Dunk tank wedding: Carolyn Hax Live (July 14)

Jul 14, 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, hope you've had a good couple of weeks.

Hi Carolyn, I wanted to send this update when I saw my chat question make its way into the main edition, but for good reason had a wait a few weeks - the reason being that I'm pregnant! It was early at that point and I didn't want to tempt fate. In all honesty, at the time I found your chat response quite frustrating! To reach that "que sera, sera" mindset is quite difficult for me, as I'm a take-charge-of-my-life person (shocker, I'm sure). So realizing that you have almost no control over your own body for a process that is supposed to be easy and natural is disconcerting, to say the least. I certainly knew that we weren't alone in our struggle, as we'd had quite a number of friends go through the full gamut of infertility issues, including multiple miscarriages. But when it's your struggle, you are at the doctor's office anywhere from 1-5 times a week, taking all kinds of medication, and numbers mean everything,it can be extremely hard to take that step back and regain perspective. Distraction was certainly a great way to stop the endless thoughts for a while, but it took more to finally get back some semblance of normality. My husband and I were fully on the same page throughout and knew that we did not want to go to the lengths that many others have. I, particularly, hit a point during one of our procedure failures where I knew that I had to have an end point. We decided to do one round of IVF egg retrieval and if unsuccessful with the transfer of any embryos, we would have moved on to a likely childfree future. Making this decision was such a relief for me - while adoption is wonderful, it wasn't for us, and I could start picturing getting off the endless medical carousel that infertility can entail and making some serious career decisions (the need for good health insurance and the prospect of maternity leave weigh heavily). We were very fortunate with good insurance and I had tremendous support from my friends who, to my amazement, always were interested in what was going on and kept me positive. (Why'd the screen just get blurry?) In the end, we were lucky enough that the first frozen transfer worked and I haven't had to determine whether I would actually keep to that decision when truly faced with it! Finally, I would like to correct a couple of commenter misconceptions, in part to help spread information about infertility. By no means was having a child the end-all for us. We have a full life, with a close family, great friends, and good careers. It took us a while to decide we wanted and were ready for kids. Once we were in, we wanted to get things rolling quickly, but as it turns out that was never likely to be the case for me. I had undiagnosed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which manifested in part as very long menstrual cycles. So if the average woman could predict ovulation with reasonable certainty roughly every month or so, it was virtually impossible for me to do that and the sheer number of opportunities for success were reduced from around 12 to anywhere from 3-6. So all the relaxation, yoga, good diet, you name it, would make only a minuscule difference to those odds (which at my age are only about 15% each time). I was fortunate in that only a couple of people felt the need to offer this advice to me and I generally took it as one commenter noted - I appreciated the caring sentiment. But I would caution people from offering anything other than general support unless specifically asked. At best these comments are appreciated for the sentiment, at worst they simply add to the stress burden. Like marriages, you often don't know what's going on under the surface and infertility has historically been a private topic, not much discussed. Hopefully that will change, as it's way more common than most people realize. I could write so much more about infertility - the misconceptions, the lack of scientific research. Instead, I'll just thank the many commenters who offered support and kind words, ask for those good vibes to continue, and send bags full of baby dust to anyone else who's currently going through this process. <3

Thank you for the happy news, and the insights. I especially like the one about the relief you felt when you made a decision on the line you wouldn't cross. Accepting when we aren't in control is one of the most difficult things people have to do, and you found a sane and straightforward way to deal with that.

Hi Carolyn, I'm going on vacation with my in-laws, siblings-in-laws, and their spouses. Over the last few years, I've been working on eating fewer unhealthy foods like bread and dairy and as a result feel much better. This hasn't resulted in visible weight loss but has resolved many stomach issues I've dealt with. Every time I am with my husband's family, the mood is "vacation" or "celebration" and the food is always those that I try to avoid, like pasta for dinner and chocolate cake from scratch for dessert. My in-laws keep kosher and my MIL is an avid baker, so suggestions to eat at a restaurant where we can all pick our foods is met with confusion. I get looks and occasional comments about declining those foods, such as how annoying the gluten-free trend is. I'm already anxious about this vacation and having to either join in and suffer the stomachache or decline and get eye rolls about fad diets. Do you have a suggestion for how to handle this?

"I get looks and occasional comments about declining those foods, such as how annoying the gluten-free trend is."

Yes, such looks and commentary are annoying and pushy. But they're also a "so what" waiting to happen: You're taking personally something that isn't personal. You have found that your stomach issues make it a bad idea to eat bread and dairy. Okay then! So you don't eat them, that's a good start. Now finish the job by responding just as matter-of-factly to your in-laws: "Yeah, food restrictions are tough on everyone. But, believe me, I'd eat bread for every meal if it didn't make me feel sick." Shortened over time to, "Ooh, wish my stomach would let me eat that," and then, "Ugh, isn't my diet old new yet?" and eventually to, "_____." As in, you just do what you do without feeling the need to respond to commentary about it. Cut to the last step right away if you feel game.

And now, one quibble with your position, with which I'm otherwise sympathetic: When you refer to "unhealthy foods like bread and dairy," you reveal judginess of your own, no? Bread and dairy are just fine for ... people for whom they're just fine. If you want to be left alone to your food choices, then the most productive thing you can do is break anything close to a habit of vilifying this or that food or food choice. Your gut, your business.

I came back from a work trip and when I reached my car in the airport parking lot, I text my fiance that I had landed safely and would be home soon. He responded with, "I love you. I'll bring home pizza for dinner." 30-minutes later, I got a "Actually, I can't be in a relationship anymore. I need to experience living on my own for a while. We aren't getting back together" with a picture of an apartment lease that he signed for a year. He then blocked my phone number, blocked me and our mutual friends on social media, and signed our shared home over to me in full. I have to sell as I can't afford the mortgage on my own. It sold in a day and a half on the market. I have not found another place to live yet. I have a seven year old son and he has two sons. We were a family and lived together for four years. I miss my "stepsons". I never got to say goodbye. My son is broken-hearted at losing the only dad he ever knew. It's like a death to both of us. I have him in therapy. I will go once we move and I can afford it again, as I need to pinch every penny and not charge a dime on my credit card to keep approved for a mortgage. In two weeks, I lost my fiance, two stepsons, my home, and the family I thought I had. I'm a pretty level-headed person and can safely say that I could not see this coming in the least. In our few brief conversations, he agrees with that assessment -- that he didn't share his feelings in a timely manner, things build up for him, and there was, indeed, no way I could have seen it coming -- that he meant what he said when he said he loved me and was looking forward to our future and that he said things like that, not because he believed them necessarily at the time, but always hoped for, how he worded it, "better days". I had no clue he was unhappy. We had much intimacy, lots of laughter, were a great team around our house, always made time for each other with a date night / dinner out once a week, would get up early before all the kids woke up and have coffee in bed and time together before our day began.....I'm shocked. Stunned. In disbelief. What's next in carrying on? How will I learn to trust again?

This is so awful. I'm sorry. 

I think you're close to the answer--to the extent there can even be one--in treating this as a death. Something so sudden and transformative and final* really comes with a set of rules of its own, along with a license not to hold yourself too tightly to any kind of rules.

The first thing you do is relieve yourself of any responsibility to figure out long-term issues like how to trust again. Your job now is to think of the immediate, because that's plenty. Housing. Kid's emotional needs. Getting through today, then tomorrow, then the day after. Our bodies are built to help us through truly horrible things by, for lack of a cheerier word, normalizing even acute pain. What is agony now will dull with time. And, as it dulls, your abilities to function will start to return, including the ones that help you make sense of what happened and the ones to help you move forward and rebuild your optimism. 

Obviously people can get stuck at various points in this process, and that's what therapy is (generally) so effective at correcting.

The moment you get your housing resolved, then, yes, therapy for you, whether you're stuck or not. In the meantime there might be a support group that can help you on the cheap or for free--check NAMI (www.nami.org) for listings. 

You probably know this already, but I'll say it anyway: A person who can so abruptly and cruelly leave someone the way you describe has problems serious enough that you can't assume all or even half of the blame for the outcome yourself. You just can't. Please be kind to you.



*Yes, unlike in a death, this person can theoretically come back and even, as he has, explain himself a little bit. So it's not exactly analogous. But given how little say LW had and still has in this process, it comes about as close as possible to that kind of finality--with the added slap of there being an element of choice.


Hello Carolyn! My childhood best friend got engaged last week. We're both in our very early twenties, but we have not been friends for a few years (more so her decision than mine) after a falling out shortly after we graduated high school. Though we eventually had a peaceful discussion about the situation(s) and exchange pleasantries from time to time, I don't see us resuming a close friendship in the near future. While I don't regret the decisions I made about our relationship, I still miss her sometimes. Would it be appropriate to send her a card or necklace or other small token to congratulate her on her engagement? I'd like to send something more personal than a text while respecting the boundaries of the current state of our relationship. As far as I know, there is no animosity or ill-will between us so this is mostly a sentimental gesture to show I wish her well in this next stage of life. In short, I don't know if it's my place to offer congratulations or the proper manner to express them given the nature of our relationship now. If it makes a difference, I'm not expecting an invitation to the wedding, and no hard feelings about that, either. Thank you!

A note would be the most personal, though you send one at the risk of her seeing it as a bid for an invitation, because that kind of cynicism is depressingly common.

I don't see that as a reason not to send a note, but instead as a warning to do so with eyes open.

Hi Carolyn! I've known my brother's friend for years but I don't know him well. I see him in a group setting every few months and we have always been flirty. I'd like to get to know him better one-on-one but... how? I usually wait for the other person to initiate but that hasn't happened here (should I take that as a sign?). The thought of asking him out makes me feel like my throat is closing up. Going out on a "date" seems to carry so much pressure and the idea of sitting across the dinner table from someone making small talk - hang on, my throat is closing up again... Ok, it passed. I'm getting ahead of myself because I can't even figure out how to ask him out in the first place. How do people do this?! On a regular basis?! I'm going to be seeing him at a party in a couple of weeks - do you have any ideas on how to go about this? And if you're thinking that I should enlist my brother's help in setting me up: he is very protective (and large and intimidating) and his friends are not "allowed" to date me. This could be why the friend is flirty but hasn't tried to take it any further. I don't care what my brother says but he definitely won't be of any help in making it happen.

Have you said to your brother that his protectiveness is anachronistic BS and that the only person who decides who is "allowed" to date you is you?

That's where I'd start.

Dear Carolyn, I have my 30th birthday coming up, and I've been thinking for a long time about marking this milestone with a legal name change. My parents meant well, but went overly creative with the spelling of my first name (think Alysabeth instead of Elizabeth), gave me an anachronistic middle name (think Gertrude), and saddled me with both parents' surnames, including both parts of my mom's hyphenated one. I have always wanted to have something that flowed better and was less complicated, and am thinking of changing "Alysabeth Gertrude Carter-Jones Hill" to "Elizabeth Hill," the normal person equivalent. But I cannot raise a conversation about this with my parents without tears and offense. How do I decide whether they care more than I do? Does that even matter?

Doesn't matter. You tried to talk about it respectfully with your parents, but they chose to shut you down. 

So, change your name, because you're the only one who actually has to live with it. Buy yourself a nice celebratory dinner afterward with a supportive friend or three.  


Hi Carolyn, My husband and I have three adult daughters. The first one got married two years ago, and we followed the Carolyn Hax plan of offering her a sum of money upfront as a gift for her to use as she desired. She used approximately half of it on the planning of a nice, low-key, elegant wedding, and put the other half toward a down payment on a house. That plan worked so well that we did it again with our second daughter, who essentially eloped and has used the money to help with her and her husband's debts (which we supported). Our third daughter (actually our middle daughter, but the last to get married) has her sights on the type of wedding that people write into the Hootenanny about, with ridiculous demands on her very large wedding party and a lot of fluffy customs that seem to mock marriage more than they celebrate it. My husband believes we are obligated to treat her exactly as we did her sisters and give her the same amount of money, which would be used to fund something awful like a dunk tank. I am thinking that because my other daughters didn't share all the details of our gifts with each other, it makes more sense for us to give this daughter a gift that she can't use on a wedding I don't support. Is that wrong? I don't wish to be controlling and don't feel that that is (since I'm keeping my mouth shut about my feelings on her wedding choices, just don't want to fund those choices).

I'm with your husband on this one. I'm sorry. The whole point of "the Carolyn Hax plan" (I wince) is to celebrate your kids for who they are, vs. who you'd prefer them to be.



Start working on your fastball now, and you can take your frustrations out on the dunk tank.

Hi Carolyn! My sister and I are raising our kids (all ages 8-11) in homes just a couple blocks apart from each other, so we see quite a lot of each other's kids, and they see quite a lot of each other. This is great and is exactly what we were hoping for when we chose to settle so nearby! The question I have is how, practically, to handle the very different sets of rules in our two homes. For example, my sister's husband (who is fairly religious) forbids swearing, and includes a lot of words on that list that many people wouldn't. Our rule at home is that we don't entertain any rules that are arbitrary, and "no swearing" is one of them. As a result, my kids have apparently been pulled up for breaking certain rules at their cousins' house, and have taken to become somewhat eye-rolly about it (apparently having decided that the message is that their uncle and aunt are unnecessarily restrictive). I am trying to figure out how to send more of a "different homes have different rules, and they're all valid" message, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how to make the "all valid" part believable when, obviously, we are choosing not to enforce certain rules in our home. Any suggestions? (By the way, the swearing has been the most overt example of this; others are things like "everyone must clean his or her plate at every meal" and "boys hold doors for girls (but, it's implied, not vice versa).")

Different homes have different rules, and it is the (nearly) absolute *right* of these people to make their own rules in their home. You don't have to see the rules as wise or valid or defensible on any level, except the level of their being entitled to live as they choose. 

Please implement this message quickly. Your kids are just kids and phases and degrees of eye-rollage are a pretty typical part of that, but: It's a fine line between treating swearing rules in your home as "arbitrary," and deciding that anyone else's rule against swearing has to be arbitrary too and is therefore universally invalid. The former is a kind of colorful in-home integrity, and the latter is arrogance. Thinking your way is the only right way might be an asset in matters of human rights--like, it's not okay to own other humans--but in anything short of that, it's a steep societal liability.

If you back up your message of "different homes, different rules" with a robust argument for the beauty--and utility--of diversity in temperaments, beliefs and customs, then you'll have a more complete and consistent framework for your kids to behave themselves with some grace and sensitivity in environments unlike their own.

Your rules work for your home, their rules work for theirs, repeat as needed. Your kids' prospects for going far in life get much brighter the more able they are to "code-switch," as in, recognize what's appropriate in a given environment and regulate their behavior accordingly.

Hi. I'm a teenager living with parents who I would hesitate to describe as abusive, but they are difficult, often angry, and they can be really mean. I swear I try not to be a brat. I am going to the college they told me to. I am majoring in the major they told me to. I am going into the career that they told me to. A lot of my life is spent trying not to upset them and trying not to show that I am upset. they don't like my expressing negative emotions. I have one thing that I want that requires their assistance. It is a hobby. they don't like to say no, but they like to indicate in other ways that this is a burden and I am burdensome for wanting it. At this point, it's the only thing that I am doing that isn't specifically a thing they told me to do. I try just to ask them, but they say yes and then sigh and mutter and eye-roll me into retracting my request because I feel guilty. I disagree with this whole martyr routine designed to trick me into feeling bad because if they don't want to do it, all they have to do is say no. But I still feel really bad whenever it happens. But I know, objectively, the size/effort/cost of my requests mean that I should not feel guilty about making them. But I still do, and I don't want to. I mean, yes, they gave up their lives for me, but I'm giving up my life for them in return. I just want this one thing. Is there any way I can not feel bad? I'm really not trying to be a brat. Thanks

Oh my goodness. Does your college have a counseling service? I can see why you "hesitate to describe [them] as abusive," but what you describe is an extreme level of control over a nearly adult child, achieved through intense emotional manipulation. 

And: "They gave up their lives for me"? This just shocks and saddens me, both as a parent myself and as my parents' child. I see my kids as *part* of my life,  a rich, funny, exhilarating, sometimes exhausting/painful/frustrating, always loving part. My parents, too, had full lives that *included* us; their lives didn't stop when we were born and resume again when we achieved our independence. Yeah, we were needy little things and ate their food and spent their money and kept them up at night when we came home late. But they chose to have us and they accepted these sacrifices as part of the experience of being parents. In return, when we were old enough to stop being so needy, we did what we could to give back to our parents--much of that in the form of investing in our own lives and families, because that's what they wanted for and from us.

My dad and his four daughters are still *part* of each other's lives. And my parents didn't tell us what we had to do or study or become any more than I'm telling my kids.

So my suggestion on how you can "not feel bad" is to give yourself the gift of outside perspective and guidance from someone trained to recognize and dismantle an unhealthy dynamic. It will be scary and disorienting at the beginning, but I hope there will be a sense of relief in it for you--soon--from the terrible pressure you feel. Take care.


Couldn't agree more with this. As a career recruiter, I cannot tell you how obvious it is when young people new to the workforce haven't yet learned that casual swearing isn't appropriate everywhere. Even someone who curses like a sailor at home needs to know the same won't work at a job interview. Spending time with the clean-mouthed cousins is great practice for eventually learning that at-home behaviors just aren't appropriate everywhere! You can liken it to clothing, as I did with my own children. At home, we can spend an entire day in pajamas, but we wouldn't wear them to a friend's house, or to school, because the common denominator is different in those places.

I really like the pajama analogy, except you'll need a response when your kids see someone wearing pajamas at Target.

We similarly lived only a few blocks away from my cousins, and it was a great experience (we're as close as most brothers and sisters to this day). "Different Homes, Different Rules" is NOT difficult for children to understand and accept (politely!), and so when my sister and I had to forgo Cap'n Crunch for a week while staying at their house, and when my cousins had to get their homework finished BEFORE dinner while at ours, we accepted it with good humor (and probably a bit of eye-rolling, too, which was fine as long as it was with my immediate family, and we were polite to my Aunt and Uncle).

To the person who wants to send a gift to the friend with whom she has a strained relationships: if I genuinely wish someone well and want to send them a wedding gift, I do it right after the wedding. That takes away any fear on their part that I'm angling for an invitation. (Of course, we have all learned here that anything can cause hurt feelings or be interpreted poorly, but we've also learned that we can't control the reactions of others, so.)

Sending internet hugs!

I would totally go to that. Even better if we can put the DJ in the dunk tank after he plays really maudlin or profane first-dance music.

The list of dunkees will be as long as the line to dunk them.

Dear Carolyn, Terrible, terrible situation. My fiance and I recently threw a cookout. At the cookout, my fiance's brother, who had had a few too many beers, made a comment that some people listening took as racist. I wasn't there, do not have an exact quote, but tend to trust the memory and the judgment of the people who told me about it. I now have close friends questioning my judgment for associating with that guy, and for marrying someone close to him (and who, unfortunately, was put in a position where he had to loudly take up for his brother despite not agreeing with what he said). What else should I do, besides reminding my friends that my fiance and his brother are two different people?

If that's not enough, then I'm not sure what I can tell you except to take a closer look at your friends. "Am I hearing you correctly, that you think I shouldn't stay with my fiance because of something *his brother* said?" Unless there's more to the "loudly take up for his brother" part than you let on here, they're grabbing torches and pitchforks against the innocent, and that won't have any effect against racism (except perhaps to empower its apologists).


I'm the vegetarian's dad from a couple of weeks ago. The problem for the most part solved itself as my wife simply dropped it and son is still on team-vegetable. One of the things I was really surprised by were the number of commenters who assumed that the burden of the extra cooking would fall to my wife. If a woman were to write in complaining that her husband expected her to do all the cooking, I feel like these same commenters would be telling her she needed to make sure he does his share (or whatever else to balance things out), it's expected. . But their actual expectation of men is the exact opposite. I don't want this to come off as "It's men who are the real victims," but if we're talking stereotypes, how about "clueless dad who makes big proclamations while wife does all the behind the scenes effort." For the record, I do ALL the cooking (though admittedly some nights that might mean pancakes or PB&Js.

Fair enough--you're right that people default to seeing the wives/moms as the cooks.

In this case, though, there's a logical connection I made myself that others also may have made: Since your wife was the one objecting, I reflexively believed it was due to the extra work *she'd* have to do in preparing meals. Meaning, I thought that not because she's a woman, but because she's the one who was upset. Make sense? Why would the non-cook even care?

So now it also raises the question: If she wasn't the one cooking, then why *was* it such a big deal to her?

Since she dropped it, it's a moot point, but I'm still curious.

Oh my goodness, yes please try to seek out counseling services if you can. As a thirty-something who is finally going to therapy after going to the college my mom wanted, going into the career my mom wanted, and finally realizing that my mom's affection for me is totally conditional on doing the things she thinks are "best" for me... please try to seek out someone to talk this over with. It took me having my own child to realize that so many things from my childhood and how I was treated were not normal. I wish I had been able to see it 10+ years ago. It is awful when you recognize it, but going through the hard work of therapy is so worth it. And (I realize this part is hard when you are financially dependent on your parents) if you don't feel like you are in the right college/major/career path, consider changing it now. It's your life, not theirs.

Thank you for coming forward--there's no better source of encouragement than someone who has been there.

I hope you can help as I am at my wit's end. The problem is that my spouse does not trust me when it comes to our kids. I am often criticized for being too rough with our 2-y.o. when I wrestle with her, or that I put too much food on their plates, or that I am cruel to let our 3 month old cry while I am doing dishes, or that I am too lax when our 2-y.o. decides to try pick up dirt and bugs when we walk, or... you get the idea. I know my wife and I have different tolerance levels for risk and that I am the more tolerant of the two of us. I think that is actually a good thing! She is right sometimes to reign in some of my more lax tendencies and, in theory, I can also encourage her to maybe not freak out about everything. But instead it comes off to me as though she does not think I can parent. I have said as much to her, but while she says that is not what she means and she does think I am a good father, she continues to criticize or tell me how to change a diaper (seriously). This morning as I was dealing with a very upset 2 y.o. and my wife was upstairs feeding the younger one, my phone kept pinging me. I knew it was my wife and after I had got our daughter to calm down checked my phone to see that she had in fact suggested I hug and comfort our daughter or that she may be hungry (I did, and she was, and I did figure that out on my own). I don't know why it made me so angry, but it did. I know I can't make my wife change or do anything differently, but I am being driven up a wall. Are there better words I can use to express myself? Or do I have to resign myself to being the bad dad?

I urge you to find a good marriage counselor and start talking this out with a referee. Such constant second-guessing is serious business and can destroy your marriage, which will be worse for your kids, as you presumably both know, than parenting on the risk-friendly end of the normal range.

Plus, there's a chance (just a layman here, so get a pro's eye view) that your wife's meddling is a manifestation of anxiety.

I would say it's also possible that you're too rough/lax with the kids, but I'm leaning hard away from that possibility on the strength of her trying to coach you! by phone! from upstairs! That's just beyond. Please do get help.

Carolyn, After 3 months of dating my boyfriend got a job in another city. It's not very far, less than 3 hours away and have been doing the middle distance thing for about 4 months. Boyfriend is amazing, a wonderful kind heart and so handsome to boot! At first the distance wasn't that big of a deal but lately it's been very hard. Both of us are busy at work right now and it's been difficult to see each other. I feel like after 7 months it's time to talk about when we can close the distance. My job is more flexible and I know I would be the one to move, I'm ok with that. But how do I start this conversation? He tends to be a littl defensive when we talk about "feelings" and has trouble expressing himself. I want this to be a positive conversation, although I realize we might not be on the same page if he hasn't brought it up either. Any words of advice on how to start this conversation?

Just start it. If you can't have a conversation without first achieving the exact planetary alignment necessary to avoid triggering his defenses, then this thing is toast. Or should be. Seriously.

There are a whole lot of variations in what people want in a relationship and what works for them, but if you know you have to  tiptoe around important subjects and you choose to stay anyway, then you've introduced a layer of effort and stress that will only get thicker and heavier and more obnoxious over time, especially since the typical arc of life is to hit progressively heavier stuff as you go on. With no new-love happy chemicals to float you through it.

So, talk. Find out now if your affection for each other can withstand it.

Is that still a thing? If so, is there a scheduled date?

I was supposed to come up with a date yesterday and forgot. I was thinking 8/25, but will need to confirm with Teddy when he's back in the office. (Jess is here today, continuing her Hax-chat nostalgia tour.)

If it's not too late, do not sign up for any courses specific to your major. Most schools require a core curriculum that can easily take up the first year if not more to get through. Start just with the core courses, that way if you decide to switch your (your parents') major, you can do so without having wasted time/money on courses that now don't apply. You may find after a year of college (and therapy) you will be able to stand up to your parents on your school/career choice. Good Luck!

Good idear.

I did something similar at age 22. My college graduation present to myself was to legally make my middle name into my first name and drop my first name - which I hated. My parents nodded and smiled, and every member of my family has passive-aggressively written my former name on every legal document since (birthday checks, mentions of children in the newspaper when my mother got a professional honor, etc.) I expect that when they pass, I will discover that they have referred to me by my original name in their will/estate plan. I'm not transgender, but this problem comes up often with families who are unsupportive of their children's gender transition. Copies of the court order changing the name and birth certificates (original and modified) are essential documents to have. The process is easy: the fallout, sometimes, not so much.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand the stubbornness of the resistance here. Why are people so invested in the conduct of lives not their own?

How about just asking if he'd like to go for coffee, lunch, go to a ballgame, etc. Keep it friendly and just maybe it can go from there. That's how my husband and I began almost 40 years ago.

It may not feel like it now, but the abrupt and complete end to the relationship was actually him doing you a favor. My own relationship end dragged on for several ugly and painful (for us and everyone around us) months until I finally found the courage to cut contact. I don't have a child - I can't imagine how this must be for you and kid. But for the relationship and trust part, time makes things easier. It's the one thing that really helped me in the long-term (therapy helped in the short term, please go now!). And know many people have gone through this and you will get through this too. Lots of love, best wishes, and good vibes from all of us 'nuts. You and your son will be ok. <3

My response to questions about why I'm not eating something is, "My body doesn't process it well." Almost always ends the inquisition. Sometimes I add a, "But I'm really enjoying the delicious aroma," to let others know they don't need to feel sorry for me and we're all having a pleasurable experience. Seems to relax the situation.

I can't emphasize Carolyn's last point enough: if you want people to leave you alone about your food choices, leave them alone about theirs. I have many friends who, for one reason or another, avoid various foods. The only ones to whom I give an internal eye-roll are the ones who go on about how awful people feel when they eat gluten/dairy/meat (I don't) or how much bloating it causes (not for me) or whatever. Different strokes for different folks: for you and for them.

I could be your spouse....sort of. When I "criticize" and (gulp) text from within the house, I am trying to be *helpful*. Seriously. I really am. We've talked about this and I understand it comes across as criticism, which I don't mean at all. So, I'm trying to be more closed-mouth or offer help in a better way.

Or how about treating your spouse as an equal and therefore not in need of help unless Spouse expressly asks you for it?

Clothes-pinning your mouth shut is not a solution to the underlying problem: lack of respect. At best you're operating on an unchallenged conviction that you're the better parent. Please tackle that one head-on.

That's it for today. Thanks to all for stopping by, thanks to Jess for stepping in, and have a great weekend. Type to you here next week as usual, though I'll be on the road so we'll see what the WiFi gods have to say. 

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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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