Emotionless lizards: Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, March 28)

Mar 28, 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.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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Hax Philes discussions

Hi everybody, happy Friday.

Any thoughts on Conscious Uncoupling?

None that haven't already been expressed. 

Hi, Carolyn. Back on Valentine's Day, there was a contest for writing a caption for one of Nick's cartoons. I have never seen who won. How do we find out? Thanks!

I asked Nick about it a week or so ago, and he said the winner hasn't been chosen yet. He also told me why, and the reason fell out the other side of my head. The judge they chose hasn't done it yet, maybe? Sorry for my forgetfulness. I'll post something when I know. 

Hi Carolyn! I love your advice and I'm hoping you can help. Until this week, I had never been in a relationship or even kissed anyone. I started seeing a guy, and I really like talking to him, but I'm not sure about the physical aspect. Last night I went over to his house for dinner and he ended up going from zero to making out (complete with copious tongue), with really no preamble. I didn't enjoy it, but I didn't stop him becuase I thought "well, I guess this is what one does." (I did stop some roving hands, though). Today I just feel gross about it and myself and not super-excited to see him again. What's driving me crazy is that I don't know where my thinking is coming from: am I uncomfortable because this is a very new situation and I don't know what I'm doing, or is this guy genuinely not a good fit for me? Can you give me any advice on straightening out my thinking? FWIW, I had planned on mentioning my lack of experience but the kiss happened before I could say anything and that's thrown a whole new level of awkwardness to that potential conversation.

Are you attracted to men? Were you attracted to this man at any point? It could be as simple as your not being interested, either in this particular guy or his particular gender. Or any gender. 

Maybe this isn't about attraction (or lack of it) at all; it's just that you don't mention it, so I'm left to fill in blanks. If you get a chance to write back, then please do with some more information, and I'll take another look. 

I've been in a great relationship for almost a year. I often hear people in relationships say, "I can't imagine life without her," or, "I don't know what I would do without him." I know I had those thoughts about my previous girlfriend, even though our relationship was crappy. I knew I would be destroyed if I lost her. (Surprise! We broke up and I was fine.) My current relationship is respectful, supportive, and fun. My girlfriend is an awesome person. We have insane cshemistry. And I love her quite a lot. But I have zero trouble imagining my life without her, and I think if she dumped me tomorrow I would be just fine. Like, one-day-of-intense-sadness-then-move-on-with-life fine. Does this mean that, in my heart of hearts, I'm just not that into her? Or does it just mean that I've grown into some resilience and a more robust imagination? If it makes any difference, my previous relationship started right after college, but now I'm closer to 30.

Well, you "knew" you would be destroyed about the previous girlfriend, and you weren't; now you "think" (a verb worthy of your life mileage, well done)  you would be just fine. Maybe that assessment is just as faulty. 

I'd like to give you the pro-love answer and say definitively that you've just grown more resilient, but it could well be that you don't love her as deeply as you're capable of loving someone. I just can't make that call, certainly not any better than you can.

I do think, if it helps, that people have different pain thresholds: One person's "I can't imagine it" and another's "I can imagine it, and it would suck but I'd live" might well be functionally equivalent. 

To get around that uncommon-denominator problem, I suggest another standard. You can live a good life without this person, but do you want to? And its bookend: You can live a good life with this person, but do you want to?

I got my first kiss when I was 18. I was very attracted to the guy, but when he kissed me, it was just like, "EEEEEEEEEEEE STOP IT!" I made out with him a few more times but I never felt fireworks. I thought, "Well, I don't know anything about kissing, maybe this is it." Good news! Turns out that guy was not for me. When I kissed the next guy, I did feel fireworks. So maybe there's just no chemistry with this one physically. Don't keep kissing him if you don't like it. On to the next one!

"Don't keep kissing him if you don't like it." Yes, whatever the reason, thanks.

I just returned from a short visit to my elderly grandparents, and was struck by how unhealthy their relationship is. I knew this going in based on stories from relatives who see them more often than me, but I didn't realize the extent until I was there. My grandfather is verbally abusive to my mobility-impaired grandmother, and she is completely dependent upon him for most self-care tasks and any transportation. They live in an independent living facility which feeds them and offers recreational opportunities, but aside from attending meals they never leave their apartment. My grandfather hates caring for my grandmother but refuses to allow someone to come into their apartment to help (finances are not an issue), my grandmother hates being dependent on him for everything but refuses to consider things, like an electric wheelchair, that would make her marginally more independent (if my grandfather would even pay for it). I know I can't do much as a twenty-something on the other side of the country, but it's very clear both of them are completely miserable but also unwilling to change anything. Is there anything I, or other relatives, can do? We've tried talking to my grandfather, but any improvements only last a day or two before it's back to the routine. Verbal abuse is clear, and I witnessed some impatience and roughness (when he was helping her put on a sweater, for example) that, while not necessarily physical abuse, is also not okay.

Don't mess around with elder abuse. Talking to your grandfather hasn't worked, so it's time for more official intervention. The National Center on Elder Abuse has information here (link); you can steer your other, more local relatives to this page if that makes more sense. There's also an Eldercare Locator, 1-800-677-1116, where you can ask for help finding a geriatric social worker to intervene on your grandmother's behalf. Both of these are available through the U.S. Administration on Aging. Local governments also commonly have offices on aging to help families with these situations.

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year, pretty much all of it long-distance--we got together as I was finishing up college (we had been friends for a long time). I'm in my first year of grad school, and he has been searching for post-college jobs. He has an offer in my city, but he's not crazy about it. He has two other great offers, one about four hours away, and one on the other side of the country. I have two years left of grad school, and I'm not sure I can keep up any sort of LDR. I love him so much, but the distance is awful. I worry that speaking up would be manipulative, and that he will take the job in my city and be unhappy at work. But it feels deceitful to help him through the decision, and then to initiate a breakup if he picks one of the long-distance offers. Please help, Carolyn, I'm totally gutted by this and don't know what to do. Should I say something?

"I know you're not crazy about it, but staying together long-distance is wearing me out. Would you be willing to consider accepting the job here, knowing it's just till I finish school?" 

There is nothing manipulative about saying how you feel and what you want. 

Hi there, My husband and I have a close group of other couples who we spend time with regularly. The problem is, my husband is often the "butt of the joke" in our group. I guess you could say he's an easy target. He's easygoing and hates conflict, so he would never speak up and say it bothers him. I don't think it is mean-spirited, and in most cases it truly doesn't bother him, but after 10 years of it, it's starting to bother me. The couple who does it most often are his oldest friends, so maybe they see him more as family, so they think it's appropriate? Anyway, is there a way to handle this? Since the jokes are directed at him and not me, I'm not sure it makes sense for me to speak up? And I know he is unlikely to say anything because he doesn't want to ruffle any feathers. Help, please!

I don't know if it makes sense for you to speak up, either, because I don't know how your husband feels. 

You don't know how he feels, either, and that strikes me as the nub of the problem. I actually find "easygoing" and "hates conflict" to be mutually exclusive. Either you are easygoing, and therefore you are internally not conflicted (except in extreme cases, I suppose), or you are conflict-averse, in which case you do feel conflicted but prefer to stay that way in silence than to address problems openly.

So the answer here hinges on which one your husband actually is. I suggest you ask him. Explain that the friends' "friendly" ribbing is starting to bother you, and you wonder how--or whether--he stays so comfortable with it.

I also think it would behoove you to figure out why you're bothered, and why now. It could be straightforward--some jokes get pretty stinkin old after 10 years--or not-so-. Maybe you're tired of feeling like a joke yourself, as the person who married their punch line. Dig in a bit to see what's there.

Dealing with the former is pretty easy, by the way--"I think that joke has had its decade in the sun. How about a new one?" They may not drop it, but you'll have the satisfaction that comes with having been perfectly clear in a tonally appropriate way. 

If the answer is more in the neighborhood of the latter (feeling maligned by association), then  the answer gets a little more complicated, because a lot of the work is yours to do internally--but you can still include a party-appropriate mention of the fact that the gag is wearing thin.



The independent living facility probably has a social worker you can and should talk to about this. That way they can work with APS to get your grandmother in a better environment. If there anything like the social workers at the facility I worked at they'd really prefer to be helping you than get blindsided when the investigation starts.

Thanks--and yes to starting with the facility, if it has a social worker on staff.

I'm going to try to do a thorough response to your questins before running into a meeting. I'm pretty sure that, despite my lack of dating, I'm attracted to men. I've acutally thought a lot about if I might be gay or bi, but I've never been attracted to women and when I've considered it, I've mostly been "Oh, if I were a lesbian, that would be such an easy explination for why I haven't dated." So I don't think so, and I do feel attracted to this guy. When he walked me out to my car, he gave me a quick kiss goodnight and I was like "Oh, that I liked." So I do think it was an issue of way too much way too soon, lack of experience or no (I think even if I had kissed 1000 dudes, I still would have been freaked out by his approach). I guess my concern now is how do I navigate between the the discomfort that comes from being in new situations where I don't really know what I'm doing, and what are red flags that I need to listen to because I'm uncomfortable. Basically, I'm worried that I'm either going to shut down this whole relationship because I'm freaked out or I'm going to go to the other extreme and do things I really don't like but because I feel like I should. Hope this helps, and thanks for answering!

It does help, thanks.

My main suggestion at this point is more of an assurance: It's okay to say, "Wait, whoa, stop--I need to go slowly. Really, really slowly." It is not oversimplifying to say that anyone who doesn't immediately respect that can be rightly scratched off your list.

We all have issues on which we're flexible, and others on which we just don't budge. The specifics of what these issues are, from one person to the next, are generally not dealbreakers; it's a big world and there's usually someone out there who understands and can accommodate whatever of our Stuff needs accommodating. Where the trouble lies is in being rigid where it suits us to be flexible and flexible when we need to be rigid.

You, because of who you are, need someone who will accept your pace. No budging (unless and until you're ready to). Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself. If you err in, say, "shut[ting] down this whole relationship because I'm freaked out," that's not the end of the world. It just means you learn something and take it from there.

I was 24 or 25 when I had my first kiss. He is now my husband, but I could have just as easily had my heart broken in that first relationship. What I looked for, feeling so out of experience, was a person with whom I could be honest: this is new to me, I feel a bit weird going through this the first time at my age. I do like you, but I need to pace things. I would rather he have run at that than for me to be with the wrong partner for my situation. Once he understood where I was coming from, I was able to stop things at any point that I was uncomfortable. I felt respected and valued because I was able to voice my boundaries, and he was able to respect them. Speak up. You really don't want to be with someone who can't respect your boundaries or your right to voice them.

Or this. Thanks for putting it so well.

Dear Carolyn, I am the OP from Monday's letter . Thanks for answering my original letter (back in September?). I did speak with a counselor about how to deal with my parents and found it helpful. I wanted to provide you with some context of how all of this played out. Also, I wanted to thank the commenters who posted thoughtful responses and advice. For those who roasted me, well, ouch. Tough crowd. First, I have rare contact with my parents because I moved 3500 miles away after the affair was discovered.  They thought I was being selfish and over-reacting by moving so far away. I did not. I needed some distance, stat. I am happy with the direction my life has taken. I know very little of my brother's life after I left. He and my ex did marry and divorced two years later. Apparently, they were much better at lying, cheating and betrayal than being married to each other. I do understand my parents want a relationship with my brother's kids; however, I don't need to have a relationship with them. My brother claims the distance I've put between us is hurting him, his kids and our parents. Let me just say, it would require all of the burning-white-heat of a supernova for me to be in the same room with these people. I have come to terms with and forgiven the choices my parents have made. I do not begrudge them grandchildren. I do need them to respect my choices and why. I have even forgiven my brother, though that was mostly for my own sense of well-being. FWIW, my parents are flying to see me in a couple of months. Thanks again for listening and your advice.

Thank you, too, for writing in again. You sound much better--more peaceful.

I'm sure the counselor talked about this, but "I do need them to respect my choices and why" is a reasonable, understandable thing to want, but a dangerous thing to "need," because you have little to no say in whether you get it. You can ask your parents for this respect, and you can say that having it is the piece you need to be willing to play a larger role in their lives, but that's where your control leaves off and theirs begins.

BTW, I (again) don't question your fury and disgust with your brother, but I do wonder if I'm the only one who thought of Steinbeck's "East of Eden." Is it possibe you and your brother ran across your Cathy?

Dear Carolyn, when 15-year friends ask for my opinion on the baby name they're "considering," do they really want to hear my opinion, or do they just want validation for the name they've already chosen? I've just been asked for this sort of feedback, and while I probably COULD convincingly articulate what I think is wrong with the name (it clashes with their complicated surname, and their alternative spelling choice makes it seem trashy), I'm not sure that I'm actually supposed to! Worse, it's not like I can ask, "Do you really want to hear the truth about what I think here?" since that's as good as saying I hate it but don't want to hurt their feelings.

Assume they want validation. You can say, though, "It's lovely, but, er, Firstname Lastname is a mouthful." Presumably that's not going to linger on their minds when they ignore you and use the name anyway.

There is no pole long enough for touching the alternate-spelling-is-trashy idea, though, a criticism that's radioactive to all but the most thick-skinned friends.

Dear Carolyn, My job includes running drop-in playgroups for babies and toddlers and those who care for them. These are casual, unstructured, social events - I'm not teaching or instructing on childcare or development. One little boy comes with his nanny, who is constantly interfering when he wants to play with the dolls or kitchen toys, taking the toys away and telling him, "no, that's for girls!" It breaks my heart. I've taken to gently and cheerfully intervening - "hey, he might be a dad someday - he needs to practice!" I also make sure to notice when he's playing with these toys and the nanny isn't watching, and to smile and say, "you're taking such good care of that baby!" and so on. I have no contact information for the parents - my only relationship is with the nanny. Am I doing the right thing? Is there anything else I can do without alienating her or pushing her away?

Your drop-in play group, your rules: "[Nanny], may I speak to you for a moment? We don't have 'girls' toys' and 'boys' toys' here--we let the children decide what they want to use. Thank you in advance for respecting this rule."

As for the larger implications (Nanny mucking with these kids' heads by enforcing anachronistic values, or at least on-the-path-to-being-), I have two additional thoughts. The first is that bystanders can't solve everything. You run your playgroups your way and when they leave, so does your duty to get involved. Abuse suspicions excepted, of course.

The second is that, if these were my kids, I'd still want to know what the nanny was doing, if at all possible--and this goes for anything like this that's a judgment call (since the parents, of course, might be the ones drawing a hard line between acceptable feminine and masculine behaviors). If it's at all appropriate, then you can ask the nanny for contact information for the parents--for the purpose of exploration, not tattling. "This is how I run my play group, this is what the nanny says, this is how i dealt with it, and I wanted to make sure you were comfortable with that." If that's beyond your comfort range and/or the scope of what you do--e.g., you're running a drop-in childcare room at a gym--then the first thought applies. 

You can't say the kreativ spelling is trashy, but you can certainly say "I'm a big fan of traditional spellings. Old fashioned, I guess." That way it's on you.

"I'm also a big fan of supporting parents in choosing a name they love." Cover all sections of butt, just in case.

Carolyn I have been out of the game so long, and, I'm almost 50, I would feel very strange asking for a slowdown to my pace. I would feel like I have to explain why it's been a decade+. Thoughts?

At almost 50, you have even less obligation to explain yourself. 

Well, that's not quite right--no sentient person is so obligated. But, at almost 50, I hope you'll give yourself permission not to need any better reason to say "Slow down!" (or whatever else you need to say) than simply knowing yourself well enough to be the last word.  

At the urging of a friend, I have a rule: before I quit (anyone or anything), I try to find one thing that could make me happier and want to stay, and ask for it. This friend pointed out that after deciding to quit a job, I had nothing to lose, I could ask for what I wanted. I might get it, and if not, I'm no worse off, what's he going to do, fire me?

Simple and elegant, thanks.

My lovely husband and mother-in-law are good people and I love them very much but they cannot. take. a .hint. when they invite people to something and the person clearly isn't interested. They'll throw out suggestion after suggestion even though the individual is deflecting or changing the subject. Recently my husband spent time asking a couple about getting together, throwing out all these options, even though the couple repeatedly gave a line about how hard it is to get away with the baby these days. And he learned from the best: my mother-in-law, who will cycle through a list of suggestions if we say no to the first or subsequent ones. It's very much out of love (they want to see these people!) but also totally clueless in their delivery. Is it worth my trying to do something while it's happening? Mentioning it after the fact? I just think they'd get a lot more yeses if they would let these things happen more organically.

Sounds like a deeply ingrained pattern, so the odds of carving a new one are lengthened by that.

While this cluelessness is happening, it's okay to intervene gently: "[Husband], you've given them a bunch of ideas to work with, so let's give them some time to figure things out."

And, it's generally productive to speak openly after the encounter is over but while it's still fresh: "I know you were just trying to be helpful with all those specific suggestions, but I think they felt cornered by it--they needed to say no right now, for whatever reason, and when they're ready to say yes they know where to find us."

If it's a sore spot for him, then that basically drops your chances of changing the pattern to zero, in which case stick to the gentle, in-the-moment diversionary tactics.

(FWIW, since I can imagine people asking: The reason for intervening here is that it's apparently making other people uncomfortable.)


What does one do when the couple's only registry is a "honeymoon registry," i.e., they only want cash for their honeymoon? I find this idea distasteful. Should I give in and give cash? Find a nice gift somewhere else? Not give a gift? FWIW, I am traveling across the country at significant expense to attend this particular wedding.

I get the impulse to be a conscientious objector to something you find tacky (and I'm no fan of the we-just-want-money registry, either), but here's the thing. These are your loved ones. You care enough about them to take a couple of types of pains to go celebrate with them. So, why not just give them what they want? You were planning to spend $____ on a set of bar glasses/candlesticks/fruit forks, so why not put $____ into the pot. Whatever. They're not your kids, you don't need to raise them right or set a key example.

Now, if you're going over the river and through the woods to witness their wedding for some other reason besides actually liking them--they're relatives, say, and you're tight with someone significant to them--then that reasoning loses some of its sturdiness, but that doesn't mean it belongs at the curb. You can, for example, pitch in 50% of $____ as a form of protest known only to you, or just get them a lovely card, or you can give them something thoughtful in support of said honeymoon, purchased returnably from a store to which they can return it for something else they legitimately need. 

When in doubt: "I will not to make this any harder than it needs to be." Good, multi-purpose battle cry.

What the OP didn't mention is that the name under consideration is Bacyn Pantse Humperdink. Just go for the traditional spelling, people.

That's not trash, that's art. 

"Who's Art?"

I have a good friend at work (and not-work) who just has too many feelings. I am sort of joking here, but the real problem is when we are talking about work over beers, and sorting through things, they'll express real distress over what they perceive to be other people's problems. Often this come across like "i just feel so badly for her, I almost felt like crying. She doesn't seem empowered in her role." Or something similar. It's just this level of caring, deeply and emotionally, about every little thing - whether or not they'll have control over it, whether or not the person affected is a close enough colleague for my friend to even know whether they themselves are bothered - that drives me crazy. I don't want to invalidate my friend's feelings, their sweetness is a wonderful trait, but i worry that no person can sustain this level of emotional investment in a job, burnout will set in, and this valuable person will leave. Plus, I always feel like the emotionless lizard who says things like "do you know if it's bothering *her*? yes/no? Then it's her problem to deal with, not yours," and I don't want my friend to think that I wont be receptive to any of their concerns. Thoughts for working this one out?

Sounds like you're already working it out just fine.

-Emotionless lizard


(And since I can't help myself ... play her this, too: link.)


Where do you draw the line? We've been married for over 20 years, yet it seems like whenever we are alone, she wants to talk about what she isn't getting from me. She has a nice house, good job, great kids, large number of friends, good health, but yet .... unless she can make me more romantic, more attentive, more open with information, etc. then she seems to be miserable. Is this as simple as "if I don't choose to live this way any longer, I should remove myself?" I can't live where all of our time together is spent trying to "fix" me. I think we are both exhausted from this constant tug of war - both trying to maintain some independence inside of the marriage or do you have to lose yourself in the process?

"It seems like whenever we are alone, you want to talk about what you aren't getting from me. Unless you can make me more romantic, more attentive, more open with information, etc. then you seem to be miserable

"I think we are both exhausted from this constant tug-of-war.

"Here's what I'd like to try: Can you name some specific things I can give you that you think would resolve these feelings for you?"

I mean (this is me talking now, not me talking through a you-puppet) really specific: If you ... say, asked her to join you before going out for a run or an errand; answered her questions with full sentences instead of "Yes" and "No" and "Okay"; asked her specific questions about her day, such as, "What happened with that [crisis at work]?"--and if you don't have specifics like that, ask questions that would draw out that kind of detail; brought her a cup of coffee in bed every once in a while, or just asked her if she wanted anything when you're about to make a run to the kitchen; then you might add dramatically to the warmth between you without changing a whole lot, much less "losing yourself."

How does that sound--feasible? Too tall an order? Or already tried and failed? (If it's either of the latter two, then I'll wonder why you two haven't tried talking to a good marriage counselor.)

By the way, I have a different way to end this sentence: "She has a nice house, good job, great kids, large number of friends, good health, but yet ... " her primary emotional attachment has atrophied and her various efforts to strengthen it haven't been effective.

So, do give spe


... wait, where'd that go.

Meant to say,

Do give specific, incremental, manageable (for you) efforts a try.


I so want a cage match here. Jess, would you please kick both of these to Philes?:


I have to ask (to clarify, no, I didn't do a honeymoon registry) - what's the big deal? Is it the cash part? If so, lots of cultures give cash for weddings. Is it the asking part? I mean, a registry is already asking - they're just asking for something cash instead of material goods. I'm completely against demanding/requiring/expecting gifts, but I feel like we've developed this automatic reflex to things that even have a whiff of cash to them. How is that any less tacky than asking for candlesticks? If you don't want to get a gift, then don't! No requirement. And if you have a great off-registry idea, then do it! But the idea of a registry is to tell people what they need (since guests often demand to know, trust me). So if they don't need a toaster or candlesticks, but this is their chance to have a really great vacation .... why does that matter?



No no no; please don't jump on the wedding extortion bandwagon. 1) a gift is not required. 2) A gift should be something YOU think the couple would enjoy. 3) requesting money as the only gift the couple will accept lacks class and taste. Why not give a lovely album (that you can afford) with a card that says "to keep your special mementos from your honeymoon. Safe travels!"

And from the OP:

Because I feel it's basically endorsing something that icky. If I give it to them it's going onto the 'it's ok to have a honeymoon registry' side. I know it's not the same as asking someone pro choice to donate to a pro life organization but this is how things change and become the norm. If everyone just endorses what someone wants when a lot of the population feel it's tacky then we're endorsing that change. I don't want to endorse that change.

... which makes you the perfect person to get the thread started on how registering for an experience differs from registering for plates (general Philes link).

Let the cage match begin: Philes link! 

Hi Carolyn! Tiny problem here. Today is my last day at my current office. A coworker, who I've met a handful of times in ten-minute increments, handed me a good-bye letter. I took it and said "thank you", etc. When I opened it, I found a very heartfelt letter about her worry for the condition of my soul - the central point was that God does not care about good works, but only the acceptance of Christ's sacrifice. I'm not particularly religious anymore (I was raised Catholic), but I can appreciate the spirit with which the letter was intended -- she genuinely believes she is doing the good/right/kind thing in giving it to me. I don't feel right repaying her kindness with silence (that feels rude), but I know if I go to her office and say, "thank you for thinking of me", that will invite follow-up questions. I feel at peace with my spirituality, but I know that my answers are not the same as hers.I know most people would say "ignore it", but I can't stand to be rude. I considered emailing her, but ignoring a reply from her would feel even more awkward. My paralytic fear of rudeness has been a stumbling block in the past and I've tried to have more of a spine when needed. (I think the fact that I'm emailing such a small issue does a good job of showcasing the depth of this greater problem -- ha.) I love your columns and chats! They have helped me and friends; you have had so many great quotables over the years!

Thanks for the kind words.

Ignoring the letter is not rude. In accepting it, you completed the transaction. She did her "good/right/kind thing." Each of you now carries on with life accordingly.

I was going to say that if it's just going to keep you awake at night not to respond, then respond via snail mail--but I think that's going to undermine your effort to have more of a spine.

It's not good to be rude, of course, but it's also not logical to have too broad a definition of rudeness: To believe you're having such a significant impact on someone by not responding (in this case) is to have an inflated sense of your impact on others' lives. Not returning a call to a friend or family member, okay, that will hurt--but not responding to the proselytizing of a soon-to-be-former colleague you barely know? She will go on to other things central to her life and the absence of a response from you will be a speck in an outer orbit, if that; there's nothing wrong with assuming that. 

My 13-person office is hosting a bridal shower for a co-worker. Yay! Actually, not so much, and I feel like curmudgeon. Until a year ago, our office had a lovely conference room where we'd host pot luck-style celebrations for milestones during the work day. We've since moved and downsized our space significantly and our conference room barely fits 13 chairs. So, the bridal shower is being hosted at another co-worker's house on the weekend. This would be great if I actually liked spending time with my office, but the personality dynamics stress me out and are dysfunctional. I really don't want to go because it will mean spending part of my weekend with people I don't want to spend time with, and I'd much prefer an office lunch. Given that I probably will have to attend and participate in preparing for it, what coping mechanisms can you and nuts offer so I don't get too resentful??

1. You can miss a couple of these. People do have lives, conflicts will come up, you will actually be out of town (ahem) on that weekend, so so sorry.

2. When you do go, treat it as this thing you must do as part of the larger necessity of earning a living. (Not to be confused with, do this or lose your job!, since presumably it is not about that.) For example, people commute, or have to pay for drycleaning, or sit in a windowless space on beautiful days, or work shifts out-of-sync with the rest of the world--these are all things we suck up and take because none is so bad that it's better not to have a job. 

3. You can also suggest an out-of-office lunch for the next one, no? A restaurant nearby with a party room, an hour and done, and no cleanup even. You volunteer to coordinate! Because you're generous that way. (Ahem.)

4. If it's more complicated then this, then I suggest an email to Karla Miller. wpmagazine@washpost.com

Thank you to the OP who said s/he is almost 50 and out of the game over a decade. I just turned 51 and have been out over a decade, too. I had plenty of action in my 20s and 30s but it just about did me in. Now I don't know if I ever want to get back in the game, but I hate sometimes feeling like such freak. Can we have a side conversation (Hax Philes?) for those who've been out a long time? Hard to discuss in places that aren't anonymous, although I try to be open and honest about it.

Yes, will send this to Philes too, thanks. 

Please don't be so tough on yourself, though. "Freak"? I see more single people around than ever, of all ages, and the U.S. Census backs that up: Linketylinklinklink (was getting so dull the old way). Here's the bullet: "The proportion of one-person households increased by 10 percentage points between 1970 and 2012, from 17 percent to 27 percent." 

Oh wait--the person I called an OP wasn't the OP (linkeyloo). My apologies.

This is probably too late to post, but when dealing with clueless people such as myself, the best thing to do is say "I don't feel up to seeing you right now, I'll contact you if that changes." I don't take offense and it keeps me from trying to solve the sham problems / excuses that people create.

It just seems to be too late to post, because I have gotten punchy. But I am still here. And I appreciate your suggestion and admire your toughness, but I don't think I could actually say this to someone. 

Maybe: "Now's not a good time to make plans--but I'll contact you when that changes"?

I too don't know if I want to be back in the game. But surely there are still guys who could make my heart go pitty pat? Thanks for the reminder that I don't owe anyone an explanation. Being single for a long time, I wonder if I I have internalized "I gotta be me" too much. It's a good thing, no?

You don't owe explanations, and you don't need my approval either!

It's a good thing as long as you think it is. I swear. 

And that should do it. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend, hope to see you here next week, and remember, what happens in the chat stays in the chat. Until it ambushes you several months later by appearing in a column. :D

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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 washingtonpost.com. She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.

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