Carolyn Hax Live

Sep 30, 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, Sept. 9 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.

Think you know a thing or two about giving advice? Enter the Post Magazine's @Work Advice Contest and tell us how you'd deal with that annoying co-worker or overbearing boss. We are accepting entries through September 18.

E-mail Carolyn at

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. I'm a minute or two late because, as I was eating yogurt, a blob of it fell off my spoon and landed on my shirt, pants and rug. I thought you might enjoy my return to toddlerhood as much as I did.

Why is the post having a columnist contest? Are they going to replace you? Don't go, Carolyn, don't GOOOOOoooooooooo

It's workplace advice, not what I do--but thanks for missing me in advance.

In case you all haven't voted in the @Work Advice Contest, it's time to choose who makes the next round.


I recently lost a good friend rather unexpectedly. It was the first death among my group of friends and several hundred people turned out for the funeral, including people who hadn't seen the deceased in years, which was really nice and a great tribute. One of these people who attended but wasn't super close with the deceased has started posting multiple messages on a social networking site that describe his conversations with her. He goes on and on and on about meeting up with her and what messages she would like relayed- things like "say hi to my dad" and "hug my sister for me" and "don't be sad". I know people grieve in different ways and I also am willing to admit there's a possibility he's actually speaking with her, but is there anything I can or should say about this? The situation has an ick factor that I can't put my finger on, but every time I read something written by him about her, I get a kick in the gut feeling.

I suppose there's a great and complex answer to be written to this question, and maybe I'll take another look at it after I've had time to think, but all I want to say now is: Hide his posts. 

I'm really sorry about your friend.

Hello, I am feeling very overwhelmed and hope that I can get a kick in the pants. I have 2 children under 2. My husband and I moved to a city we hate - despite months of attempts, the moms groups have been very cold to me, for example. He is getting deployed, and is away for weeks at a time. It takes everything in my power to get up each morning and do things with my kids. I know I am battling with depression and/or PPD, but I can't go to a therapist because I don't have child care. I know the steps to take to help improve my mood and stress level (exercise, etc.) but I can't drag myself out of it all to start, and I just wind up eating junk on the couch after the kids go to bed. Any words of advice? Thanks, I've been reading this chat since the beginning.

Here's the first thing you do: Locate good child care. Start checking out day cares that allow part-time use and sign up for, say, 9 to 12 three days a week. Or, find a co-op-type day care where you work a few hours and leave your kids a few hours. Or,  find a good sitter through local listservs, bulletin boards (universities often allow students to post ISO ads for babysitting work), nursery schools (teachers in their off hours often take babysitting jobs). You get the idea.

Once you have a sitter, here's the next thing you do, in no particular order: get therapy, get exercise, get used to having a few minutes where you don't have to do anything at all.

These steps will not just help you feel better in the short term, but also yield the type of long-term improvements you get when you bring a more refreshed self to all of your responsibilities and problems.

But that's for later. For now the first domino has to fall, and that's to give you a break from the round-the-clock child care. Hang in there.

When my SO and I come home after work, we have very different styles of decompressing. My SO likes to be quiet for about 30-60 minutes, cook, watch tv or have a drink, while I have a lot on my mind and need someone to spill to. It seems like these are mutually exclusive and I am not sure how to find a compromise. Taking turns doesn't seem plausible or like it would make sense.

If you hang on for 30 minutes, can you spill then to a receptive audience?

Dear Carolyn, I have been dating my boyfriend for almost 2 years, living together for half of that. At this point, we should know if we want to get married, and I don't feel like that is where we're heading. I don't want to continue to live with someone that I don't plan to marry in the foreseeable future and so I have started looking for my own place. I haven't talked to him yet about moving out since he just started a new job which is good but stressful for him and because I know he'll be devastated. He's planning a dinner for us for our two year anniversary and I'm overwhelmed with the stress of the relationship potentially ending on top of him thinking everything is just fine. I don't know what to do. Please help!

Sounds to me as if you've quietly made a decision while he's trucking along in merry oblivion, thinking everything is just fine. Did you skip the step where you talked about to him about your frustration with the pace of things (or the lack of a clear destination, or however you'd articulate it)? Or did you skip it just in your question?

I love to take my toddler to the playground, and he super LOVES it. The problem I face is figuring out how to deal with unsupervised children at the park. We are working on the "keep your hands to yourself" lesson, but other, older (maybe 4 to 7 yo), kids are all over my toddler, trying to play with the "baby." I don't think it's my place to reprimand someone else's kid. Short of telling them to keep their hands off of him, how do I get them to leave him alone? I feel mean writing this, but kids are germy! And I don't want them touching my kid! Is that so bad?

Yes, actually. 

Unless your son has some condition that compromises his immunity, the exposure to germs is a normal part of life that builds his immunity. Don't take my non-licensed word for it, talk to your pediatrician. 

And that's just the physical health aspect. There's also a mental health angle here. You can't bubble wrap your kid or control every aspect of his environment, and even if you could, you would do a towering disservice to your boy--and to yourself--if you walled him off from all the unruliness of life. That's how people learn about themselves and learn to navigate their environments. Your toddler needs challenges, supervised by you of course but not to the degree that you fight all his battles for him. That will make him the kind of sick that has nothing to do with a fever. 

I hope I worded that strongly enough. 

God knows,a "star student and community leader," especially a girl, can't have a wild streak or enjoy a little non-vanilla sex without secretly being a depraved slut, using her filthy feminine ways to lure nice boys away from their loving mothers. Sure, seeing your son's girlfriend in a pornographic pose has to be a little startling, but this incident -- and the fact that mom is somehow appalled that a college-age male likes porn -- suggests a deep discomfort with sex, period, and mom unwilling to let her little boy go. Her suggestion that her son has been cold to her says more about her attitude than his -- she clearly doesn't want to let what should have been a one-off incident go, She should chat with someone and find out why sex scares her.

Entirely possible, thanks.

Hi Carolyn, Two weeks ago I bought my first house. Yippeee! In doing so, I moved to a new city where I know few people and no one in my neighborhood. Have yet to meet my neighbors. Cut to last night (really this morning, about 4:30), when I wake up to hear a man screaming at a woman (I could hear her respond). I also eventually hear the sound of flesh hitting flesh. Though I didn't see anything, my assumption is that my neighbor abuses his wife. Based on the toys in the yard, I think there are also kids in the house. Carolyn, I didn't do anything. Didn't call 911, or the police, or do anything except stay in bed and listen. That's not acceptable. I can forgive myself for freezing in the moment the first time this happens, but, really, what should I do next time? I'm a big fan of living in a safe community, and doing my part to support a safe community.

You can deal with the self-forgiveness and the what-do-I-do-next time issues right now. Call the non-emergency number for your local police, explain that you need to talk to someone about a domestic incident from last night. Then describe to the officer what you heard, with as much detail as you can swear to. If the police already are familiar with this household, you'll be helping them recognize that the problem continues, and if it's a first report, it'll help in case it turns out to be the first of a pattern. You can then ask the officer what s/he would rather you do if this happens again.

Carolyn, I've been having this crazy idea lately, and I'm hoping you'll pull me back to earth and slap some sense into me. My crazy idea is, Facebook-friending a couple of exes, in the hopes of restarting friendships (and only that!) with them. The way I see it, it's been a long time since I dated some of them, and at one time they did mean something special to me. In spite of whatever happened between us or however our lives have gone since then, I feel there's no real reason we can't be friends now, as enough time has lapsed that the past can remain in the past and we could start anew as friends. Again, friendship is all I am looking for here. I'm not looking to rekindle any former romances. That being said, another part of me is saying (with equal emphasis), "Are you out of your Vulcan mind?! You're not with these people anymore for a reason! Reconnecting could open a can of worms you didn't anticipate. Plus, if an ex tried to reconnect with you years after breaking up, you'd be pretty weirded out, wouldn't you? Do yourself a favor, do them a favor, just let it be." Please pull me back to earth, Carolyn! Sincerely, Someone who needs a good talking to

Why these people, why now?

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then I must be insane. I am devasted by how lying has become the new normal in my relationship. We have so many mutual friends that I regularly find out that what I have been told is not what has actually happened. The last time I confronted this issue I was clear that it was a dealbreaker, but it has started again (or it never stopped). Either way I cannot and will not go on like this. But a child, mortgage and jobs get in the way of doing what I know is necessary. I could confront this, again(!), but I don't have the energy. I am disappointed and hurt that my clear message was ignored, and I don't really see the point in continuing with somebody I CANNOT trust. Where do I start? Where does the strength necessary come from? Why did I ever judge a narcissistic liar to be a good person?

Which is the biggest obstacle to getting out on your own, the child, the mortgage or the jobs? figure that out, and start chipping away at it. For example, if it's the child, talk to a family attorney about possible scenarios if you decided to leave. If it's the mortgage, explore your financial and legal options based on what you owe and what you signed. It's okay to take very small steps to deal with a big problem.

In the meantime, yes, lying is the (new?) normal in your relationship, and I think it will  actually help if you stop hoping anything he says is true and stop confronting the issue. It's just, yeah, okay, whatever you say ... as you work doggedly to  loosen your various ties to this person.

Can someone please explain the two year rule to me? I have been dating my boyfriend for six years. We've never talked about marriage, we live together, we are committed, and we are very happy. The ground didn't open up and swallow me when we reached two years unengaged. But it makes me wonder sometimes, is this relationship doomed in a way I don't understand because it's been going on for so long without marriage?

Someday, I'm going to keel over and be done on this earth, and I'm going to regret publishing the two-year thing till that moment comes. Possibly beyond (will get back to you on that).

It has nothing to do with length of time without an engagement. It's solely about new-relationship passion buzz. Since it is a byproduct of newness, this passion buzz dies at some point with every couple and gives way to ... whatever. The two-year mark is where you can confidently assume all the newness has all rubbed off (and is presumably no longer clouding your judgment about each other). 



Don't forget about military resources. There are a ton out there. Check out They should be able to help with childcare and therapy. And take your kids to therapy with you if you have to! Better than not going at all. Good luck!!! I know deployments are tough. When my husband deployed, kids were 1 & 3.

Thanks. A family therapist who offers play therapy would be a good choice if the kids have to come along.

I have a situation like this. My SO talks all day at work, I barely speak to a soul. We're both introverts, but at the end of the day I need to have some human contact and he needs to recharge. So on the way home from work a day or two a week I give my mom a call and have a nice chat, not necessarily about the things I'd talk to my SO about, but just chit chat with my mom. It blows off my need for communication steam so that I can give my SO the time he needs before talking to him about whatever it is I want to chat with him about. It helps me a lot.

Thanks. This is one of the things I had in mind for the 30- to 60-minute buffer. Another was to work out (with a buddy = 2 birds), have a project of some kind at home that's therapeutic (art, crafts, gardening, cooking, etc). Other ideas welcome. 

If Overwhelmed's husband is in the military, this site lists support she has access to. If he is a contractor, I'd call the employer and ask about what they can do to help.


Sounds like me and my SO. I'm not sure we have a specific system worked out, but we do try to accommodate one another. Sometimes I go to the gym after work (which I do for me, not him, but it works out well), which provides him with an extra hour or so of time to himself so he's ready to chat when I get home. Or sometimes he just lets me chatter along about my day, then I go off to get some stuff done while he makes dinner/reads/relaxes or I shower from the gym. Or vice versa. Or he gives me a heads up (or I do, even chatty types need space) that he needs space after work to chill out after a bad day. You know how we figured it out? Talking, accommodating and not taking anything personally.

That works too, thx.

Small potatoes compared to the Sox collapse (standing, weeping), but my son is in his first semester at an academically challenging liberal arts college. He is telling us that he is struggling to keep up, and, yes, we've told him to go to the academic advising office and the like. The larger issue is what he is concluding from his struggles--that he wants to become a music major--which is okay, except that his goal is to parlay his mediocre musical talents (not just my opinion) to a performance career. I don't want to squash the hopes of any 18-yr old, but how to make the best of this situation? Tell him to leave the college (we'll keep his college fund in the bank) and get a job or pursue, e.g., vocational education and then he can work on his music in the evenings like other budding artists? Let him pursue a music major but remind of the likelihood of a future as a band teacher (nothing wrong with that in our eyes)? Let him figure everything out on his own (but we're paying for his undergrad education...kind of like paying large Sox salaries to strand 11 runners on base and combine for a staff ERA of 8.26 in September)? Thanks (argh on all counts).

Interesting. On the one hand, you have the fact that your son probably won't get far doing something he hates, and that points to supporting his passion as arguably the best path for him to succeed (let's define self-supporting in a non-soul-crushing line of work). 

On the other hand, you have the fact that you're laying out a lot of money, and you don't want to just smile and write checks (there's no satisfying visual for online bill-paying--"smile and click 'pay'"?) while your son squanders his opportunity to learn something that's both satisfying and practical--so, arguably, your best course is to use your financial leverage to be the voice of economic reality.

How bout we split the baby. You smile and nod at the majoring-in-music thing, while insisting upon assurances in return that it isn't all predicated on a performance career. It's not as if all of the most talented musicians are stars and all the rest teach music. The ones who manage to turn performance into a living are but a small percentage of the musicians out there, and talent is but one variable. Even an academically frustrated 18-year-old has to know that. So, as the guardians of your son and clickers of the "pay" button, you get to say that you're all for this as long as there's a clear structure to his Plan B. Work with him on it as needed.

Music and sound are both businesses, and any business has people of all kinds involved, from engineering to sales and finances. 

There's also the matter of  unintended consequences. It seems as if your son could use a confidence boost right now--and I can't be sure of this, obviously, but it seems logical that it will be easier for him to recover later from a bad choice of major than it will be for him to recover from low self-confidence. 




Iwon't burn more time byy checking the time stamp, but  have a feeling that answer took forever. Sorry about that. Took me a few mins to sort it out in my mind.

Dear Carolyn, I moved in with my boyfriend over a year ago and living together has been going well. However, In that past year or so, I finished graduate school and applied to (and finally got) a great job. These changes were exciting, but stressful, and I've been working very long hours to make a good impression at the new job. I love my boyfriend very much, but in the midst of all the change, I've found it hard to live with him, mostly because I just miss living alone. The other problem is, while the relationship is good, I'm not sure it's going anywhere permanent, and knowing that, I feel hesitant to keep living with him. I feel selfish for wanting to live alone and right now I just feel stuck and anxious when I'm home. Is this something I should work through or just hope that once the dust settles I'll feel differently? Thanks for the chats!

You're welcome. 

I'm confused, though. You start out by saying that  "living together has been going well."

Then you say that "In that past year or so ... these changes were exciting ... but in the midst of all the change, I've found it hard to live with him."

I guess I need a timeline check. In the year of living together, how much has been going well, and how much  has been hard?


Hax, earlier this summer you responded to my question about allowing my parents to stay longer with us so that my brother and his family could take a vacation. You suggested that I weigh my obligation to my brother against the discomfort of having my parents stay with us and our newborn. I decided not to change their visit schedule and my brother was furious with me. he stopped speaking to me. This was three months ago. since then I have had a baby. and Not a peep from my brother. I was offended and appalled that he couldnt even bother to call, this is my firstborn child! He did send an email 3 weeks after her birth with something along the lines of "I didnt think you wanted to hear from me but congratulations anyway". I am ready to end this relationship but the loss is alternately making me sad and angry. How to come to terms with this estrangement?

Hi there, and congratulations.

There was a key contingency in my answer that I don't know if you ever weighed in on, regarding the responsibility your brother assumed by taking your parents in. If he hadn't, would it have fallen to you to have your parents move in? Or did you urge him not to have your parents move in and suggest a better idea, which he then ignored?

I've been dating a wonderful, smart and attractive woman for a year and half. We're both in our early 50s and both have been married before; I'm divorced and she's a widow. We've become very close and are not seeing other people. GF's son is getting married early next year in a large wedding with about 150 guests. Of course GF's deceased husband's family will be there. I'm not being invited to accompany the GF to the wedding because, according to her, she doesn't want to have to deal with questions and distractions from her husband's family about the man she is dating, me. I'm hurt and a bit angry, and have told her so, explaining that her actions minimize my role in her life. But I'm also conflicted because she certainly has the right to deal with her former in laws as she chooses. I'd appreciate your thoughts. Thanks, and I really enjoy reading your stuff.


The image of this I have in mind is of a balance scale. On one side there's the value of your presence at the wedding (which you no doubt see as proxy for your presenc ein her life, given that this is a significant occasion for her), and on the other side there's the discomfort of introducing her new love to her former in-laws. 

She'd rather avoid discomfort than embrace you. That's how you're seeing it, right? And that's why it hurts? If so, that's how you should spell it out for her--not as a means of pressuring her to include you, but instead as a way of helping her understand why you've responded the way you have. You can't judge the way she handles your feelings unless you're confident she knows what they are.

Could we have a link to the original "selfish sibling" question, I cannot seem to find it via a search. Thank you so much for your behind-the-scenes work!

My husband and I agreed when we married to alternate weekends on doing household cleaning chores. This has worked OK for the past year. However, now it seems he just never does the chores when it's his weekend. The past couple times I've just gone ahead and done them myself. When I've done this I've always said, hey, look how I've cleaned the bathroom or kitchen etc for you. A couple times I've said, you know it's your weekend to do the cleaning because I've done it the past few times for you. It doesn't seem to make an impression. The cleaning isn't done. Any advice for what I should do without nagging? To be fair, I don't think he sees the dirt. It's like the mold and toothpaste residue on the sink don't register with him asa problem that could be solved.

Wait a minute, this wasn't about seeing dirt, this is about knowing it's the first or third Saturday of the month--hardly a matter of perception.

He has ditched the deal and you have a right to say what the --? And don't take "it doesn't seem to make an impresson" for an answer. You need an -answer-. To this: "Why have you stopped doing your half of a deal you agreed to yourself?" 

If it's a matter of coming up with a new deal that's also fair, then, fine--maybe he'll be more agreeable to working with you every weekend on a list of chores that you split down the middle. Since people are both highly motivated by pleasure and highly diversified in what they find pleasing, use that to remove obstacles to getting things done. Play music, make plans for when you finish, and even divide the list by what he likes and dislikes. If he, for example, hates vacuuming but doesn't mind laundry, then laundry goes on his list and vacuuming goes on yours.

If even this doesn't work, then don't stand there with a mop in your hand and declare you've done his job for him. Stand there with mop and say, "Here--unless you'd like to hire a celaning service out of your pocket money, because I'm not your maid." 

Would you invite your girlfriend to your adult child's wedding, knowing that your ex and her family would be there? Not a perfect parallel, but perhaps worth considering how you'd feel if the shoe were on the other foot.

A worthwhile mental exercise, thanks, though it has to be adjusted for the issues of being divorced vs. widowed.

Maybe GF wants her son's wedding day to be about... her son? And if the new BF comes and gets the in-laws all worked up, wouldn't that take away from her son and his special day? I get why BF is hurt, but it sounds like he wants to be center of GF's universe when GF has other commitments. Relationships that begin after divorce, death, etc. are complicated by nature. I think the LW needs to accept that ... unless he wants to find a 50 year old virgin who has never been in a relationship before (and dealing with whatever issues come with that...), this is going to be how things are.

Fair enough, but: Why does this one person's presence have to be anything so dramatic? The in-laws would be the problem, not the boyfriend, if they got all worked up--unless the boyfriend was lurking suspiciously in hall during the deathbed scene.

If the GF knows the in-laws to be scene-makers and has made this choice as a gift to her son, then I hope 1. that she'd have told her BF that, and 2. that he would have given that concern enough weight to include it in his question (we are talking male-female, right? I don't remember the pronouns). Actually, given it enough weight to offer graciously not to go.

How much is the right amount of information to share with your family? My wife tells her parents things like how much our house cost, how much money we make, etc. I think those are personal issues that I would never share with my family. Admittedly, my wife is much closer to her family than I am to mine, and I sometimes think I need to take my cues from her because of that. But I also think she shouldn't tell anyone information about me that I don't want to be made public. What do you think?

Sharing your salary is a bit over the line, though sharing hers is fine. And how much your house cost? That's public record, so calling it a personal issue is a deep stretch.

Deep enough, in fact, that I'm going to ask: Why is it so important to you to control information about you? There's a broad range of normal in what we feel comfortable sharing about ourselves, so there's no "right amount," but oversharing and overcontrolling information can really hinder intimacy.

In particular, the need to keep information from others suggests you don't trust people to judge you fairly--unless you get to decide what they know.

High walls like that can be a necessary way of dealing with nosy and judgmental people, but part of the approach still has to be inside you, in a decision not to care what these outsiders think of you. That's because no walls will keep everything out, and nothing you do will stop people from judging you based on what they see, hear, gather from the grapevine and baselessly assume. 

So, that's where I'm going to steer my advice: Please take a hard look at what you're trying to accomplish by guarding your information so closely, and see if there isn't some room in there to let down your guard. Also talk to your wife about what you feel is at stake--not in a compaign to bring her around to your way of seeing things, but instead to bring her into a process of rethinking the assumptions, patterns and habits you (you personally, but also both of you) bring to your interactions with people on the "outside." 

Hey Carolyn! I'm getting wedding RSVPs back, and I found out one of my friends is bringing her newborn with her. We did not address the invitation to her family. We do not want any kids at the event. Period. Any advice before I call her? I'm sure she'll be understanding, but I don't want to piss her off either by saying the wrong thing. I like kids but not at such an important event.

Then definitely don't say "at such an important event."

I believe in no-kids weddings. I support the people who find the screeches and crying and impulsiveness annoying. I deplore the tactic of RSVPing for the kids when the invitation doesn't include them, since it's a self-importance of its own to make "Love me, love my kids"-type Statements.


Newborns warrant at least the consideration of leniency, and here's why: If your friend is nursing, she is tethered to her child in a way that doesn't allow them to separate comfortably for more than an hour or three, depending. She can pump, yes, but that would involve getting ahead so she can leave some for the baby and also pmping during the festivities at least once, or else she'll be in real pain.

If your wedding is far enough off that she can hope to be skilled at all this by then, and also on a longer schedule than every two-ish hours, then it's possible she'll be willing to plan ahead. Many moms are grateful for the few hours away.

But if your wedding is coming in a matter of weeks, then asking her not to bring her baby will amount to asking her not to come. That may be your preference, but this "important event" is a celebration, not a peace negotiation. You might enjoy it more with your friend there with her baby in a carrier (or both of them off in adifferent room for a while while she feeds or settles the baby) than with her absent. 

Just something to think about. Or, even better, talk about with her. It's possible she'll be willing to bring a babysitter with her, especially of there are other rooms available for sitter and baby to use during the ceremony and reception. Start that conversation by saying, "Technically this is a no-kids wedding, but I want to make it possible for you to come--so let's try to think of something together."

Oops, forgot to proof that. If anything I just wrote was offensive, wrongheaded or just badly written, then it was a typo.

I just went through a break up and now I want to do things like get piercings and tattoos. (Well, just one piercing and one tattoo, neither one of them particularly extreme). I know this is inadvisable and immature, but I can't fight this feeling of needing to be different and needing that difference to have a physical manifestation! Am I being a total idiot?

Dye your hair and wait a week or two. You'll have a better (less impulsive)  idea by then whether the need to alter your appearance requires permanent satisfaction.

I just want to make sure your line about lots of different kinds of jobs in the music industry didn't get buried. It's a WONDERFUL suggestion. I used to give it all the time to students I worked with in an inner city school who all wanted to be professional basketball players. There are LOTS of great jobs in sports. Maybe having that kind of specific direction to pursue will help this young man find new motivation or appeal for the disciplines he's studying. And perhaps he can get an internship in the field that will open his eyes to more possibilities.

I'm happy to give anything WONDERFUL a second trip down the runway. Thanks. 

A wedding disinvite is an appropriate way to get a significant update on someone's standing as a partner, so OP is right to be concerned and hurt. But here's what I don't get at all. GF is a widow, not a divorcee, so there won't be an ex or relatives that will be angry at the mere presence of a significant other. There's no awkward switch of sexual preferences since it's still "the man she is dating." I understand why she might want the focus to be on her son, but why exactly is she so worried that GF's dead husband's family will cause such consternation with "questions and distractions", since widows are presumably allowed (and hopefully encouraged) to move on?

Yes, this. This is what I was wondering. Thanks.

Okay that's true, but advice columnists wouldn't be in business if other people just kept their mouths shut about personal choice. I totally agree with this guy. I'm a very private person. And if there's anything I've learned in life it's this: having a baby, getting married, buying a house, buying a car, etc. opens up the court of public opinion. If you can prevent the judgmental, nosy intrusions in your life by not sharing information, then why wouldn't you? Why not put that fire out before it spreads? Maybe I'm only saying this because my husband and I are extremely private people, but I do value the intimacy I have with him. It'd be worth it for this guy to ask his wife, "So what DO you think should just remain between us? What is sacred?"

Actually, eliminating nosiness would kill only about 15 percent of my business. Or 20 ... 5.


Anyway, here's the math in My World. Most people judge others. Let's call it 98 percent of people judge. Of those 95 percent, let's say half really care beyond passing notice. So, that's still about half of people  judging and caring. Of those, let's say 80 percent judge negativelyon any given facet of life. So we're at 40 percent of poeple you run across harboring significant negative judgments (trying to be conservative here). Of those judgies, how many will speak up--half? So, 20 percent of people you run across will find fault, care, and speak up. How many of those will say it in a nasty way and criticize, say, the way you raise your kids, vs. trying to be polite ("Are you sure that's the way you do the high chair straps? I thought they went the other way")--half of those? 

Now think about how many of those people you respect enough to care At All whether they have a negative opinion of you. Half again?

If there's any accuracy to my math, then, 1 in 20 people whose good opinion you seek will get in your face about somethign in a way that's worth avoiding.

So isn't it arguably easier just to agree to watch what you (and certain other people) say around that one person, and, even better, to limit your exposure to that person, than it is to sweat what all the people close to you share with  the people close to them?

Sorry, I had to step away for a second--someone was calling and calling, so I wanted to check voice mail to make sure it wasn't an emergency.

So where were we ...

a friend has been depressed for a long time now....not sure if it's months or years. He talk about falling deeper and deeper into a crater and recently said something like he'd thought about just not feeling anything. I don't think he'd take action and I know a lot of people - boyfriend and I included - who've had such a thought just as a way to feel relief. I am a bit lost for how to continue being a good friend. This person married someone, three years ago, who doesn't approve of his lifestyle and he constantly says his job is to keep her happy. She belittles his diet and says she doesn't like who he becomes when he eats healthy (even though he feels better). He's talked about taking a personal retreat and going somewhere to work on his stuff - but she doesn't want him to go away. (Even though married, they live 3 hours apart due to work and he does 98% of the commuting.) Do I just continue to listen? Do I politely say that he needs to take care of himself and if she doesn't like it that's her stuff to deal with? Do I tell him that she'll probably be more pissed if he's dead or in ill-health which will surely happen if he continues this way?

Since it's so late and since this has potentially serious consequences, I'm going to steer you to the NAMI help line, 1-800-950-NAMI.

I hope it's not overly simplifying, but no one seems to have brought up the practical suggestion of double-majoring. When my brother wanted to major in musical theater, my parents didn't bat an eye, but asked that he study something else as well. He chose business, and now he works in development for an opera house in a major city.

I didn't on purpose, perhaps wrongly--but the fact that he was struggling said to me, "Don't load him up with extra requirements." But I might have a flawed understanding of such requirements; certainly it varies with the school. Thanks.

No, no, no. There should be no discussion in the family of origin of your salaries, house payments, nothing. This will only lead to unwanted questions, unasked for "advice," and worst of all, requests for loans. The family will feel free to tell you how much money you waste, how differently you need to structure your finances, and generally fight with you about it. Tell them NOTHING!

That's your family, though. Not everyone's.

Thanks for taking my question. I appreciate what you said. I'm hesitant to consider letting her bring the baby because we're not even allowing family children there so it would be weird if her baby was there. Doubly so when we've got other friends with kids. It's a discussion I really don't want to have with other people. We had to draw the line somewhere. Plus we figured parents would be thrilled to have a night off anyway. I do very much want her there but I have to be fair to the other guests. I'm quickly learning that when I make one exception, (such as trying to have a small wedding party), people take that as a cue to push. I'll definitely try to work with her even going as far as to get childcare. I do want her there. But if she doesn't make it, I know it won't be the end of the world. I was just a little surprised by her add-on. It doesn't seem like her but she's a first time mom.

Disclosure, I had a no-kids wedding where a newborn was allowed, and no ruckus ensued. The people with kids are the ones -more- likely to get the newborn angle, not less.

That said, you're certainly entitled to draw the line where you feel comfortable drawing it, and I think doing so in a conversation with your friend about trying to accommodate her--i.e., having her baby there on site but not there at wedding or reception--is the way to show that you get it.


RE:Bangor ME...blame it on the guests, tell your friend that the rest of your guests are aware that no children are invited and people would be offended period! I've heard it and seen it and it's true, when one guests show up with a child I've seen other people with excluded children leave completely insulted and stunned. Also consider the fact that showing up to a wedding with a newborn could end up being tackier then the mother attempting to outshine the bride.

Yes to the first part, but the second ... well, my forehead tried to run for cover when it saw your second point. But the first is definitely a constructive way into the conversation, thanks.

Okay, enough, enough. Thank you everyone, have a great weekend and type to you here next week.

I don't know. It sounds like the brother may be willing to re-establish a relationship based on his email. If he were totally writing her off, why even email? If LW wants a relationship with him, why not email back and say "Thanks. We'd like to introduce you to baby when you're ready." or something like that. It sounds like the parents are dysfunctional and I hate to see her write off a family member. This was a tough original question, and LW did what was right for her and her husband, but she knew it would be tough on her brother. His reaction was understandable, and it looks like he's trying to start to fix it. And really, "not a peep from" her brother....except, oh wait, he did email, and you haven't responded, and you're over him? Frankly, LW does come across as selfish.

Oh gosh I totally forgot this thread. yes, I agree with your reading of the situation. I'll check the queue for a response from the LW, and I'll post whatever I find 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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