Carolyn Hax Live: 'Leopard pants and a cocktail'

Jan 11, 2019

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax will be online to take your comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Hello everybody, happy Friday, and a special thanks to the federal workforce for all you do for the rest of us. If those of you on furlough or working unpaid would like to weigh in, I'm sure a lot of us would like to know some specific things we can do to help.

I was really shocked to read that line today. You've always advocated against bean counting, and what better example of bean counting than saying it's somebody's turn? FWIW, you gave advice some years ago about how bean counting is bad and decisions should be made based on what's best for the relationship, not whose turn it is. Either that or the person who is left feeling unfulfilled can leave the relationship, which is what I assumed you were going to say here. You weren't wrong then. I did drop the bean counting and scaled back my efforts and gestures instead of leaving the relationship. Now mine match my partner's, and everything is all good.

If it's something she's doing for him, then it's not bean-counting, it's a gift. And an acknowledgment that he's been on the rough end, too, of her bad relationship with her mother. It's not a burden she alone has carried.

My kids go to a school that has recently been trying to teach some age-appropriate lessons relevant to the #MeToo movement. In theory I think this is a good thing but in practice I think they're not doing it very well, mostly because they seem to think boys and girls need very different messages. For one example, they've repeated the lesson that "A boy should never hit a girl" over and over but I would prefer for them to teach, "No one should hit anyone." For another example, they did a "consent" lesson where boys and girls were separated, and the message to boys was all about, "You should not touch someone without their consent" and the message to girls was all about, "You should speak up and tell an adult if someone touches you without your consent," when I think both lessons should be taught to both boys and girls. Do you think I should talk to my own kids about some of the misgivings I have about these lessons, or talk to the school, or just keep my mouth shut?

Talk to both, please! The school's mistakes--and I agree with you on the issues you spelled out--are an excellent doorway into important conversations with your kids. As always, be sure to listen as much as you talk, if not more, but certainly get things started by saying what bothers you and asking what they think.

And make an appointment today, please, to talk to the principal of the school. Make sure you express gratitude for their willingness to take this on before you launch into your critique.

Husband is 6-1/2 years younger than I am. We have been married 14 years, and are financially comfortable. He is eligible for retirement and wants to retire even though his health is good. Although we do not need the extra money, I am in excellent health, love my job, and plan to continue working. I completely understand his viewpoint: he's worked hard, can afford it, and wants to leave the rat race. On the other hand, the thought of being the main breadwinner, providing his health insurance (he's on my plan), and just in general the idea of working fulltime while my younger husband hangs out at the golf course or plays in his workshop really irritates the heck out of me. For reasons I don't understand, it embarrasses me, it angers me, it makes me think of him as lazy...just a whole lot of negative feelings. He has every right to retire. Why am I so upset? (It has nothing to do with housework or any other domestic-related issue.) Please help me before I mess up a good marriage.

I wish I could, but I am at a loss as well.

Would his retiring early mean you couldn't retire early now, even if you wanted to? That would be an easy one. You may love your job and love working, but knowing you're in it now for the long haul can be a lot to carry. It's not anything new, of course--sole breadwinners married to homemakers have been in this position all along--but that doesn't mean it can't chafe when you're there yourself.

This prompts another possibility ... are you female? I.e., is this sexism? The "lazy" tag does seem to be applied freely to men who don't work but rarely to women who don't work. If that's it, then you need to acknowledge that and stop putting your husband on the wrong end of an ugly double-standard.

Aaaand that's all I've got right now. If these both miss the mark and you're still not sure what the mark it, it's worth a conversation or three solo with a good family therapist. Treat your feelings as a mystery that you need a detective to help you solve.




The furlough is three weeks old already. It feels like getting laid off -- you feel worthless even though intellectually you know it's not your fault. What can Feds do to keep a positive attitude?

Wait--I don't want to imply by answering this that I agree a laid-off employee is "worthless." No one is worthless. Often people are unaffordable, but worthless, no.

Anyway: I've been following the news closely, with horror and dismay, of all the functions disrupted by this shutdown--from precious national parks to research at private institutions to mortgage closings. And in that litany I hope all workers find encouragement. You are so important, just look at all the normal business that can't go on without you. You're living arguments for competent government. I see you and I know countless others do, too.



Hi Carolyn, I got engaged last month (yay!), and my fiancé and I are starting to plan our wedding for this October. He cares more about most of the details and so is taking the lead. (We're both men.) I'm okay with that, but it's starting to look like he is planning a wedding that is a reflection of the things that are important to him, and I'm barely a part of it. For example, he identifies very strongly with the alumni community of his undergraduate alma mater -- he wants to have the wedding at an event space on his college campus, decorated in the school's colors, with various college traditions as part of the program. I didn't go to that school and I don't identify with any of it, though I don't mind it either I suppose. If I'm not willing to take the lead on the planning (I'm too busy to do that and just not interested), does that mean I forfeit getting to "see myself" in the appearance of the wedding when it happens?

Of course not. You definitely forfeit the right to complain about some of the details, but site, emphasis and tone aren't details. So just say this stuff to him instead of us. Say you're grateful he's taking the lead in a way you couldn't even if you wanted to, but you also want the end result to represent your lives together--and (your words from here, but, for example) the tilt toward the alma mater has you feeling like a spectator at your own life event. 

Marriage means you've declared this person to be your partner and equal, and if you feel you can't say to him what you really mean, then he's not really your partner and equal.

I would chalk it up to plain old jealously. Not necessarily a bad thing if you can keep you emotions in check. I am constantly jealous of my husband (me makes way more in the private sector than I do in academia, he can sleep through our 6 month old crying at night, etc). What I find helpful is realizing that each of you just sees things differently, and making sure that you're secure in your world view. Also, take extra time to do things together. It's easy to be jealous if you're looking from the outside, so try to make extra effort to spend time together. If you can swing it, take a day off to play golf with him once he retires. Have him meet you for lunch while you work. Hopefully this will help you see that it's just different strokes for different folks; and that's not a bad thing.

My wife tells me almost every day she would like to retire. I don't think we are at the point financially where we can do completely without her paycheck, but I tell her, if it comes to a point where you really can't do it anymore, we'll figure out a way to make it work. I think OP should find some gratitude for the fact that they are in a comfortable enough place financially that husband can take advantage of retirement. Look at the positives! If one of you is retired, you can travel and enjoy life with only one set of work-related restrictions. If something needs to be taken care of that would otherwise require one of you to take off from work, problem solved. It opens up a lot of alternatives. Did I mention the gratitude for being in a strong financial position?

Have heard several sources report that airline passengers have been treating TSA employees really courteously during the shutdown, since they have to work but aren't getting paid.

This is great, thank you.

Even greater: Always treating TSA employees really courteously. They have a job to do and there's no buffer between them and some seriously stressed out people.

I work regularly but occasionally with a guy I’m 99% sure has a crush on me. I have no romantic interests outside my marriage and he also appears happily married; I think it is just a harmless crush (and I think he believes he’s hiding it much better than he is). But he is very good looking, professionally has it together and I do genuinely like him, and it just feels nice to know that I’ve elicited a little spark of crush feelings from someone new. So my question is, is it ok for me to just enjoy his crush on me until it burns itself out?

Yes! I mean, no. I mean, define "enjoy." 

That ice gets thin really fast.

Dear Carolyn, Three years ago, when I was happily married, a friend from a college friend group proposed an affair. I declined and avoided seeing him one-on-one. Now I am going through a rocky divorce. He proposed an affair again. I am still not interested. I told him that and he told me that he and his wife have “an understanding.” I was initially just friends with him, but did get to know his wife over the past few years and I really like her. Do I have an obligation to tell her he repeatedly comes on to me? I have no interest in an affair with him and have no problem saying so, but I see them as a couple every 6 weeks or so in a group. I feel weird catching up with his wife about their new car or most recent vacation while knowing her husband is interested in an affair.

The world I'd like to live in is the one in which you have an affair the wife.

In this world, I am uncomfortably on the fence about what you tell or don't tell her about her husband. On the one hand, this guy is terrible and my every impulse is to yell, "She needs to know how terrible he is!" Because even if it's 100 percent true that their marriage is covered by a bulletproof "understanding," he went after you when you were in a marriage that for all he knew was a faithful and trusting one. Which of course puts his whole "understanding" story under a heavy gray cloud of suspicion.

On the other hand, of course, their intimate life is not your business. Your business begins and ends at how you conduct your relationships. 

So really the only answer is to stay away from the husband to the fullest extent possible, and remain cordial and in unspoken solidarity with the wife. 



As for me, my spouse retired, while I have four more years to go. It has been outstanding for both of us. My spouse is happier, more relaxed, and getting so much done for both of us. Win win if you ask me.

My dad retired earlier than my mom, who continues to work. Once he retired, he took over the lion's share of the housework (mom calls him her "houseboy", lovingly), and it's worked great. Dad no longer works at his soul-sucking job, and Mom is relieved of the "second shift" that she worked after her regular job for so many years....

That's hilarious, thank you.

I wonder (because she mentioned the age first) that she might be worried about the image - like a boytoy. Supporting a younger man? Maybe her subconscious is concerned about the optics

Then her subconscious needs some leopard pants and a cocktail. Sheesh.

Not to burst your bubble, but good looking people can sometimes be subversive and get weird enjoyment out of people thinking that they are being crushed on. Any chance he doles out the same charm to others in the office? Better to just keep it professional.

Ew. Okay.

I think the line is that it’s fine to enjoy the fact that you are capable of eliciting a crush from someone nice and good looking, but you should try not to enjoy the actual attention, flirtation, etc - if you do, you run the risk of encouraging him, which isn’t good for either of you. Basically, behave in a way that you would feel comfortable with your husband witnessing.

Well argued, thanks.

Our neighborhood has a listserv. and some furloughed workers have been posting odd jobs they're willing to do. Other neighbors have been posting odd jobs they need to have done.

This is great, thanks. 

I was at State for close to 15 years before leaving and also went through many shutdowns as a so-called essential employee. I left because I was tired of having my career being used as a bargaining chip or political football (on both sides). I know love and support don't put a dent in the financial concerns so many of my friends and former colleagues are facing, but please know we are all behind you. And if you are an ex-Fed or the friend of a furloughed one, please check in on them, take them to lunch/coffee/drinks, listen to them -- and if they don't want to talk about it but instead focus on something else, be cool with that too. There were times during the 13-day Great Shutdown of 2013 that I could not talk about it anymore since it was my daily reality...and was grateful to discuss literally anything else, no matter how seemingly trivial.

Assuming you do not have looming financial worries, visit a vendor or restaurant that normally caters to people working at Government installations. These people will never be made whole for the business they lose.

Excellent suggestion, thanks. More specifics below.

The feds are really suffering because of the shutdown, but we have to remember that there are a whole lot of other people in dire straights too. Restaurants are empty, my barber had two appointments last week, people can't get mortgages, farmers can't get their stipends, businesses can't get loans. This is a Big Hurt. And as one of the feds who hasn't been affected by the shutdown (and who is taking friends out to dinner as much as possible and donating extra money to food banks), I hope they know that we see them and are concerned about them too.

Fellow storm victim here. I agree with Carolyn we are so important and shutdowns highlight that. Take care of yourself. All of this unstructured time coupled with boatloads of anxiety about our future is a recipe for disaster. I've tried to keep a decent schedule and aim to do something constructive in the house, something volunteer related (be careful of ethics), something intellectual (not reading current news) and something social each day. Find what works for you, but definitely make a plan so that you control how you spend your time while we wait instead of letting the wait and the time control you. It definitely helps your self-worth.

Excellent. This applies to anyone in limbo.

The school is not in error--boys and girls do need different messages. Young boys need to rein in their aggressiveness, while young girls should be taught to find it, train it, and have it on tap for when it is needed.

I strenuously disagree. Body autonomy is body autonomy. Consent is consent. Treating people as This Type or That Type is a gateway to shame, and shame is the stealth enemy of empowerment. 

And if you think girls aren't naturally aggressive, then you never watched me play lacrosse.

Please speak up. Obviously I don't want anyone hitting my daughter, but I don't want her thinking she can hit boys and not face consequences because "she's a girl." And with the more recent broadened awareness of boys as victims of sexual abuse (Penn State, religious organizations), it's really important that all our children get the same messages.

Yes, this. Thank you.

Make sure to also tell the school that BOTH lessons need to be taught to ALL children - boys also need to be able to speak up when touched without their consent or in harmful ways, and girls need to not touch anyone without consent. Violence against women needs to be acknowledged and taken seriously, but everyone needs to be empowered to speak up when they are violated.

Maintaining a reasonable overall balance over time in a relationship isn't bean-counting.

Ooh, better put, thank you.

The school is not just wrong in this context, they're actively part of the problem by indirectly teaching the kids that boys cannot be victimized and girls must be protected and therefore have less agency.

My wife, “Becky” and I stayed with my brother, “Dan” and his wife, “Mae” for Christmas. Becky and I are recently married and this was the first time she stayed at my brother’s place. Later she texted Mae a thank-you along with some helpful hints about some slight hosting deficiencies – nothing too bad just that the mattress in the guest room needs to be replaced, the drain in the one bathtub runs very slow, and that a lot of people can’t eat carb heavy meals first thing in the morning. This might seem obnoxious to some but Becky would sincerely welcome if someone did this for her and thought she was doing Mae a favor. Mae is not that sort of person at all and is livid at both of us and has banned us from visiting every again. I wish Becky had checked with me before sending the text but Mae is really over-reacting. We were really good guests – we only stayed three days and took everyone out to dinner once and breakfast twice, helped serve and did all of the clean-up after the big meal and always cleaned up after ourselves so this was a minor annoyance at best. I said so to Dan when I was explaining that Becky meant no harm and now he’s mad at me too. My mom lives with my brother and is heartsick over all of this and has asked me to mend fences so Becky and I are welcome to stay there at Easter time and next Christmas. I want to but I’m not sure what to do. Where do I start fixing this mess?

Becky does with an abject and sincere apology. Wow. And then you hope really hard that it's not too little too late. 

Mae is overreacting maybe a little--*maybe.* If I were in her place, I would agree to host Becky again in my house, but only out of love for Dan and respect for his love for you. Seriously. Maybe Becky would "sincerely welcome if someone did this for her," but that puts her among the thickest skinned people on earth. That, or it's just theoretical and she has never in fact hosted someone who thanked her by producing an itemized list of her hostly deficiencies. 

And she gets the list, not Dan? While we're speaking of double standards.

I don't know how else to say this to you. Becky just drove spike into the hull of your relationship with your family, and you need to see that exactly for what it is. Then you and she both need to start bailing as fast as you can. 

Is it possible that these feelings are a stand in for a fear of change? How you relate to each other, how you relate to other people, how your days/weeks are structured, etc will all likely be affected by his retirement. It’s scary to go from a routine that works to an unknown. Maybe if they talk about what post retirement life will look like beyond days at the golf course - “what will we talk about when we don’t have work talk anymore?” “how will we handle people who judge you for retiring before me?” - she’ll feel better?

I like this, thanks.

Recently a middle-aged person told me that they wouldn't want to live past the age of 80. I'm in my mid-70s, and still working full-time at a job I love in a field I'd be happy to pursue at least part-time as long as I'm able (think past 100, if I'm luck!y). To be honest, my feelings are really hurt by this person's expressed view, and I feel it is ageism. I was too stunned to reply at the time, but now wonder what I should have said (nothing snarky)?

I'm curious about your reasons for taking it so personally. To me it just sounds like ignorance. With some tone-deafness thrown in, given the audience. 

If there's a next time, then a plainly stated, "I hope I have more than five years left, but I speak only for myself," would get any necessary points across.

As for whether it's ageism, yes, it is, since this person basically said a life after 80 has no value. But I'm struggling with a way to say this ... it doesn't sound like mindful or purposeful ageism, but instead flippant and accidental ageism, like the person who hasn't given a moment's thought to what s/he was actually saying. Like a 7-year-old thinking anyone over 45 is ancient. 

I'm not a "clutch the pearls" kind of gal, but wow. Just wow! Literally tried to clutch pearls I'm not wearing. Lol. I love to host and am very thick skinned, but if someone stayed in my home for three days and then sent me a list of grievances, I would lose it! Being gracious during the stay doesn't absolve bad behavior after the fact. In fact, it would make me wonder if they were helping only because they thought I was incompetent. Wow.

Posting because I suspect OP needs to know it's not just me and Mae.

We bought a new house and used my friend's husband to get our homeowner's insurance. We see them pretty frequently in social situations, and I really like both of them. Well through no fault of his office, the policy got cancelled and it was a yo yo of it was reinstated, no it's not, for months. Finally found out we have no coverage and have not for a few months now (AHH). This is something he really should have followed up on and been on top of and to make it worse, he has clearly been dodging my calls and emails this week, since he's been "so slammed" at work. Don't lie to someone who sees your wife's social media posts of you two golfing at 1pm on a Tuesday. I would never tell our friends or his wife- this is business and not personal. However, another friend is buying a new home and asking what I think of this guy for insurance. I don't want to lie and and I also don't want to get into it with her since she'll tell the whole world that I wasn't happy. What to do now?

He's dodging your calls! If you want to avoid making your social life awkward, then, fine, but you need to protect this other friend. "Parts of it were awkward so if I had it to do again, I'd separate business from friendship." That's all you need to say.

And bonus report from an advice columnist keeping score at home: You have one friend lying to you and golfing while your home is incompetently insured through his business, and another friend who would "tell the whole world" about your dissatisfaction with the other friend. Sounds to me like you need better insurance and better friends.


Carolyn, Thanks for all the great advice over the years. I got married a few years ago and ever since my husband seems to have a waning interest in me. He has some other issues going on (trying to change careers, worried about health, general anxiety) but me and our relationship always takes a back burner. He doesn't want to spend time with me and ignores any of my concerns because he has more important things to worry about. When I bring it up he says he loves me and that my worry about the relationship is unfounded, and that he doesn't want to get in an argument. But I can't remember the last time I felt special with him or when he last wanted to spend time with me. I'm not asking for anything special, just a dinner spent not watching tv or a day where we actually do something together. I'm wondering if I'm wasting my life on someone who has no space for me in his life and that maybe I should move on and make my plans separately. Thanks

Certainly sounds possible that he's just not interested in spending time with you. This could also be a symptom of undiagnosed depression, or the anxiety talking.

Instead of "move on and make my plans separately," though, you might try reversing that--make your plans separately and then, if necessary, move on. By that I mean, plan the dinner not watching TV, plan the thing you would like to do together. If he goes along, then there you have it; your planning it mill make it more accessible to him if indeed his mental health is the obstacle. If he doesn't go along, then be ready with the plan B--go with a friend instead, or see the movie/performance solo, etc. This way you'll be living more of the life you want, at least, while you figure out what's happening in your marriage. Plus, changing things up in this non-binding way will likely give you a different view of what's happening, which is always helpful.

A small thing, but worth mentioning I think: "doesn't want to get in an argument"? It's okay to respond that you're not looking to argue, you just want to spend time with him. And if he refuses that, and all of this, then it's time to start exploring the possibility the marriage isn't viable. Because your husband has health issues, though, I would start this exploration with a health professional. A therapist qualified to treat the issues your husband has would be able to help you sort out--in solo appointments to start--what is the illness and what is the relationship, at least to the extent that can be done.

You mean I can send a text to my in-laws telling them to replace the mattress??? I could have saved my back all of the years with just a "no big deal" text?!?! Or, sending that text would get me out of having to stay with them ever again!

Ding ding ding!

So at what point do OP and Becky host Dan, Mae and Mom?

The point where things really get interesting.

I keep seeing freebies being offered all over the region for Feds, which is great and really generous! But it's important to note that not all federal contractors are still working--some of them, including a close friend of mine, are also furloughed. He doesn't have any real leave time to tap into because it's a newish job. I'd advise all of those generous businesses to also consider contractors. I keep seeing "feds only, no contrators" on those freebie lists. Please reconsider!

How much do we need to hear from Team Mae? If you're out there, OP, has the point been made?

Did you know that Aaron Blake in the competing chat calls you "Low Energy Hax"? I think we could and should get a West Side Story rumble started.

Do you really think Low Energy Hax would bother to show up? No, no she would not. [Yawns. Picks stray dog hair off sweater.]

My parents lived very happy and healthy lives until they were around 85. Now at 87 and 92, they are living very unhappy and unhealthy lives. So I've said something similar about not wanting to be in their position. I have seen also that they have little agency over their lives any longer - in almost every way you can think of. So I'm not sure it's ageism to say I wouldn't want to live past 85. It's been my life experience for the past few years.

How about just saying, then, that you hope not to outlive your good health? Because the sentiment isn't the problem, the arbitrary age tacked onto it is.

That blithe reference to Mom living with brother and Mae! That might not be adding much to Mae and Dan's home workload, but it might also be adding much.

Right, I missed that. Yes.

So you can't tell them that the tub is draining slow?

That one, yes--right after you walk out of the shower, though. Not later in a list of grievances. Offering to fix it is nice, too, if you have the skills. 

Maybe Becky comes from a Festivus family, and the Airing of Grievances is her Love Language? "I've got a lot of problems with you people!"

You can stay.

I can see that Becky took it too far, but at the same time, how are Mae and Dan to know that their guest room mattress needs help unless a guest who's slept on it has told them? (Ask me how I've come to this conclusion.....) And, maybe the same with the drain. Surely there's a way to say this kind of thing that doesn't get the family backs up?

Ooh, I'm glad you brought this up: Anyone with a guest room needs to sleep in it once before offering to guests. Renewably every few years, since stuff ages. It's a small thing to do with such a big payoff for guests. Is the mattress in good shape? Are the neighbor's floodlights in your eyes? Is the heat blasting? And most important: Can you hear everything being said in the kitchen?

Food for thought, the borderline-rude, tell-it-like-you-see-it, and annotate your response to be "helpful," this is the communication style of people on the autism spectrum. Perhaps the wife is an undiagnosed adult on the spectrum. Meaning changes with context, and for an adult on the spectrum, the thank you presented in question would be viewed much differently, as a genuine olive branch and expression of thanks.

Possible, thanks.

Okay, that's it for today. Thanks everybody, especially for the good furlough-related suggestions, have a great weekend, and see you here next week.


I've got a lot of comments from feds and etc. that I'll post after this, since there are a lot of ideas but, in case of redundancy, I didn't want to swamp the chat. Read on only if you want to learn more about ways to help. 

Aaron's already done with his chat.

You can stay, too. 

Okay, now the other stuff ...

Many of whom will not receive back pay if their company is not floating them (I imagine most companies that are, will slowly stop if this drags on much longer).

Great point about contractors. And from what I've read, most (if not all) of the contractors won't be paid back later since the work their actual employers have them do is not paid by the government if it is not done, and no one is letting them do it. So they are really the most unfortunate ones in the long run. And so much government work has been contracted out in the last few years, which means there are many more in this situation, through no fault of their own,

I'm a spouse of a furloughed fed. I work full time but do not make enough to cover all our bills. With two small kids in daycare it has been very stressful. We are not concerned about putting food on the table, but how to pay mortgage, daycare, car payments etc. Hubs has been doing some light construction work for friends and family and is looking into other options where we can get cash fast. We are okay with going into a bit of credit card debit to pay bills, however, mortgage, daycare and other big items cannot be paid on credit. This is our stress.

Amen to the earlier poster.... Weird to be in the position we're in. Trying to maintain a daily routine that includes productivity and creativity while maintaining and supporting 'self care' value and worth frugally. Thanks to all who are supporting us -- keep reaching out since we need the support and reassurance.

If you're discussing effects of the shutdown, please keep your personal politics out of the discussion unless directly prompted. I'd prefer not to hear that X policy is way more important than me not being able to pay bills.

Hi - I'm one of thousands of federal contractors that aren't being paid - and won't be paid retroactively when this shutdown is over. Somehow our plight seems to be missed when people talk about the shutdown.

UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! All my feelings in summation. My therapist is offering half off for clients impacted by this "lapse in appropriations" maybe other mental health services are doing the same? Worth inquiring about if you need it. Times are rough....

This doubles as a way to help the fed community and also a thing you can do if you ARE a furloughed fed because it's free! A lot of government office blood drives in the area have been cancelled because of the shutdown (because the employees aren't in the office to go to the blood drive) and local blood banks have expressed concerned that supplies are dropping as a result. If you can donate blood that's a great thing to do anyway and may be especially useful now.

For the Feds affected by the furlough: There are a lot of people who have a pretty good inkling of the value of your work. I'm a state employee, and in my state alone there are 38,000 employees, plus their families. I suspect you have a lot of invisible supporters - 50 states worth of state and local government employees who all know the importance of yours roles, and who have been through or come close to similar situations. I'm sorry you're stuck in this position!

Definitely NOT the time to scold your furloughed friends about not having enough savings. Yes, everyone should have 3-6 months' salary stashed away, but it's not always possible, and the amount of financial "advice" being doled out with a healthy dose of smug a la mode right now in some circles is pretty unhelpful.

Wondering what you can do to help out some of our local folks affected by the shutdown? (I live in a Coast Guard-heavy town, but this will apply elsewhere as well). I've been in touch with the Ombudsman at the local Coast Guard station and she recommends a few different ideas. 1) Donate to the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance fund- this is the organization that will directly help CG members with loans & grants to get through the uncertainties in coming days and weeks. Here's their website: The CGMA has already been able to increase the dollar amount they are able to help active duty service members with because of increased donations. Every bit helps as their limit is still minimal. 2) Small dollar amount gas and grocery gift cards can be delivered directly to the CG station. Members still have to go to work and may not be able to afford the gas to get there & groceries are an obvious one. 3) They can accept canned goods and prepared food directly at the CG station. If you have the means, contact your local CG stations & see if you can donate lunch for a day to everyone on duty. Donate to your local food pantries & human services departments as they are likely being utilized more than normal. If you know people who are affected, ask how you can help.

As horrible as it is for furloughed feds, the lower-pay contractors (like those cleaning the Capitol or serving in the cafeteria) are NOT going to get back pay. A lot of them (including the higher paid government contractors who cannot afford to go without a paycheck) are in deep trouble. I have a friend who works for a contractor who told them if no budget by Feb 2, they are all laid off.

There are plenty of local businesses, colleges and others offering freebies and events like free basketball tickets to furloughed government employees. So if you are one of the furloughed just sitting in your house and feeling like the walls are closing in, get out of the house and do something, even if it's mundane like getting something to eat or watching a basketball game for a couple of hours.

How about we all call/write/visit our elected federal representatives and tell them we think this type of gamesmanship is ineffective and fruitless. Please get yourselves to the table and work this out. There is no "hero" side in this. I am heartily sick of the congressional dysfunction that has played out over the last, I don't know, twenty years?

Came back from overseas on Wednesday through Sam Francisco Airport. Told ever CBP and TSA officer I dealt with that I/we really appreciate what they are doing and admire their professionalism. We all owe them and we need to make sure they know that. Suggests everyone traveling do that. Ex Fed during the Clinton furloughs

Furloughed Federal worker that still has to come in to the office 3x a week with no paycheck - the tasks still need doing but the office of 35 has been reduced to 5 "essential" who are having to handle it all during this mess. None of us are happy. Instead of paychecks we received notice that we owe $ for our health care costs since that is usually deducted from our paychecks.

f you're looking for a way to help those impacted by the shutdown, here are some ways you can help (While Federal employees are just missing their first paychecks, many contractors have already missed their checks and those who rely on the federal work force, like waitresses, dog walkers, nannies, and house cleaners, are feeling the shut down hard): - Donate to a food pantry. Many find cash donations more helpful than canned goods. - Donate to a pet food pantry. If people feel like they can't afford their pets it puts them in an awful position. You can order off of Amazon and have donations shipped right to the shelter. - Contact your local school and ask if you can pay off lunch debt for needy students. - Be a generous tipper. - Call your members of Congress to let them know you are feeling the impact.

"What can Feds do to keep a positive attitude?" Get involved with the political party of your choice to help vote out the cause of this dumpster fire!

Unfortunately, for most federal employees, there are ethics rules against accepting "gifts" or items of value. The best way for people to help is to repeatedly contact their elected officials and ask them to end the shutdown. Without pointing fingers, the pressure needs to be put on the leadership of the Senate to send funding bills to the President so he can either sign them or veto them. Then the Senate needs to override the veto so we stop holding federal workers hostage this way. This is one of the greatest sources of stress for those of us in the DC area, even if we aren't directly affected on a financial level. And thank you for thanking the federal workers. It doesn't pay the bills, but it helps to be appreciated.

Hi, Carolyn - unpaid Federal employee here. You asked for suggestions to help - call your Senators! The House has passed numerous funding bills which could end the shutdown but the Senate has yet to vote on a single one of them. Maybe they would pass, maybe not, but we won't know until a vote is cast. Call your Senators and ask them to bring the House bills to a vote!

Have many friends and colleagues who are on furlough and there are lots of things you can do to help. If you know someone who is furloughed or working unpaid, asking them what you can do to help is OK and appreciated. It could be calling your Congressperson, bringing over a hot meal, offering to babysit, making a gift basket of toiletries or offering them a gift card to their grocery/general store of choice. Think about little things you'd want if you were in the same situation.

Fed employee here. I'm extremely lucky to be in an agency that was funded, but it's both infuriating and heartbreaking to see so many of my fellow civil servants being treated like pawns and their lives being up-ended like this. So many of the lower-paid workers will never be able to recover if this goes on. A specific thing people can do to help is to contact their legislators. Phone calls are good; cards and letters are better -- physical mail has a multiplier effect. The addresses and phone numbers are here: Please. Urge them to quit using people as hostages and re-open the government.

Hi Carolyn, some friends have asked me what they can do to help my family as we wait out the stalemate. I count ourselves among the lucky ones, because we have savings we can dip into and we can rearrange our finances for a couple months to keep things going. The most useful thing I find is invite your friend over for dinner. Doesn't need to be fancy, but a night out of the house with friends is always good. Game nights are always fun (at least for us.) Contribute if you can to the local food banks. They will start seeing a heavier demand soon. Also, consider contributing to your school's lunch program, so kids who normally wouldn't qualify for a free lunch can get one if needed. I could make political suggestions, but those are best for another place.

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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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