Carolyn Hax Live: Baby-girl crazy; Too soon for birth control?; Locking the bathroom door; Vacation compromise and much more

Apr 15, 2011

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, April 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.

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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. 

Dear Carolyn, My daughter is a few weeks shy of 16. She is a good student, a good athlete, and very popular at school. She has a boyfriend who is (I believe) about a year older than she is. We assume they have sex, because she came to me six months ago and asked for advice about birth control. I'm okay with this, and in fact feel rather lucky that she was responsible about it. But everyone else seems to think I am a negligent or somehow terrible parent for knowingly allowing a teenager to be sexually active. I'm at the end of my rope with the judgments. What do you think?

I'm with you on a few things: I would rather my kids be open with me, even if it meant I had to learn about and then condone their sexual activity at 16; if I got the news about the sexual activity the way you did--by being asked about birth control, by a 16-year-old--I would not stand in the way, and if fact would try to help the birth-control process along; and I think people are out of line in judging you.

The one thing that really stopped me was your parenthetical. Maybe it's misleading, but it makes it sound as if you don't really know/know much about the boyfriend. If I'm wrong about that, great, but if you aren't well acquainted with him, then I think it's your job to get to know him.


So, "Jack" is given theater tickets by a clueless relative who doesn't realize he has no interest in theater. Jack plans to sell the tickets on craigslist, till he meets a girl he likes and realizes they might make for a nice date. Jack and "Amy" go to the theater (Amy enjoys it, Jack does not) and then to dinner, where they realize they have nothing in common and actually do not really enjoy each other's company. Dinner is cut short and they split the check, agreeing that there probably won't be a second date. Amy thinks she'll never hear from Jack again, but within 24 hours receives an email from him noting the cost of the tickets and asking for reimbursement. Two questions: 1) Have you ever heard anything so offensive?, and 2) Do I have to pay him back???

Unfortunately I've heard of many things more offensive, but, no, you don't have to pay him back. 

My husband of eight years recently decided that he shouldn't have to knock before entering the bathroom in our house. Consequently, he has barged in on me several times while I'm using the toilet. I am a private person, and I have asked him repeatedly to knock and wait for a response before coming in. He says I should lock the door if I don't want him to come in. I don't lock the door because we have a toddler who drifts in sometimes and gets quite upset when he can't come in, and also because I'm being stubborn and don't understand why my husband can't just knock. My husband said that it's the norm to lock the door when you use the bathroom, but my family always just knocked if there was a closed door. I do lock the door when I'm in a public restroom. I suspect we're both being jerks about this, but I do think it's pretty screwed up that my husband thinks he can just barge into the bathroom whenever he feels like it. By the way, we have three bathrooms in our house, so he can always use a different bathroom. FWIW, this is not the first of his "Things shall now be THIS way" pronouncements that come out of the blue.

I can't believe I'm going to give this answer to a question about locking the bathroom door, but you two need marriage counseling.

And you need to lock the door. Your toddler will manage. Don't bring a magazine.


Why are you violating your daughter's privacy by discussing this deeply personal topic with anyone other than 1. her and 2. her other parent?

Oh duh, I totally missed that. Thanks. 

If anyone can help me, I'm looking for a general grief support group in Washington DC. I live in the city and don't have a car. I can't seem to find anything that isn't way out in the suburbs with no metro access.


William Wendt Center for Loss and Healing
4201 Connecticut Ave NW #300
Washington, DC 20008
Van Ness-UDC Station (166 ft NW)  Red Line
Hope this helps.

I just answered a question and then changed my mind about posting it, so it'll be a second ...

I am 6 months pregnant with my first child and I DESPERATELY want a girl. I'm not sure why, exactly-I have great relationships with my father/brothers/nephews/husband - but the desire is so strong I'm a little concerned. I've insisted on not finding out the baby's gender. I'm claiming I want to be surprised, but really it's because I'll be devastated if I find out it's a boy. If it is a boy, how do I handle the disappointment and avoid being unfair to an innocent little baby? I'm hoping that once my real-live baby is in front of me, I won't care what it is. Does this happen?

 I think it's common for parents to have some degree of preference for a baby of one sex or the other. I don't think your desperation, though, or your suspense, is healthy for you or the baby--and I think you're well aware of that. 

Please consider finding out the sex now, so you can prepare yourself before the baby comes out. And if you're having a boy, also consider saying out loud what you're feeling, to someone safe, since speaking it so often reduces a huge fear into a more manageable one.  

I'm not trying to guilt-trip you by saying this, but imagine you're a newborn and your mother isn't  thrilled to see you. You owe it to the little person to do everything in your power to bring your heart around. Yes, seeing your little baby is likely to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, but I still think addressing this now is the better course than a birthday surprise.

I can also throw in, anecdotally and not at all objectively, and therefore quite uselessly, that boys are a hoot. I even came around on the clothes; 3/4 of the stuff in kid stores is for girls, and it used to make me wistful, but I now think the boy 1/4 is much cuter all around.

Dear Carolyn, I planned and hosted a baby shower for my best friend and unwittingly ruined the whole thing by inviting the father's mom, who has apparently caused a lot of problems for my friend. Also, my friend and her ex are no longer together, and she wants as little to do with the other family as possible (though I get the sense the grandmother wants to be in the baby's life). The shower was extremely awkward and now my friend isn't speaking to me. How do I make this right, and what advice do I give her?

It was unwitting, and the friend is no longer speaking to you? Unless you left something out, what you did is a pardonable offense. Even if it wasn't something your friend could just shrug off--say, you invited the father's mother because you thought your friend was being immature in not inviting her, and you wanted to teach her a lesson--the "not speaking" treatment is ridiculously heavy artillery, emotionally speaking. Not friends any more, okay, but a freeze-out? Sounds possible, at least, that your best friend herself has a significant role in the tense relationship with the father's mom.

That said,  one thing suggests you did leave something out: You asked, "What advice do I give her?" Which has me wondering, why are you looking to give advice to someone who isn't speaking to you? 


To be fair, her other parent (my ex-husband) is one of the people dismayed with the fact that I helped her gain access to birth control. Her stepfather feels similarly. Anyone else included in the circle of confidence is aware of her relationship because they have met the boyfriend or heard her talk about him, and asked me about it.

Fair enough. And I'm sorry you're not getting any support from your inner circle. The question I wish I could ask them is, what would they have had you do? If you refused to help her and/or "forbade" her to have sex, do they really think that would have stopped her?

If they just wish you had expressed misgivings and insisted she answer some tough questions before you agreed to help, like, what did they plan to do if she got pregnant, what if one of them got an STI, have they talked openly about being exclusive, etc., then they're on more solid ground. 

My husband and I have been married ten years, since we were still in college, and have a three-month-old baby. Lately, I can't shake the feeling that although we love each other, we would have been better off with different people--he with someone who shares his interests in music, moving around, and travel; I with someone who shares my interest in family and home life. I badly want more children; my husband barely wants this one. (He loves our baby and is affectionate, but admits now that he agreed to have a family mostly so I wouldn't leave him. I had to explain to him two or three times that no, we couldn't leave our breastfed infant with my parents this summer and take a week's vacation.) I want to save for a house; every time we have a little money, my husband wants to take a trip with it. How do I make peace with the life I have instead of the one I want? I find myself fixating on the question of another baby in particular.

Talking to him as openly as you've talked here sounds like the best start. Have you done that?

Surely your family has endured a seemingly lovely gal who marries in to your family, is embraced and loved and turns into a psycho raving monster within a year or so or the nuptuals?? I need some guidance with this. My cousin's wife took this path and her treatment of my Aunt (her mother-in-law) is so awful it is painful to watch. Her most recent performance had numerous family members in tears. My Aunt puts on a brave front, prays about it a lot, and bites her own tongue so that she is not denied any more time (which is ridiculously limited to begin with) with her only grandson. I'd like to approach my cousin (the son/husband) with what we witnessed and basically ask him if he has neither spine nor balls to allow his wife to treat his mother so badly. Any suggestions as to how to phrase it a bit more politely? Thanks!

Ask questions. Assuming it was enough of a scene so that everyone knows what everyone else saw, you can approach your cousin this way: "After what happen the other day, I'm worried about Aunt, but I also know I don't know the whole story. What is your perspective on what happened?"

It's not hard to see this as an invitation for a "Mind your own business"-type answer, so you should go into it expecting that, and have an answer ready, along the lines of: "Normally I'd agree with you, but when this happens in front of all of us, it becomes our business."

Assuming you believe that. For what it's worth, I do--my leanings have always been in ther live-and-let-live direction, but that doesn't extend to situations where you're a witness to open mistreatment. When  that happens, someone needs to speak up. 

Any update from the graduate who wanted a vegetarian party? Been dying to know if they served it and if anyone honestly noticed.

Haven't heard anything, but maybe she (right?) will see this.

A very close friend is getting married over Memorial Day weekend and I have been invited without my boyfriend (both the bride and groom know my boyfriend and know we are getting married next summer). I am the only one invited without a date, the wedding will involve over 450 miles of travel and an expensive hotel room, and it will be my only opportunity to take any vacation this summer. Oh-- and my friend and his fiance dated many years before getting engaged so they know the plus one drama. I can't help but being bitter about it. I know it is completely inappropriate to ask if I can bring my boyfriend, but do you have any words of wisdom to make me a little less bitter?

Don't go. If you can't go without feeling angry about it, then your only choice is to decline. And it's a perfectly polite choice. You have one shot at a vacation this summer, and you're going to take it with your ... your why-aren't-you-calling-him-your-fiance. "No" is an acceptable answer (assuming you haven't already RSVP'd yes).

If you have accepted, then you could also travel with your WAYCHYF, build a vacation around the wedding and he just finds something else do do during the wedding festivities. You just won't go to as many or stay as long as you would have with your WAYCHYF as your date.


Find out the gender ahead of time, if you can. I'm pregnant with a boy, having had a bit of a preference for a daughter and even a strong dream that convinced me that I was having a daughter. I was really glad to find out at the ultrasound, for various reasons. --My husband and I went through a weekend of laughing off all the stereotypes that popped into our heads about raising a boy, and I'm glad I'm not going to be doing that all exhausted and hormonal after giving birth. --We also told lots of people, and all their excitement and encouragement helped fuel my excitement and longing to see our son. --And there's time. Time for myself to contemplate what, if anything, knowing I'm having a boy really changes, time to seek advice from my many friends who have boy babies, time to think about all the qualities I love in my husband that he might pass on, time to think of our little boy by's a really sweet time of anticipation right now. Best wishes for a healthy pregnancy!

So well said, thank you.

The LW who wants a girl has me very worried. I too wanted girl children. Before I was even married I bought a painting of two adorable sisters and fantasized that my future children would be just like these two. However, by the time I was ready to have kids I was over this since - DUH - you don't get to choose! I think the LW should think deeply about why she's having kids. Is it for the decorative factor? BTW, I still have the painting of "my girls." One of my sons helped me rehang it just yesterday and we had a laugh over my old fantasy.

I second the vote for deep introspection, thanks.

Even if it is a girl, that's not necessarily cause for celebration by the mom or a "phew" moment for the kid. Wanting something so so badly suggests there's a vivid mental image of what she wants her child to be, and even if she has a girl, that girl could have a nature and personality and a set of preferences that bear absolutely no resemblance to the girl she has in mind. Being a good parent means being the parent your kid needs, period. You don't know what that looks like until you get to know your kids. 

She is lucky the date didn't go well. He is trying to bill her for something he didn't pay for. She should counter-bill for her time or thank her lucky stars that it was just one miserable date.


Though the date wasn't entirely miserable--she liked the play.


I just want to say that it's awesome that Chicago responded calmly and with good information to her 16-yr-old daughter's request for birth control. Congratulations to her for raising a 16-yr-old with some sense and building such a trusting relationship with her kid. That is no small feat.

Indeed. Thanks.

I can't believe I'm asking this since I pretty much know the answer. I have been dating the same man for 6 years (no talk of marriage, we're in our early 30s). We live together and we're comfortable with how things are - at least when people ask. I'm bored and aggravated. I think the relationship has moved past its prime, but he's content. I've talked about marriage, family, etc. - not really interested. We're 2 very different people as well (I'm extroverted, he's the opposite). To make matters worse, a friend of mine in a similar situation, has made advances at me recently. After really talking to him, I think the grass may be greener, but I would always question how we got together. I could just be frustrated and looking for an out... but I'm not sure. Advice?

Yes, you do know the answer--so why are you asking, and why aren't you sure? Not being facetious--I am genuinely curious.

I just moved to a new city where a good friend of mine already lives with her boyfriend of three years. I'm struggling to build a social life and have invited my friend a few times to do things with me (drinks after work, shopping on weekends, be my "date" to an intimidating work party). Most of the time she begs off and says she "hasn't seen much of" her boyfriend that week and can't justify hanging out with me instead of him. It may just be that she's sending me the hint that she doesn't want to be close with me, but I believe these are her real principles. It drives me crazy because she lives with him and they see each other every day! Should I just give up, or say something?

I actually typed out, "Why not both?" but then I reread the letter and thought, feh. Don't bother. While a good friend would make time for you knowing you're trying to get established, it's actually her prerogative not to be a good friend. If that makes sense. Stop wasting your effort on her and invest your energy in making friends with people whose priorities line up with yours.

I wanted a girl. Ultrasound said "it's a girl" I was all about girls, knew what to do with girls (no boys in my family)... all set. Kid's born "It's a boy". Huh? LOVE the boy. So much fun. So glad I have a boy. It'll all work out.

If she opens her mind/heart enough to let it work out be great. Thanks.

If it is about a year after the wedding and they already have a child, could the cousin's wife be overwhelmed with motherhood/ post-partum, etc ? I have seen pre-wedding/post-wedding personality changes, but there were often clues ahead of time. . . . .

Worth considering, thanks. Not that feeling overwhelmed excuses nastiness, but explaining the nastiness can help others work more effectively to calm things down.

If this is a CLOSE you would talk to about problems in a relationship, or the first person you'd call if you got fired, got an STD, etc. -- you actually CAN ask if your man is invited. Many people honestly don't know the correct etiquette for addressing invitations and she may not be aware that he is "technically" not invited if his name isn't on the envelope. If you'd talk to her about anything else that's personal, you can talk to her about this. Let her know that you'd love to be there but this is your only vacation time for the year and you'd hoped to spend it with your whatever-he-is-to-you. Chances are, she will either say "OMG! I assumed you'd know that he IS invited" or she might also say, "HTB and I, along with our families, decided that we had to cut back the guest list and only couples who are formally engaged (i.e. wedding date set) or already married can be invited together." Either way, you'll have an answer to your question and a basis for deciding whether or not to go. Alternatively, CH's option of bringing him on the trip but doing the wedding stuff solo would work too, if it's a place you'd both like to go anyway.

Emphasis CLOSE. Thanks. 

How should I react to a good friend who blames her single status on her appearance and constantly says things like "I need uglier friends"? She's in her early 30s and says that every guy she's ever liked has ended up dating one of her more attractive friends instead. She seems to think it's because she's overweight and ugly -- and she is plump, but men would be all over her if she weren't also incredibly prickly. She's a smart and interesting woman, but she refuses to flirt or display any interest (she says there's no point because she'll just be rejected), and she comes off as unapproachable and cold and just generally not much fun. What makes it extra-awkward is that I know she considers me to be one of the pretty people who've stolen away a prospective boyfriend -- 7 years ago, I dated a mutual friend on whom she apparently had a huge crush (although because she's so reticent, I had no idea I was stepping on her toes). And I do comprehend the frustration of being surrounded by people who've all won the genetic lottery when you're comparatively average-looking. But I don't know how to respond to her remarks, and I don't know how to tell her that her "problem" has much less to do with the way she looks than the way she acts. Suggestions?

"I need uglier friends"? Wow. How about: "You're a beautiful person, but you can't expect others to see that if you keep saying such ugly things about yourself."

Dear Carolyn, In the past few weeks, I've been feeling very down about my life. I'm happy generally, have wonderful friends, volunteer, and have hobbies....BUT I feel like I've done nothing with the past 28 years and now I'm on a train to nowhere. I spent 5 years getting my PhD, but am working a crappy and boring job while I wait for something better to open up. Because of all this schooling, I never could afford to travel anywhere and now I'm paying back student loans and still can't afford to travel. I'm living with a great boyfriend.... who recently made it clear that he never plans to marry me. Every time another friend gets engaged, I feel so upset and unlovable. I know things could be worse, and I feel selfish for wishing my life could be better. But I feel so stuck right now. I don't even know where to start fixing things and I feel like I've wasted so much time. If you have any advice, that would be awesome.

Start with getting plans underway to move out and get your own place. Bad on the money front, sure, and you'll have to face many more evenings with no one next to you than you have to deal with now, but getting out on your own will be a -huge- statement in support of your own worth. Some people make nice lives out of long-term non-married partnership, but you don't sound like you're of the frame of mind to be one of them, so stick up for what you value, tell him you can't stay knowing you and he want different things, and get onto a path where you're making your decisions instead of having them made for you. Very empowering.

Once you're established, then also consider starting a travel fund, even if your contributions to it are puny. Open a savings account, have a tolerable amount automatically deducted from your checks, and see if you can get by without noticing it's gone. 

And, of course, make a deliberate effort to spend more time with your wonderful friends. It's okay to let them know you're going to be a little needier than usual for a while as you lift yourself out of a slump.


I have the opposite problem of the "princess" letter-writer from a few weeks back, who wanted her boyfriend to pay for her and treat her to things. The guy I've been dating for about a month is really resisting letting me pay--he's naturally generous, plus he makes nearly twice what I do (and, as he puts it, eats nearly twice what I do). At first I thought it was just a function of the newness of the relationship, but when I asked him he said that he generally keeps paying for girlfriends indefinitely. I've tried to explain that it makes me feel unequal in the relationship and that it's important to me that I pay my share, but I'm having trouble articulating why it matters so much to me. In no other way does our relationship feel unequal, nor does he seem hung up on romantic gestures. Any ideas for how to explain this? Should I just donate what I would have spent to charity and stop worrying about it?

Or, try repaying him by, say, buying tickets to something you attend together, taking the lead on plans that are more elaborate than dinner out, cooking dinner for him, etc. See if that balances things out for you.

If you still feel awkward after that, then take another shot at articulating what bothers you. Maybe, "I'd be grateful if you let me pay occasionally just because it's important to me, even if I can't make a persuasive argument for it."

I guess another way of saying it is, if you need to explain it just right for him to acknowledge your preferences, then that will start to matter a lot more than who pays for what.


Hi Carolyn, My best friend is awesome and I love spending time with her. Problem: it's hard actually spending time with her since she never answers her phone. She puts it on silent during class and then doesn't put the sound back on. It would be fine if this were a random occurrence, but it's almost every day. It drives me and our other friends crazy because we'll call and text her about going out to lunch and not hear back from her until that evening, and then she's annoyed that she missed out. Beyond the fact that it makes scheduling really hard, I'm terrified that there will be an emergency and I won't be able to get in contact with her. I've tried telling her this, but she dismisses it. Do you have any advice for other ways to ask her to check her phone regularly if she's going to leave it on silent? Or is this a live-and-let-live situation?

I can't see how it's anything but, unless she'll agree to wear a buzz collar, like a dog. 

They're frowned upon by dogvocates, but with humans, I think the possibility for consent makes them a more defensible choice.

I've never heard my SIL use that phrase, but your description sounds like her in a lot of ways. My advice? Use Carolyn's phrase, but at some point, stop trying. You are not in charge of her self-esteem or her social life.

Right, right--I forgot the usual say-it-once disclaimer. Thanks.

would like to switch chats with you sometime, or at least have you as a guest! Just thought you should know! It was in the most recent chat centering around the Caps' first playoff game.

If it gets me a seat at a Caps playoff game, I'll happily switch chats. Although my fangirl squawking would make me unfit for the press box.

I had a family friend with a lovely son. But she always wanted a girl! So they adopted a little girl, and started off putting her in pretty dresses like the doll I guess the mother was looking for. As soon as her own personality started emerging, there were no more dresses, and she became a pretty serious hockey player. Also? She was the only person in the family who could fix anything around the house. I guess I'm just saying, you never know how things will turn out.

Now I want to adopt her. Thanks for the great story.

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I was in a similar boat last year. Don't cheat on your boyfriend, or jump right into anything with your friend. Start thinking and talking about breaking up for real so you can pursue what you want, though.

Part of the answer that she (she, right?) already knows, I hope, but here it is just in case it isn't.

Funny collection of responses re silent-ringer girl:

If her friend keeps her phone on silent all day AND gets annoyed that she's missing out on lunches, then her friend is a twit. Enjoy your twit-free lunches.


CH was WAY too nice -- GET OVER IT! She is right to put her phone on silent during class and not be texting during class. Good heavens! Your friend is Living Her Life and I suggest you turn off your leash, I mean, phone and look around and LIVE. This sounds like middle school!

"You're a twit." "No, -you're- a twit."

For the love of Carolyn Hax chats can people stop using the "what if there was an emergency" reasoning whenever they are complaining about people cell phone availability. Really how many times have you had to call your best friend with an emergency? sorry that is a personal pet peeve. and if the best friend in the question is later annoyed/hurt/bothered that she missed plans and yet is doing nothing to change her actions (you know actually checking her phone for messages) why do you think you would be able to do anything to change that. Some people are just not CELL PHONE people.

"No. you're -both- twits."

Okay, got that out of my system/queue.

Or how about: men like to date women who are approachable, smart and show interest in them. Let's start there.

Correct, but way too high-concept.

It could also be that the letter-writer who moved to a new city where her friend and friend's boyfriend live is just more social/outgoing than her friend ever was. What she sees as inviting the friend out "a few times" could feel like "constantly" to the friend. I'm not saying either is right -- I say this as a homebody who has struggled with this issue among my highly social, outgoing group of friends. I can't maintain their level of activity and it stresses me out to try and do so. I want to see them, but they could see my declining some invites as a snub. Not saying that's the case here, but worth thinking about. That she begs off only "most of the time" suggests that she does want to hang out -- maybe just not quite so often.

Useful approach to this would be transparency to the point of over-sharing. "I'm a complete slug on weeknights after work, and Boyfriend and I usually plan something for Saturdays, but I'm always up for Sunday brunch"--or whatever. If/when it's a case of different social speeds.  

Maybe the friend is trying to "no longer be friends", which you say would be ok. How should she express that differently than not talking to writer? Is it appropriate for her to say "I no longer want to be your friend?"

When something happens that makes one member of a friendship decide the friendship is over, I believe the adult thing to do is talk about the thing that happened. As part of that conversation, the friendship-ender can say it's over and why--say, "I believe you when you say you didn't mean to do X, but I don't think I can trust you any more, and I ask that you don't call me any more." Or something excruciating to that effect. It's so much better spoken than left unsaid.

How, if at all, do I explain to my 4 1/2 year old that his little brother (18 mo) will never be a big brother, because our family isn't going to increase? I can be pretty sure on this one -- I had tubal ligation and I trust my doctor did it well.

Unless you're asked a direct question, I don't think you need to address it--and to answer direct questions, you can say "No, there won't be another little brother or sister. [Other parent] and I think our family is just right the way it is."

Ask for the relative's address so you can send the money to him, lol.

Perfect--didn't see this earlier.

When we were meeting with our pastor before getting married to get some wisdom on the relationship ahead of us, he gave us some interesting bits of advice. One that sticks strongly with me is that spouses ought to cultivate each other's interests. So, for example, I try to learn music and baseball for my husband while he goes to museums and occasionally reads literature for me. The amazing thing is that it's quite possible to discover things that you like about your partner's interests that are your actual own favorite things about them. It seems like you ought to be able to work together to discover how your separate passions could be shared, if both of you commit to doing that.

Another good one I missed when we were on that topic--thanks. 

Hi Carolyn. I've been a faithful reader of your columns for years. Of course I thought of you when I hit a wall yesterday with my almost 21 year old daughter. She's a college student with a part-time job who lives at home. We support her except for her spending money, which if you know anything about kids that age that means we spend a lot on insurance, car payments, tuition, cell phone, etc. Yesterday was her day off and I came down with one of those viruses that knocks you out and I feel like a tomahawk has been stuck in my head. I asked her to go and pick up her father at work and take him to the car dealership where we had dropped his car earlier in the day for servicing. She said she had plans already (with a boy who had just dropped her last month without warning but now he is all sorry) and couldn't help me out. This is on the heels of her refusal just last week to help me out in a similar circumstance because she was tired from work. Well, I blew up and probably overreacted but I just felt so crappy and didn't feel up to driving the 90 mile round trip that I was going to have to go on. I feel like we do so much for her that she should help us out when we need her. She puts everyone else in her life first and accuses us of holding our support of her over her head. I am at a loss. Why should we go on giving and giving when she seems so selfish and is this something she will grow out of? When do you just figure the kid is who she is going to be and throw in the towel? I know that she is basically a good kid who doesn't party or get wild and she works hard at school, but shouldn't we expect more than that? Thanks for you help!

After you feel better/have cooled off, it would be totally appropriate for you to have a calm discussion with your daughter about your blowup. Explain to her that you overreacted, you're sorry, and that if you had it to do over, you hope you would handle it differently.

Then, having said that, explain where you're coming from: You and her father have supported her not because you expected something in return, but because she's your daughter and you love her, and wanted her to have the best start in life that  you could provide.

Now that she's 20, though, you see her role in the family as changing--she's no longer "just" your kid, she's also a fellow adult. Since she's not fully independent, you're still going to provide things as parents do, but since she's also an adult household member, you and her dad are going to ask her for some adult contributions to family life. That will include errands, household chores, any number of things.

And just as being tired or busy wasn't an excuse for a child to skip making her bed or setting the table, being tired isn't an excuse for skipping out on the responsibilities of an adult member of the household. 

If she reacts badly, then invite her to articulate what she thinks her role is in the family. -Listen- to the answer, and if you're not sure how to respond--or if you find yourself getting angry-- say, "I'm not sure how to respond, so I'm going to think on it a while."  Then do that--think about what you think is right and fair, and then see how you can adjust the way you deal with your daughter to align your expectations with what she's willing to give. This is the best way to judge whether you need to take a hard line or be flexible/creative.

That took a long time to spit out, sorry for the lull.

Hello, Dating a friend and at first it was normal if a little fast. We have spend alot of time together recently. With past relationships with new men and male friends I often find that they feel just lust for me for the first few months and just at the point I want to leave because it is to shallow for me they start to develop a more meaningful and deeper connection. I'm confused to why this happens. Especially with a male friend who already knows I'm a deep thinker and compassionate giver. It has been six weeks or so of dating my friend. I'm not sure if I need to be more patient or go with intuition that this is just another lustful relationship where my needs won't be met anytime soon.

I'm going to say you need patience. And commas.

Just wondering, what makes you start to answer a question and then change your mind and decide not to continue with it?

When I'm not sure of my footing. Sometimes it takes the process of writing out the answer for me to realize I'm not in a good position to answer. Most often it's a lack of some kind of training--e.g., I'll find myself wishing I had a lawyer or doctor to check my answer. When that thought crosses my mind, I pull the plug. better a stretch of dead air than an answer I quickly regret. 

Dear Carolyn, I am about to go through the second iteration of a conversation I had last year with my boyfriend about summer vacations. His family owns a vacation cabin, which he visits almost every summer. It is one of his favorite places on earth, and he would love nothing more than to spend the entire summer there. The two of us went last year, and I also loved it, and am excited to go again this summer. In reality, he has only three weeks of paid vacation time to take, and he plans to spend all of them at the cabin with his friends and family. However, I also have family visits I'd like to make with him. He says that he'd be willing to take a week of unpaid leave to squeeze in these visits, which makes me feel deprioritized. I am beginning to be afraid that he doesn't have the same vision of our life together that I do. How seriously should I be taking this?

As seriously as context tells you to. I don't think inflexibility on one thing is automatically a sign of trouble--especially something that you can appreciate as "one of his favorite places on earth," and especially when he (quickly, it seems) volunteered to sacrifice something valuable to create a little more flexibility where there was none.

But that just means you need to air this out more; don't just take your consolation week and like it. If you see yourself wanting to go to the beach with him in February some year, or whatever, then don't be shy--say it now, and see what he says. If his answer is, "I have no interest in the beach,a nd the whole time I'd just be annoyed about my lost week in the cabin," then you ahve to take that very seriously as a prediction of life with him.  (I do hope he'd be that honest with you, if that's how he feels.) 

And even if you don't feel strongly about variety in vacations, you also need to pay careful attention to other things he feels strongly about. When people don't care much about an area where someone is inflexibile, they often dismiss the whole thing as unimportant relative to the value of the whole relationship-- but then find out later that the inflexibility extends to other areas that do matter. Try to see as much of the picture as you can before you rule on the "take this seriously or not" question.




I live several hours away from my parents. I talk to them on the phone weekly, but I usually initiate it. My family knows that my child underwent testing for issues which have been going on for several months, and that we were getting the results on Monday. It's Friday and they haven't contacted me to see how things went. Should I get over feeling hurt and just accept that my parents aren't great at offering support? When I last talked to my mom and expressed concern over the outcome, she said, "We'll deal with whatever it is." Their silence leads me to conclude the "we" was inaccurate. What to do now?

Don't play games. Call them and tell them the results, and give them a chance to support you in their way. Waiting for them to support you in your way is a losing proposition for all involved.

I know this might seem as if I am overreacting, but this line "FWIW, this is not the first of his "Things shall now be THIS way" pronouncements that come out of the blue" reminded me SO much of my abusive father (and later, emotionally abusive boyfriend), that I am afraid for her and her child. She is already at the point where she is asking apologetically if she is "wrong" for not feeling comfortable with a situation that most people might consider private! He has her cowed already, and I know the consequences of growing up in this environment. I think she needs to 1) call an abuse hotline just to get a sense of what abuse is and 2) go to therapy HERSELF, alone. It took me years to figure out walking on eggshells in my house was not a normal way to live.

Good call on the solo counseling, thanks. Even if this turns out not to be an abusive situation, anyone feeling cornered should not rely solely on  counseling with spouse in the room.

My mom is slowly dying of a very rare and awful disease - only 50K people have it in the world and most doctors have never even heard of it. It's has some similarities to Parkinson's and ALS. Since it is so rare, there are no support groups for it and I'm starting to think I'd like to attend one because my heart is breaking watching her prepare for death. Would it be disingenuous of me to join a Parkinson's or ALS support group even though my mom has something else? I don't want to intrude if it would make people uncomfortable.

I'm so sorry. 

I have a hard time imagining you'd be turned away, but to dispense with any hesitation, call the sponsoring association ahead of time to explain your situation.

Also consider contacting a local hospice provider. They are a great resource for family members--in fact, I just noticed in the queue that someone else suggested it today for the person seeking grief counseling, and it was applicable there as well as here. 


That's all for today. If you want a steady supply of problems (and, really, who doesn't), remember Facebook ( and Twitter (@carolynhax, @ngalifianakis). Thanks for stopping by, and type to you here next week. 

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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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