pretty unpleasant way to spend half my free time. But if you asked me in April how I feel about my guy, I'd say "great, no problems!" ...Sigh.

Why can't you go see him early, and head home when the game starts? Think of it as a trial run of simple, fact-beased solutions instead of needlessly charged emotional ones.

"dying from anorexia (her choice)" OUCH. A bit harsh, no?

I don't think so--it just told me that she has refused care or other intervention, which is, again, sad, but it's a fact of many lives. 

I'm still here, I'm just scrambling to find a resource--sorry.

Is their an anonymous online suicide chat line?

Most of the resources I can vouch for don't use online chats, with reason, so if you're asking on your own behalf, I urge you to call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). That's the national hot line. Samaritans also offers both an 800 number--877-8704673-- and a number with an area code for those without 800 access: 617-247-0220.

I can offer as an online forum with the strong caution that I have not had time to investigate it. Also, --which has limited hours but is an online service. If you are a veteran, there's

Please take care and, again, please consider getting help by phone if at all possible.


If I were the LR, I'd be concerned. The man of her dreams has a wife who has a life-threatening disease, and instead of being with her and helping her get the treatment she needs, he's across the country, finding someone new.

You don't know what brought them to this point. You provide one possible narrative, but another could have them apart only after years of his trying to help her, and her pushing him away. As long as she has her eyes and ears open, she can find out for herself what the story is, and what it says about his character. 

Anyone but me think the guy with the dying wife is leading her on? I'm a divorce lawyer so maybe I'm reading something into it but the story sounds a little far fetched.

Entirely possible, thanks. 

Divorce lawyers--when the conversation needs a skeptic.

A follower of Frank Warren and his Post Secret website, your poster may find help at the website for Kristin Brooks Hope Center which has a crisis hotline and an online crisis chat. 1-800-suicide (1-800-784-2433).

Again, posting unvetted, thanks.

"it just told me that she has refused care or other intervention, which is, again, sad, but it's a fact of many lives. " First point: anorexia is a serious mental illness and not anyone's choice. Second point: It's not good to assume that if someone isn't getting help, they have made the choice themselves. Many people die from eating disorders because they are denied care by our health insurance system. And even when they do get care, recovery takes years and sometimes the body is so damaged that the person dies anyway. I run a memorial project and the majority of names I have are people who died while trying to get better.

These are all true, but also, possibly, not relevant. We don't know, for example, that anyone (but me) assumed anything. The writer said "(her choice)," which could have been well-founded in the facts of the situation.

While you're correct that no one chooses to have a serious mental illness, it's problematic to say there's no choice (or complete choice) in handling that illness. Some people with anorexia, or depression, or bipolar disorder, or alcoholism or other addictions, etc. -seek- treatment. That's a choice.

Some refuse treatment. That, too, is a choice (though one that is more likely entwined with the non-choice of illness, since the refusal of treatment could be the illness talking).

Some indeed get treatment after the damage is too extensive for the person to survive, and that's tragic.

Whether the situation the LW describes is one of those, we can't know, but that brings us back to the assumption I made, that the LW presented the facts accurately if tersely. It is entirely possible for people  who suffer from an ailment not of their choosing to make a choice against treatment, and so it's possible for someone with anorexia to refuse treatment. If that automatically means that the person is too ill to be capable of rational choice is a question for medical ethicists, not for me. 

On that note ... didn't we start this by talking about the Super Bowl? 

Anyway, that's it for today, and thank you for your patience as I navigated through the more complicated questions. Thank you as always, too, for stopping by today, and I hope to see you here next week. (I will have to duck out a bit early next week, but if I'm able to start early, too, I will.)

In This Chat
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 She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three boys.

Carolyn's Columns
Past Chats
Way Past Chats
The Hax-Philes
Recent Chats
  • Next: