Carolyn Hax Live (Thursday, March 15)

Mar 15, 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 Thursday, March 15 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.

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Hi everybody. Someone needs to join in as a deejay so I can hear the song I'm playing, which I happen to like a lot.

Oh--thank you, and thank you Levi, for rolling with this Very Special Thursday Edition of the chat. It isn't a kids' school thing this time, it's a kid's sport thing. Odd on a school day, but, I'm just the driver.

Carolyn, How do I tactfully tell my daughter and her husband that I really do not like the name they have picked for their baby (she is 6 months along) . I have suggested many other names to them, as have others, and the name they have picked has no special significance (it is however the name of one of our dogs).

You don't. You've already all but announced your opinion by suggesting "many other names," for one, and, it's not your child, so your not liking the name is immaterial. 

If there were some significance to your strong dislike--say, you had bad associations with that name due to someone you know--then I could see appealing to her kindly to reconsider. But if you liked it enough for your dog, then you might as well start warming to the idea of saying, "This is my new grandson, Scruffy."

Full disclosure, one of my sons is named for a dog (who was named for a relative). All in the family, I say.

How do you end a conversation with someone who sees polite conversation enders as an opportunity to launch into a new conversation topic? Someone for whom "I need to go now" apparently means "Please tell me at length about something that annoys you at work?" I hate being rude, and I feel bad just saying something blunt or walking away.

"Ooh, hold that thought for next time--bye!" Rip the band-aid. Start walking away, turn and wave and say, "Later, I promise!" at any further attempts to keep you locked down.

Hi Carolyn, I have had a long term crush on my boyfriend's really good friend and I have no idea if he feels the same way or not. My boyfriend and I hang out with this guy fairly often, and he has become my good friend as well. I see traits in him that make me think what a great husband he'd make. Whether I break up with my boyfriend first or not I have been thinking about admitting my feelings to the friend. I figure that if the guy says he's into me we'll figure out things from there and if he's not than I will have closure to know he'd never be interested. Is this a bad idea or should I just let my feelings die away eventually? Do I have some obligation to never be with someone whose close to my current boyfriend? I doesn't seem like my boyfriend should still "own" me but at the same time I know how hurt he would be. What are your thoughts on this?

Don't do (or say or think or interpretive-dance) anything till you deal with the current-boyfriend question:

Is he the guy? Yes/No 

Seems like "no" to me, but I'll leave that up to you. Once you have your answer, then own it--i.e., break up with him. 

Then you can do or say or think or interpretive-dance whatever you feel you must about the good friend--just know that by taking any action, you put enormous pressure, if not a killshot, on their friendship. Not to be treated lightly.


You have a son named Zuzu? Owe, the humanity!!!

He'd wear the heck out of it, actually--but, no, wrong dog.

Hi Levi -- it might be a good idea to link to the Turntable room we have so others can join. Searching for "Hax Holiday" didn't turn up any results for me, I just happened to have it in my "recent rooms" list (still getting to know Turntable). We need more DJs!

Whoops! Normally Carolyn takes care of this herself, but I'll chalk up the forgetfulness to it being Thursday, not Friday :) Here you all go!

Carolyn, inspired by Wednesday's column (link), where does one draw the line as to what to ask a partner about their sexual history? Obviously, some kind of disclosure is necessary. But Wednesday's LW wants to know how much sex her fiance had after his divorce, which sounds awfully close to asking for his "Number." Where's the line between, "did you sleep around a lot" and "how many people did you sleep with"?

Seems to me you just spelled it out yourself. "Did you sleep around?" is a very different question from, "How many people did you sleep with?"

Not that I advise asking either one, since both are needlessly accusatory. I believe a better approach would be for her to explain where she's coming from, be it, "I'm a little old-fashioned about sex, and ideally neither of us will be surprised about the other down the road," or, "I'm not judging, we're both adults, I just like to know the relative wildness of someone's past," or, "I figure we're both sleeping with each other's pasts when we sleep with each other,  even with condoms, so we need to talk about it," or whatever reflects your state of mind and curiousity. 

Hi Carolyn-- just a quick question. I know you usually advise readers not to sit around and wait for a significant other... LTRs suck. I get that. Does the advice change if the SO is headed to Japan for a year (so, a definite endpoint) and really seems dedicated to making it work... regular flights back to the U.S., waking up early to phone/skype, etc...? I really like this guy (we've been dating for two years, and have grown very close), but I also don't know if I'm taking on too much if I choose to wait for him, and I get that waiting around isn't usually a good idea. Am I giving up a great thing by giving up on this, or am I saving myself pain in the long run?

I think you might have misunderstood or misrepresented my position on this. LDRs (that's what you meant, right, not LTRs?) are sometimes unavoidable, so I don't have a blanket opinion that waiting is a bad idea. What would  paired-off service members do without partners who are willing to wait out deployments? And that's just one example.

What I do advise is to take into account: how solid and promising the relationship is, how long it will be before you're able to be together again, and how flexible you're willing and able to be about the idea of living your life while someone is away.

The latter has a lot of wiggle room, since some couples are committed and monogamous and shoudl stay that way; others may be earlier in their courtship and might benefit from releasing each other from any commitment and just seeing where they are after the separation term is over. What matters is that you're both able to think long-term instead of being all over each other about following some sort of  LDR rulebook.

In other words, waiting is a good or bad idea depending on who's doing it for whom and why; the idea of saving oneself from future pain is a problematic one at best; and you can't know in advance with any certainty whether staying together or splitting  is a good idea, unless you already know he's not worth it to you. When you care, you try, and you see.


Carolyn, how can you say this: "I figure we're both sleeping with each other's pasts when we sleep with each other . . ." Wow. Why don't you just go all Rush Limbaugh and call me a slut? If my boyfriend ever suggested that he was sleeping with every other guy I'd ever slept with - how else am I supposed to take a comment like that??? There is ZERO medical support for this 1950s theory of sexual promiscuity. If you want your partner tested before sex - I'm all in favor of that - but please don't perpetuate such a demeaning sterotype!

How is that a stereotype? It's just public health. I've been on the record countless times that numbers aren't anyone's business and that any number above zero means two people need to make sure they're both being responsible about sexual health. And the genders involved mean the question I threw out there was for the woman to ask the man, so I have no idea how we got from that to slut-shaming (which I've also been vocal and public in deploring).

This is not about politics at all. This is about owning and discussing one's values. Read the column that started this thread (link). I'm calling the letter-writer out on being too chicken to initiate a frank discussion about sex. If said frank discussion were to reveal that one of them were clinging to judgmental stereotypes about sex or gender, then, yay, the conversation did its job: It would give the person horrified by judging/stereotyping a chance to sprint for the door.



Carolyn, I have a female friend who went through a divorce, and she was so anxious about her number (which was low, but she thought it was high)....She'd told her at the time new bf that she hadn't been with anyone...then felt bad about it and came clean about having had a couple of guys since the divorce....and he dumped her. I'd advise treading carefully in this area.

Again--her mistake was lying to the at-the-time-new BF, not how she conducted herself after her divorce. Best to find out whether a partner is judgmental as quickly as possible. Not by sharing a number, but by saying something like, "I enjoyed my new freedom, and don't apologize for it. Is this going to be a problem?" That's exactly what I hope the guy in the Wednesday column says to the letter-writer. His fiancee needs to hear his truth, just as he needs to see whether she can accept him for who he really is.

And now I have to drop this thread. It's getting too close to a future column that I don't feel like killing or rewriting.

Also, when you see one of these people coming, play defense. Before you even start the conversation, say something like "I might need to rush out, I'm on my way to a meeting/yoga/etc." That way, you'll feel less rude when you need to end the conversation in an abrupt-seeming way.

Good call, thanks.

My best friend's mom was kind of like this. That's why my best friend and her husband didn't tell ANYONE their baby name choice. By the time baby was born and the name was on the certificate, her mom couldn't do anything but smile. It was a great arrangement for all, and I think her mom has probably forgotten that she didn't really like the choice in the first place.

I've advocated this for different reasons in the past, but this is another good reason for it. Thanks.

Though there will always be the special people who missed the "couldn't do anything but smile" memo and will tell you they don't like the name even after it's on the birth certificate. 

Why, yes, I do know this firsthand!

(And, for the record, I thought the names they chose for their kids were stoopit.)

My friend is crazy about this one guy, her coworker, but he won't ask her out, even though he knows she's head over heels for him. She wants a relationship, and he gives her excuses as to why he can't (e.g. a psycho ex-girlfriend he's living with for financial reasons, etc.). Right now they just kiss and stuff. I feel for her because I know what it's like to fall hard for someone, but she can do so much better than this guy, and I don't know what it would take for him to realize he is missing out on a lot. I've been sympathetic and supportive of her, but she isn't getting over this guy. Is there anything I can say/do to help?

"I'm being sympathetic and supportive because I've been there and I genuinely feel for you, but I stand ready to be even more sympathetic and supportive when you decide you're ready to stop banging your head against this wall."

Yea, nay?

Hi, Carolyn, I'm introverted-I've always had a few close friends I do everything with rather than a lot of friends. I'm in a new workplace and I sometimes get invited to do social things by one person who is going out with a group of people that I may or may not know. In other words, they'll say, "Hey, some of us are getting a drink later, you should come." Or, "I'm going to lunch with Mary from accounting, want to come?" The thing is, I always feel awkward about these types of invites--does Mary want me there? Does the rest of the happy hour group care that another person will be coming? I would like to meet more people but I find myself making up excuses because I feel like I'm crashing if I haven't been part of the group that made the plan. I also dread showing up before the person that invited me and having to say, Ummm, Paula invited me. Am I just way too socially awkward? Should I just assume that all of these people think, the more the merrier?

Yes, please do. And if it turns awkward--it will sometimes, no doubt, since that's just the way things go--then accept that as just one bad moment in a lifetime of moments. 

Once you give it a try, the thing to look for is whether  you generally have a good time once you push yourself past the initial uncomfortable moments. If you do, then keep pushing yourself--even find some ways to reward yourself for going, if that motivates you. If you try a few of these things and you just feel out of place and miserable, then it might be worthwhile to shift your attention to things better suited to your tempreament. E.g., say no to happy hour but yet to group lunches; say no to group lunches but take a "raincheck" in the form of coffee one-on-one. 


I mass-emailed some close friends of mine a picture of my 9-month-old son doing something really really cute--yes, I know not everyone is as in love with him as I am, but I honestly thought at least a few of them would get a kick out of it. But I got wrist-slapped by one friend (she happens to be childless), who told me very gently she and most people prefer not to receive email like that. I immediately felt very embarrassed, and a little sad because I get joy out of sharing my son's life with my nearest and dearest. What's the rule on this? Should I default to never showing pictures of him to anyone, or waiting for people to ask, etc?

Take the one friend off the circulation list, that's the first thing to do. She had a right to speak up, but not to speak for "most people."

Then, ask a couple of friends you're close to whether your picture bothered them. There's a twofold purpose there: First, you just got one opinion, and there's no harm in reading other people's reactions. I love getting the occasional pic from my friends, and I'd hate it if they stopped sending them just because one person on their distribution list squeaked. Second, you want to wipe off the embarrassment with something, like clearing a bad taste from your mouth.

Next thing to do: Whittle your "mass-email" list down to a few people you can really count on to care. While most of the more peripheral people probably won't react as strongly as your wrist-slapping friend did, I think it's fair to account for e-mail exhaustion.

Finally now that I've taken forever and four paragraphs to answer this: Don't read too much into it all. It's not like you send daily political rants to people you know don't share your views; it was one baby pic.


Thanks for taking my question. My younger sister recently married a man much older than she is - mid-twenties vs. 50ish. He's a good man and they love each other deeply, so the age isn't my issue. My concern is that he is both very well educated (multiple masters and very successful in a technical field) and sort of a know-it-all. He has opinions on EVERYTHING, whether he actually is well informed about it or not, and is very vocal and forceful with those opinions. My sister finished high school but did not go to college. She is bright but not particularly worldly and has a very, very small social network, and I just worry sometimes that because he's older, better educated, and opinionated, that she won't have the same voice on things that matter. On politics, products, history - whatever, but when they have kids (which they are trying to do), I want to make sure that her opinion as a mother is respected as much as his, even though he's done it before and has two kids with young children of their own. I can't change either of them, but is there anything I can say or do to make sure that she knows that just because he's done it before doesn't mean he did it right? And she deserves the same respect for her instincts as any new mom does?

Yeesh, sounds like he married someone to reinforce his self-image. 


The time to worry about this is when they have kids and you witness his disrespect for her views. And even then, it's on the boundary of your business, if not solidly outside it (depends on how involved your sister invites you to be and/or how he shows this potential disrespect). 

Now all you have is possibly unfounded worry by a third-party. No action advised, besides asking yourself why you're as invested as you are here.

Dear Carolyn, I left med school halfway through. I did not flunk out, I left voluntarily because I felt like it was my own personally tailored version of hell. While some of my close friends and family understand this, many think is this the worst decision I've ever made, and the majority don't believe me when I say it was a completely voluntary choice. I try to have a sense of humor about this, but their passively negative comments about my choice are really, really grating at this difficult transition point in my life. How do I deal? New friends? New family? Start wearing a plastic stethoscope?

YES. Toy stethoscope! Brilliant.

Back it up by keeping at arm's length the people who tear you down, and putting more of your heart and time into the people who have your back. Good life training, that.

My wife is a brilliant, intelligent, savvy woman who has lived in the city for a decade and has always ridden the Metro to work. She is five months pregnant and I now feel more protective of her than ever before; I want her to find another way to get to work (I'm willing to play escort sometimes if that helps), and she thinks I'm being controlling and silly. We're off the Blue Line--recently there have been delays, track problems, bizarre accidents, muggings and violence in stations, as well as the usual fare of homeless, drunk, and unsavory passengers. I keep imagining her stranded on a platform after dark, or caught in the crossfire of a bunch of brawling I out of line here? If so, please help me reorder my thinking.

I don't have the numbers at my fingertips, but I suspect that your wife's risk of injury is still greater in a car than in any form of public transportation. Anyone have a few minutes and some nimble search moves?

That's one side of the answer. The other side is that  you need to get a hold of yourself. I get that you're feeling protective; I think all of us, not just baby daddies and not even just men, are wired to read vulnerability in a pregnant woman. Holding doors and giving up seats and priority parking are all pretty normal responses when in fact they're not really necessary, especially not for a woman only five months along. But that doesn't mean it's okay to blindly follow the protective impulses.

Pregnant women for the most part are as capable as they were before they were pregnant. Many are even stronger and healthier. Certainly do your part to help her avoid undue risks, but if riding Metro is an undue risk, then we need to get the word out to the cherry blossom crowd.

Even if you look at your wife as two people you love now instead of just one, these two people have to be in and of the world, both when they're traveling as a unit and after the baby is born. The sooner you wrap your mind around that--in and of the world--and accept that you can't create a bubble around them, the better a husband and father you'll be.


I tried to take as long as possible in composing that answer. How did I do?

Just got the news--our baby-to-be, which I wanted desperately and which my husband was very ambivalent about, is actually two babies (which is scary to me, let alone someone who barely wanted one). I have to tell him this evening when I get home from work. Any advice? I just want this to go over as smoothly as possible.

Rule No. 1 on getting through life with multiples: Don't have an ideal outcome in mind (for a moment, for a weekend, for an age at which they do something, everything), because it will only add stress and subtract joy at what you do get when it doesn't resemble your expectations. Actually, that's true of singleton babies too.

So, make what you can of the rest of your workday, take a deep breath and deliver your news knowing you can't know or stage-manage how it will go over. If he gets upset, acknowledge his distress. "I know you were freaked out by the idea of one, much less two, and it's okay--I think most people who get this news need time to adjust. -I- need time to adjust. But I have faith in us." Or some such. Leave plenty of room to listen in between points, if that's what he needs. 

And, congratulations. 


And, doubly stay off public transportation. Drive places twice.

My housemate's boyfriend is unbearable. He's not controlling or anything, just incredibly obnoxious. He's over several times a week, so I can't really avoid him. Other than moving out the second the lease is up, do you have any advice on how to cope?

Go for a long walk the nights he's there, take up a hobby that you can only do off-site, become a door-to-door canvasser for your favorite cause, wear a virtual reality headset at all times when he's on the premises, get a floatation tank (a la Maris Crane), try to see what your housemate sees in him, go on a shower strike until your housemate agrees to see him only at his place, anyone else?

Hi Carolyn, How do one come to terms with the fact that their own family doesn't really care about them?

What evidence are you going on?

Most situations like this that I've seen have been more about the family's dysfunction than about the outcast member, but it really depends on the details.

Whatever's going on, I'm sorry you feel this way. I hope you have invested (or are now starting to invest) your best self in the people who are accessible to you, because that would be my next suggestion on coming to terms with feeling unwanted or excluded.

Carolyn, So do you or Levi pick the questions to answer? What do you look for in questions that you pick? Any topics where you've said all you're going to say and the topic is now banned/closed? If so, it would be nice to know. I ask because I've submitted questions prior to the chats and during the chats where I really need advice (and for the hootennanny) several times, and have been ignored every single time. It's kind of a bummer.

It's not personal, it's just volume. Levi and I are both swamped and I don't even read about 3/4 of the questions until after the chat. Well, 3/4 is a completely made up number. This is real: I haven't actually timed it, but I think it usually takes me 2 or 3 hours to read through all of the outtakes from a chat. I'll watch the clock this week. 

To answer your specific Q's: Levi reads questions from the main queue and sends me the ones he thinks I might want to use. I then choose Qs from that bunch to answer. What we're looking for is something I dare answer on the fly. That's about the only criterion.

Carolyn, I feel petty for even asking this, but an old friend of mine is a self-proclaimed political junkie who posts the strangest, most outlandish political thoughts on his Facebook page. In the interests of keeping this question non-political, let's just say he and I don't see eye to eye, and I'm seriously considering defriending him. But (and I want to be clear on this) it's not because he and I differ in our political beliefs. Rather, it's because I find his tone obnoxious and somewhat offensive, and he doesn't tolerate any thought differing from his own. All that being said, I still feel rather petty for wanting to defriend him, particularly in this polarized political climate. Am I being petty?

Why don't you just remove him from your feed until a few weeks after the election? Things might calm down after that, at least for a while. 

My now-husband and I were in a LDR for most of two years. We were much closer, geographically, but it was still tough. Assuming you stay together, the advice I'd give you is to not view your time apart as "waiting around" for him to get back, but instead think of it as a break from the dating world. That means that you still pursue your hobbies, make friends, develop new opinions, etc. You can't seal yourself off from the world, and if you do so you're going to resent him. Now that it's over, I'm actually kind of grateful for the time we spent apart. I felt like I got to know myself during that time even more than I did during my single years, when a lot of my mental energy was taken up by dating. And, this may sound pessimistic, but I find it really valuable to know that I can build myself a life without him if I need to.

Love this, thanks.

If the OP doesn't know this already, Monica Hesse did a whole chat on this topic yesterday.

Hi Carolyn, In theory, I am completely behind the "live and let live" philsophy of parenting--my kids' lives are their own, not mine. But I love them deeply and cannot help feeling major concerns over huge, potentially life-ruining decisions they are making. I get not making a stink because my kid chose to leave med school (it's not the only path to success), but what about leaving high school? This strikes me as unjustifiably stupid and I feel like a failure for raising a kid who would even consider it. Help!

First, disentangle your ego from your child's decision. Yes, you raised him, and maybe you made some mistakes, but correlations are not one-to-one; it's not as if all parents who make mistakes raise high-school dropouts, and all kids who graduate from college and have rewarding careers have parents who didn't make mistakes.

Second, in the empty space where that negative thinking used to be, put the understanding that people become good parents not by making a certain number of good decisions over the lives of their children, but instead by keeping their heads in the face of whatever their kids throw at them.

Third, don't treat "live and let live" stategies as all the same, whether your child is 17 or 28. You've got a teenager, who warrants more active intervention.

It's hard to give you specific suggestions when I don't know the specifics (how old your child is, why s/he dropped out, how solid/strained the trust is between you and child, whether substance abuse is involved, etc.). But I can suggest that you not use the term "unjustifiably stupid"--and, if you'r eon speaking terms, that you talk to your kid and say  you're not making value judgments, you're just aware of the tough prospects that await people who drop out of high school (the numbers are grim). Then you can say that some people end up defying these grim numbers, but the key to that is having a plan, which you stand ready  to help him/her establish and pursue.

And I can suggest you find the best family therapist out there and get to work (just you to start), whether you're on speaking terms or not. 


Hi Carolyn, Love the chats. This isn't really a question about friends being roommates. I feel lately that my friend, who is also my roommate, has not been sympathetic with me lately. I have also noticed this before we began living together. It seems like when I say something, she automatically asks me if I did X, whether to remedy the situation and if I say no, I haven't, I get the the next question of "Well, why not?" Usually, when she has a problem and tells me about, I listen and am sympathetic. I know it is her nature to be more logical and rational than emotional (while I'm the opposite), but sometimes she comes off as uncaring. Should I worry about this? SHould I just make note of it and realize that it's her personality to see things more rationally and to want to fix it instead of how I normally react, which is giving more sympathy? Should I even talk to her about it?

Should I worry about this? NO

SHould I just make note of it and realize that it's her personality to see things more rationally and to want to fix it instead of how I normally react, which is giving more sympathy? YES

Should I even talk to her about it? NO*


*Unless your effort to appreciate her as-is doesn't work, in which I suggest saying something along the lines of, "I hear that you're trying to help me, and I appreciate the sentiment, but sometimes I'm not looking for answers so much as a 'Gee that [stinks].'" I.e., spell out what you need ... and, while you're there, ask her whether you're also doing things your own way instead of thinking of what she might want from you.

Who you got in your bracket? :)

I opted out this year, out of sheer sloth.

Dear Carolyn, Generally speaking, and not taking into account variables like temperament, special needs, etc., would you agree that two kids are more difficult than one? I have a sibling who is always claiming to be too busy to help with family business --she has one child and I have two, yet I find time to do what's asked of me-- and she swears that being a parent to a single child is just as difficult as having multiple children, which I find patently ridiculous. What do you think?

I think getting into a peeing contest on this is a loser, because there's no possible outcome but hard feelings. It's not a game show. Besides, you can't discount the variables. The resulting information is meaningless.

Here's how I see it: If it's "just as difficult," then why isn't she doing exactly as much as you are to help with the business? Ask for a one for one match in investment, regardless of brood size (or one that reflects percentage of share in said business, if that's applicable). That's arguably the only fair approach anyway.

Hi Carolyn, Is there any reason NOT to move to Boston? :) My partner and I live in NYC, and I've been here for 20 years. She moved her from Boston about three years ago and is really ready to move back (very homesick). I lived in Cambridge for a few months in the early '90s and liked it, and we've visited "home" (partner still owns a house in Boston) quite a few times in the last three years. I want to move to Boston, but when it comes to saying, "Yes, let's do it," I feel like I'm not ready to commit quite yet. But I don't know why. Maybe it would be helpful to talk to some friends about it first. I haven't really done that. Do you have any helpful decision-making formulas you can recommend? Thanks!

I could suggest some, but it sounds as if I'd be enabling your efforts to stall. 

So instead I'll suggest a formula for figuring out why you want to stall:

"I hesitate to make a full commitment to my partner because _________."

So... someone just asked me when I'm due. I'm not pregnant, and I've been trying to lose weight. I thought I'd lost 8lbs, weighed myself when I got home - it's actually 12, which is a third of the way to my goal weight. I should be thrilled, but I've been fighting back tears since it happened. I'm not even proud of myself anymore. I just feel like "whatever - you're still a {negative self talk}" Now, I know that I can't let someone else's mistake get me down. And this doesn't really take anything away from me. I was riding so high this morning - I thought that I looked cute. Clearly I'm retiring the outfit. What can I do to get my good feeling back?

I am so sorry--but, no, don't get into a self-hate spiral, and don't necessarily even retire the outfit. Moments like this have been happening ever since the invention of the empire waist, and it feels like a slap in the face but it's nothing more than one person's social breakdown. (Seriously--it is something One Should Never Ever Say.)

And, 1/3 of your way to your goal is great. It's such a nice day pretty much everywhere today--any chance you can get a really good friend to go on a walk with you tonight?

Hi Carolyn, I'll give you some examples: Mom had a surprise birthday party for a milestone birthday, and I only found out after the fact. I did an overseas tour in the Army, and one of my sisters tells me if I want my letters answered to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. I rarely even get a call from any family members unless they want/need something from me. There are several others, but suffice it to say it seems like I'm an afterthought in my own family...I'm just not important and any work to maintain a relationship has to be all on my side.

I still feel like there might be somethign missing here--are you out of town and was the party just locals? Is your sister intimidated by military mail? (I realize the system is supposed to be user-friendly, but clocks on VCRs weren't hard to set, either.) Do they ever really call each other except when they want/need something from each other?

It may be that the worst case is true in all of these, and they wouldn't talk to you if you lived next-door, but I do think it's important to make sure you're seeing as many sides of the story as possible.

If it turns out that you're being shunned, the way they're doing it is bizarre enough (no obvious reasons or fireworks, just callous indifference) that it might be worth talking to a pro about it. If that's not an option you're willing or able to consider, then I'd skip to my suggestion from the first answer: Invest on the people who are receptive to your friendship.  

Don't hate yourself! I am a skinny little 130 lb 5 ft 5 girl and I have been asked if I was pregnant 3 times in the past 5 years. This stuff just happens. It's an angle, an empire waste, loose pants that sag in the wrong places, etc. Hell, it's probably because you lost weight and your clothes are fitting different. Stay positive!


Since I wrote you last week (link) this guy has microwaved something stenchy at least twice a day. Right now our office smells like noxious gas/chinese restaurant dumpsters. How on earth do I get into fence mending territory with this dude between the smells and the continued mildly sexist jabs (i.e. "Good thing we are hiring another male employee to balance out the estrogen on that side of the room. Oh, the female co-worker I sit next to and am buddies with? She's an honorary dude!"). We even joked a little harder about him using a microwave in a different room but he laughed it off. This problem is so dumb and frustrating, please help!

You can't stand the guy, I get it--but looking for more and more evidence to prove to yourself that you're with the angels on despising him is -not- helping you. It's only increasing the amount of time you spend with him on your mind, which is increasing your unhappiness.

Whether you have to buy yourself a little fan, or invent nosebuds (is there such thing as a white smell machine?), you're just going to have to get used to smells.

As for the estrogen jokes, that's starting to sound like EEOC territory, which is outside my scope. I suggest taking good notes and otherwise not rising to his bait, ever, but beyond that is a Q for a workplace expert.

I love it.

Did I really type that? My brain had the ai version. Guess that means it's ...

Quitting time! Thanks everyone, have a great week, and hope to see you here again next week. I'll be back on Friday as usual.

Also, forgot to mention, please subscribe to my Facebook status updates (link). I post new columns there every morning, plus stuff I find interesting throughout the day, and you can tell me what you think of it all. If I don't forget between now and getting my phone, I'll even post a welcome picture of Billy for all who sign up today.

Carolyn, to answer your questions: yes I'm out of town, but the party was on a weekend, I could have easily flown in (I have a good job and can fly 'home' usually with no more than next-day's notice). My sister wasn't intimidated by military mail..all she had to do was write the address on the envelope and put a stamp on it. She said she couldn't afford it. She said she couldn't even afford the paper...even though I told her Mom would have put her letters in with hers (Mom at least did write back) so she wouldn't have to pay for a stamp. Yes, most of the family does get together socially because they all live where they live and I live here.

That sounds like most of it, then--they're together and you're wherever. That can mean they're angry (jealous?) that you struck out for the territories and abandoned them (some people do see it that way, right?), or they're just wired to notice what's next door and anything beyond that is too abstract. Either of these possible?

Our Development Office put a sign on the nearest microwave: "Absolutely no use other than heating water, and warming bagels." They entertain possible donors, and if the office smells like broccoli, or even popcorn, I guess donors give less. Take the microwave somewhere else. Make rules. Be polite but firm. "Too many people are complaining about it. We all cook elsewhere, now."

Duh, move the micro! Clearly offices are not my specialty. Ahem.

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

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