You CAN make it on your own: Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, February 7)

Feb 07, 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.

Carolyn was online taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Hi everybody.

Every once in a while, I toy with the idea of moving the chat to another day. Fridays are so often where schools and sports put their special events. Today I've got a kid's band concert at 2, just rescheduled from a snow day, and next Friday I am taking a kid to a tournament. I hate the chat interruptions but I hate missing kid things more.

I always decide to stick to Friday because it's such a Thing to have this on Friday--just speaking for myself. But, I am sorry that things bounce around. Today I'll stick around till 1:45 (at which point YELL at me to leave lest I overstay), and next Friday's chat I'll do on Thursday in somewhat abbreviated form.

I think Jess is going to do a Haxless chat in the Friday space, too, since it's Valentine's Day and that just sounded like it could get funny.

You do realize that the opening ceremonies of the Olympics are going on at Sochi RIGHT NOW, as we chat. So I do hope there's going to be some sort of impressive chat pageantry to mark the occasion. Bacon Pants on Ice? Just be sure to stick the landing.

I thought the chat itself was impressive pageantry. I'm a bit hurt.

Dear Carolyn, I have a comment/recommendation/question about today's post about the wedding. Here's my 2 cents when it comes to weddings: BE KIND -Be a kind guest, respect the bride and groom, their tastes, desires and plans. If it goes against your beliefs, be kind in your refusal to participate. Wish them well, send a card and/or gift. -Be a kind relative, honor the bond you've shared and the bond you want to start your future. You will change and so will the happy couple. Be flexible in your expectations of the wedding and find ways to be happy. Actually, BE happy. -Be a kind parent. Don't do anything your are against but don't force your ways into anyone. Be open minded to your kid's inexperience, fear and mistakes. Life doesn't start with the wedding but it might if you are not kind. -Be a kind groom/bride. Don't be forceful, greedy or bratty, the people I mentioned before are not your slaves or props for the perfect picture. They've been important enough for you to invite them to this event, honor that significant. Don't use or abuse them by forcing them into clothes, hair and expenses they can't afford. To all going, refusing to go, dreading or planning weddings, grab the fattest marker you can find and write BE KIND on the wall, on the wedding planner binder, over the mirror where you see yourself with dress for the first time, inside the wedding ring. Be kind, be well, be happy. ile PS: to all those that include a charity event in their wedding, i love you.

Delightful, thank you.

And because I am juvenile and because it offers such extraordinary mental imagery that allowing anyone to miss it would be a disservice, I'm also going to thank you for the "i" that was supposed to be an "o."

Dear Carolyn, If you don't mind answering a slightly personal question, how'd you decide to have a third child? I've read your column for a long time and know your stance on gender preferences, so I seriously doubt you were actively "trying for a girl." My husband and I are in a weird place--mid-thirties, two boys who are still in diapers, slight desire for a third baby but we're not sure why, other than that we're gluttons for punishment. No particular need to have a daughter. This would be our last child, and we'd like to make this decision within the next few months or so. Can you help us out here? We've talked ourselves in circles over this and I have a feeling we're missing a deciding factor that would make our decision much easier.

Sure, what the heck, it's not that personal.

Both of us wanted a houseful of kids, so having a third was a non-decision. You're right, gender had nothing to do with it.

I might post a version of this to Philes, because there's one aspect you might want to consider: Three can be a harder number than 2 or 4, because human beings just can't seem to help themselves and often align with one person against the other. I've seen it with friend groups, roommates, colleagues, siblings, etc., and my three are no exception. It's not the worst thing ever, and I'm grateful daily that we have Gus in our lives, but breaking up the 2-against-1 dynamics is one of our greatest challenges as parents. (This is no doubt intensified by the fact that identical twins are involved, but in my experience that's not the driving force.)

Dear Carolyn, I moved back in with my parents after college to save money and have been living here ever since (3 years). I have a good job and support myself, but I just haven't felt that motivated to move till now because of the amount of money I can save this way. But my boyfriend of almost 2 years says it cramps his style to visit me at my parents' home, and has been encouraging me to move for a while. After some discussion, we decided that I would move in with him (he currently has a 2-bedroom apartment all to himself). I'm especially excited about this because it seems like a great way to stake out some independence without suddenly having to pay an exorbitant rent or live alone. I am supposed to move in about two weeks, but as the day gets closer, I am sensing some hesitation from my boyfriend. He's no longer as excited about it as he was when he first suggested the idea, and in fact has started saying there's "no rush" to do it. I can read between the lines, but I'm not sure what to do now. Getting my own place is the obvious answer, but that would be expensive (what I was trying to avoid), lonely, and seems like a step backward in our relationship. What do you think?

I think the biggest backward step you can take is to move in even though he's apparently having doubts, you trust your instinct on those doubts, he's not voicing the doubts except for a forehead-thumping, "Ah, er, no rush!," and your chief motivators in this move are money and your boyfriend's style cramps.  

Stay put; suggest to your boyfriend that if he has second thoughts, then out with them already; and have another look-see that the whole independence idea you grazed in your question. Why not a group house? That was the obvious answer to me, as I read your question. Roommate roulette can turn out badly, sure, but when it works it's a blast, and it'll cost a whole lot less.

That would be the Norwegian men's curling team.


Much of the comments on today's column focus on the lw's husband as being homophobic. However, both you and the lw imply that their son is marrying a woman. Could you clarify that the lw's son is marrying a woman or a man.

Not really, except that the letter specified "fiancee," which is the feminine form of the word.

I also don't think it matters. While I don't necessarily agree that this is an issue of homophobia--not enough info--I do believe that, in this cultural moment, it is entirely credible that "California" and "AIDS ride" would be enough to motivate a fierce bigot to stay home from his stepson's (presumably hetero) wedding.

Re; number of kids. I've been surprised (though it seems obvious now) that the 3 dynamic also plays out with an only child. My daughter is almost 6, and joining up with one parent against the other seems to be really prevalent right now. Not just for the child, but for the adults too. For many reasons, having just one made sense for us, but this is a particularly tough part of parenting an only child and I personally have to be vigilant about this issue.

That never occurred to me, either. Thanks for weighing in.

Not that it should be the deciding factor (unless it has to be) but don't underestimate the amount of "extra" things a 3rd requires. Sure you know a 3rd will cost more money but people don't often think about exactly what that means. Many cars can't fit 3 carseats. Most things geared towards a family are geared towards 4 people (hotel and vacation packages, family meals, various forms of transportation, housing). Most people just think in terms of "Can I afford more food each month."

Good point--the hotel thing is a problem. 

I am going to kick this to Philes. I'm getting a huge response and don't want this to consume the whole pageant.


this is the most first world of first world problems, but there's a contest for the most romantic wedding proposal and I want to enter it, but I can't tell my girlfriend because I won't propose until the day after the entry period ends (this has been planned for months so it's not the only reason I'm proposing). The day is special so I can't change the day, but I could submit my entry without her knowledge the day before. This seems like a violation of trust on my part though, since she won't know and technically the contest organizers will know before she does. Should I enter, or just forget it?

Aww. The first world has feelings too, you know.

The violation of trust you're talking about occurs in every single proposal that involves the presentation of a ring, right? Plus, so many people talk about their plans with a close friend, plus you have all the people who believe in the ask-her-father-first ritual, and when you add all those up there are almost as many loose cats as there are bags.

My main concern here, in any world, is that you're marrying someone who would be thrilled to gills by your entering a proposal contest. If you aren't, then don't--and by that I mean don't enter the contest, but it could also be extended to mean think twice about the suitability of the match. For all the people who think it would be a hoot, there is an analogue who would be horrified, and I do think it speaks to an important area of compatibility, long run. Good luck. (And let us know.)

Our oldest son is in 7th grade so he and his friends are all 12 and 13. About a week ago, a kid in his class told my son and a few other kids that he's bisexual. My son casually mentioned it to me as we were making dinner. He seemed a bit surprised but wasn't bothered by this coming out. Last night, the kid texted my son, asking him on a date. My son came into our room asking how he should tell his friend that he's not gay. We suggested he simply say something like 'thanks, but I don't like you that way', which he did. The kid didn't write back. I'm amazed and impressed that the kid feels comfortable enough to come out at this age and so happy that my child doesn't have a problem with it and accepts his friend. It's so different from when our generation was that age. But, because we didn't ever deal with this kind of thing at that age, I'm not sure how to handle some of this. For example, my son's birthday is coming up and he had asked for his kid and two other friends to spend the night. I had already said yes, knowing the kid had come out. That wasn't a problem. But now knowing the kid might be interested in my son as more than friends, is it appropriate that he spend the night? I wouldn't let my son have girls sleep over but this is obviously a different situation. I don't know if the kid has come out to his parents and don't know if talking with them is appropriate anyway. They're still so young. If this was happening at 16, I wouldn't feel as much need to guide my child as I do now. Do you or does anyone reading have advice for this particular situation or going forward as my child learns, and we learn as parents, how to navigate this kind of thing?

Please, please, please don't exclude the kid from your party over this. That is exactly the kind of ostracism that scares kids into closets--and since you were "impressed" with the level of acceptance, I think  you'd end up hating yourself if you did bar the door.

Instead, just treat this kid as you always have--as your son's friend. Good friend,  right, since he's one of only three invited? Pay closer attention, sure, but don't change the way you treat him unless and until you see some change in either your son's or the friend's behavior that suggests you need to revisit the issue. 

This is all assuming, of course, that your son and the friend want to carry on their friendship as usual. I hope they do, because that's the most logical and humane way to go, but they both might need some steady hands guiding them in that direction.

Hi Carolyn, My only daughter is getting married next month--hurrah! Her future in-laws are ECSTATIC about her marrying into the family. They adore her and are on record as saying they began praying for this marriage to happen the day they met her. She has already begun calling them Mom and Dad. My husband and I like our future son-in-law, but not with the same rabid intensity. Where the in-laws invite their son and my daughter to dinner and family events practically every week, my husband and I don't feel the need to invite our future son-in-law along every time we do something as a family. Sometimes we want to see our daughter alone. I'm feeling self-conscious and anxious about this because I worry that once they get married, they as a couple will be much closer to the other set of parents, who are bending over backward to make that possible. I know it's not a competition; still, I feel like we're losing. What do you think I should do, or tell myself to stop feeling the need to do anything?

Maybe my dial is just always turned to Dark, but these in-laws-to-be remind me of the abuser red flag of moving the relationship along too fast. It just seems off. The day they met her? I'm sure she's lovely and all, but, come on.

I realize that's not exactly a Xanax for your nerves, but I think you're right at least to think carefully about how you handle this. Definitely don't approach it as a competition, you're right about that, but do make sure you maintain a steady presence in your daughter's life. You pretty much have to invite him every time, that's what marriage involves, and it'll sound anti-Groom to float an idea otherwise--but by going along and remaining steady, you'll develop a better understanding of the dynamics here. If anything, if you have any sense that it's not all as ECSTATIC as they profess, then knowing the fiance better will be to your advantage, while having kept him at arm's length will hurt. 

I've been bugging my boyfriend about getting engaged since the new year started. We've lived together for 8 months now, and he says he wants to marry me, he just wants to make sure we're not rushing. We're both 24. After making enough lighthearted jokes about getting engaged he finally just straight up asked me "Why do you want to get married?" and I had no real answer. I mumbled something about commiting ourselves fully, but it didn't feel exactly right. Lately I've been thinking about how if I hadn't found him and moved in together I'd have gotten myself a house and a dog by now. It was in the works before we started dating. So maybe I'm just anxious to get started with the next phase of my life. Do you think I can still be ready for marriage even if my reasons for truly wanting it have less to do with love and more with the future I want to start?

No. The only reason for marriage is that you've found your life partner, and you have good reasons to formalize it. (Religious, financial, legal, societal--that's your business, not mine.)

If you're there right now, and really you just want to get a house and a dog, then get a house and a dog. Since you're living with your boyfriend, that will be somewhat more complicated than it would have been before you met, but you can still buy the house yourself as you were planning to before, and you can decide with your boyfriend how much of his opinion it makes sense for you to weigh in picking out a place. If he's not okay with your getting a dog now, then I don't see how marrying him would change that.

Whatever you do, stop the "bugging." And the "lighthearted jokes," too, if you're using them as fig leaves for the actual issues. That more than anything else would indicate that neither of you is ready to get married. Use your words and figure things out.

My in laws ADORE me. Sorry, but they do. My folks aren't quite as overjoyed with my husband. No abuse at all! That's honestly a ridiculous proposition. My parents (the less than overjoyed ones) are the ones with the issue. You should have counseled this mother to start to warm up and get to KNOW the future husband better and not exclude him, or they will push both of them into the son's families camp. It's her issue, not theirs.

Isn't that ultimately what I advised, not to keep him at arm's length?


You wouldn't allow girls to sleepover with your son because you assume that there is a possibility that boy and girl might be interested in each other. Here, you already have the information you might need about this situation: Your son isn't interested, and it isn't likely that anything will happen. The only thing you should make sure of before this sleepover is that your son knows how to turndown a physical pass, just in case the kid makes one. But give the boy some credit too. He asked, he was turned down. Do you have any reason to think that he wouldn't respect that, and would put himself further out there? If not, then there is really no basis for any worry here. If you do, you have a bigger concern which is about the boy in general and not this particular sleepover. That's a different kind of thing to sort out.

Excellent points, thank you.

Would you have answered that question differently if the person's son was also gay? I understand where you are coming from as to not ostracize the boy, but how does this get handled for kids that identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, etc. No sleepovers? Sleepovers with the sex they aren't attracted to? It's kind of confusing.

The answer above covers it in this situation, I think.

It's an interesting question, though, since all those years of non-acceptance made the sleepover-party question moot; by the time people were coming out, the 12th birthday sleepover was long in the past. And of course at countless of those parties were LGBT people simply being with their friends and not causing widespread sexual mayhem. Right?

To me, off the cuff, the only approach that makes sense is to make decisions based on the nature of the relationship, to the extent that you know it. Friends, sleepover; known mutual attraction, no sleepover. Sure, people are going to misread some things, but it's not as if parental prevention of romantic involvement was ever perfect.

What you want and need to prevent is anything unwanted or coerced--and that's where the answer above, again, gets it exactly right. Talk to your kids about their right to say no--as you should be doing anyway, from when they're toddlers with the first "good touch, bad touch" tutorial.

Even better, with kids of this age, role play ways to say no, assuming they don't respond to the mere mention of role playing with their parents by curling into themselves with horror and not speaking for a week.

I really do think that treating kids as kids is the only way to go.

Get your own place. Really. It will do you so much good in the end. I know it's hard to see, now, and the number in your bank account makes you feel comfortable, but there are so many lessons to take away from self-sufficiency. You really, truly, learn to budget, which means you learn what's really important to you compared to what you like to have. You learn to look out for yourself, and that naturally comes with tiny but useful life skills like knowing how to unstick your garbage disposal or how YOU like to have things in your own space. You learn, above all, that even if something catastrophic were to happen to the person you love, that you CAN make it on your own if you have to, which makes you a much more stable partner in any relationship, and gives you room to figure out whether you're really with someone because you want to be with them, or because you feel you can't be without them even if that might make you happier. Get to know you. It's the best investment in a relationship you'll ever make.

I am incensed with myself for not saying this. Thanks for stepping in. 

Hi Carolyn, Are there lessons offered anywhere about becoming a less awkard/more naturally polite person? Yesterday I was walking my cul-de-sac with my daughter in a stroller when I passed another mother with her baby of about the same age. She said, "Your daughter is adorable!" I said something like, "Thank you! Today's her first birthday!" It wasn't till 30 seconds later, when the other mom was too far away, that I realized I probably should have reciprocated with a compliment about her baby's cuteness. I find that things like this - saying the wrong thing or failing to say the obvious right thing - happens to me almost nonstop. How do I change my stripes and become a functioning member of the human race??? Thanks!

1. forgive yourself. If you're uncomforable in social situations, your mental energy will go into what you say and how you look, which means you're -not- putting mental energy into listening to or seeing the other person. It's not deliberate, it's just the nature of self-consciousness.

2. Implant some new habits deliberately. "I will ask questions." This is a mantra you can adopt to help you seem less clueless. You will still be thinking more of the question than the answer, at first, but it'll get you started. E.g.: "Thank you! Today's her first birthday! HOw old is your baby?"

You will space out and miss your chance as you're getting used to it, but you will get the hang of it if you keep reminding yourself.

And, when in the habit, you will worry less about it and then be able to hear answers more attentively.  

A bunch of you are telling to me to leave, so, I'm leaving. ("You mean that's all we had to do, all these years?")

Thanks for your patience, have a great weekend, and type to you here next THURSDAY. 

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.

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