Carolyn Hax Live: "It's Facebook unfriending, not TPing their yard"

Sep 15, 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. I just got word that a morning appointment of mine got pushed back a half an hour. That means I will probably have to start the chat late, too. My apologies. 

Hi everybody, thanks for your patience with the delay.

My girlfriend "Cleo" is allergic to seafood but does not carry an epi-pen because “It’s not that type of reaction,” but she always asks lots of questions about the ingredients and how the food is cooked. My mom always finds the questions insulting and believed Cleo was making up the allergy since she doesn’t carry the epi-pen. This past Labor Day at my family BBQ, Cleo did her usual questioning before eating. Maybe 30 minutes later she started complaining that her face itched. She took Benedryl but she turned red, and her eyes began swelling. We had to go to the ER for a cortisone shot. As we’re getting in the car, my mom confessed she fried the fish and chicken in the same oil and lied when Cleo asked. She admitted she planned to proveCleo’s allergy was fake. My mom apologized and is paying the ER bill. Even so, Cleo called my mom a monster and wants nothing to do with her. She also broke up with me because I shouldn’t have to choose between her and mom. She won’t consider a compromise like eating before visits. Is there anyway to get passed my anger at my mom and get Cleo back?

WOW. 

wow.

No, there's no "compromise" like "eating before visits." Would you ever agree to that yourself, seriously? We're talking about food here, as in sustenance, and the center of most human social interaction. That's not something you nudge off to the side because your bf's mom basically committed assault because her ego insisted.

Or, put another way, would you ever consider yourself so awesome a catch that someone would be willing to make such a huge sacrifice just to be with you?

I'm not singling you out as unworthy of love by saying this. I think we all have a blind spot (sizes of which vary) when it comes to the sacrifices we ask of the people who choose to be with us. Whether it's "deal with my morning snappiness" or "put up with my unhinged family" or "don't judge me for my lack of ambition" or whatever else, we all have our ways of guaranteeing that whatever great qualities we offer, we still belong on the scratch-n-dent shelf in the store. 

With your mother's jaw-dropping act of smugness and hostility, Cleo has every right and a lot of good reasons to  seek companionship elsewhere. Please accept her decision as a sound one, as in, accept that her potential sacrifices as too great under the circumstances to warrant her staying with you. 

As for how you get over your anger at your mom, I can only say, watch and wait: See if her lesson has truly been learned.

Hi Carolyn: In an insecure and jealous moment, I unfriended the husband (a nice man) of a more-or-less friend of mine. ('Frenemy' might be too strong here). She lives a charmed life by every account, and *once again* was going to hang with her LA-area besties from years' past at one woman's luxury digs in Mexico. He posted how 'proud and happy' he was that she had this great group of friends to hang with after all these years blah blah blah. I want to hurl when spouses go on glowingly about each other on FB, so I just -- snapped(ish) and unfriended him. My life is not even close to theirs. They have a longtime marriage, money, great jobs, nice house, take awesome vacations. and I am divorced, haven't dated in years, not rolling in money, but have have many blessings, it's true. But she is not the nicest person in the world, and never acknowledges her many blessings and advantages. She is the opposite of humble. So, yes, it was a weak moment for me. A while back I saw them together, and I think he knows I unfriended him. He looked at me in a strange way. Should I write him a note and apologize, and tell him why? Forget the whole thing? I see them both from time to time. Any advice?

I'm sure there's a more nuanced or complicated answer to be written here, but you don't really like these people much, so don't bother with any efforts at remediation. Sounds like blocking the more-or-less friend would have a peace-of-mind dividend, too.

I mean, it's Facebook unfriending, not TPing their yard. 

I suppose I could also recommend some work on the "insecure and jealous" stuff, including some soul inventory; is "longtime marriage, money, great jobs, nice house, take awesome vacations" really the be-all? I mean, at least one of them is sharing all these things with "not the nicest person in the world," and maybe you'd trade a lot of material comfort for the pleasure of good company.

I dunno. Your accounting may differ, but if "forget the whole thing" is genuinely on the table, I'd grab it.

Maybe ask yourself this: If these were nicer people, then would you be happier for them?

I’ve been married 2 years and am 6 months pregnant and up to last week I was so happy preparing with my husband, “Tom” for our first child. Only it turns out it’s not his first child. He was contacted by the 18 yo old son he and his girlfriend gave up for adoption when they were in high school. I feel so betrayed and furious that I had to be blindsided by this news. Tom has apologized profusely and explained that he couldn’t tell me because it wasn’t just his news since the ex-girlfriend is still part of his social circle. She’s now married to a good friend of his and was even at our wedding. For our baby’s sake I’m trying to stay calm but I feel like the whole experience has been ruined for me. I could have handled this if only he had told me a long time ago but he thought it was more important to keep a secret for a girl he dated almost 20 years ago than it was to be honest with his wife. How can I get over this? Every day I feel like asking him what other terrible secrets he’s keeping from me. I look at my in-laws and think the same thing. How can we get past this so we can welcome our wonderful baby as we should?

Time and good counseling. 

I see his point that it wasn't fully his news to disclose, but, at the same time, it was incumbent on him to go to the ex-GF before marrying you to let her know he was going to tell you--because it was your right to know.

Please also rethink, when your feelings settle a bit and you're more ready, the notion of this experience being "ruined" and your husband having other secrets. It it entirely okay to decide there aren't ripples beyond what has happened. He had this one very significant and shared secret; he faced Road A or Road B when he met you; he chose B when he should have chosen A. As long as he understands the full extent of his error and is committed to not repeating it, this can genuinely not affect the baby.

When my son was born, we didn't have room for guests so my in-laws planned to stay with a cousin a few towns over. Just as they were supposed to arrive, there was a pertussis outbreak at the high school where cousin's kids were students. It was only three or four cases, but we immediately told everyone that the in-laws couldn't stay with cousins or even see them, in case they got exposed and brought it into our house. Everyone raised quite a fuss at the time -- in-laws huffed about having to get a last-minute hotel, and the cousin even went so far as to melodramatically ask, "Are you sure it's not that you just don't want your baby to be around me?" As if we had personally and deliberately engineered an infectious epidemic at his kids' school just to hurt his feelings. Well, by the time in-laws arrived, there were so many cases that they closed the school for a week and cancelled all interscholastic sports and activities. Everyone apologized and we all moved on. Scary at the time, but now, years later, it's become family lore of the sort we retell and laugh over. Just stick to your guns firmly but non-judgmentally, and it will cease to be an issue by the time your baby has its first birthday.

Thanks for sharing. I'm picking up on a lot of resistance to this development of asking people to be up-to-date on their boosters, much of it in the all-too-common form of, "We never did this with our kids and they were fine!" But the circumstances really have changed. There's a good comment thread about it on my Facebook page: LINK. It's on top, at the moment: "So for those who are expressing disbelief ..."

I hosted my child's birthday party about 1.5 months ago; gifts were not opened at the party. I had the genius idea to parse out his gifts over the span of several days, lest he get overwhelmed and not appreciate each individual gift. Well, he discovered his gifts in his room, opened all of them, and now I have no idea who gave what, so I don't know what to do as far as thank you cards. I am stumped.

Write thank-yous that say how grateful you are that X came to the party, and that you're sorry you can't thank anyone for specific gifts because your son took all the tags and cards off. You might as well own it, right? Any parents who can't easily see themselves in your spot and sympathize accordingly are kidding themselves, no? Worse, they're humor-challenged.

A rare and coveted job -- higher salary, growth potential, interesting work -- opened at my wife's office, and she was told it was hers if she just submitted the formal application. Wife struggles with procrastination so I tried to be helpful, i.e, "Want me to take the kids to the movies so you can work on application in peace? Skip my work dinner and proofread your resume?" She assured me she was on top of it. She wasn't. She didn't open the job link until an hour before the hard deadline, at which point she learned the instructions were more extensive than anticipated. The clock ran out before she could finish. Wife is sad and disappointed. I feel terrible for her. But I'm also really angry that she torpedo'd her career like this, especially when the benefits for our family seemed so tangible and accessible. It's taking every bone in my body to not scream I TOLD YOU SO, WHY DIDN'T YOU LISTEN TO ME? What should I do?

Is it possible the procrastination is linked to anxiety? And therefore that her putting it off was some manifestation of her not actually wanting the new position?

Something to consider. Maybe look at other things she has and hasn't applied herself to--sometimes you'll see someone who normally procrastinates suddenly acquire all kinds of focus and direction, and it happens to be something she really wants, enjoys, feels confident doing. It's almost like internal passive aggression, where you resist the inner voice telling you what you "should" do by just shutting down and not doing whatever it is.  

It might also be worth a screening for ADD/ADHD. A lot of adults have it and have never been diagnosed because their school years were behind them well before such a diagnosis existed.

 

Cleo would be totally within her rights to press charges, since the poisoning was intentional. That's a well-recognized point of no return for social relationships. Why did you somehow think that Cleo would continue to associate with your mom?

Is it wrong that this struck me funny?

Poisoning: 1. administering a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism; 2. a well-recognized point of no return for social relationships.

Full disclosure on the poisoning story: I've seen a few like it recently. I imagine it's an offshoot of our foul cultural moment, where someone who is merely different from one's prior experience is suddenly part of some contemptible Other who must be called out and shunned. Can't wait till it passes. 

Hi Carolyn. A good friend of 20 years (we met in high school) got engaged last fall and asked me to be in her wedding. I eagerly accepted. She is getting married next summer. We met up a few weeks ago - I am newly pregnant - and she said they're not inviting kids to their wedding. (I also have a toddler.) No problem at all, toddlers don't belong at weddings. At the time, I didn't realize that she also meant newborns. After a very uncomfortable conversation and thinking on my part, I decided to bow out as a bridesmaid, because she said I would not be able to bring my baby (it will be around 10 weeks at that time and need to nurse every 3 hours) to the "getting ready" portion of the day, or the ceremony or reception. My husband and I will be guests, and my mom will watch my toddler and baby. During the conversation, she kept saying that she hoped there were no hurt feelings. I tried to be gracious, but to be honest, I am very hurt. I feel like she is choosing a "vision" of a child-free day over our 20-year friendship. I can't help but feel like this is the end of our friendship. I'm mourning the loss but also know it doesn't have to end. Any tips to help me get over this hurdle...?

Well, she could say you're choosing a vision of a child-ful day over your 20-year friendship.

I'm saying this despite being more sympathetic to your position than to hers; a newborn can fit in to a wedding quite easily (and non-disruptively) if you have support in the form of a child-minder like your mom, who can keep the baby out of the party but close enough for you to nurse. In fact, it can happen without your baby ever being in the congregation/at the reception.

But, this is not something I would expect to be common knowledge, where it's much more common for people to have witnessed firsthand how squirmy kids get in formal places.

So, please consider forgiving her. Treat this as her making the best decision for her given what she knows. 

And forgive her in advance in the event she has her own newborn someday and sees it differently.

It was so much fun reading about the nicknames in last week's chat; some of them had my crying I was laughing so hard. I would like to nominate nicknames for an annual Hootenanny theme...signed "Storky" (nickname give for obvious reasons when legs were skinny and disproportionately long during adolescent years - and remembered fondly).

I don't know, Hooting it might dent its spontaneous charm. 

But if people want to sign their posts with their nicknames, I won't stop them.

Caroline, from last weeks discussion, my Dad always called me the Flower of the Family - the blooming idiot. Now you might think that sounds terrible but I was proud of that name. Go figure. Kids are kids and they know their names and love the strangest ones if given with love.

And I can do this, too ...

My immediate thought was that if husband gave up baby at birth, it WILL be his first time being a father, as far as experiencing all those baby milestones and sleepless nights, etc. They will be experiencing that together for the first time.

Yes! Exactly. Thank you.

You just gave me an idea about how to skip holidays with the in-laws. My SIL just had a baby and I think announcing that we don't believe in vaccinations might just be the ticket to being excused. Thanks for the tip.

Talk about your unintended consequences.

Okay, I have to run. Thanks all, thanks Teddy, have a great weekend and 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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