The Universal Don't Ask List: Carolyn Hax Live: (Friday, September 6)

Sep 06, 2013

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 6, 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 forum, home of the Hax-Philes and Hax fans. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hi everybody, happy Friday.

Dear Carolyn, Any suggestions for explaining to a 7-year-old why I don't give change to every panhandler who asks for it? I walk her to school through an urban area and have already deflected her questions about this more times than I care to admit.

"I think there are better ways to help people than to give them spare change. For example, I give money to groups that help homeless people." Then do--have her watch you do it. Even better, encourage her to go through her toys, books and clothing to see if there's anything she has outgrown and can donate. If you can up that to volunteering at a shelter, even even better. Just not as a token on a holiday; that creates more problems for shelters than help.

If she asks more questions--like the obvious one, "why?"--you can say that spare change might help solve an immediate problem, like an empty stomach, but that a good charity will help solve problems longer-term. 

How much is too little to visit a parent in assisted living? My sister thinks my two days a week visits to my 80-year-old, fairly healthy for 80, father isn't enough. I am the only child within regular visiting status. I get his groceries and the like, pay his bills, take him to doctor appointments and visit after work twice a week.

"With all due respect, I'm the one here doing all these things. I'd appreciate support, not criticism."

It takes serious chutzpah for your sister to be in your grill. 

How do people tell their friends that they are interested in them romantically? Or maybe even in love with them? There's never been a topic I couldn't bring up with my roommate and best friend - on the day we met I knew he was someone I could trust and we've been inseparable since. He singlehandedly got me through my divorce and is one of the very very few safe and calming things in my life. Making things more confusing for me is the fact that I've never dated really, I married my first boyfriend/high school sweetheart. He's not exactly experienced either. I have absolutely no clue if my feelings are returned, or how to choose the words or timing of this confession. It's taken me a month of dwelling on it before I even came to the conclusion I should say something at all. How do people know how to do this?

They don't! Which is why so many people end up just blurting it out. I highly recommend it. The most important thing you can bring to your revelation isn't a perfect delivery, whatever that is, but instead a sense of calm that if it doesn't go your way, you can square your shoulders and get through the weird spell immediately afterward. Good luck.

Hi Carolyn, My spouse "friended" an old flame on Facebook some months ago. When I said I felt uncomfortable with this, I was told that they are just friends and not to worry. We've actually had several emotional discussions about this since, but nothing has changed. Now when I see that the friend has "liked" or commented (which is often), I feel increasingly uneasy. Am I being unreasonable? How can I just let it go?

Dunno. This can be a problem because it really is, or because you think it is, and I don't have enough information to tell which is true.

So, I can only advise you to pay careful attention to the context. Has Spouse started behaving differently? Does Spouse have a history of crossing lines, wih this ex or with anyone else? Or, do you have a history of being jealous and/or feeling threatened when a partner has any friend at all who could also be a romantic rival? (Right age range, gender, access and compatibilty.)

Some old flames are harmless and some aren't, so it's essential not to go into this with any preconceived notions. If you do have one--that old flame + social media = boom--then you're not going to be able to see clearly what's really going on. It'll all be warped by your lens, so you'll be upset over somethign harmless and then have no leverage when something is actually harmful (because you'll have cried wolf too many times).

I guess it comes down to, why were you instantly uncomfortable?

My mom wants to come to our home in a month when I have our second child. She's asked many times, and each time, I say "no thanks, we've got it covered." The truth is, my MIL is coming and I don't have the heart to tell my mom. With our first kid, she came and was zero help. I love her, but she was a huge burden, and I don't know if I should tell her this is why she is not invited this time around--not that she's asked why. This is likely her last grandchild, and I feel terrible for denying her the experience, but she is coming for Thanksgiving and will see the kids then when we've got a better handle on things. I would love some help, but that's not what she does when she visits. She doesn't know how to run the washing machine or dishwasher, doesn't drive, or know how to use the computer. She depends on us for everything when she visits. Also, she never changed my first kid's diaper or prepared a bottle. She waited for me to make it, hand it and the baby to her, then handed them all right back when she was done. I am not up for it this time around. She seems hurt when I say I don't want her to come. Should I just tell her no and finally say why? If I'm really honest, part of me wants her to know I feel this way, even though it will hurt her feelings.

Do you have any reason to believe she'd be helpful with your older child while you tend to the newborn? That could be a game-changer.

My wife and I have been married for several years now, and we've managed to keep a pretty stable, happy relationship. In an age where more than half of our friends have already had divorces, to say I'm grateful is an understatement. We've had our fair share of squabbles, but this is actually starting to strain our relationship. My wife (and I, as well) has never watched a particularly unhealthy amount of television. In fact, we've often talked about cancelling our cable subscription to save the extra money every month. Recently though, in the past few weeks, she's been watching a lot of reality shows, talk shows, and other simple entertainment. Not just an hour or two every other night; she spends five, six, sometimes seven or more hours in front of the TV. When I ask for help cooking dinner for our two young children, or help with cleanup for bedtime, the usual response is "I'll be there in a minute," followed by her continuing to stare at the TV. I don't mind the fact that she's watching these shows, but I've talked to her about the amount of time she spends and she hasn't cut back at all. I understand that we all need time to ourselves (and I think it's absolutely vital to a healthy relationship), and I don't want to sound like a bossy husband, but I don't know how to approach this.

I just answered this, more or less, in this column (link). Just swap out gaming for reality TV.

There are two differences that are important enough to spell out: 1. In the linked column the spouse responded with anger, vs the empty "Be there in a minute ..."; and the spouse in that column also was a repeat offender.

Both of these mean you're far from the, "That's it, I'm finished," single-parent line, which, obviously, is a strong point in your favor.  A depression screening makes sense in both cases, but particularly here, given the degree of the behavior change.


Hi Carolyn, Tonight's the night I tell my girlfriend of 3 years that I'm not ready to get married (she is), even though that means we will be spending the next year or so in a long-distance situation without the level of commitment she is looking for. I want to stay together, but she has told me very clearly that she's ready to go to the next level. Do you have any suggestions for me?

Sure. I suggest you compose a paragraph or two to explain to me (us) why you like her enough not to want to break up but not enough to marry her. Starting with how old you both are. Go.

Whenever I bring up a concern I have over a female friend of my boyfriend's, he automatically assumes that I want him to just stop being friends with that woman. Whenever I bring up these concerns I tell him I'm uncomfortable about it and I want to talk about it. I've never said, "Don't be friends with X." or "I don't like you being friends with Y." It's always, "I feel uncomfortable with the way you treat X, can we talk about it?" I've never asked him to stop being friends with someone and I never will. What do I do about this situation?

1. How often do you have concerns, and are they all similar ("the way you treat X") but with different people?

2. How often do you have a hard time initiating an actual conversation because he shuts it down with a jump to a black-and-white, discussion-ending assumption--is it just over female friends, or does it happen with other stuff too?

Trying to figure out if he's a mule in general, or is it just over this--and if it's just over this, is that because he crosses lines with other women often, or because you're on him about it constantly when he hasn't done anything wrong, and his way of dealing with that has been to shut down the topic entirely. 


Hi Carolyn, I just found out that I am expecting twins and I am already overwhelmed by trying to find good information on healthy twin pregnancy and birth. Not to mentioned feeling overwhelmed about the prospect of two infants at once! As someone who's been there do you have any must read books or resources? Thanks!

Congratulations! I didn't find any book that was particularly helpful. What I found most useful was figuring out that two crying babies aren't exponentially harder than one, they're arithmetically harder. As in, if it takes five minutes to calm one crying child, then it'll take 10 to calm crying twins. You calm the one who is (or you judge will be) easier to calm, then you move to the next one. You change one, then change the other. Plod, plod, plod.

The best thing you can do is line up any helping hands who are willing or affordable, and clear your schedule as much as you can to leave yourself time to get things done. It's feeling that you have to get things done in a hurry that unravels it all. 

Nutterati, if you can recommend any books, have at it. Thanks.

My SO is chronically late (it's a running joke among his family, who are also very lax about time), and it irritates me to no end. I have tried talking to him about it from every angle, and his answer is to avoid committing to specific plans with me anymore because he doesn't want to make me angry by being late. We've been together 2.5 years, so this has been a source of mounting frustration for quite a long time. Any thoughts or suggestions? It's the main(/only) thing we fight about, and I want to focus on fixing it ASAP.

I'm sure you do.

But you're up to your neck in proof that he won't change a thing and doesn't want to.

So--do you want him as-is* or not at all? Those are your two choices. I'm sorry.

*As-is means getting to the point of acceptance where you no longer respond with anger. You either develop tricks to work around his tardiness, or proceed with your plans without him when he's late, or whatever else, as long as it isn't standing there steaming till he shows up. Angry at someone for being exactly who he has always been is no way to go through life. 

I do not join groups. I HATE groups. The Parents of Multiples got me through my multiple pregancy. It is truly, truly a BTDT situation. They are incredible parents and are still my friends. No one else can sympathize quite the way they can. Plus they have awesom garage sales!

Of course, how quickly I forget. Many recommended the same group to me, but I never dragged myself to a meeting. Interesting idea to go while pregnant, since then you make the personal connections before your little boat hits the rapids. 

Maybe not, but I think marrying your high school sweetheart and then going right to "loving" the friend who "singlehandedly got [her] through [her] divorce" should give her pause as to whether she shouldn't step back and get to know herself first.

Of course, I read right past that--thanks.

I don't believe that for a minute. (This is the husband whose wife is checking out via the TV several hours a day.) Based on his comments, he obviously thinks that TV -- and particularly the shows his wife is watching -- is a waste of time. I think he would have a legitimate complaint even if she was using the time to play tennis, or read Proust, or do quilting. But he needs to address the time suck, not the specific activity or he is indeed a "bossy husband."

Right you are, thx.

I jumped to tennis, Proust and quilting all at once. Interesting mental image.


I get that you are answering spouse's question. But if being facebook friends with an ex makes your current spouse uncomfortable, then why wouldn't you drop them like a hot patato? If the ex is that important to you, then all the more reason to stop "liking" them.

That's assuming "current spouse" hasn't sounded the alarm at every eyelash-bat for the past seven years. The context really is everything. 

You are suggesting they just blurt out to their roommate that they love them? That seems like it could get real messy, real fast. Maybe move out first?

In a reality show, it gets messy, in a sitcom, it gets forced-laugh funny, in a romantic comedy, it gets them together in the end, and in real life, it depends on how mature they are about it. Moving out is a tedious, laborious and expensive undertaking, and I can't imagine anyone doing it who hasn't exhaused other possibilities. For example, that the feelings are mutual. I still say blurt it and mop up as needed. (Which sounds kind of gross for some reason.)  

Hi Carolyn - Submitting early in the hope you'll have time to think about this one. Just found out wife is pregnant, after about a year of trying. But suddenly she doesn't want the baby and is very depressed about it. I think maybe she thought it wouldn't happen, but that we needed to say we tried to shrug off any parental/social circle guilt. All of our parent-friends that we've spoken to have claimed that this is normal and of course you'll love the kid once it's here. But honestly what else can they say, that they resent their kids? I just want her to be happy again and I support whatever choice needs to be made, and that we'll do it together. Is there anything else I can do?

Yes--get her into very good counseling with someone who is qualified to deal with the possible medical aspect of her state of mind (pregnancy-related depression isn't just for post-partum) and also help you both with your options, since all of them--I assume they include abortion, adoption, keeping the child--create very different emotional challenges for each of you. 

I'm not sure if you're speaking knowledgeably or projecting, but just that you think she was capable of trying to get pregnant--actually, trying to fail to get pregnant--merely to quiet her societal critics says her emotional state wasn't healthy going into this. Her gynecologist is a good person to ask for a referral. Don't rule out talking to someone yourself. This is big stuff for an "I just want ..." solution.

I am starting a new relationship with a woman I am excited about. One problem that I am not eager to address is that within the past few years, I broke off an engagement to a woman who was, at times, abusive. I feel like I would not be dating unless I was over this ex, but I am apprehensive about how this new person might feel about this part of my past. If I were her, for example, I might wonder about a person who breaks off an engagement or about a person who was with an abusive person. Any suggestions on how to broach the subject?

The right person for you will not only roll with your past, but also be grateful to you for sharing it.

That's why my advice isn't going to be about ways to broach the subject, but about choosing people who won't leave you feeling as if you have to broach certain topics just-so.

Look for someone who listens, who is comfortable in her own skin and with her own failings, and who doesn't trot out a bunch of rigid ideas about how things are "supposed" to be. It can be on any topic; people who are set and certain in their ways usually can't wait to let others know this.

So, be patient with this woman you're excited about. Find out who she is. Then, when you get to the point where you -want- her to know this about you, then trust that and share. 

Even if the worst happens and she judges you harshly for it, then you'll at least have learned this isn't the right woman for you--and it's still better to find out via Band-aid rip than slowly, incrementally, and after you've committed to each other. 

Hi Carolyn! My bf and I get along great, but sometimes we have 1 completely different views on things. For example, I'm ok with doing things alone, anywhere. He feels that if we go somewhere together we SHOULD spend every second together and he thinks it's shady that I don't feel that way. On the other hand, I feel like every so often if I ask him where he is, he can tell me. He doesn't like texting when he lands at an airport somewhere, he thinks it's crazy behavior on my part. For the record, his last relationship which was his marriage ended in divorce a few years ago. My last relationship ended because my ex cheated a couple years ago. I am in therapy to work out issues from that. PS- enjoying the Spanish dates at the bottom of each Q.

So, he thinks it's "shady" for you to move about freely, but "crazy" if you want to know where he is?

Aside from the fact that I regard being called "shady" a breakup offense, this sounds like a potentially dangerous pairing of a controlling, insecure person with a self-doubting one. Please read this (link) and proceed with caution. 

I got married at 23 and divorced at 28. Now 30, and would love to get married again someday, but I find myself terrified at making the same mistakes again (despite therapy). Are there any questions in particular you think are helpful to ask oneself to determine how you know someone would be a better husband than the first husband? One thing I've noticed is that my first husband and I had a great friendship, but I didn't realize until future relationships how stagnant our sex life was. Now I have a lovely, kind boyfriend and a great sex life, but the conversation aspect is good but not as fulfilling as my first husband. How does one ever know where to draw lines?

Save marriage for when you've found your favorite person to spend time with, and it's mutual, and it remains true past your peak of attraction. 

Dear Carolyn, There's a woman who lives in my apartment building who is, not just morbidly obese (because who isn't nowadays), but so obese that one almost can't help but at least glance at her when she's nearby. The other day, she caught my eye when I looked in her direction (I honestly didn't mean to stare, I just saw her peripherally and looked over), and the next morning I had a note from her in my mailbox accusing me of cruelty and being insensitive toward her incredible struggle as an overweight person. Were I to write a letter back (I'm undecided, but considering it), what do you think it should say?

"Would you like to come over for coffee?" I imagine she could use a friend. 

Dear Carolyn, My husband is just about the best dad to our young children that anyone could hope for. He makes lots of time for them, shares equally in parenting duties, is gentle and patient and playful and full of love. The problem is both children (1.5 and 4) are tied to me at the hip. The older one especially has tons of separation anxiety linked almost exclusively to me (when I go to work, when I go out at all, when I leave her bedroom at night) and will often refuse to do things just with her Dad. The younger one is now also getting very clingy with me and will push him away. He is hurt by this - of course - and to his credit doesn't let it affect his parenting, but I'm running out of ways to handle it short of pushing the older kid to be kinder to him and short of telling him that one day they'll certainly go through a phase of rejecting me for him. Any thoughts?

One day they'll certainly go through a phase of rejecting you for him.

One thing you can do in the meantime is make sure you're as steady a parent as he is, and the two of you are as consistent as possible. Obviously I don't know how you are with your kids, but while kids naturally lean toward one parent for a while and then the other, they also seek out and exploit differences. It's worth at least paying attention to the way you act before you leave the house/the room, and comparing it to his way, to see if there's something you can tweak.

Thanks for taking my question. To respond to your first question, I'm 31, she's 29. She is a wonderful girlfriend. Attractive, supportive, a good complement to my personality. I have never questioned that she would make a great wife someday. The problem is the timing. As I indicated originally, we will be long-distance starting on Sunday. I left my consulting job to start business school in Phoenix this year. We are both from Seattle, and she will return there this weekend. In addition to worrying about the stresses of being long-distance, I don't like the idea of trying to focus on marriage and school at the same time. Finances and time will both be tight. If we were to get engaged, she would have to plan our wedding more or less by herself. She plans to try to find a job in Phoenix next year so that we can be together, but now says she worries about doing that without taking the next step (engagement/marriage). I was hoping to have her continued support to help me with school, and that is what I plan to ask for at dinner tonight, but I already know (from the many conversations we have had about this) that it won't go over well. Does that help? Thanks again.

Ugh. yes, it helps.

You don't trust each other. That's what it sounds like to me. If you trusted each other, and really saw your lives as happening together because you'd want it no other way, then you'd be at the courthouse this afternoon instead of typing to me. The problem is never timing, not for fully adult people who have had three years to get to know each other.

Good marriages have a feeling of inevitability to them. They don't feel like the thing that will hurt your grades in B-school. And "a great wife someday," well, wow. Kind of like that sleek couch that makes your room look comfortable but never messy. 

You want her support but not her company!? You don't love her. I hope she has the presence of mind to recognize and say out loud what you won't.  

Another thing--if you already know that your truth-telling "won't go over well," then either your relationship is bad or your truth is. Seriously. 

If your wife thought that getting pregnant wouldn't happen, it's also possible that she had started to talk herself into the idea that she didn't want kids. I struggled to get pregnant, and still had a moment of "Wait, what about my trip to Europe?" when it finally happened. Add to that the awfulness of the first trimester and a possible depression component, and it's a recipe for what your wife is feeling. This doesn't change anything about Carolyn's answer, it's just a slightly more charitable reading of your wife's feelings than the one you suggested.

And I'm all for that, thanks. 

When I lived in New York, I got to know the regular panhandlers along my route to work. Instead of giving money, I made sandwiches and veggie strips. If I ran into one of them, I'd give it to them. If not, then I had veggies to snack on myself. I made peanut butter sandwiches since they lasted a couple days without affecting taste. I donate to United Way for the systemic help, but it was hard even as an adult to turn away from a plea for help. This way I didn't give money, but if they were really in need, I was able to feed them a single meal.

Very thoughtful idea, thank you. (Sunflower butter works well in case of allergy concerns.) 


Depression depression depression depression. This was me me me me. When I'm happy or better yet, content, I watch very little TV. When I'm not, I watch house- and human makeovers (not the surgical ones, just clothes and hair.) Constantly. Something has changed, something is wrong. Find out with her. Now now now.

Thanks. TV is such a cheap and gentle narcotic.

Hello, Carolyn. In your chats and columns, there are often letter-writers who cannot believe how rude and intrusive someone's questions are. I am one of the people who asks these questions. I don't mean to be rude. I am just a very open and direct person, and asking questions is how I show my interest in someone. The trouble is that what one person finds off-putting, many will find a great way to move past shallow filler conversation. I value this part of my personality, as it has enabled me to quickly make friends and get to know people at a deeper level. I don't, however, want to make others uncomfortable. Is there something I can say to let people know they are free to set boundaries and tell me if something is too personal? Should I just accept that the person I am comfortable being will occasionally rub someone the wrong way? I guess I'm not sure about the line between manners and personality.

"[Nosy question]? I know I'm being nosy, so you can tell me to stuff it."

I do agree that people have different privacy thresholds, so I won't suggest you develop a whole new restrained personality, but I do think it would be an act of kindness either to avoid the handful of hot topics people keep posting about, or to put banners on them before you launch--as in, "This is a taboo topic so shut me down as needed," followed by your question.

I wonder if it's possible to come up with a universal Don't Ask List. I'll start:

"Are you pregnant?"

Hi, hope you can give me some advice here. Ten years ago my brother had an affair with my now ex-wife which resulted in twins. I have not seen or spoken to them since nor have I met their offspring. This caused an estrangement with me and my parents who insisted on having a relationship with my brother and his kids. I have had only the rarest of contact with my parents during the last ten years. Recently they contacted me because "they are getting older and are trying to bring the family back together." I'd rather have my teeth pulled out with pliers. I will never forgive the deceit, lies and deep betrayal. I have never understood why my parents did -- they have never been so magnanimous about these things before or since. I told them no, I would not meet, visit with, have dinner with or be in the same room with my brother and his kids. I believe I added something about I hope they can go to hell for all I care. Thanks for calling. Click. My mother has written to me claiming they are hurt by my intransigent attitude. What options do I have here?

I'm sorry. I think you just learned that it's easier for a brother to cut ties with a brother and a son to cut ties with a parent than it is for a parent to cut ties with a child--or grandchildren. It might be as basic as that.

My concern, for you, is whether -you- are hurt by your intransigent attitude. I won't even begin to suggest you make peace with your brother, but it might be time to make peace with your parents' decision not to estrange themselves from him on your behalf. What he did to you was horrible, no question, but you're essentially insisting that your parents impose a relationship death penalty for it. They either had to forgive or lose a child, and they chose to forgive--probably not ever imagining that it would cost them their other child to do so.

I just can't help but think it would be healthier for you to say 10 years is enough, and to forgive your parents. Again, not for the purposes for restoring ties with your brother, but just to shorten the list of people you hold responsible for setting off this bomb in your life. 

- "When are you going to have kids?" or "Why don't you have kids?" or any variation of that question

A bunch of these, thanks.

"You're so great! Why don't you have a boyfriend?" This is sometimes meant as a compliment, but I always hear it as, "I can't tell what's wrong with you by just looking at you. Please explain to me why no one loves you." I have never, ever, ever gotten this question from a single person. It's ALWAYS someone who's paired up. Also, I think the OP paints a false dichotomy between "boring social niceties" and "a very open and direct person" who "move[s] past shallow filler conversation." Lots of people use the "I'm not rude/mean, I'm just honest" dodge and usually, those people are jerks.

Fair enough, but it is true that some people can "get away with" (i.e., draw out a warmer reception to) bolder questions than others--and often it's because they come across as showing genuine interest in you vs. nosing around for dirt. I.e., not jerks. 

What's wrong with your kid?

Just reading these is painful. Thanks.

"What happened to your face?"

Like I said--painful.

I had a brief first marriage to an abuser, and when I was getting serious with the man who is now my husband, I worried that when he learned this it might make him think less of me: that I had bad judgment, was too much trouble to take on, and the like. Carolyn's advice is spot on. The right person will not make you feel bad about your past, and will be grateful for the opportunity to know you better. When I felt the time was right, I shared that part of my past and it felt like a huge weight was lifted. My now husband could not have been more accepting or understanding, we grew even closer, and it was like turning on the light to see there is no monster under your bed. Get to know her, and good luck! Also, congratulations on taking care of yourself and calling off that engagement.

Love the under-the-bed image, thanks.

If I read correctly, the parents seem to be trying to convince the OP to forgive his brother and have a relationship with him (and the wife and kids). That is something his parents have no right to ask, and that IMHO he has every reason to be upset about.

Yes--that's why I tried to be clear this was not about doing what the parents were asking of him.

But you're right to point out that the parents have no right to do this, thanks.

A few months ago, I began dating an ex-boyfriend of my closest friend. They dated years ago and have both moved on -- she's married with kids. We all remained friendly over the years, and he and I became really good friends the past few years. I wanted to tell my friend as soon as possible, and she basically hasn't spoken to me since. I'm not taking any of this well. I feel guilty and anxious about the relationship, in that if it doesn't work out, I ruined a friendship for nothing. And I miss my friend, but I know that ending the relationship won't magically repair our friendship. Whether he and I work out or not, there's still an issue that has been uncovered. I know this, but on a day-to-day basis I am pretty much driving myself crazy. I'm miserable, mopey and burst into tears at any given moment. And I am stressing out the guy because I want the relationship to be "worth" the loss of my friend. I know this is all kinds of messed up, but I honestly am at my wit's end. I have been thinking about moving across the country just to get a fresh start. Am I completely losing it? Is my friend justified in hating me over this?  Thanks!

Maybe there's more to it, but taking just what's here, your friend is way out of line. We don't own people. And, true friends are invested in their friends' happiness, not in their own (perceived) possessions.

I'm sorry your friend can't get over herself, and I'm sorry that failure cost you a friend, but I urge you to see that as the whole of it--friend's problem, unfortunate loss. None of it has anything to do with your current relationship. If the relationship doesn't work out, then you won't have "ruined a friendship for nothing." You will merely have learned something about your friend that you wish you hadn't but can't unlearn. 

Sorry to vanish for a bit there--I was skimming around a bit for other Don't Ask listers but they seem to have the same theme as the ones I posted.

Really it's about not judging, isn't it? Wanting to know someone better goes over better than wanting to feel superior to someone, fer sher, and often it's the context that tells the difference. 


Your Q topic says DC: Do you ever pass people selling Street Sense? That would be a nice way to handle this, in addition to Carolyn's suggestions. When you buy the paper (have the 7 year old handle the transaction) you can then explain what Street Sense is and how the person selling the paper is helping him or herself. In nearly every issue there is a Vendor Profile that you may be able to share her -- about how Street Sense has helped the vendor get back in the game.

I love(d) Street Sense--thanks for mentioning it.

You are not entitled to have the world solve your boredom problem. You are not entitled to put people on the spot just so you can avoid what is (to you) deadly tedium. You are not entitled to know anything about anyone.

Yes, yes, you're right--but the initial question was about actually getting to know people. Not knowing anything about anyone is a lonely business. 

"No thanks Mom, Dave's mom is coming this time. We can't wait to see you at Thanksgiving! Should we do all the traditional blah blah [distract distract distract]" Or.... does she cook well? Do she and MIL get along well? Do you have room for two house guests? Would there be ANY benefit, or at least not detriment to having them both there? (the older kid help thing would be brilliant, if true) If MIL is going to be true help with the baby, and Mom cooks or reads stories or goes to the park or keeps MIL company while you nap or ANYTHING good, and you have space for two guests comfortably, then let her.

Useful suggestions, thanks. 

And with that--thanks everyone, bye, have a great weekend 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 New England with her husband and their three boys.

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