Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Friday, September 14)

Sep 14, 2012

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Carolyn was online Friday, September 14 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 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 had some trouble signing in, but it's sorted out now so here we go. Sorry for the delay.

Hi Carolyn, Not sure if you care or not, but I am the LW from 2 weeks ago who was befuddled at my parents request to return old furniture. While at their house over the weekend, I realized that my parents were offended at my request because they thought I should keep the furniture until it physically cannot be used anymore. When I, gently, suggested that they did not use the furniture until it physically could not be used anymore, they got very upset. They said that I should have to wait until I have kids who need furniture to get new things for myself. I told them that I didn't even know if I wanted kids or not and the furniture decision is already made and returned, so we should just drop it and enjoy the visit. Lesson learned: nothing is ever free. You pay for things one way or another.

I do care--and I'm sorry. I'm as befuddled as you are still. Was there any precedent for their thinking this way? Or, maybe more likely--was there precedent for their having something else they're concerned about, and their expressing it through some semi-made-up pretext like the furniture? For example, maybe they're concerned that you're living beyond your means, or rejecting their values, or whatever, and this is the way they've let that slip.

Not that it would be any business of theirs if you were, short of your washing up on their doorstep needing a place to live, but that would at least explain it.

Hi Carolyn, Thanks to you and the 'nuts for the advice last week.  We did end up finding a great new home.  The thing was, our checklists were actually nearly identical, but we just kept having different "gut feelings".  My husband never rejected my idea that I should have the last say; I actually hadn't presented that to him because I wasn't sure if it was fair, hence why I was running it by you.  Luckily in the end we didn't even have to go there.  And even more luckily, I'm married to a partner who doesn't believe he should decide with "his money" and doesn't threaten to stay away from home if he doesn't get his way.

Happier ending, thanks.

I couldn't disagree more with your answer. Is there any proof the stepdaughter is mentally ill? I see a 35 year old career woman who doesn't want to be encumbered with a kid and has found a willing and able accomplice to accomplish this goal. I do feel sorry for he boy, but more so for the elderly man who would like a little peace and quiet, not to mention time alone with his wife. If there are truly no other options, maybe -- but I find it very hard to believe this is the case.

Seriously? You think an unwanted 5-year-old, who has no say in his own care and the use of his own time, and whose emotional clay is right now being molded by the adults in his life, is better off than a grown man who didn't get exactly what he signed up for? I find that depressing.

The LW can get his peace and quiet, and his time alone with his wife, by working cooperatively as I suggested: "Then: 'I’d also like to draw some lines' — X days a week for sitting, Y weeks of the year for traveling, etc. — 'so that we’re supporting Stepdaughter vs. flat-out doing her job.'"

Whether that works depends  on the wife's willingness to make it work, of course, as well as the willingness of the mother to honor her responsibilities and other relatives to share the boy's care. But if none of them budges, neither I nor he nor you can make them, and then that little game of chicken turns into a 5-year-old spending more of his time around people who don't want him there, and that to me is unconscionable when there's a grandma who embraces him. 


In regards to today's LW, walking away is an acceptable option as well, correct? I understand that you want to put the needs of the child first, but if this guy really doesn't want that life, he should not be forced into it (and as an additional benefit, it gives Grandma more time with the child). And leaving would be far better than staying and complaining about it, right?

Sure, it would. But I think that's short-sighted.

Hi Carolyn, My boyfriend of 3 years and I have lived together for the past year. In that year, I have grown concerned for his mental health. He has been having many more intense blow-ups in which he starts by verbally attacking me, breaking-up with me, and then finishes by crying for my forgiveness. His father and grandfather have both been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. After these incidents, I ask him to consider speaking to a psychiatrist. Despite his many promises that he will, he still has not made any effort to reach out to a professional. This is beginning to take a serious toll on our relationship and I am not sure how to proceed. Do I seek help for myself on how to fix this or do I leave the situation completely? No End in Sight

Please call the NAMI Helpline: (800) 950-6264. It sounds as if you're in over your head.

Hey Carolyn, I am a 21 year old who works 2 jobs and goes to college. I have always had this dream to move to a big city and start off fresh. I always pushed it off due to the economy and my potential fears of being alone and broke. Well, my little sister (who is 18) told me she will be moving to CA in a year. There's my calling card to go with her, right? Well, my childhood sweetheart and I have been dating for 2 years now and we've gotten quite serious. Although I know I'm too young to even think about marriage or anything like that, I do see my future with him. Do I go with my sister and follow my dream/ fantasy or do I stay to be with the person I love? Is moving to a new city all that it's cracked up to be?

Please don't take such a binary view of it; going with your sister is not your Big Chance to move someplace new--it is merely -a- chance.

That said, I think you need to scratch this itch at some point--or, maybe I should say, call your own bluff--or else your not doing it will nag at you, maybe indefinitely. 

The most logical way to do this might be to start making your own plans right now, to include a real list of things to cross off before you go. For e.g.:

1. Finish college

2. Save x dollars

3. Work with your career office to identify top 3 locations and/or a list of employers that offer work in your field.

4. Either secure a job at one of them, or identify a location that hold promise for your kind of work and also has some enough-to-get-by type jobs to float you while you look.

Once you have that list, then talk about it with your boyfriend, but also keep the process going as a separate thing. If and when you get to the point that you're ready to relocate, then see how you feel about the relationship and make your decision. 

As for whether "moving to a new city all that it's cracked up to be?," you'll get different answers from different people, since sometimes, obviously, people love their new digs so much they never go back, and some give it a hard, lonely year and bail. There are too many variables  to say withany certainty whether it'll be a rewarding thing for you.

That said, I think any version of testing yourself and your dreams is worthwhile in terms of experience (i.e. not necessarily success  or happiness), as long as you do it responsibly and commit to making it work. 

I also don't think staying for someone at 21 is a good idea, but that's pure bias. Talking to him about it, too, will  tell you a lot; if he doesn't share your sense of adventure, then that's an important bit of information on your compatibility long term.

Dear Ms. Hax- I'm the single father of a 16-year-old son who happens to be gay. When my older (straight) son was his age, I talked to him about sex, adult material online, fantasy vs. reality, respect for his body and the bodies of others, etc. With my younger son, I'm at a loss. First, he's so much more mature than his brother was at that age, so I wonder if he even needs/wants advice, or if I'm the right person to give it. If I had a daughter, I might outsource this talk. But it seems different since he's a young man. Should I ask an adult, gay friend to check in with him? Or do I just man up and deal with the potential embarrassment for us both? Thanks for your time! Proud Dad

Way to go, Dad. Truly. 

For the long haul, PFLAG might be a good resource for you--and for this conversation, too, but I do think you're shying away from it unnecessarily. Specifically: How does homosexuality change anything about "sex, adult material online, fantasy vs. reality, respect for his body and the bodies of others, etc."? 

You've got more reason to think twice based on his being more mature than his brother was; and, in fact, you might be able to open the conversation with a statement along the lines of, "I had The Talks with your brother when he was 16, but your maturity has me wondering whether this is something you need or even want." 

The most important thing you can offer as a parent, you've already given him: You accept him for who he is, and you care.

hello carolyn, is it appropriate for a parent to pull aside a grown daughter and give her the heads-up that she is using the word "like" wayyyy too much? it sounds so unprofessional, at least to our ears, and is becoming a distraction in conversation. Her SO-- as wonderful as he is -- uses it excessively and it is rubbing off. They are highly educated and soon they will be interviewing for post graduate jobs and to be honest, this tic or whatever it is makes them sound not as bright and engaging as they really are. Would of course only say something to daughter, not our place to say anything re the SO. Maybe this is the way everyone in that age range talks these days and so no one cares? What to do?

Sadly, it depends on the temperament of the grown daughter. If she's grateful for contructive criticism, then go for it, and you don't even need to tiptoe into it. Arguably better if you don't.

If instead your daughter tends to the thin-skinned, defensive, grudge-holding end of the spectrum, then you'd be wise to let the marketplace cure her of this tic. It's just not a big enough deal to justify drama.


Thanks for taking my question (again). My parents to tend to be the passive-aggressive type in general, but this is the first time it has been directed towards me. As for living beyond my means, that may certainly play a role. Although I am smart about my money and save wisely, I know they would see the money that I spent towards furniture would be better invested in a down payment for a home. They pushed the investment value of home ownership pretty hard over the weekend, and it was clear that they thought I was allocating my money foolishly. I do have savings earmarked towards owning a home at some point, but my job has indicated I might be up for a transfer and promotion within the next year to 18 months, so I am reluctant to buy a home now.

That's probably it, then. 

I suspect you've avoided being on the receiving end of their manipulation tactics by always doing pretty much as they've hoped or expected. Sound right? If so, it's great that you continue to feel comfortable following your own path in spite of their disapproval, because there's bound to be more as you grow progessively more secure in you adulthood and individuate in areas beyond home decor. I doubt they'll change their spots and start speaking their minds directly, but I do hope they get somewhat used to the idea of your running things your way.

This may be a wild guess, but it sounds like the real source of concern is that the OP is moving along with his life and has not yet shown signs of marriage and kids (GRANDKIDS!). I've seen that reaction before-- some parents don't want their kids to "set up housekeeping" until they are married and "established." By setting up without the spouse and children (or potential children), it looks like they are worried that their child will never get married and never give them grandchildren. I had a friend when we were in our 20s who's mother had a similar reaction when she bought a set of dishes for her new apartment. "Why do you need those? Just use the odds and ends you have. When you get married, you'll get new dishes as a shower gift!" Sigh.

Oh, right. That. Certainly a possibility, thanks.

Oh, have the talk; the kid has to have SOMEthing to roll his eyes about, now and when he's older!

You say that as if there's ever a shortage.

No one actually wants to have this conversation with their parents! Still needs to happen, though.

Excellent point.

My SAHD husband has decided that our 16 year old son should be doing more at home. I agree. The problem I foresee is that my SAHD husband does very little around the house (I am not exaggerating; he regularly takes our daughter to and from school and the two cars in for regular maintenance. Anything else is irregular, and done only when he feels like it or there is no other alternative, like I'm away for work.) If I'm being generous, I'd say that he does 20% of what needs doing around here. This is its own issue, but I know that as soon as Dad asks Son to do X & Y, when X & Y is more than Dad does in a couple of weeks, Son is going to rebel at being asked to do more than Dad is doing. Son can legitimately claim that he also has school and homework on top of X&Y while Dad does not. I have suggested to my husband that Son will be far more cooperative if Son sees that Dad is also contributing. Dad huffed that I don't appreciate what he does (I wish I had more to appreciate!) and that Son should just do what he is told to do, end of story. I do not see a good way to handle this and I'm dreading the fights that I know are coming.

"Okay, maybe I wasn't being fair about what you do around the house. But kids notice this stuff like it's their job, so before we give him more responsibilities, let's at least be clear about ours." Then, as an exercise in child-rearing, you and your husb list what needs to be done around the house, figure out who currently does what, and re-allocate those chores as needed to you, your husband, your son and your daughter. Deal?

And if/when your son challenges you on the fairness of it, remind him that he's part of the family and everyone has a role. If/when he singles out Dad for not pulling his weight, you get to ask: "Do you think it's right of him to do less than his share?" Presumably he'll say no. Then you get to say: "Okay--then do the right thing and don't do less than your share."

There will be those who say you have standing to say, "This is our house and you do as your told," and in fact you do--but I suggest you don't go that way. The authoritarian parenting model has its advantages and the negotiation model its flaws here, but going authoritarian on a kid who's already 16 and when at least one parent's  footing on the high ground might be shaky? Low success rate, high eye-roll/alienation rate.


My fiance and are struggling with a question we are lucky to have: he has two excellent, but very different, job offers and can't figure out which one to take. This is exposing a major rift in what we want our shared life to look like. One offer has great pay, a great environment, but would require a move to a new city away from our very close network of friends and has kind of boring work. The other job pays less (although still enough) and is very sexy, with exciting work, but it has an extremely demanding lifestyle that would require late nights and traveling Monday through Thursday. He wants to take the sexy job because he thinks he would find the work more interesting. I want him to take the other job due to lifestyle issues. This disagreement is exposing a major rift in what we want our lives to look like, and we are getting married in 3 weeks. How can we communicate about this in a productive and not manipulative way? I know it's his decision but it hurts to think he is choosing a job over me.

Well, if it helps, you're choosing yourself over his professional fulfillment. So, you're both choosing yourselves over the other, which makes framing it as "he is choosing a job over me" only partially accurate.

Another thing: If you're both set in your preferences, then you can communicate in Esperanto, smoke signals or interpretive dance, and it won't make a bit of difference: You want what you want, he wants what he wants. 

That actually might be your way into a different mode of thinking, though: Instead of looking at it as "He wants this" (sexy work) and "I want this" (time with my new husband), try re-casting it first as what each of you doesn't want, and again as the way each of you benefits from the other's 1st choice. 

So, his don't want--"boring work"--and your don't want--"alone from mon-thurs."

And his benefit from your way--"more money, less travel"--and your benefit from his way: you don't move away from "our very close network of friends."

Another thing to consider is that both of these are unknowns; you don't know how each job will turn out, you both just have an idea--and you're digging in hard based solely on speculation. Often in these cases it makes sense to choose the one that involves the least dramatic change of life, because that's the one that will be easier to undo if reality doesn't match expectations. In this case that would mean the sexy job that you don't relocate for.

These are just a bunch of different approach angles. I can't really advise here, except to say that it's not a good idea for either of you to dig in on this. Life is long, and ideally your marriage will be, too.




Hi Carolyn, love your advice - you're my go to. Getting married in 3 weeks (yay-eek-yay!). Future MIL had a dress made for me in another country. So so sweet. However - it doesn't fit, and I feel that I look like a sausage in it. Took it to a dress maker/alterations specialist - she said she'd have to take it apart and remake it for my body in order for it to fit, can't guarantee it will look good. I don't want to go through all of that trouble with a million other things to do. I also don't want to hurt MIL feelings. This is a great time to exercise some honesty, but I'm having a hard time gathering my cojones to do so. Can you give me a quick phrase that I could approach her with, let her know I've decided to use my back-up dress, without ragging on the hand-made dress? Thanks!!

Just say it doesn't fit, and you even took it to a dressmaker to see what can be done--no luck. Say you've dreaded telling her because you think the dress and gesture were both beautiful, and wish you could honor that somehow. 

I've been married 13 yrs. I've been miserable for 5. It's all been downhill and got worse this past May when my husband spanked my son very very hard & left marks. I told him it could never happen again & I was yelled at. He moved to the basement - we were already sleeping separately since he snores & would not take action for it so I was in spare bedroom. I know I need counseling. We've been for issues with my son before (ADHD) & he refuses to do anything the Dr suggested. Now... my son seems stressed all the time. He gets yelled at a lot. He's in a program for reading/math and does that in addition to his homework (he's in 2nd grade) & baseball. I'm miserable. I feel like a horrible mother. I can't see a way out. It's that "stay together for the kids" thing yet what good is it if I'm miserable, hate my husband, and my kids don't seem happy. Is counseling enough?

No, but an important place for you to start is to find a good therapist for your son, one who can also counsel you, and one who can also address the ADHD piece. Your little boy needs a safe place and you need someone to help you stay focused on giving him that safe place. Once he has a rapport with this therapist, and you have a source of steady and reliable guidance, then you'll be in a stronger position to deal with your marriage, which doesn't sound like the kind you stay in for anyone's benefit, much less a child's.

Hitting hard enough to leave marks sounds like child abuse to me, and certainly yelling "all the time" is emotional abuse, which makes the securing of a therapist that much more important. Therapists are mandated reporters, so whatever rises to the legal definition of abuse will be handled through the established channels. Please don't be scared off by that--the procedure exists so the kids who need help will get it.

To find this therapist, your pediatrician and school counselor/psychologist are two good places to start, and yo ucan also call Childhelp, 1-800-4-A-CHILD. 


Unfortunately, Carolyn is having some problems with her internet connection at the moment.  She hopes to be up and running again in just a bit though, so please stick with us.

Sorry for yet another delay--this time my WiFi needed a reboot. I think it just wanted attention. 

I have a smother mother. She's only been this way recently. I've never been in trouble or do bad things. She has to know where I am at all times. I'm afraid if I don't answer her call, she'll come and see if I'm home. Is there any information that I can give her that will tell her that I need space?

Sounds like she has developed anxiety. Anything else going on in her life?

To answer your specific question, the information you give her is that you're an adult, and suddenly going back to reporting your whereabouts like a 14-year-old is an odd request--so, what's going on with her to prompt her to ask this of you, when she has never needed such reassurances before? 

We recently wrote our will, and named our best friends as guardians of our children. We told our parents, just as an FYI. They already know and are familiar with our friends, including regularly seeing them on holidays, ect. They have no problem with this choice. However, my MIL has flipped out about one point: She wants us to amend our will like some kind of custody agreement, to specifically state that the grandparents will have visitation rights, and that it must be at least x times per year, x number of overnights, x holidays, ect, ect. It's not enough for us and our friends to state that of course they will still be involved in their grandkids' lives, she wants it spelled out and somehow legally binding. She once actually said "Then if they don't do it, I can sue them." We are not going to make any such amendment, and we cannot get her to back off on harping at us about it. It's getting to the point where I don't want to answer her calls, much less be around her, because it inevitably comes up and the haranguing starts again. We just did this again last weekend, and actually ended up leaving early. What to do? Frustrated

I'm not a big fan of rewarding crazy, but why don't you just amend the will? 

After all, it's not an irrational fear she has (she's just acting on it irrationally).

Hi Carolyn: At what point is it ok to give up your career? I'm a 30-something lawyer, and sometimes I feel like I'd rather wait tables. I honestly never really wanted this career; but my family expected me to take this path, so I did. Now, I'm considering quitting my practice and returning to school. I'm concerned about the costs in terms of missed earnings and the actual costs of another degree. On the other hand, I believe my happiness has value too. Is it immature for me to want to quit? Should I just suck it up?

No, of course not--but you should have a very, very clear plan for your next career (and a Plan B to that plan) before you quit.  

Carolyn, how do you convey to people that being their therapist and support line is taking a toll on you, and that you need some space? I'm traditionally the more "mature" of my siblings, so my parents often come to me to discuss fights, health issues, etc. My girlfriend is going through some challenges of her own and often leans on me about things, as do her friends. Even at work, I've had people tell me that I'm the only one on my project they "can trust." It's flattering in its own way, but it's also exhausting! How do I tell people that I need to be more selfish for my own sanity without sounding, well, selfish?

First of all, you stop calling it "selfish" to want more say in the way you use your time. People who want you not to have boundaries will call you selfish, but they'll be saying that just to get what they want and not because they're right.

Then, you start stepping back on a case-by-case basis. When one of your parents calls to discuss a health issue, for example, you express sympathy, and then deflect any more detailed talk about it--"I really don't know a whole lot about [ailment in question]; your doctor's the one to ask." And when the pushback comes, something like, "I have to make an appointment and that costs me 100 bucks," you're ready with, "Yeah, I get that, I'm sorry, I don't know what to tell you." Then, "I'm sure you'll handle it the right way--how about those Red Sox ..." though this year that could make a person sicker.

With fights,the path out is even more direct: "I don't think I should get involved in this, because I wasn't there, but I'm confident you'll make the right decision." 

The key to your reponse is to think first about why you shouldn't be involved, and next about who should be. So, "I'm not a doctor/ask your doc," or, "I wasn't there/talk to the person who was," or, "I'm not comfortable talking about this without Colleague 2 here/maybe you need to talk to Colleague 2 to talk about your differences." Etc.

It'll feel weird at first, but you'll all get used to it eventually. PLus, when you do feel genuinely needed or interested, you can stick around on the topic as long as you want.  

Hi Carolyn, I cannot get my mom to stop badmouthing my dad (divorced for years but the animosity between them is still very bad) in front of my 7-, 5-, and 2-year-old children. I have asked nicely, I have pleaded with her, and I have resorted to desperation tactics like covering her mouth with my hand when she starts on a rant. But because we all live in the same home (and sometimes they are alone with her), I know I can never completely eliminate the problem. How do I protect the kids from hearing negative things about their grandpa every single day?

You can't, not unless you're willing/able to move out.

One more thing you can try on the silencing-Grandma front is to point out to her what is coming for her if she keeps this up: Instead of  driving the kids away from Grandpa, she's ultimately going to drive the kids away from her. That's the most common outcome when someone lays on the negativity lik this--it backfires, and makes the target of her wrath look good by comparison.

Not that I expect this to be The Thing that changes her ways; she's probably beyond that. It's just to cover all of your persuasion bases before you move on to this:

Talk to your kids. Explain to them that you love Grandpa, you think he's a good person, though not perfect of course, and Grandma is angry at him and won't change her mind. Say it enough times so that you can cue them when Grandma starts ranting--an, "Ooh, there goes Grandma again"-type comment that will pretty well neutralize whatever your mom is saying.

The kids will make up their own minds--and, too, they're going to ask questions as they get older. Be ready to explain, on a fair, respectful yet kid-friendly level, why Grandma is so angry and why you've chosen not to respond to him the same way. 


Dear Carolyn, I have a friend whose one-upper tendencies were bad before, but have gotten UNBEARABLE since we both had children. Whenever a group of us are talking about our kids (mostly challenges we've had and solutions that have worked, a really humble and helpful tone generally), this friend can only brag about how 3-year-old "Sophie" is so brilliant, so advanced, so unlike the other children at her preschool, always shocking her parents with her first- and second-grade skills. Carolyn, I've met Sophia, and she is average. A cute and definitely sweet little girl, but no more so than any other child her age, and CERTAINLY not doing anything on a second-grade level. In fact, she is far less verbal than average for a girl at 3, despite her mom's always sharing anecdotes that make her sound like an oratory genius. Maybe this is pure spite on my part, but I really feel like I'm going to burst if I don't put Sophie's mom in her place the next time this comes up. Is there a better way to put an end to this? I know how hurt I would feel if someone insulted my children; it's not my wish to make her feel this way, but it seems wrong to let her live in obnoxious delusion, too.

Poor Sophie.

Humor and hyperbole might be the only rational response: "yes, well, Homer impressed us all with his rendering of the Sistine Chapel in his playroom." Then a soft chuck in the shoulder for your braggy friend, and a new topic of conversation. 

In other words, pointing out the reality of Sophie is the -last- thing you want to do, because, as you've almost come around to seeing, this has nothing to do with Sophie. This is all about your friend and her gaping insecurities. So, the message you want to send is a playful "Oh brother there you go again but I love you anyway." Assuming it hasn't gotten to the point where you no longer do.


Carolyn, Any thoughts on how to help a friend through someone else's crisis? A dear friend just found out her brother is dying from cancer. The friend and brother are young, so this is quite a horrible surprise. The friend lives in my city. The brother is long distance. I don't know the brother. Any ideas on how I can be of the most use to my friend as she tries to support her brother and cope with his diagnosis herself? Thank you!

Oh, so sad. Maybe the best thing you can do is expect and accept that she will be erratic during this time--her feelings and moods will be jagged, her ability to be your friend will be all over the place, she will overreact to X and underreact to Y, etc. If you can be a patient, soft place for her, then you will be of enormous value.

Another great thing to do is just call. If you normally talk every day, then just keep up your normal pace (you'dbe  surprised at how many people grown uncomfotable and tongue-tied and just drift away). If you normally talk once a week, make a point of calling twice a week. Kick monthly up to weekly, etc. There is a bottomless supply of comfort in the knowledge that someone gives a [ ].

On a more practical note, you can do things like watch her home when she travels to see him; keep an eye on ticket prices to help her find times to go; pick up a few chores of hers that will lighten her load, etc. As grieving people report so often, it's more helpful when people offer tangible things to which they can respond "Yes" or "no," vs coming up with an answer to an open-ended, "If there's anything I can do ...." 

To the unhappy lawyer, there are so many employment options available to someone with a law degree besides the actual practice of law! I am a third year law student now, and I am exploring many of these options myself. A very close friend who graduated three years ahead of me practiced law for one year, hated it, and now has a great job at the headquarters of a non-profit that designs and puts on obstacle courses throughout the country. While she doesn't technically work as a lawyer anymore, she still makes a comprable income and her new employers truly value her education, experience, and legal knowledge. Be sure to exhaust all of your employment options before throwing in the towel and going back to school!

Sold, thanks.

Your son may have a lot of information, but he also needs YOUR perspective. You're his father and whether it appears that way or nor, you are his primary source of information and self-esteem. The fact that you're having The Talk with him, even though you're not gay, will solidify his knowledge that you are not in turmoil about his sexuality. BTW, normally I wouldn't recommend something from a TV show, The Talk on Glee between Kurt and hid Dad was a really great model.

I almost forgot to post this--a lot of you brought up the "Glee" episode, so, here tis. Thanks.

I know that this wasn't really the question, but it seems like an underlying issue. What's the point of the husband staying at home if he isn't keeping the household running? Doesn't sound like a great division of labor for the working wife/mom. Besides some kid shuttling, what does he do all day? Maybe if all the chores are listed out and assigned on paper, the husband will see how little he's been doing.

Exactly what I was angling for, thx.

Might be worth suggesting that the bigger problem here is LW's barely concealed (and perhaps justified) contempt for her husband. The kids are watching all of this play out, not just the parts you want them to be watching. I remember myself at 16, and my parents' obviously highly dysfunctional marriage and their inability to do anything about it played a large part in my disregard for anything they had to say about anything.

And, this. 

I don't have advice on whether to mention it to her, but I can maybe offer some comfort for their worries about job interviews, etc. I take from the tone and the fact that they like their daughter's SO, that they've got a good, comfy relationship with their daughter. When she's with them, she uses her comfy, at home, no worries about judgement language. If she is as smart and educated as they say, then when she's interviewed she'll "code switch"--change her speech and behavior style based on the formality of the situation. I grew up in California, and I use "like" (sometimes way too much) but I didn't in interviews. Just like students speak differently to teachers, friends' parents, etc. than they do to their friends, I'm sure her daughter has the sense to behave differently in a different situation. Her parents may just have not had the chance to see her in action and may have forgotton that all they see is her "comfy" side.

She might, she might not, but it's a strong possibility--especially if she read social situations well. Thanks.

Pushing out a few more reponses before I go--I let them pile up.

I would start by contacting your local bar association, which may have a committee, or at least a point person, for lawyers in nontraditional careers. You may also want to contact your law school's alumni association and career services office. Your law degree is a valuable commodity (though newer degrees are certainly less so these days), and although you dislike your current practice, there are so many different manifestations of both (1) the practice of law; and (2) non-practice employment for attorneys, that it is worth first inquiring into the "spin off" possibilities before scratching anything and everything law-related off your list.

I like the specifics of this, thanks.

We also have friends who would be the guardians for our children. No way would we repay our friends' kindness by setting them up to be sued. No way would we presume to dictate their schedule in the crazy aftermath of adding our children to their families. What I would communicate to the ILs is that in the highly unlikely event of both parents dying, you hope they would trust their children's guardians to do the best for those children, which would include maintaining their relationship with beloved family members.

Apparently they've tried that, though, and MIL won't let it drop. This, if true, might do the trick though:

I am not a (family) lawyer, but you can't mandate visitation in your will, or even guardianship, for that matter. Kids are not property to be left in wills. Their custody and visitation would be decided by the family court, which I'm sure would consider the deceased parents' wishes, but you can't make those wishes legally enforceable. The fact that the mother is so concerned about the extremely unlikely event that both the parents will die and feels a need to dictate in advance the terms of the relationship with the new guardians suggests some major control/anxiety issues.

Seems to cover it, though it lacks the authority of an anonymous Internet self-proclaimed family lawyer :D


Okeydokey, need to go now. Thanks everybody for stopping by, have a swell weekend, and, like, 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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