Rumpus Room: Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, January 3)

Jan 03, 2014

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.

The chatters took over this week in a chat that focused on the best and most memorable of 2013 in Hax-land.

E-mail Carolyn at

Carolyn's Recent Columns

Past Carolyn Hax Discussions

Way Past Carolyn Hax Live Discussions

Hax Philes discussions

Hi everyone! Carolyn's off today, so you're stuck kicking off your new year with me. I'll wait while you get the groans out of your system :)

I'm not even going to pretend I can give advice, so instead let's talk about the past year in Hax-land - what questions made you think? Which ones made you laugh? What advice did you take for yourself and how did it go?

The floor's also open to any questions you have for other 'nuts or any dilemmas you want to throw out to the group. 

(Here's how this worked the last time we had a Carolyn-less Hax chat)

So, let's do this. Get those questions and thoughts coming in, and I'll do my best not to sink the ship in Carolyn's absence.

Kicking things off with a thought experiment triggered by a recent column...

with regard to the column on 12/31: I wonder if you would comment on googling someone online vs talking to a former partner? Most people seem to think online research is not invasive (since it involves public knowledge) and can even be prudent. Talking to a former partner seems much more invasive. And how can you evaluate the information you receive? Just wondering what you think. Thanks!

This is the column in question. What do you guys think? What separates okay snooping from invasive snooping? Is the difference down to methods or intentions?

I hope you and your family had a great holiday. Here is a story for you: My friend asked me to spend Christmas with her and some other friends. She had recently broken up with her (not so nice) boyfriend and didn't want to be alone. I volunteered to bring turkey breast and potatoes. Christmas eve at 9:00 pm, she sent me a text telling me that she was back together with the boyfriend. She stated, "I know you two don't get along and you can find another place to spend Christmas. I don't want to ruin his day. Call one of your other friends and I am sure they will let you join them. Please let me know when I can pick up the turkey and potatoes so we don't have to go out to get them in the morning", I did not reply. Right now, I am cooking the turkey and potatoes (and gravy and veggies and dessert) and plan to package them into single serving containers. I will be going out in my town where I know there are homeless folks who won't go to the shelter. I will distribute the food along with some water, socks, mittens and blankets. Merry Christmas!!

At the risk of turning the chat into Hoot 2: Electric Boogaloo, this needed to be shared. I'm not sure I'd have been able to summon as much Christmas spirit under the same circumstances - way to make something good out of a bad situation!

By the way, this year's Holiday Hootenanny was particularly Hoot-y, was it not? I'm still trying to figure out a way to work "the 18th brumaire of Louis Napoleon" into everyday conversation (no luck so far). Were any of this year's stories candidates for the Hootenanny hall of fame (which does not exist but really should)?

Oh man, I just realized how I wish I'd started this chat:

Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic. Bacon pants are neither bacon nor pants. Discuss.

I really enjoyed the letter from the woman who was bean counting her marriage, didn't count chores her husband did like mow the lawn, because he liked doing them, and thought he owed her more because she's way better looking than he deserves. Kind of a pu pu platter of entitlement that made me laugh and appreciate the woman I love even more. Happy New Year!

This actually came from 2010, but was republished this year as a reader's pick for the letter that's most stuck in their mind (appropriately enough for this chat). If you haven't read it, do it now. We'll wait. There's a reason this one's a favorite.

He or she needs to learn what my 4 and 5 year olds already know: never, ever comment on any aspect of someone's personal apearance (age, height, weight, disability, hair color, clothing) unless the other person raises it first or (for adults) unless you are very, very close friehds. As they get older, and for adults, I would add marital/relationship status, childbearing plans, health issues, and income/assets. And of course religion and politics. Of course there are exceptions, but better to err on the side of cautiobn. And there are so nany "safe" options: How doyou know the host(ess)? What interests you in this seminar/cultural event? Holiday/vacation plans? Read any good books/seen any good movies lately? What is your favorite restaurant/museum/place to take out of town visitors? Local sports teams, if you are a fan. And there's always that old standby, the weather. If this person routinely makes comments or asks questinss that cause the other party to storm off in a huff,l he or she may need professional counseling. My younger sister had sort of this problem, along with other issues, and a few sessions with a good therapist have made all our lives a lot easier.

In reference to this person, from Carolyn's "readers give the advice" series, I think.

We spent a couple of chat weeks on the "universal don't ask list," where you guys contributed a stable of questions to steer away from in conversation (and some hilarious ways to answer them).

Carolyn had a really nice way of wrapping that discussion up:

It would be nice if everyone had two questions in mind when dealing with people casually: "Do I need to know this to make conversation" (before asking something) and "Do I need to get upset about this?" (after being asked something). Worth trying to make it a habit, at least. 

The story of the woman whose mother-in-law made a donation in her name to a charity that rehabilitates prostitutes was my favorite. I've repeated it to about six different people and they're all equally horrified.

Oh man, the weird gift ones always get me. This one was my favorite:

"Gift chosen by my father's second wife: A Complete Hair Removal System! Reason my face was hairy: chemotherapy."

I don't know if this was from this year, but my favorite column was the one in which Hax reminds the LW that "the universe is not out to get you." I repeat this to myself on daily basis.

Ooh anyone got a link to this? Sounds like a good one and Google is failing me.

Before I forget, I wanted to remind you about the recent changes to Hax Philes. You can now see all the Philes topics at this link (which is also on Carolyn's bio page and in various places on this chat page). The open posts are the place to bring up your own topics and start new threads of conversation. As those of you who have been hanging out there know, we're pretty open to ideas for making that a better experience, so keep them coming.

My husband and I got married this past summer. I received a card in the mail with a sizable monetary gift from a relative (on mother's side) who was unable to attend. We promptly used the gift to get our "new" used car inspection ready with a few repairs. I sent a thank you note to the relative stating what a blessing it was to received the gift and it paid for all the repairs on our pre-owned car so we could commute to work. I have since heard through the grapevine that this relative is upset with how we "misused" the gift (everyone knows wedding money should be used for something "fun") and how unwise we were to purchase a used clunker rather than buying new. I'm unsure of what to do or think. We purchased this car because it is in great shape and we could pay it off in a year and the repairs were fairly minor (tires, worn breaks). I'm inclined to ignore it but my mother is really peeved and wants me to give them an earful. I thought that it is usually left up to the couple to decide how to use wedding gifts and not for guests to dictate how they will be used.

Putting this out there because I know our chatters will have Thoughts.

On a somewhat similar note, I attended a wedding recently where the bride and groom requested contributions to their honeymoon fund rather than gifts off a registry. My mom was appalled at the gaucheness of this. I was thrilled at being able to give them something they'd really value instead of random silverware. (Don't tell my mom I told you that.)

There's been a nomination in today's comments to rename the chat the rumpus room in Carolyn's absence. I second the nomination.

Win! By the way, I love when you guys send in your ideas for the chat titles. They almost always end up coming from one of your suggestions.

They are both bacon and pants, to be worn by horrible people when swimming in shark-infested waters.

Ah, we have a true scholar in our midst!

1. Kudos to you for thinking of a wonderful use for the food! 2. Sounds like the friend deserves that "not so nice" boyfriend. (What happened to the "some other friends" she had also roped in? Were they allowed to stay because BF approved?) The fact that she expected the food is the kicker. 3. I hope your Christmas was quite merry! (It was surely better than the self-centered wallowfest she probably had in mind.)

I'm starting the new year off feeling virtuous - I finally signed up for a WP online subscription. What made me act? I just found out that the Post now accepts Paypal (they didn't last time I looked into it). Passing this along just in case there are other readers whose main barrier to buying a subscription is that they are too lazy to go get their credit card and type in the number.

Hi Nuts, I wrote into Carolyn quite a bit ago, so of course I would understand if you don't remember my question. My fiance passed away young and unexpectedly and his parents gave me his car. After his death, I was having a really hard time using the car because it brought up so many memories. A few months ago I returned the car to his parents. I gave it a lot of consideration, but I could really only see it going two ways: 1) Every reminder of my fiance made it harder to move on, and I use my car almost every day or 2) I would get used to having that tangible reminder of him and, as we all know, cars do not last forever. I gave it back to his parents with genuine thanks and purchased a new (to me) car. It helped me heal to realize that he will always be a part of me, but it is time to move on. I am grateful for Carolyn for taking my question in the first place and advising me to keep the car, because the decision I made now was not nearly as emotional and it came from a good place.

The original letter, for those who don't remember. So sorry for your loss, but glad to hear you were able to make the decision that was right for you. 

To the person in the last chat who said you can't do anything about your sensitivities ( hers was thinking that any group of laughing people are laughing at her), that's a total cop out. It's completely possible to reduce or eliminate those kinds of thoughts, and I say that as someone who used to be a massive bundle of narcissistic sensitivities. Cognitive behavioral therapy can definitely help, but you can do a lot of work on your own. The trick is not to try to reason your way out of it (I.e., they're probably not laughing at me, etc). Instead, the minute the thought comes into your head, say to yourself, this isn't a rational thought, and think about something else. It will be hard at first, but it gets easier and easier, until the thoughts rarely come any more. You shouldn't try to reason with someone who tries to put forward a crazy idea - say, that the world is flat - because you're just reinforcing that that viewpoint may have some validity. The best way to deal with crazy people, and our own irrational thoughts, is to back away as quickly as possible!

I'm the LW who wrote about a lack of a rude question filter. Many people asked in the comments about what happened. It went like this... Me: Wow, where'd you get that scar? Her: Surgery. Me: <Completely missing the bluntness of the response> What kind of surgery? Her: <walks away> That was about 5 years ago and I've gotten much much better at coming up with openers and realizing when I've crossed a line. I still sometime fail, so like I said, a little patience goes a long way: "I'd rather not talk about that. How about this weather!"

I just wanted to say I loved the Hoot story about the dryer lint. Since then, I've been collecting my own and having enviable success starting the holiday fires!

Reposting the story here, cause it's a good one:

One November, unbeknownst to anyone else, my little brother asked my mom to start saving dryer lint. She thought it was for a school project, and got used to stuffing the lint in a box in the cupboard every time she did laundry. Fastforward 2 months to Christmas morning, when my father opens a large box from little brother that contains... mounds of dryer lint. The rest of the family is dying with laughter, thinking it was a joke, while my brother is protesting that, 'you always complain about starting the woodstove in the morning, and dryer lint is great for starting fires!' Dryer lint made an appearance at several more Christmases after that. The corollary to this story is, 20 years on, I washed some new towels last night and came away with such a satisfying wad of lint, it got giftwrapped and is being shipped to little brother's house now. Merry Christmas!

I'm sure this is advice she gives over and over, but my favorites are the ones that give step-by-step instructions to stop being co-dependent. I.e., "we've talked about this as much as I can... you need to take it to a professional from here on out." It is in most people's natures to want to help, and it is really, REALLY hard to realize that drawing that (very difficult) line is in both people's best interest. It always serves as a good reminder to me. :)

When you get a gift of money, it's yours to do with what you want. Relative had no business expressing her distaste as the use of her money. Maybe you should write her back and say, "Oops, my mistake, the car repairs were funded by another relative. We actually just set your check on fire. It was fun! We toasted marshmallows."

Well there you go, the gift got you something fun after all: this thought (although maybe don't tell the relatives that).

Nuts, Can anyone help me find an old column/chat excerpt? It involves why emotional unavailable, game-playing people can be so attractive. I can't find the right search terms to find it and I really want to send it to someone. It appeared first in a chat and then was used in a column. Thanks!

Eek. Anyone able to help?

Thanks! The actual quote is even better:

"Tell yourself — out loud even, like a dork — that things really don’t work this way and you aren’t starring in the Cosmic-Conspiracy Show." 

but glassbowls are neither glass nor bowls.

I don't particularly believe that it's anyone's business how a monetary gift is used and if it comes with all those nosey strings attached who wants it anyway. My in-laws were unyielding forces of intrusion into my wedding gifts (how much from who and what it should be spent on) so we went on verbal lock-down. No engaging in conversation about this topic with anyone. Including the parents.

A lot of times, information found online are facts. Arrest records, pictures, twitter posts by the person, etc. Plus, you'll tend to get a well rounded picture of the person as a whole. Talking with an ex will get you a lot of opinions from someone who was either dumped by the person, or who dumped the person. You're likely going to get biased and negative feedback from the ex. I'd be PO'd if someone I was dating went behind my back to talk to an ex, whereas I'd have no issues with Googling.

The reason I have a problem with them has nothing to do with getting the couple what they want. Most honeymoon registries don't actually buy the "gift" you're purchasing. The gift has a dollar amount attached to it, and the honeymoon registry website takes a cut of that dollar amount, and then writes a check to the couple for the remaining amount. I'd rather just give the couple a check, leave the paid middle man out of it, and let them use it how they will, than "pay" for a honeymoon dinner that may or may not get eaten, with a portion of my gift going to a private company.

It ended up being a great day. I was able to feed some very appreciative people, made myself feel better and didn't respond with anger or spite. Others WERE allowed to attend but most refused and found other places to spend their day. I did receiveVERY angry and increasingly irate texts from my former friend about how selfish I am to deny the food to them as they were forced to purchase their food that day. I hear he broke up with her on NYE.

Ah, it only gets better in the follow up. Thanks for sharing!

"Everything, everything, everything I advise is easier said than done. Figuring out how to handle people is hard. Figuring out how much honesty is appropriate is hard. Figuring how much withheld information becomes dishonest is hard. Figuring out whom we can and can't trust is hard. Figuring out how to trust ourselves is hard. Figuring out how much help we need, have a right to ask for and can advisably accept is hard. Finding ways to leave painful things behind us is hard. Finding words at a tense moment that make things better instead of worse is hard. Accepting what we'll never have, whom we'll never be, what we'll never be given, what we can't expect, is hard. Admitting when we're at fault is hard. Accepting when we're not at fault but will suffer anyway is hard.

It's not about being unruffled. It's about retraining ourselves to use approaches to people that are more productive than the broken, maddening, ineffective, self-destructive old ones. It's about figuring out what the limits are of what we'll take from people, and enforcing them in ways that keep our self-respect and sense of goodwill--and, ideally, our relationships--intact."

That's one of my favorite chat quotes too. It came from here, when someone wrote in to say that Carolyn's answer sounded like it would be easier said than done.

This person also had another favorite answer, which was this one about how to define your best self. It's sort of long so I won't copy/paste it here. But go read it.

I loved the $1K pants guy from the hoot, and now when I think of bacon pants, I think it will have to combine with that story. LOOK AT MY BACON PANTS.

Wait, did the guy say how expensive the pants were, or have you just mashed the Hoots up with Arrested Development and come up with a glorious mutant? Come on!

(Oh darn, they were thousand dollar pants after all - still good)

Thanks for writing in and updating us. Yours is a letter that stuck with me, and I remember praying for you when you originally wrote in. I hope things continue to improve for you.

Shortly after my husband and I got married, our cat got sick (it was one of those things that the procedure was expensive but the cat would be totally fine to live out his life afterward). We were only really able to afford it thanks to the money we had received for our wedding. I sincerely hope no relative was upset about that.

Believe me, I try all the time to tell myself that the group of laughing teenagers laughing at me isn't a rational thought. But invariably, my mind goes to, "Is my skirt tucked into my tights? Does my hair look dumb? Why are they laughing? Stop, they aren't laughing at you. They're laughing at something else." And then I get upset that I can't NOT immediately think they're laughing at me and then feeling bad spirals from there.

If we're going to play this game, I need one from spring 2000. I saved it for years. I was a senior in high school. It was about shooting for the moon, making big goals, doing what you think is impossible. It came out at the most perfect time for me, and I hung on to it and read it over the years. I haven't seen it in about three moves....

So far we're at about a 25% success rate on finding these columns. Who will be the one to up that percentage?

is that it can be very wrong. What might have been a simple "that jenny, always so responsible, I was hoping she'd use my money for something fun" could have been heard as nasty and nosey. Best to just let it lie unless the giftgiver says something directly.

Do you have a glossary for this chat? For those of us that are less hip than your regular chatters? I have no idea what bacon pants and glassbowls refer to.

There's not anything official, but we've been thinking for a while that there should be something to help newcomers. I'm relatively new myself, and I still see things that confuse me all the time (thanks to everyone here for being nice and helping me get my footing!).

So, glassbowl rhymes with the thing it means. What's a nice way to say it? How about: a meanie?

Bacon pants is a reference to a line from a really old chat that just sort of hit everyone's funny bone the right way. Here's the original.

My boyfriend admitted on our first date he had googled me. I didn't mind - I had done the same to him, but hadn't found anything as he's an old fuddy-duddy without much of an online presence. He, however, discovered my old myspace page (who knew myspace was still around?) wherein I expressed a love for movies. I do like movies - it's just that I rarely ever see them. He still makes fun of me about it. I think he was mainly just disappointed that he couldn't use it to make conversation.

I HAVE a teenager. She's 13. When she's with her friends, they're constantly laughing at something. It's generally an in-joke, or a bit of adolescent innuendo, or it may even be about me. (Which is OK. I enjoy making people laugh.) Point is, if you get freaked out by teens / young adults laughing and giggling, you're going to spend a LOT of time freaked out. As for worrying about if your shirt is tucked into your tights - I recommend looking at

Admit it, this question was just an excuse to send us that link. In which case, thank you.

Personally, I don't have a problem with either. What I would have a problem with is anyone accepting this kind of background research as the final word on me without talking to me about it first. Everything is about context and how well people own their past. Facts can seem damning without context, but tweets, posts and blog entries can be pretty instructive. Conversations with exes can be instructive, but a lot depends on the ex and the relationship. I wouldn't have a problem with anyone talking to any of my exes-- chances are some of what they said might not be flattering but anyone with any worth would understand the value of one person's opinion. If you have a bunch of exes who all say bad things about you, it may be time to reevaluate your life, or at least how you treat people.

For the peanut gallery perhaps: My husband has a hobby of making a type of elaborate, handcrafted gift (imagine hand-knitting sweaters perhaps). I have no interest in sweaters but I've encouraged his hobby because he's very good at it and because our friends and family are always pleased to receive a sweater from him. A few months ago when I saw him making a bunch of sweaters for Christmas gifts for family, I said, "I hope you're not planning to make a sweater for me, because you know I don't wear them." Fast-forward to Christmas and the big surprise is...a sweater. That he's been working on for six months. Objectively this is a great gift that anyone would be thrilled to have, but I just have no idea what I'm supposed to do with a sweater that I have no interest in wearing, ever. I can't imagine myself ever saying this out loud--he poured his heart into it for half a year!!--but I'm pretty disappointed. I know gifts aren't the point of Christmas, but I can't get over the part where the one thing I said I *didn't* want is the one thing I got, and the few things I did ask for did not appear. If it was a distant relative or even a family member, it wouldn't be a big deal but this is my husband. How do I proceed? Every time I look at the sweater, which I know I am expected to wear or at least not hide at the bottom of my closet, I feel sad.

Anyone got thoughts or advice to share?

"Everything, everything, everything I advise is easier said than done." A great quote illustrating how advice-giving is different from, say, teaching a child how to tie a shoelace, or telling an adult on the telephone how to cut & paste. I can definitely say that those things are easier done than said.

I have no doubt that column generated a lot of rage and clicks, but I still have a hunch that it's totally fake. Plus there was another letter that ran in CH's column that was proved to be a fake in Prudie's column. What's the policy on that?

I know everyone tries really hard to weed out the fakes, and we've got pretty good spidey-sense for it. I can't speak for Carolyn, but as far as the chats go, we do see stuff pop up that doesn't quite pass the sniff test (to mix metaphors) and those don't get used.

I loved Carolyn's answer to the person who asked if being unhappy was easier than being happy. It was in 2010 but it made a profound difference in my life so I'm sending it in. The writer said, "I've watched some people lose almost everything and everyone in order to hang on to what a friend called 'their triumphant unhappiness.'" Clearly, her friend knows my mother. I copied that column and keep it in my journal where I try to read it at least once a week. It's been a tremendous help in my daily life and in my quest to not turn into my mother. (And I'm in my 60's!) Here is the link:

After my wedding my husband and I wanted to use money recieved to pay down some bills, which had been incurred from the wedding. We were also told we "couldn't" do that. So we bought a couch, and the couch is great and it will be passed down as our wedding couch. But, if you give cash as a gift, you really don't get much of a say in how it's spent. In the day of gift cards if the aunt had really wanted to direct her gift, it would have been really easy to do so.

I realized years ago that no one is looking at me, much less laughing. I am happy to be on of the most boring people on the planet!

I realized a few years ago that if I spend so much time worrying what people think of me, everyone else must be doing the same about themselves. Which means they're probably not thinking anything about me at all - they're too busy worrying what I'm thinking about them. 

Be honest. It sounds like the first time you told him you didn't like his sweaters was when he had already started making one for you. Up until that point you had been encouraging his hobby, right? So just say, "Honey, I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into this gift for me, but I'm just not a fan of sweaters." Then ask what he might want to do with it. Re-gift it to someone who will appreciate it more? He may be disappointed, but at least it will clear the air, and hopefully he will know not to make you another sweater next year.

I hope there aren't any other communication problems in this relationship, because that's the first thing that jumps out at me. You asked him not to, he did anyway. Now, one could argue he had been working on the project long before you asked him, but I presume that you've known him long enough to have expressed your disinterest long ago, and for him to have picked up on it. If this hasn't happened, I have to wonder why, and hope that there isn't a communication disconnect that's clogging up other areas. That seems more important than what to do with this gift. If you can clear up the communication issue, what to do with the gift will become clear.

Just to pile on, when I was a struggling single mother, I used to lie to relatives who gave me cash gifts about how I'd spent the money. None of them wanted me to spend the money on groceries, utilities, other necessities, but if I hadn't...

Suck it up and wear the sweater. I feel your frustration -- my longterm BF just gave me a grab-bag of Xmas gifts that were a combination of "don't fit" and "don't need", while managing to ignore the several very-obvious suggestions I dropped his way. But you know what? Who cares! He's awesome, we're in love, and I get to spend my life with him. I'm a fairly astute gift-giver but I give some bombs sometimes and trust me, it feels way worse to be the giver of an unappreciated gift than the receiver. Suck it up and wear the sweater.

jess, this is merely a technical comment. i used to chat quite a bit in the chat room but find that i can't any more. ok, i'm at work & there are filters & i get that i should be working. i can post a comment if the comment section does NOT have the "top comment" page and i can merely click on the add a comment box. if i click on the add comment/view comments/reply to a comment bar from the top comment page then the loading comments pops up for about 3 seconds & then goes away & nothing loads. i miss my friends from the chat room. i miss being able to even see other comments. can you get rid of the "top comments" page?

Want to email me and we can try and diagnose what's happening and whether it's fixable?

This one is my fave. I didn't realize it was quite so old!

is never acceptable. Asking for money for a honeymoon is is incredibly wrong. My mom knows that my wife and i will save money if she gives us money as a gift. She wants us to spend the money on something fun. So she has decided that she will only give us gift cards. In this way she can give us something fun and we can't save the money.

This has been a constant thorn in my side for most of my marriage because it indicates inattention. I give my husband a Christmas list to choose from, but I am very specific in brands because I don't want to buy junk. For example, I asked for a cutting board and a certain brand of paring knife. He didn't get the board (although they were in the same shop department) and got some cheap knife, which broke within a year. It makes me sad too because he doesn't listen to me. That seems to be the sweater recipient's problem--she feels her husband wasn't/isn't listening. The gift is the least of the problem.

My husband got me a wheelbarrow for Christmas. Count your lucky stars...

Okay, we must know the story behind this...

This is it! This is the column from high school!!! THANK YOU, whoever passed this on!!! I'm printing RIGHT NOW.

Whoa. Was this just a coincidence? I think we just witnessed a new year's miracle.

At first I was kind of annoyed (I mean who wants to open a card saying you got car tires) but then after a moment I heard him telling my BIL that since I have a longer commute to work, he was always worried about me on the road and did not ever want me to be at risk of getting a flat tire or otherwise having some car trouble if he could prevent it. In his mind, he was protecting me - and demonstrating how much he loved me because he didn't want anything bad to happen to me.

I got maggots for Christmas! Okay, they came with ice fishing tip-ups and a little fishing rod which I had asked for, but I love to say that I got maggots for Christmas!

Okay, a couple more on funny gifts, because I have a soft spot for hilariously misjudged gestures...

My wonderful dad spent several years giving my mom clunkers of Christmas presents before he wised up. He's a retired Navy captain, so anchor- and star-spangled apparel made an appearance on several occasions. Our very favorite family moment was the year he got my mom a book of Victorian beauty secrets. Mom loves all things old-fashioned, and excitedly opened the book to be confronted with an article on how to rid oneself of fetid foot odor. Charming.

I want a wheelbarrow! We'd take our cats for rides. My boyfriend gives the best, most thoughtful gifts ever, but for our first Valentine's Day, one of the gifts he gave me was a book relating to death. I forget what it was, and normally I would have found it interesting, but he didn't realize just HOW poor of a fit death and Valentine's Day were together. But it was hilarious, and now whenever I'm like "Will it be weird if I give him books about New Amsterdam and psychoanalysis and toxic plants throughout history for Christmas?" I just think "Death book on Valentine's Day. Nothing's too weird." He was totally thrilled with the Christmas gifts I got him this year, fyi.

Ok, it's actually a really cool gift, I was just going for the laugh! I work in the yard a lot and love to garden. A couple of years ago, my daughter's friend borrowed my garden cart to move firewood and broke it. I patched it together, but it hasn't been the same and finally bit the dust this fall. I didn't think much of it because I have a small one that I can use, but my husband found a really great one in a tool catalog and ordered it for me. I was shocked when my Christmas present came wrapped in a bedspread (HUGE box!), as I couldn't recall requesting any major appliances for Christmas, so it was an excellent surprise! But it's pretty funny! FWIW, here's a link to the cart:

Wow, it was total coincidence!! I read the "LOST COLUMNS? LOST COLUMNS!?" question but I didn't realize it was the same column I was about to post. So glad I did :)

You guys are seriously the best.

The unfair-est part of it to me was highlighted by a friend of mine, whose name is Anderson Q. Beaverhausen - and who began dating a lovely young lady named Mary Smith. Guess which one could find lots of information through a quick google, and which one couldn't? (Need I point out that the names have been changed to protect the innocent?)

That column was also a life changer for me...I printed it out and have it on my desk at work. Actually I was cleaning shop today and threw it out because I have it saved on my computer and thought, eh. After reading someone else post about it, I dug it out of the trash. Loved that one.

Hi Carolyn - my current employer recently got some bad press as one of the "5 Worst Places To Work In DC". Needless to say, I (and many others here) are looking for other work. However, during a recent interview, I actually had a potential new boss ask me about that report and what it was "really like" working at my company. I had no idea how to respond and came up with some nice drivel about how I appreciated all the opportunities Current Employer has given me (none), but I need a better script for how to handle this kind of inquiry in future without sounding like a) a total liar (see above) or b) a bitter has-been. Help!

We're not Carolyn, but maybe you'll accept advice from the gallery? Anyone want to weigh in here?

This is the one that did it for me. I promptly went out that weekend and bought real dishes and started looking at art.

Ooh yes. The question was:

"I had a thought this morning that I'm not sure is disturbing or liberating. What if there really is no one out there for me? What if I am going to be single for the rest of my life? How would knowing that change how I think and feel and live?"

You'll have to go read the answer to know why it inspired browing of art.

I would probably make light of the question, saying 'well I am looking for a job...'

As a hiring manager, my reason for asking that question would be to find out the person's level of honesty. One way to answer the question honestly without saying something bad would be "I'm looking for another job that has more opportunity and better growth potential than my current firm which obviously has some internal problems." You've acknowledged the potential truth of the the report, given away no company secrets, and put the emphasis on the future. Just a suggestion

I've learned from all the challenges I've been presented with. Give one example that makes you look good without looking like a whiner.

To the OP, is there not a single good thing you've gained from your experience working at your company? The agency at which I work is tied for 2nd place as "worst government agency to work at." While they've certainly earned that distinction in my humble opinion, I can still think of ways I've benefited from my job: new skill sets, increased experience with older skill sets, etc. Surely there's something positive on which you can focus.

This blew my mind - the woman who'd offered to host a baby shower, only to have the honoree hand her a list of 50 people to invite. Carolyn's answer was - as always - great:

"Fifty? And this is common? Take to the shelters, they're breeding. It is not 'petty' to say, 'Er, I was thinking more like 12,' or 'I'm sorry, my house can fit a dozen comfortably so maybe we can invite 20,' or '50! You're funny.' Since that moment has passed, circle back to it with, 'I should have said this right away, but I felt bad: The shower I envisioned was about a quarter of the size you're suggesting. Let me know if you'd still like me to host it.' The burden here is on the grabby, not the grab-ee."

Happy New Year fellow Nuts! Its a little perverse, but during a very messy divorce, my go-to humor therapy clip was the "I'll kill you like I killed my first husband" story from the 2008 Hootannany. It helped me to keep things in perspective everytime I wanted to strangle my ex.

Two more lost column requests before we start to wrap this chat up. Carolyn may be able to do 3 hours in one go, but if I've learned anything today it's that I'm no Carolyn! Oh, and that I might need to accept that people simply have different opinions on what constitutes an acceptable wedding gift.

If you know which columns these might be, leave the link in the comments.

I don't know if it was from 2013, but recently I was thinking about a column where a woman was listing all the qualities she didn't like in her partner, and Hax in her response turned all those qualities around into positive things that other women (or the letter writer in a positive mindset) might find endearing about him. I thought it was artfully done. Do you know what I'm talking about?

What was the column about relationships and how something that feels like a pebble can become a boulder in the long run?

I think I can top the Valentine's gift of a book about death. For our second Valentine's Day together, my boyfriend took me to see a movie. He likes foreign films and had seen that one was getting excellent reviews, but he didn't look into the plot. It turned out to be A Separation, the (excellent) Iranian film about divorce and Alzheimer's that's in the running for Saddest Film of All Time.

I actually also tried to find a way to fit in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon and couldn't, until I realized how fun Photoshop is. I will email the result to you. :)

This sounds like a challenge to me. The best Photoshop of bacon pants + the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon wins ... well, nothing. Besides the knowledge that you spent however many hours of your valuable time doing this. Oh, and my undying gratitude.

And on that note...

Thanks everyone for making this a fun couple of hours, even if they were Carolyn-less. I don't know if we solved anyone's problems, but we certainly heard about some funny gifts, and that's really the most important thing.

Carolyn will be back next week, so we'll see you then!

Gol darn if I can remember. It was just a few months ago about naming your kid and the "right" to a name.

Okay, one more, cause you actually asked about one I know. Sweet Baby Deity came from this chat (more specifically, this question).

Carolyn's response: "I am so using Sweet Baby Deity."

Now we're done.

In This Chat
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.

Carolyn's Columns
Past Chats
Way Past ChatsHax Philes Discussions
Recent Chats
  • Next: