Fallen Girl Scouts: Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, May 23)

May 23, 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 takes questions every Friday about her current advice column and about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

Want answers now? Search past Carolyn Hax live chats and find answers to your questions even if she is offline by clicking here.

Hi everybody. I'm fully! caffeinated! and! ready! to! go!

Happy Friday! Here is a light hearted topic for a Friday. I’m going to my 25th college reunion next weekend. About ten of us who are still friends are going together, mostly sans spouses so I know we’ll have fun. Yippee! But still, some best practices are probably in order. Here are my questions for you and the ‘nuts: How do I handle it when someone approaches me and I know I should know them but can’t remember a thing? How about when I approach someone and they clearly don’t remember me (this kind of thing sometimes hurts my feelings)? How do I change the topic when someone brings up something embarrassing about me? I loved college but am plenty embarrassed at many of my antics. And most importantly, how to I ensure I don’t do or say anything to embarrass myself, since you only have one chance to make a last impression. Just to give some context, our graduating class was about 400 so at one time I probably knew at least half of these folks. Thanks Carolyn!

1. Don't have more drinks than you can handle;

2. Remember that you're well into your 40s now, which means you get to let all this little stuff slide, and/or feel bad for the people who are well into their 40s and still can't let this little stuff slide. Forgiveness isn't just for waistbands.


Hi Carolyn, we are just two parents muddling through as best we can.  Short version of events: while I was with youngest daughter at her dance class, middle son (9 YO) was caught by his dad in the final steps in ordering t-shirts for his "club" with dad's credit card from an online custom t-shirt shop. Two minutes more and I would have gotten the email receipt. Now husband is sure that son is going to grow up into a criminal or deadbeat. From talking to son it sounds like his motivation is keeping his friends at school happy with something he thought he'd be able to get away with. His choices were just so bad. I'm disappointed in son, but wonder what more we need to do to teach son that this is unacceptable.  We both work outside the home and try to live by example on working hard for the things you want. But this would have been so easy for our son to complete had dad been napping. And the temptations are everywhere for someone with easy access to a credit card and ability to spell. Short of locking up our wallets and purses, what do we do now? We've implemented video game and TV restrictions and expressed to son our disappointment. But I just don't know how to express how wrong this is to someone that we feel knows right from wrong already. My husband's feelings are beyond disappointment, I would say it's grief, embarrassment, anger, and depression all rolled into one about our son's bleak future (similar to various members of our families). I also don't know what to do about my husband whom I feel has given up on our son. -Disappointed but still hopeful mom

Oh dear. My first thought as I was reading this was, "Wow, that's pretty resourceful for 9." Which says one of two things: that I'm just the right mother to bring up the leading criminals of the next generation, or that your husband is, and you are by extension, possibly overreacting to your son's shopping expedition.

It is that possible overreaction that tells me a situation-specific answer isn't going to cut it here, especially given the consequences of getting this wrong: All children reach crossroads regularly through life, and have to decide between doing what they know is right and what they'd really rather do. And one of the strongest influences pushing them to choose right over wrong is the faith their parents have in them, and instill in them, that they're good people. Internalizing that motivates them to act accordingly. If your husband is truly to the point of believing your son's future is a bleak one, then it's time for you to track down an excellent, reputable family therapist to help you get your family in order.

If my argument for this so far isn't compelling enough, try this one: Let's say this incident is just one of many where your son has operated without compunction despite full awareness of the rules. That might indicate antisocial leanings on his part, in which case not thinking immediately of getting professional help is an underreaction. I don't say this to alarm you, I'm just crossing my T's, especially since you threw in the part about the "various members of our families"; odds are he's just a boundary-pusher like any other kid. 

Nevertheless, a dad who has "given up on our son" means you can't mess around. Ask your pediatrician for a referral ASAP.


Something like this happened to me just yesterday. I was at a networking breakfast and recognized a name of someone seated out of view when we went around to introduce ourselves. I worked with her about 15 years ago. Afterwards, I approached her and told her I knew her. She had no idea who I was. Nope, the name rang no bells. Whatever. We kept talking about people we knew in common and left on friendly terms. It's not a big deal.

Zackly, thanks. Mentally repeat as needed, "It's not personal."

Hi Carolyn, I am the LW from Tuesday's column about the boyfriend with trust issues. I wrote that actual letter about 8 months ago. Unfortunately for the commenters (and apparently myself) I am still with him. And it is going extremely well. Honestly, right now is the happiest I have ever been in my life, and he is a big reason why. I think we've done a lot of growing up, together, and I've also stood up for myself enough that he's stopped treating me like I constantly need to defend myself. However, there are moments when I realize how insecure he still is. He's not letting it out full blown like he used to, but occasionally he'll make a joke that I'm pretty sure is serious underneath it all. Is this progress, or is this still a serious threat to my future happiness? Honestly, I believe we get along wonderfully, and I see no threat of rage or violence as some commenters had concerns over. We're even living together and are able to maintain our own lives and activities separate from each other, while making fabulous roommates. But honestly, this reminder of how it used to be has me shaken up. Can I take a deep breath and enjoy what I have, or do I still need to continue questioning things?

Thanks so much for writing in, and I'm sorry the rerun shook you up.

I'm going to kick this to Hax Philes (thanks, Jess) because I think the experiences of many can illuminate more facets of a complicated situation than I can. I believe the answer is in here: "He's not letting it out full blown like he used to, but occasionally he'll make a joke that I'm pretty sure is serious underneath it all." Specifically, it's in something only people close to him can know, which is whether he's "not letting it out" now because he has dealt with it and (mostly) put it to rest, or because he's keeping it all inside despite feeling the same as he always has. 

One way to figure out which is the truth is to pay attention to the context. People who are holding things in tend to act angry around the edges, have shorter fuses, react big to small things, etc. Also you can get an idea of his true feelings by addressing the "jokes" when they happen. "Hm. You said that like you meant it. What's up?" Said calmly and once, without pressure, every time you're in this situation, can eventually pry out a truth. 

You can learn a lot from your own behavior, too; if you're no longer on the defensive, then that's a good sign for you, whether the relationship lasts or not.

When I was about 8, I never turned in my (substantial amount of) Girl Scout Cookie money. I used it to buy toys. My mother found out, had to pay the Girl Scouts (who asked me not to return) back, then punished me. I grew up to receive 3 degrees, am the head of a department, and am a contributing member of society. I even buy Girl Scout Cookies! They let me! Doing crazy stuff when you're a kid may mean you're destined for a life of crime . . . or it could mean that you're a kid who does crazy things because you're a kid.

Does this make me the advice columnist of choice for people banned for life from the Girl Scouts? Please say yes. 

Dear Carolyn, My boyfriend of 2 1/2 years recently brought up that our relationship is slowing due to my inability to challenge him. He thinks my job of two years, one that will allow me to telework and move cross-country for him in a few months, does not offer opportunities for my professional growth, and therefore our growth. At the moment, my life primarily revolves around family and small social circles at work and church. When I visit him, we do his things and hang out with his work and social friends. I know our dynamic will change once I get out there, but it has been a stressful year of long-distance. I want to challenge him and grow for all parties involved. What do you suggest that I do? Stunted

This is what he just said:

"For me to want you, you need to get better."

This is a question for everyone, not rhetorical: Has this setup ever had a happy ending? Please share stories.

And for you, LW: You just named yourself "Stunted." That's just so painful. If you like your family, small social circles at work and church, and your job of two years, then I strongly urge you to keep them.

My (healthy, not-yet-mobile) kid was exposed to a virus and so we have been uninvited from a BBQ where a new baby will be. Partly, I get the new mom being careful, partly I think she's being over cautious since we'd be outside, and partly I'm overjoyed that I no longer need to go to this BBQ. Does this mean I'm not a good friend, or that that I'm just happy to have more unscheduled time, or am I giving this more thought that it needs?

Unscheduled time! Whoo-hooo!



Here's the new Philes post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2014/05/23/hax-philes-a-reminder-of-past-behavior-causes-a-crisis-of-confidence/

Should the LW be worried after receiving a reminder of her boyfriend's past behavior?

This is probably a different variation on the in-law questions you usually get. My fiancé and I hosted a small gathering of family a few months ago to announce our engagement. We thought it would be a good opportunity for both families to meet (both our folks are divorced; his dad is not in the picture, mine has remarried and neither of our moms has remarried). Everyone got along well, thankfully. The problem is that my soon-to-be mother-in-law has since been pestering my mom to get together (dinners, movies, the theater, parties, shopping, holiday weekends, etc.). My mom is a homebody and an introvert and mostly enjoys quiet evenings at home. She has agreed to one lunch date, and the three of us went shopping together a few weeks ago. My mom says she likes future MIL well enough, but she’s really not looking for a constant companion and the daily haranguing is starting to wear on her – MIL will call, text, email her at least once a day, usually more than once. MIL called me a few nights ago because she wants to invite my mom for a holiday weekend but wanted to find out from me what sort of activities my mom would enjoy. I’ve tried to explain that my mom is not particularly social, and I understand that MIL is just really lonely. But I hate being caught in the middle. How can I handle this without hurting anyone’s feelings? We’re all going to be family soon.

Next time your future MIL gives you the chance to be blunt, be blunt: "Here's the key to my mom: Get in touch with her no more than once a month. Seriously. She is a hard-core homebody and is never going to change. I had to learn the hard way so please let me spare you that process."

Good luck!

I am happily engaged to a wonderful man. He is renovating a condo that we will move into this summer, and because he is often there doing the work himself, I have picked up his share of the household chores. I also have some habits from living alone for so long that annoy him and that I am working to fix (forgetting to refill the toilet paper roll, leaving rinsed dishes in the sink instead of the dishwasher; all little things). We are able to communicate these in such a way that gently reminds me of whatever habit I just did, and laugh it off together. My best friend just informed me that she thinks my fiancee is bossy and controlling. I was shocked, but now I can't get the idea out of my head. Every time he points out that I dropped my clothes on the floor instead of putting them in the laundry, I wonder if I'm missing some kind of sign that I am being controlled. I do know my friend is unhappy that we see each other far less than we used to (I practically lived with her and her husband, and just after I started dating fiancee I got a job across town so it's hard to get together as much) so I don't know if this is a manifestation of her jealousy, or if she's picking up on something I can't see.

Tough call. On the one hand, the stuff you describe trying to do to please him really does sound like basic courtesy; it's not like you have to use a level on the hand towels a la "Sleeping With the Enemy." If we can't remind our partners in life not to strand us without TP, then we might as well all live alone.

On the other hand, I picture someone expressing this concern to a person in a non-controlling environment, and the person just BA-HA-HA-ing the idea. Right? 

At this point, I'm thinking the best thing you can do is not be a slob in your shared spaces, and see if that puts an end to the pointing-out of your shortcomings.

And, work a little harder to make time for your friend. Good policy regardless.

Hi Carolyn, As a mom to twins and frequent opinion-giver on birthday/gift/invite language, I'm hopeful you have advice on whether to include wording re: gifts in the evite for my upcoming 7 year old twins' joint birthday party. This is the first year my girls are in separate classes and each has invited 10 classmates, some of whom know the other twin, many do not. Family and friends that know both equally well will be in attendance, as well. I am concerned some of the classmates will feel obligated to bring a gift for both, which seems unfair to me since they might not know the other birthday girl. Is appropriate to say "No gifts necessary but if you choose to bring a gift, rest assured you only need to bring one."? Thanks for your thoughts!

So, you're looking at a low estimate of 20 gifts, and a high of 40?

We need, reflexively, to see that as disgusting. It's a judgmental word, but one I'm applying to the culture vs. any individual in it. No kid needs 20 new non-essential things, and no family needs 40. Please social-engineer your way around this in one of three ways:

1. Specify no gifts. It's an etiquette don't to put that on invitations but, again, I see materialism as the greater evil.

2. Say that in lieu of gifts for the birthday girls, you're collecting toys for _________ (favorite apolitical children's charity here, such as a local homeless shelter). Have your girls decide among a few local ones, and bring them with you when you deliver the gifts. Make it clear to them the party is itself a gift. 

3. Announce a "grab bag" system: Have each guest bring a wrapped, unmarked gift--set a dollar limit, 10-15-20 bucks--to be placed in a bin at the party. Everyone who brings a gift can then take one home. This has the benefit of obviating the Goodie Bag, that pox upon parents of children under 10.

Other suggestions entertained. And no, it's not terrible to deny gifts to kids this age. They're having a 40-plus person party! 

I had a friend whose roomie could never remember to change the TP and would regularly leave her stranded. They came to an agreement that she could take the empty roll and throw it at the roomie to vent her spleen that This Was Not Going To Change. All was calm.

Another fallen Girl Scout, I presume.

This isnt a direct answer to the question but it's completely related - I was the LW significant other. I thought that my partner wasn't growing enough for my taste (i.e. was in the same job for 10+ years, no room for growth, not doing anything to expand themselves career or otherwise). They had the same types of interests as the LW (not necessarily church, but something of that ilk). We were very serious but I was harboring these doubts about them. So I decided to look at her using a different tack. I looked at the different things that she enjoyed spending her time on and I realized how unfocused I was on the types of things that she enjoyed and too focused on my own pursuits - so I wasn't growing socially or taking the time to focus on those aspects of my own life. So, in essence, she taught me to grow from that end of the spectrum and it was quite possibly the greatest gift that anyone has ever given me. I know my friends better, I'm a more loyal person to them and showed me that there are other things that are important in life that aren't just career. By looking at things from her perspective, I was challenged to grow in a area I was wholly unfocused on. i wouldn't expect the LW partner to do the same, but I thought this would be good for the LW herself to hear. What's she focuses on is not insignificant and she shouldn't be told what is or is not by her partner.

Brilliant. Thank you.

It is NOT your job to challenge him! If he wants challenges, he can start rock climbing or learn Chinese or whatever kind of challenge takes his fancy. Really, the nerve of him! And what does "our relationship is slowing" even mean?

"I'm losing interest and making it your fault." Right?

It's a variation on "I could see myself marrying you if this (re you) changed a, b and c". Thing is, there will always be d, e and f. Happened to me and I worked hard at a b and c but it was never "enough" so i left. And he went looking for someone who had all my good parts along with a, b, and c fixed. Never found her. By then, I had moved on to someone who while they found a, b and c a tad annoying they decided it didnt matter. Sad thing was is that it did take me awhile to actually believe someone would love me "as is" and not as a "fixer upper"

Thanks for this, too. I'll keep posting this as they come in, and if I miss some I'll post them to Philes and/or FB.

I'm embarrassed that I don't have a bachelor's degree. My job is a job that is only normally given to people with bachelor's degrees, so people assume that I have one too. I might go back to school some day, but it's not a possibility at this point. One part of me is very ashamed that I'm less educated than people figure I am, and the other half of me is disgusted with myself for feeling this way. How do I get over these feelings of shame, and how do I respond to those who -do- look down on me for having only a two year degree?

Where's the half that's proud of yourself for getting to your position without a bachelor's to give you a leg up? 

I hope you'll give that some thought, but also take some more practical steps. The whole "go back to school" concept is a few years into a radical upheaval, and so you can almost certainly finish your education one course at a time cheaply and from your laptop. Obviously you have to vet any program carefully to make sure it's accredited and will accept the two years you already put in, but that's not a remotely serious obstacle when your sense of self worth is on the line.

Turn it into a book gift party - 'please bring your favorite book' (that signals one gift) give any duplicates from your own books to charity.

Yes, this too, thanks. Can't overdo books. (get it, overdo, I slay me.)

Hi Carolyn - I have these gnawing questions in the back of my brain regarding my current relationship. I cannot tell if they are real concerns or just figments of my overactive imagination and/or lingering self-esteem issues. We're currently engaged, but over the past 7 years there have been moments when I felt he was trawling the waters for other possible relationships, instead of the one he was in with me. In other words, I cannot help but feel as if I might be his consolation prize. Part of this gnawing, lies with the fact that he remains "friends" on facebook with a past co-worker who is 20 years his junior. He does not travel in her social circle, but he is constantly "liking" all of her cheesecake shots. And there are a lot of cheesecake shots! He also has an affinity for commenting on her postings that are sexually suggestive in nature. Should I be concerned? I guess I feel that if the situation were reversed and I was doing the same thing on facebook, then I would think my fiancee should be worried, because it would feel like I was trying to stay on the guy's radar and that I "liked" him. Should I keep holding this in or say something. Do I have a right to be concerned? P.

Does he act like a horndog around just this woman, or all women? Is he open about it all, nudge-wink-cackle, or is this a persona he hides from you?

There's a scale here. As long as you don't object to a person in general who has dirty-ol' tendencies, then you can reasonably rule on your gnawing questions based on the scale, with secrecy and targeted attention on the "warning" end of the scale, and openness and any-cheesecake-is-a-good-cheesecake tendencies on the "eh don't worry about it" end.

Hi Carolyn, My boyfriend and I (together for 3 years) are getting ready to take a trip to the beach with two other couples we know, one newlywed couple and one couple that’s been dating for 5 years. My best friend C is the female half of the 5-year dating couple. She has been wanting to get married for years now and is very frustrated that her boyfriend is dragging his feet. Literally all C and I talk about lately is her feelings of frustration about this. I sense that my boyfriend is planning to propose on this trip. Actually, I more than sense it; he has dropped a ridiculous number of hints including referring to one of our destinations as a perfect place to propose. I think that if he does so while we’re on a trip with the other couples, it will completely break C’s heart and will make the rest of the trip horrible for her and her boyfriend, at least. That in turn would make me feel guilty, which would dampen my positive feelings about the proposal. Yet I don’t want to ask my boyfriend to change his plans (if I’m right), and I do love the idea of being surrounded by friends during this special moment. I resent that we're tiptoeing around because of C's foot-dragging. What do you think I should do?

Live your life. 

And, next time C brings up her frustration at the lack of a proposal, say this: "C: Live your life. Stop waiting for him and live your life, whatever that means to you." This will not go over well if you say it just after your boyfriend proposes, and you will likely hear about it in an "easy for you to say" kind of way, but your situation and hers are apples and oranges. She's unhappy. She wants someone else to fix that for her, but it doesn't work that way. She's got to identify the source of unhappiness and deal with it using whatever options she has that are fully hers to decide. It sucks, but waiting for one's life to start sucks more.

Enough is enough. Good luck.

Can I throw in a good work about AA degrees? I teach at a Community College, and so many students just take a bunch of classes and never get their act together to take that one last nutrition class to finish the degree. An AA degree IS a degree. If you want to work on another degree, that's great (I am all for education). But that AA is something so many of our students never get, I hate to see someone feel like it wasn't an accomplishment.

Yes, you can, and thanks.

I work in a place where I'm the BS holder and everyone else has PhDs. I have used my job as the longest running continuing ed program in history. I constantly ask questions and try to understand the science on a higher level. At this point getting a MS would just be a piece of paper. My knowledge in the field is pretty good, even if I do say so myself. Grow and constantly learn with your job and in time maybe you will get that diploma.

Plus, you get to wear a T-shirt that says, "I'm the BS holder."

My daughter just turned twelve, and refuses to stay home alone, even for short periods of time. She's never had separation issues, never a problem dropping her off at school or a friend's house. She is a bit of a worrier and says she's afraid someone might try to break into the house. She has also said she doesn't want to grow up, wear a bra, etc. I think this may be along the same lines. Any suggestions? Give it more time? Am I missing any big red flags?

Well, it's always possible, in a low-percentage kind of way, that she has had a trauma and this is how it has manifest itself. Keep that possibility in the back of your mind as you take other, concrete steps to build your daughter's confidence, and be ready to act on it by enlisting the help of a therapist if she doesn't respond to smaller interventions.

But that's near the end of the series of steps, not beginning. The beginning steps are to add to her responsibilities in small increments. Give her more complicated chores, maybe teach her to prepare meals for herself or do her laundry or mend her clothes or take on other jobs that adults routinely do. When you go to the store, tear the list in half and give her a separate cart. Stuff like that. If you already do these things, then find ways in your daily family life to take it up a notch--all of it, presumably, as you're in the home or the vicinity of it. Make grown-up things mundane and do it without the separate stress of her being alone.

As her confidence improves, look for a "home alone" course. A local Y or community center might have one. They're generally for tweens and cover telephone, front door, first aid and emergency practices.

Also consider a Red Cross babysitting course, first aid course or something else for kids that teaches concrete skills.

You can use summer camps, too, toward this effort. A sleep-away would be ideal, but if she's not ready, then consider one that's oriented toward skill-building.

Again, if she remains fearful despite patient efforts to build her confidence, then it's time to talk to someone about exploring the fear with professional guidance. Her pediatrician or school counselor can likely get you started.

Hi Carolyn, do you attach any particular significance when half of a longtime couple frequently refers to himself in singular in situations when he shouldn’t? For instance, if a friend asks what my boyfriend did over the weekend, even if I’m standing right next to him he is likely to say something like, “I went to see friends out of town” when the answer is really “Susie and I left town to visit Susie’s friends from college” (which in addition to being more accurate would also help me join the conversation). He does that pretty much every time and only occasionally mentions my involvement as an afterthought. It reminds me a bit of how in my single days, guys flirting with me would sometimes clumsily omit the existence of their wives or girlfriends from our conversations. My boyfriend and I have talked about it exactly once (in the above example, I told him his omission was really strange and almost made the sentence outright misleading), and he really doesn’t get what annoys me about this or why I even notice it. I’m thinking he is resisting a little to feeling like he’s losing himself to become part of a couple. I get that it’s obnoxious when a person speaks in plural first-person when it’s unnecessary (kind of like the conversational equivalent of a two-person Snuggie), but I really don’t think what I’m talking about here falls into that category. I worry that I should be more worried that this quirk hasn’t changed at all in our 3.5 years of dating. Any thoughts?

You've had 3.5 years to see whether he means business in sharing his life with you. Does he, or doesn't he? That's your answer.

Thank you for taking my question. To be fair, it wasn't him who used the term "slowing", he used the phrase "not growing" instead. He's concerned that I don't bring anything new in terms of hobbies to our relationship, when I think it that we overlapped in so many interests (sci fi, music, fishing) of mine initially and he had so many more that it was hard to find something different I liked that I could teach him. But thank you, this has given me much to think about.

Put some frillies on a course catalog and introduce it to him as his new girlfriend.


I'm all for a lifetime of growth and challenge, but, hello, it's my job to find my own challenges, not my companion's. Which is a good thing, because Kenny hasn't introduced me to rock climbing, model-ship building, speaking Cantonese, needlepoint, fencing, bird-watching, botany, hair-braiding, organic farming, holistic medicine, folk dancing, square dancing, polka music, arena football or Yahtzee! And I don't want to have to be miffed about that.



This is how I do incredulity. I don't mean to mock.



For the woman with the 12 year old who won't stay home alone - I was the same way growing up. I refused to go to sleep away camp. I didn't like staying home alone and I didn't want things to change. My parents indulged me on the sleep away camp but eventually gave me more responsibility until I was more comfortable staying home alone. Eventually I grew up. I went to college several states away and joined the Peace Corps. Your daughter's going through a phase. Increasing her responsibility and being patient while she adjusts to changes in her own body and lifestyle will go a long way towards mitigating this problem.

Much appreciated.

I'm the female half of a nearly 5-year-long relationship in which I've been waiting very patiently for my boyfriend to propose. If I was the OP's friend "C," I admit I would probably be a little upset, but only for about 5 seconds and I would never let my friend see that. If "C" is any kind of real friend, she will set her own feelings aside to be happy for her friend. If "C" throws a tantrum or makes it about herself, the OP should probably reassess their friendship. Life is too short for friends like that.

A good reminder, thanks--though I think a good friend also won't be too tough on C for needing more than 5 seconds to regain her composure.

Hi Carolyn, my college roommate and I have been friends for over 40 years, sometimes closer, sometimes more distant, but generally staying in touch. Over the years, I've always been aware of her tendency to cancel plans to get together. I'm usually the one who proposes plans and organizes things, so I've always felt on the receiving end of the cancellations. Although often hurt and confused, and often given weak reasons (like "I have to go to the mall" or "I have to wait for the UPS man"), I chose to accept it as a weirdness of hers, not take it personally, and just carry forward. Recently, though, her cancellation of a major get-together involving 6 months' lead time, both of our SOs, travel and tickets to a sporting event, has me frosted. I expressed my hurt and disappointment, and received a reply that I am a "dear friend" and she would never intentionally hurt me. But she never addressed the real cause -- that she canceled because they "haven't the time or the money," yet she made different travel and vacation plans with other people for the same time period. I'm pretty sure I've been dissed. So now I'm mad as well as hurt. I guess I own the conflict here, as I never before stood up for myself in these situations. Can a friendship really change after so many years of status quo, or am I looking at a more permanent break-up if I choose to hold my own against this treatment?

A kick in the gut, I'm sorry.

Two thoughts and a suggestion.

First thought, yes, you could be right that she's just not that into you as a friend anymore. Surely both of you can grown a lot since college, and maybe a lot of that growing was apart--and you hadn't fully seen it till now because your making the effort to stay in touch kept you connected.

Second though: Or, she has not-uncommon emotional issues--depression is the main culprit but there are others--that tether to her home unless and until she's in control of the planning. Ask around, and I think you'll find that most people have run across someone who does this, who makes lame excuses to back out of plans made by other people but shows up like clockwork for anything that was his/her idea. You say you spearhead your plans with her, and she bails, so I'm curious about the "different travel and vacation plans with other people." If she was the instigator of those, then that would fit.

Suggestion: Don't think of this in terms of "hold my own" or not. Keep it simple, and just ask yourself, when you're about to pick up the phone or write an email or propose a plan: Do I really want to call/write to/see her? YES/NO. Use that as your sole guide for your relationship with her from now on.

I should say, do this after you note to her that she apparently made other plans with other friends for the same time period as your canceled trip. Say you won't jump to conclusions, and would instead like an explanation for that. See what she says, take it on the YES/NO plan from there.

"How do I handle it when I approach someone and they clearly don't remember me?" Cut this problem off at the pass by smiling, extending your hand and prompting the person with, "Hi, I'm YOUR NAME here. We had the same class/dorm/etc." They will probably say, "Of course I remember you!" even if they didn't...but regardless, you don't have to get your feelings hurt if they can't come up with your name.

Yes, right--be quick with a name. And then go to "It's not personal." 

Name tags, name tags, name tags. Block letters with a Sharpie so people can get it with a discreet glance. 

A different perspective - I was also uneasy about staying home, especially late at night (and I was also afraid if it was the last one up and had to turn off the lights). I never verbalized it to my parents, but looking back is it one of the first instances of increased anxiety, which now requires medication for plane flights.

Interesting point, thank you. 

Regardless of where this 12-year-old's fears are headed, talking about them will help her--so this whole exchange is a good reminder for parents to say "I'm glad you told me this" or "It took courage for you to tell me that, thank you" or similar when a child admits to a negative feeling.

Good point about her friend possibly having emotional issues. Unfortunately, I am THAT friend that occasionally flakes out on plans, even when made in advance and I really want to go etc. I have depression and anxiety, including panic attacks. There are just some days I can't bear the thought of being anywhere except my couch. And though some of my friends know about my mental health issues, I always make a lame excuse rather than saying "I can't make it, I'm freaking out right now. I'll get back to you when the Xanax kicks in."

Helpful, thanks. I'm wondering if your closer friends are ready for the truth. Speaking only for me, I'd appreciate it--and might even, if I could, change plans to do something more suited to your state of mind.

When living alone, I often was too lazy to go get the new toilet paper roll when I used up the old one and as a result stranded myself a few times because of course I'd forget when I next when to the restroom. I got into the habit of putting the empty TP roll on the top of the closed toilet lid so that I could NOT sit down without noticing I was out (don't ask me why this was less trouble than just getting the new roll). When my roommate moved in, she just about died laughing the first time she saw the empty roll on top of the lid, but at least I didn't strand her! Who knows, maybe this is a solution for someone else, lol.

I think this says more about the merits of choosing the right roommate than the right technique to prevent TP-stranding.

I'm up to my credit-card balances in stories of youthful misdeeds and the criminal activities they didn't foreshadow. I'm going to post a bunch now to finish out the chat.

I had lots of bad kid moments- in middle school I ate the chocolates people ordered from me for a fundraiser, then claimed they never came in. in high school I was joyriding without my license & swiped a parked car, then claimed a friend was driving when the car owner tracked me down. etc. I grew up, & grew out of both doing stupid things and more importantly lying about them if/when I did stupid things. I'm a responsible adult with healthy lasting friendships, no debt and a job where I'm (rightly) trusted with the finances and funds of a business. I'm not trying to get the kid out of a good talking too & also a commensurate punishment (key word- commensurate), but this is hardly the realm of "too bad to keep trying".

I'm old enough to have grown up when pharmacies had soda fountains and accounts. When I was 7 I took my friends to the soda fountain after school, ordered ice creams all around, and grandly said "Put it on our account, please," just as I had heard my mother do. The pharmacist, bless his soul, decided not to embarrass me in front of my friends. But by the time I got home he had called my mother and told her what had happened. I paid off the bill by pulling weeds all summer. And I grew up to be a reasonably upstanding citizen. My parents treated me like a child who had make a mistake and could learn from it. And I did. Because children live up to their parents' expectations. Please, give your little boy an expectation you want him to live up to.

A friend of mine pulled something like this with her father's checkbook back in the day to order a gigantic chocolate gift basket for herself. Yes, the company took a check written by a 9-year-old because in a couple of weeks the gift basket showed up at their house. She is now happily married with two beautiful children, has a master's degree, and a prestigious and socially important job. Please gain some perspective on this and seek therapy.

I remember when I was also 8, I really really really wanted some malted milk balls from the grocery store. Mom said no. So... I stole them. And proceeded to tell mom how clever I was when we got to the car. Mom of course made me return them and apologize. I also remember not really understanding anything about race at age 9, and calling one of my best friends a horrible word, just to see what would happen. Mom made me apologize to my friend. Today, I have a masters from a prestigious university, have a great job, lots of friends, go to church and volunteer. Very glad both my parents still thought highly of me and just had me redress my behavior.

I nicked almost $200 from my mom's wallet when I was 8 (my mom knew it was me and let me save face by allowing me to "find" the money; I wasn't even punished). And I too got tossed from the Gril Scouts (although that was for putting a tack on the leader's chair). I cleaned up, graduated from an Ivy League college and a top law school, and now am the go-to person regarding regulatory compliance in my organization. Don't give up on the kid; he's normal; having friends and wanting to do nice things for them doesn't sound like any sociopath I've ever heard of.

Okay, but I'm starting to see what it takes to get into a prestigious university. (Because the plural of anecdote is data, right?)

I found my son barricaded under some cushions playing on our iPad when I heard his mother calling for him to come upstairs for a bath. I sent him upstairs and heard him tell his mother that he wasn't playing on the iPad when she asked. I don't think I'm raising a fraudster. We chuckled at his foolishness. [He did get an extended talking to and an iPad ban for the weekend.]

When I was about 9, my friends and I decided to form a "club" dedicated to arts & crafts. True story. To finance our purchase of craft supplies, I used to sneak into my mom's room to steal quarters from her change jar. Of course, she caught me eventually, I was grounded, and blubbered through several lectures about trust, etc. I think I had to write a letter of apology to my mom, and work off my "debt", which was a few bucks at most. I was (then and through college) an excellent student, got myself a decent job, healthy marriage, and now have a daughter of my own. No criminal record aside from a speeding ticket. I think it's probably pretty normal, developmentally, for kids that age. It's a good thing we didn't have the internet then...

my older brother joined the Columbia House record club when he was about that age and managed to intercept all the albums that came his way until we went to my grandparents over the summer and my father got a bill for $89. dad went ballistic and spent years corresponding with CH about how one cannot enter into a contractual agreement with a child. i'm pretty sure my brother was grounded and lost a bunch of privledges, but life went on, CH eventually gave up, and for his high school graduation, my parents wrapped up and gave my brother the collection as a present. he's turned into a fine upstanding member of society and does a lot of charity work, so I think the lesson has probably been learned and all will be well.

I was and remain total goody two-shoes. But I vividly remember one transgression in 5th grade. My school did book sales from some sort of magazine and once a month you'd bring the magazine home, pick out a book or two, and bring it back with the order form and a check. One month I decided I wanted one more book than what my parents were buying me - so I changed the order form, crossed out the dollar amount on the check and wrote in the new cost. I thought I was being so clever, but I'm sure it was incredibly obvious. I don't remember if they sent me the extra book, but I totally remember the insane guilt of doing it! I've stolen several other things in my life for fake moral reasons (I should be getting this for free) or idiotic reasons (I wonder if I can), but overall I am a complete rule follower, to a fault, and am a very productive member of society. I think your kid is probably fine.

When my son was twelve, he stole a wallet. From a police officer. I was mortified and also wondered if this was the beginning of his criminal career. He returned the wallet, fortunately did not get sent to juvey by the cop, and we went to family counseling to understand what happened and why he did it. I thought for sure I would win the title of Bad Mother of the Year. That was five years ago, and I am happy to report that he has had no other brushes with the law, and he is about to graduate high school and earn his eagle scout award. You definitely don't want to minimize bad behavior, but you also don't want to blow it out of proportion. One moment of bad decision making does not necessarily make for a lifetime of crime.

As I read the question about the lost cause 9yo, I couldn't help remember a very similar incident from my own childhood, at approximately the same age. I was mad at my best frenemy, as were a few other people in our friend group, so I ordered 6 large supreme pizzas to be delivered to her house. Straight up fraud. I was home alone at the time, and after the pizza guy yelled at me over the phone (upon arriving at my frenemy's house to find that, no, they had not ordered all these pizzas), I cowered in the bathroom with a colander on my head, awaiting a police raid. My dad found me, we went to the frenemy's house to apologize to her mom, then to the pizza place to pay the balance of the bill and apologize to the delivery driver. I suppose one could have looked at me then and decided I was destined to become a criminal and a deadbeat. I mean, I had initiated an expensive and bothersome transaction for the sole purpose of harassing someone. And yet....it didn't derail my life. Yes, at that age, I knew right from wrong and had actively made the wrong choice. This is something humans do, and regularly. I learned a lot from that experience. I had to work off the debt (and I didn't even get any of the pizzas!). I was embarrassed every time I saw my frenemy's mom thereafter. Watching my dad pull out all the cash in his wallet to compensate this woman for having turned all the cash in her wallet over to the pizza guy (and it still wasn't enough) was really hard and very sobering. We didn't really have sixty spare bucks at that time. To soothe the OP's worries a bit, let me also add that today I'm 34. I own a home. I'm married. I have two kids. I have a professional degree and our cars are paid for. I'm on the board of a non-profit and I always use my turn signal. All in all, I'm a relatively upstanding citizen, mild criminal tendences of 2+ decades ago notwithstanding. Relax, he's 9.

I cowered in the bathroom with a colander on my head

I thought I was the only one who did this.

Thus endeth the Fallen Girl Scout, Future Prestigious Degree Holder edition of the chat. 

Thank you for stopping by, and best wishes for a relaxing, meaningful Memorial Day weekend to you all. Type to you here next week.

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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on washingtonpost.com. She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.

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