Carolyn Hax Live: "Kale and quinoa surprise"

Jun 09, 2017

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax chats live every Friday at noon to answer any questions you might have about this strange train we call life.

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Hi everybody.

Recently you gave advice about how it’s “never being the perfect time to have a baby” and that’s true but does the calculation change any if you’re planning to be a single mom? I’m 36 yo and a year ago I broke up with a guy who still needed more time to decide about marriage/children. Since then I’ve been preparing to have a baby on my own. I’ve saved money and vacation time, arranged to work at home 2 days a week, interviewed nannies, picked out a donor. Now just when I’m ready for the procedure, my mom had a stroke and she and my dad are asking me to hold off. Mom is home, getting PT and not exactly an invalid, but she needs a lot of help for daily tasks. My parents are recently retired and live a few blocks away so they were part of my extended support plan but I wasn’t depending on them for any day-to-day help. Should I wait? I’m at the age where my fertility is declining rapidly and having a child, maybe two if things work out, is very important to me. I’m an only child and my parents have always supported me in everything so should I hold off on my dream a little bit to support them? Of course, that’s the problem, this “little bit of time” is so undefined that it scares me. I’m so torn, it seems like no matter what I do, I’m going to be doing the wrong thing.

I'm going to do what I really don't like doing, and not limit my answer to here-are-a-few-things-to-think-about suggestions.

At 36, I would not wait if I were you. Between the getting-pregnant part and the months of being pregnant, you can expect to have the better part of a year before you're caring for a child. That can be enough to for you to help your parents quite a bit through this immediate crisis and for their routine to stabilize.

They're thinking about right now, but a baby isn't right now, it's a pregnancy first.

I'm sorry about your mom's health, and I hope she's quick to improve.

Hi Carolyn my spouse and his parents seem to have a huge rift when it comes to communication; ie, what someone should be told versus what they ask. My husband gets upset because they don't share something with him and their response is usually well you should have asked. And sometimes it's not always clear he would know when or what. we seem to be coming into this issue with the passing of a family member and funeral arrangements while we were on vacation.none of the details have been communicated to us so I've asked but I know my husband is fuming that they have not let him know like time date and place. is there a way to bridge this? they have a long history of different emotional and communication styles and they're not going to go to therapy and my husband doesn't seem to want to accept them as they are. I often either feel caught in the middle or like I am supposed to try to communicate or for explain the others behavior.

No. You are not in the middle, and no, you are not supposed to help him communicate or to explain one party to the other.

These are kind things to offer when people have generally functional relationships that misfire every once in a while. But when you have a pattern of dysfunction like the one you describe here, stepping in to help merely helps to perpetuate the problem. Actually, worse than that, it actually widens the scope of the problem to include you, too.

There must be a special law of physics for dysfunction, since there's no limit to how far it can stretch to hold everyone who wants in.

So here's what I suggest. When you husband fumes about his parents' failure to communicate X or Y, then you say, "They're just doing what they always do. Expecting otherwise seems like a good way to drive yourself nuts."

Or variations: "In other words, they're just being themselves. Would it help if we just expected that and had a Plan B ready?"; "Of course they didn't tell you anything--they're your parents"; "Maybe if we put $100 in a vacation account every time they don't share something, we can start to look forward to these incidents as bringing us one step closer to a cruise."

Actually, that doesn't have to be facetious. Why not make a savings plan of it? It's lemonade out of lemons, or ... wow, I can't think of a cocktail with lemon. Making lemons into lemon twists, I guess.




There's no guarantee that artificial insemination will work for you, let alone on the first try. My husband and I started trying when I was your age. Now I am 40, and we have spent years, incalculable pain, and tens of thousands of dollars trying to have a child. You are up against a very real deadline. While you don't need to panic, you don't need to dither, either. There is a chance that delaying to suit your parents could rob you of your chance to be a mother, or wipe out your savings.

Thank you for this dose of reality, and I'm sorry for the tough breaks that positioned you to provide it.

My parents married when they were 21, and they were together until my Dad died suddenly several years ago. His death was a devastating blow, especially to my Mom, but the pain has eased a bit with time. After a few years, my Mom dated her high-school boyfriend. My sister and I were thrilled that she had companionship, but the relationship fizzled. Yesterday, she called my sister and I to tell us that she has reconnected romantically with a man that’s her cousin (!!!!). Her grandmother and his father were siblings. He lives out of state, and he is grieving the loss of his wife who died after a long illness a year ago. She said that they’ve decided to go on a 3 week cruise this summer. My sister and I were stunned, admitted that we were surprised, but mostly just reiterated that we just want her to be happy. I can’t figure out how I feel about this. They’re both in their mid-sixties, so they won’t be having children, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is just wrong. She said that they’ve both lost their spouses, and that he thinks she’s cute and smart and that she wants someone to spend time with. She is cute and smart, so I don’t think that his ability to recognize that means he’s a catch. I can’t help but think that she’s not casting a wide enough net, since the only men she’s dated after my Dad are those that she’s known her whole life. I really do want her to be happy, but I don't know how to be supportive of this. Am I being a judgmental jerk? Online only, please.

Not first cousins, but first cousins once removed. Right? Using cousin designations publicly feels like the first time out in a bathing suit after a long winter on the couch.

I don't know if the once-removed distinction helps you any, but since your sole concern is a vague ickiness, this to my mind dilutes the ick quite a bit.

Anyway, given that my standing inclination is always to find ways to be happy for people who find love after grief, and since who your mother dates is just not your business unless and until she puts herself at provable risk of harm,* my advice would be to do whatever you need to do to suppress any shuddering. 

And really, history is full of cousin couples. Not that Googling 'cousin marriage" is the way to de-shudder. 



*And even then, what you can do is limited.

My 17 year old grandson bought his 17 year old girlfriend of barely two months lingerie from Victoria's Secret. I think this is very inappropriate. He thinks I'm a dinosaur. Guidance, please?

I think if you were his parent, then this would be a great "last call" bell, telling you that you're about to have little to zero say in your son's sex life. If you're a grandparent but acting as his guardian, then that applies.

If you're a grandparent in a traditional grandparent role, then you've got very little to say here except as an academic exercise.

That is, in both parent and grandparent cases, unless you're able to communicate with him not the judgmental aspect of your thinking, but the substance behind it. So, instead of shooting him down as "inappropriate," which just begs him to get defensive without providing much enlightenment, try explaining what you believe, in as accessible a way as you can. "It's your business what you buy with your own money, of course. Be careful about moving fast with new people, though. It takes a long time before you really know someone, and when you fall hard it's tempting to get serious right away." Or similar. Because gifts can speak for us in ways we don't intend.

This is, again, assuming you're able to communicate this way with him. It's another reminder why it's so helpful to establish early with kids that they can talk to you about difficult things without your freaking out on them. That buys you a lot of leeway when they're older and you have an I'm-Older-So-I-Know-type opinion you think it's important to convey.

(Would I use one of those precious opportunities on this specific issue? No, not unless there were context to support that his moving fast was a pattern.)

All this being said: If you just think it's too sexy for 17, then, probably best to see this as a stolen-horse/barn-locking-type situation.



Tom Collins: 1 1/2 oz gin 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice 3 oz club soda stir, drink over ice, repeat

There you go--making a Tom Collins out of lemons. That's common enough, though I haven't heard anybody order one since I was in my ... 20s?

Carolyn, do you have any advice for approaching or responding to the topics of body image, healthy eating and exercising with my tween daughter? Her body's changing, and once in a while she laments the changes (nothing I'm concerned about, normal stuff). I also see these (relatively infrequent) comments as an opportunity to broaden the discussion from "looks" to feeling good and healthy and taking charge of your physical and emotional health. I wish my mom had taught me more about that stuff so I didn't have to figure it out myself in adulthood, but, I also have friends and a sister who've suffered from eating disorders, so I am so sensitive about discussions surrounding body image, food, exercise, etc. She's already well-versed in the biology of what's happening, and her dad and I model good behavior around eating, exercise, and tending to our emotional health, so we're on the right path. Appreciate your thoughts, thanks!

This--"I also see these (relatively infrequent) comments as an opportunity to broaden the discussion from 'looks' to feeling good and healthy and taking charge of your physical and emotional health"--is good stuff, but it will quickly not be good if you respond to her complaints automatically with, "What matters is that you're healthy," or etc. Doing that will have the unintended effect of negating her, and also sending her the message that bodies and feelings about bodies are not to be discussed except within the narrow confines of the parental talking points.

I'm not suggesting this is what you have done, just spelling it out as a common trap.

This subject can legitimately be nightmarish to navigate, in part because the cultural messages have been so consistently unhealthy, but also in part because simply the level of awareness is problematic--meaning, it's not just a matter of what a person eats or doesn't eat or how one does or doesn't exercise, but also a matter of how much one *thinks* about eating and exercising. So, -not- talking about it is a legitimate path to consider, and that, honestly, sometimes make me want to throw my hands up and just say to my kids, "Just play hard and you're fine." Which is kinda what we've done now that I think of it. 

Anyway, your modeling good behavior and emotional housekeeping is huge, and so I suggest you just respond to your daughter by saying her frustrations with her changing body are normal. Everybody goes through it. And do a lot of listening before you respond, because she may still need to hear that feeling good takes precedence over looks, but the way you say it need to be tailored to what she's asking of you. Being heard can do more for a kid's mental, and therefore physical, health than a kale and quinoa surprise.

And, where possible, get moving. Hike, bike, paddle, swim, dance, ski, skate, etc. as a family. It's easier to feel good about a body that's doing good things for you.

My wife and her sister gave birth two days apart. Six months later, my wife's sister and her husband were killed in a car accident, and we adopted their son and have raised the two boys as "twin brothers" even though biologically they're cousins. My wife's sister's husband was a different race than us, so it's obvious from looking at the two boys that they're biologically not twins. The boys never seem to give it any thought, until adults ask nosy questions like, "Why do you boys say you're brothers when you're not?" Our family hasn't come up with the right answer to that question and I'm wondering if you could help us. Thanks.

What a beautiful way to deal with a terrible loss.

I can see kids being nosy about it, but adults? Really, people.

I suggest you settle on one or two non-answer answers that mark the end of the discussion (adapt as needed for your responses or the boys':

"Because it works for us."

"Who says we aren't brothers?"

"We're not hung up on biology."

"Biology shmiology."

[beat] "Sorry, it always throws me that people still ask this."

"It's always the adults who ask."

"Is it important?" 

"Is it important to you?"

"I'm touched that you care."

"The boys never seem to give it any thought/We don't even think about it."

"Oh, you noticed."


Seriously --deflect all you want, as you want, in as few syllables as you want. It's nobody's business, at all. Any follow-ups by the particularly clueless can be shut down more explicitly.

Hi Carolyn, I'm a 45-year-old divorced mom of two boys (10 and 7). For the first time since way before my marriage ended, I am finding that I miss dating and specifically romantic intimacy (not just sex but closeness, having someone care for me and things). I've done some online dating and am finding that the guys dating women in my age group by and large either want to keep things completely casual, or else to talk immediately about a relationship and marriage. If I'm being honest, I think I'm interested in the former, but am having a hard time feeling "okay" with that as a mother of young kids and someone who has probably frowned on that sort of thing in the past. I don't have a great read on how others view this sort of thing now. Is it okay to just go out there and (safely, when time permits) have a good time? Is that going to make me ineligible to have a relationship again someday, if I want to?

I'm not even sure how to answer this.

Why so much concern about "how others view this sort of thing now"? Who gives half a damn what people think of your value system or how you choose to live by it, and why would they even care? Why did YOU care enough in the past about others' value systems that you"frowned on that sort of thing"? Why would you even want to date someone in the future who would page through your history, including the choices you're poised to make now, and find it morally disqualifying? Wouldn't that make the guy a judgmental doink--or at minimum just very wrong for you on principle?

As long as you are careful not to destabilize your kids' home life with the ups and downs of dating, then you're fine on the kids thing, and as long as you behave respectfully, then you're fine with your fellow earth-dwellers. 

But this is all advice on best practices only; permission emphatically not required.

My husband had a heart attack 2 years ago and nothing we do gets him to eat better. he can eat 2 bags of chips, a container of ice cream and lots of bread and butter every day when he comes home from work. it is so hard to watch him doing this. he just won't listen to anyone try to change things

Then I suggest you lay off the attempted corrections and just enjoy him while you have him--and do whatever you can under the circumstances to protect yourself financially for if/when he has another health crisis that disables but doesn't kill him. And keep the bingeables out of the house. Let him scarf carrots, or drive himself out to the store. Not perfect, but it's something.

I realize this collectively might be the least welcome advice ever, but I think you have to think of him as a runaway train. And when you can't stop it, your remaining choices are all about limiting the damage from eventual impact. I'm sorry.

FWIW, I am a 35-year-old woman who is not even close to prudish, and I would be super weirded out if a guy I was dating for just barely two months bought me lingerie. That's a very intimate gift for someone you know very, very well. Two months it too early for that, at any age. Can't hurt to have a conversation about the relative intimacy of gifts and what the receiver will think of them.

Absolutely, thanks.

Your being 35 could make you more inclined, though, not less, than a 17-year-old to see this as a too-intimate gift. There's also the potential for a natural consequence in having the recipient respond to the gift as too much too soon--and natural consequences are generally more effective teachers than any third-party warning can be. Still, it's worth a well-meaning try.

Most of my kids' friends are going to summer camp. They feel inferior because we can't afford it. Is there something to be said for living in a neighborhood where everyone has similar incomes?

I suppose, but I think there's a lot more to be said for living in a neighborhood with a big range of incomes. I think economic diversity is underappreciated and often ignored for the more talked about diversity in ethnicity and race. 

I know exactly how your kids feel, so I'm not discounting it. However, obstacles are what spur creativity, growth, resiliency, compassion and self-knowledge. Plus, it's not even a universal obstacle but one of proximity; they only care about summer camps because they're in a community of summer-campers. So their summertime limits are a bummer they can spin into gold--or at least just a motivating fire to be able to afford someday what their friends have now. Again, no fun for any of you in the moment, but not the worst thing.

So, what can your kids affordably do with their summers to turn this setback to their advantage? Are there opportunities for exploration, free play, a lot more independence than campers get--or if they're older, for earning money, for perfecting a skill or sport, for reading, for meeting new people who are exactly where they are in life? Your job isn't to cruise direct their summer, but you can and should be the one who makes sure they don't get stuck on this one thing.


Off topic - We are recently unable to sort comments by Oldest/Newest/etc., on our iPhones. Works on laptop. Any solution, or can you refer to tech support?

Hey there - Producer here. We're looking into this. It's a known issue and we're going to resolve. Thanks for the note!

For 17 yos, lingerie after 2 months is fine. Life is condensed and dramatic at that age. I would be assured they are already sexually intimate, and it is likely she asked him to buy her something she could wear for him.

Not that it helps, but as an avid fan of 19th century English literature, cousin relationships are basically all I read about any more.

Maybe it'll help this person:

Thank you eternally for this chat, but mostly for two reasons: (1) Work is moving at a snail's pace. It feels like I should be getting ready to go home; and (2) I cannot read anymore about Trump/Comey. I need a break.

Is divorced mom worrying about how a vindictive or judgmental ex / co-parent (amd family court judges and social workers) will see her love life? That might necessitate different emphasis in the answer. Similarly, she may be interested in having the backing of her community; it takes a village. Still, usually a good mom is a happy mom, and in most communities, people understand that.

"Because that is how adoption works." You can stand up for your sons and adoption all in one breathe.

The "A Mighty Girl" blog did a post on this recently with links to both parent and kid views. Might be worth looking at if you need more resources.

FWIW, I just queried the 19 year old's in our office and they all said ICK!!!!!

I am irrationally smitten with this post.

"do whatever you can under the circumstances to protect yourself financially for if/when he has another health crisis" Not just financially but also emotionally and legally. Advance directives (e.g., decisions about life support), passwords to the household accounts, a plan for funeral arrangements: Start arranging those things now, because they're draining enough to handle in normal times, let alone with him on life support in the cardiac care unit.

A rather morbid thought, but one to keep in mind. What sort of life insurance does your husband have? Can you increase it? As Carolyn said, he's a runaway train that you won't be able to stop. At least have a cushion for if/when he derails permanently.

Wondering how realistic that is after a heart attack--but, yes, if doable, thanks.

Without knowing the details of the couple's sex life, nobody can tell whether lingerie is too much, or just perfect. Leave it up to the guy here... he is in the best position of anyone to know if his gf would like it.

... or to process the information he receives from his gf on its wrongness, right?

Still, if it's possible to do both--to leave it up to him and also to have open, ongoing communication about life, love and skivvies--then I think we're on to something.

I am not rich but I am secure. My son is trying some entrepreneurial things and money is often tight. I don't want him to pay for food with his credit card. I give him a few grand here and there which makes it easier on him but then I dare not tell my family. He does go to restaurants with friends but he's not a big spender and I don't want him to think he needs to picnic in the park every time he wants society. I think really rich people subsidize their children's entire lives all the time and that's called high society. But I'm being called being a sucker. Is there a line I shouldn't cross?

If your son is an ingrate or in any way showing signs of entitlement, then please pull back.

But if he's a good kid who appreciates what you do, is trying in earnest to make something of himself--as in, working his butt off and not living the dilettante life--and demonstrates through his life choices that he intends to be a net asset to society, then please feel free to tell your family to stuff it.

"The Doobies weren't really brothers, either."

You guys have the best ways to tell me when it's time to quit.


Thanks everybody, have a great weekend and type to you here next week. 

When we found out that my mom had been married for years to her long-term boyfriend, we asked her why they hadn't told us. Her response: "Well, you never asked." Top that.

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

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