Carolyn Hax Live: Hero biscuits and pout cake

Jul 19, 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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Hi everybody. What say we put this week behind us.

I've spent nearly my entire life (close to 40 years) moving around frequently, sometimes after only a few months or a year. These moves were usually pretty far away - think opposite coast not opposite side of town - so keeping relationships intact was basically impossible. I've spent my adult life moving around less frequently, sometimes staying in one place for 2 or 3 years, but I always eventually moved on looking for a place that I really liked and wanted to settle in. I think I've finally found it and despite its negatives I really see myself staying in NOVA for many years to come. Due to my rather nomadic childhood, or maybe just natural inclination, my interests run towards the solitary like books, movies, museums, etc. I enjoy doing things alone and have never had an issue with solo dining or even going out for a drink. I even tend to pick solitary exercise! I've been told that I'm friendly and approachable, but I'm still having a REALLY hard time meeting new people and the problem is definitely me: I just can't seem to be interested in people. I'm not self-centered (I don't think?) and I take a great deal of interest in the lives of my few close friends and family, but none of them live nearby. I've tried meetups related to my interests and online dating and I've yet to find a group or person that I'd like to continue spending time with outside of the first or second meeting. I'm sure that there's a skill set that I'm missing, but I don't know how to go about learning it. How do I develop an interest in other people? I would eventually like a romantic relationship as well as some great local friends, but I don't know how make it happen. Any advice is very much appreciated!!

I think you've been doing good things, but maybe not given them the time they need to bring results. It's a tough thing to do--to make connections without some underlying purpose in common. Think about the way people usually meet: through work, school, church, their children, their volunteer positions, a hobby, a sport. Think of how intense the bonds are when there's an intense common activity or purpose, like the military.

We do our best at dropping our defenses and being ourselves when we're occupied--among other people--by a common purpose, and we tend to develop familiarity, comfort and commonality over time from there.

One thing you can do now to help that along is make yourself a regular at a few things--coffee shop, exercise class, volunteer gig--and then be patient. 

I don't think it's necessarily a problem that you "just can't seem to be interested in people." You're a reader, so you have an analogous problem in front of you every week or so: The first few chapters of a book are almost universally tough to get through, no? Because you don't know enough about the characters to care yet? So, let yourself off that hook and spend your energy instead trying to find some places that make sense for you to settle in for a bit.

Dear Carolyn, Due to schedules, I am hosting a graduation party this weekend for my two kids, one from high school and one from college. In our family, it’s customary for kids to get birthday parties until age 10 or so, high school graduation and college graduation. Today is also my niece’s 13th birthday. My SIL texted me this morning and asked if they could bring a cake and put it on the table with the graduation cakes because my niece is apparently really disliking spending her birthday weekend at a family party. I am feeling very cranky but I don’t want to say yes. I spent a lot of time and money on this party and I just want it to be for my kids. I am sorry to hear my niece doesn’t feel like coming, but I don’t think I should need to cajole guests. Is it at all an option to say no? Or do I need to say yes and just try not to look at the cake table?

What a great argument for not making a fuss over one's child's every birthday.

Pardon the cranky editorializing.

It was also incumbent on your SIL (and the child's other parent?) to tell your niece no, this is not your party, we'll celebrate you in a different way. So this is some bad parenting in cake form.

Of course, "no" is an option. But you also refer to a "birthday weekend"--does that mean your niece and family are traveling to see you? If that's the case, then I'd go with Option 3, where you have a small side celebration for your niece.

That also makes a nice fluffy bun on which to serve your "no": "Graduations are a big deal in our family, so I'd like to keep the focus on the two grads. Is there something else we can do for [Niece], though? Earlier, or Sunday brunch?"

If you only have the two options, then let them leave their pout-cake on the table. It's just a cake (words I've possibly never uttered) and it would only be worth taking on as an issue if this were your child and therefore you were responsible for teaching her she's not always going to get her way.

Now I'm thinking about cake.

I'm a senior in college and my mom killed herself a little over a week ago. I have a lot of confused emotions but mainly guilt since I moved away for college and since then maintained low contact with her due to the emotional abuse I suffered growing up. I know a lot of it was due to her mental health issues but she would never get help for any of it. At the time of her death she was staying with my grandmother, who I had been no contact with since she’s much worse than my mom was and the source of most of my mom’s problems. My grandmother’s entire focus now isn’t on the loss of her daughter but on what a pain this has been for her and how hard this is on her financially. She arranged for my mom to be cremated and there’s to be no burial or other ceremony so it was all very cheap but she set up a "memorial gofundme"to help with funeral expenses. I am mad about it but not sure if this is really my business. I hate to see my mom's friends who disliked my grandmother contributing to my mom’s funeral and memorial when the money is just going into my grandmother's pocket. There's already a couple hundred dollars in the fund. I don’t want my mom’s friends wasting their money but a lot of them don’t like me much because of the low contact I maintained with my mom so I will probably look like a bigger jerk if I try to interfere. And my grandmother was supporting my mom for her last few months but this memorial thing is still a lie. What should I do?

Oh my, I'm so sorry. For all of it--for your loss and for the difficult childhood that preceded it and for the tough choices and feelings you're wrestling with now.

The only thing I think you "should" do now is take care of you. The GoFundMe drama is not your problem to solve regardless, but it's also one of so little consequence. So your mom's friends are out, what, $20 or $50 toward a dubious cause? And it's on them to perform their due diligence before giving money.

You, meanwhile, are taking important steps toward making a stable life for yourself with little support and a lot to leave behind.

So let me first say, good for you. What you did took strength and courage, and by your account you needed to do it to save yourself, so there's no occasion for guilt. You ran for your life. 

Now, put your energy into your own stability and mental health. NAMI is a good resource (; the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also has support group for survivors: LINK. If you have access to your school's resources over the summer, then make full use of the counseling services. 

What you "look like" is just not a helpful concern for you right now. Worry only about what you need, where you feel safe, and what will help you keep moving forward. It sounds as if your instincts on that have served you well to this point. It's okay to stay on that path.

I’m 26 and have been dating my 21 y.o. boyfriend for about 8 months. We met when he ws an intern at the company where I still work. He has a year of college to go but we mesh very well and he’s very bright, funny, charming and I do love him. The other night we were watching a dumb rom-com and he asked me about my feeling on marriage and I answered that yes, I’d like to get married, want children someday etc, I didn’t think anything of it at the time we had been drinking and it was just talk, or so I thought. But yesterday he asked about my mom’s wedding band that I wear (she passed 3 years ago) and if I wanted to use it when I got married and if I wanted an engagement ring to match it. I was distracted at the time and just said I never thought about it except I know I don't want a diamond, I want a colored stone or something vintage. Thinking more on this, I’m concerned that my boyfriend may be planning to propose on the vacation we’re taking next month. I think he’s way too young to take such a serious step but of course I think he’d be crushed if I told him that. Should I wait and cross that bridge when we come to it or should I speak up now? I’m going to feel like an idiot if he’s just asking these questions for way down the line and I don’t want to hurt him unnecessarily. But on the other hand, if he’s out ring shopping, I need to put a stop to it. What’s the best way to handle this?

"I’m going to feel like an idiot"--really? That's actually an excellent criterion for choosing a life partner, AND for assessing one's readiness to be someone's life partner: "I can say anything to him/her without worrying that I sound like an idiot."

Just tell him you've done a slow "whoa" on the ring conversations, and ask if he's doing this because he's thinking about proposing. If he says no, then, okay! Good news. And if he says yes, then you have your conversation starter.

And if you believe that marriage is a decision you make concurrently through ongoing conversation vs. sequentially through proposal and acceptance, then SAY SO. please.

The Commentariat are very curious about the reference to Sarte in your response to today's letter in the the column. Care to expand?

I had "Huis Clos" in mind ("No Exit"). Three people in a room, with the personality of each character ideally suited to torture another character. A psychological rendering of Hell.

Back in 5--have to take a call.

Okay, now back to dead air while I take too long to answer something. [grimace emoji here]

I'm sorry, but how does one get all the way to marriage and a baby without this quirk emerging as a problem? Could something have changed? Might be worth checking out whether something post-partum is at work here.

Certainly "something post-partum" is a possibility, thanks. (And basically for anything any time postpartum.)

I don't agree though that it's hard to believe they got "all the way to marriage and a baby without this quirk emerging as a problem." The chats and columns are arguably a catalogue of the things that people thought were fine going in but that eventually weren't fine after a combination of time and pressure had their say.

The road from charming to irritating has a ton of traffic and is, always, shorter than we think.

The honeymoon period with my in-laws is expiring. My FIL seemed like a great guy. Happy to help out family, involved in the community, interested in his grandchildren, etc. Now I'm realizing that he is controlling in many ways and wants to be recognized as the hero. His interest in helping ends when he doesn't get lauded for his efforts. I am struggling with how to handle him. He makes plans to take care of our kid only to later change the time or day and then say we were mistaken. I suspect that he wanted the other day all along and pulled the bait and switch when we refused to agree. We were relying on him for childcare and sent scrambling. He offers to run to the store for milk (or whatever) but needs to be given direction ten times and turns it into an epic journey that everyone needs to know about. We expend more energy than doing it ourselves. I don't know if he is getting worse with age or it's more obvious now that I've noticed it. I want him in our family and to have a great relationship with our kid, but I'm seeing him do the same things to her. He wants to do X with her, but she really wants to do Y and then he complains when things don't go well. How do people deal with folks like this?

General answer, you deal with folks like this by having zero illusions about who they are, and have zero expectations that aren't perfectly in line with who he is. And then figuring out where you can accommodate without compromising yourself or your values.

So, one obvious example, you don't rely on him for child care. If he pushes for a chance to help--i.e., be the hero--then find a way to say yes that isn't one domino in a row of them, like having him come over when you have tickets to something. Pick a time when you could just as well stay home if/when he changes the day on you last minute.

You also don't count on him to get milk ...but you do use his offer to run an errand to give him the hero points he craves. If he offers to run to the store, then know it's going to be about him, not the milk, and say yes only when it's a good time to do some FIL flattering. (And pick stores a long drive away! Win-win.) If you can anticipate him and have an errand in mind he can do for you, then all the better.

It'll be harder with your daughter, because they sound like they're at roughly the same emotional age, and both will want the sensation of being in control more than they will want any particular thing they're arguing for. But if his complaining is the worst of it, then so be it; let him complain. And, don't be afraid to praise the behavior you wish you'd see, while also giving him a hero biscuit: "Yeah, kids this age want what they want, don't they? You're so good about wanting to spend time with her." Not untrue, right? And it works with the grain of his difficult personality, not against it.

Dealing with difficult people is really about finding the sweet spot where you're not giving in to what they want, but not being confrontational about resisting them, either (and triggering the controlling impulse). It's about finding the things you're willing to give, and doling them out strategically so as to neutralize his force.

Manipulative, perhaps, but diplomatic also fits.

I appreciate what you said about my wife's behavior being "a little badass" but there's nothing about those times I want to hear about or remember. My wife came through them unscathed and I'm proud of her for it but I cannot share her attitude. I literally get sick to my stomach whenever I have to think about it. As for all your commenters saying there's "nothing to be ashamed about" - HA. Then why do so many people go out of their way to shame you? Do you think my father handed that money over gladly? NO. I had to hear what a burden we were and how my brother never needed a handout. Our minister assured me that there are ALWAYS jobs out there if you not afraid of hard work. I could go on about the glassbowl doctor my wife was stuck with through her high-risk pregnancy because with Medicaid you don't get to pick and choose, the times I heard not to have kids if you can't support them but, enough. Like I said, I just want to forget about all of that. And my wife and I had a long talk about it and I think I might have over-reacted to her discussing good but cheap "poverty dishes" she'd learned to make in hard times at my colleague's potluck. Thanks for taking my question.

You're welcome. And I'm sorry people were so awful to you. It's not the least bit hard to believe as our country goes through an(other) ugly "I'll help only the people who deserve it" spasm.

I wonder--is it possible you have PTSD? Might be worth talking to your (I hope now much more professional) doc.

Ask yourself why you now think you want that which you've done without for nearly 40 years. The answer might help you figure out how to go about getting there. Or it might help you figure out that you don't really want what you're telling yourself you want. If you like solitary pursuits, there is nothing wrong with that. You might think of solitary pursuits that can be done in a group setting. Hiking comes to mind.

It's an old-fashioned term, but "cultivating" relationships sprang to mind. When people cultivate a garden, there's a progression of activities that are required. Tilling the soil, planting seeds, watering, weeding, then finally harvesting. Perhaps the OP is expecting too quick a harvest. Given the rather short durations of living in any one place, the OP might not realize that some relationships build over years, not months.

Obvious answer: book club!

But ... not obvious to me: How does one get into a book club without the existing social ties? Anecdotally, I see it as a bunch-of-female-friends thing.

I really thought you were unnecessarily harsh to that woman whose former SiL was bugging her to support her ex-husband. The OP DID show compassion to her SiL sending a card and writing a note but then instead of being thanked she was hounded and pressured to support a man who had proved that he neither loved nor respected her. And that line about the whole family still loved her was classic manipulation. What happened to "no is a complete sentence"??

Nothing. I did say it was totally her prerogative to say no.

And I appreciate the chance you've given me to follow up on this answer, because it also touches on a general idea that rattles around in my mind a lot. I disagree that it's "harsh" to point out something negative that I see in a question. It's not a scolding to say, "Wow, you're angry." It's an observation, one intended to help the person asking the question.

I didn't focus on OP's anger because I thought the family was owed something. I focused on it because the fury was in every word of the post, and it can't possibly be good for OP to leave it unaddressed. 

Since you're asking, I'll ask you: If you were in the same situation, mid-divorce from someone who cheated on you, when his parents (who you loved and who treated you like family, yes?) were suddenly killed, would you have said or sent nothing to him directly?

That was my measure, along with the tell-off impulse, of anger whose volume had expanded beyond a healthy-sized vessel.

As another person who is choosing at the age of 32 to cut off her entire family because it is filled with nothing but alcoholism and emotional abuse (Ooo, and one oxycontin addicted sibling as a bonus!)... you've got this. You know what you should do, and you started doing so years ago... stay out of it. I mean this with an affectionate nod to -your- mental health. Don't go down the rabbit hole of trying to help or change something 2 generations back. Also, if you haven't already - perhaps stop following the grandma's social media? A media blackout can be a freeing, glorious thing. Best of luck, friend. You're not alone.

Sometimes people are relieved and even glad to be able to give $20 in this fashion - people always want to know "what can I do?" and this is a means for them to feel like they are helping out. My mother made her own burial arrangements, and was very specific that there be no memorial or any service. And that was it - she didn't even suggest that people to contribute to a charity in her name. However, some of her friends still took it upon themselves to send me and my sister $20 or so - because they wanted to do something. We used it to buy some boxes of candy for the nurses who took care of her. I guess I wouldn't try to dissuade people from making the gesture. It means a lot to them.

Thanks. Great use of the gifts.

I've also had a rather nomadic adulthood, and discovered that volunteering has been the garden for the circle I've grown in nearly every case. The combination of shared interests around a common cause + regularly scheduled reasons to see more-or-less the same people + a primary focus that ISN'T all about making new friends seems to cultivate organic connections. It's so easy to say "Hey, after we're done here, want to grab a cup of coffee?" and see what evolves.

Hi Carolyn, I have a 9 month old. My MIL, who we see regularly, has started telling my daughter while she’s holding her to “give grandpa a kiss” and then physically leans her over towards him. I’m super uncomfortable with this and I want to teach my daughter consent, but I’m not sure how. What do you suggest?

Find a brief, well-argued piece on the topic (this one works LINK), then either ask your MIL to read it, or ask your spouse to ask your MIL to read it, depending on how much she likes you and how sensitive she is.

The offering of options is a really good way to help well-meaning people around the barrier of their own emotional training, and you can just step in and say it yourself: "Do you want to give Grandpa a a kiss, a high five or a wave?"

It's also useful to remember that one person being stubborn about this is not going to undo all the good stuff you're doing to raise a healthy and confident child. The main damage, if there is any, will be in your child's relationship with the people who keep putting her on the spot (one that everyone else seems to know not to).

I've been a long-time reader of the column and chats, and I've absorbed so much advice and so many new perspectives over the years from Carolyn and the 'nuts. Now I find myself in the trenches after all this time of being a spectator on other people's problems, and surprisingly I didn't already know all the frequently-recommended resources by heart. Would it be possible to have a page listing the resources and books that come up time and time again, like we do with the chat terminology? And bonus points if you can point me in the direction of resources for someone whose spouse might be depressed.

My new producer, Yu (whom I should have introduced by now, my apologies), is "happy to help make a page for that"--so let me see what we can do. I forget sometimes, too, when I haven't cited something in a long time.

As for the possibly-depressed spouse, try NAMI. The help line is 800-950-6264. Thank you for the loyalty, and hope your husband feels better soon.

My spouse and I are fortunate enough that we can afford to live in a good neighborhood with great schools. We appreciate that. But we're growing increasingly troubled by some of the things our kids are learning by osmosis in our community. Example 1: My son came home from school one day a few months ago and mentioned that the teacher said they have to work hard to go to college "Or else they'll end up being a janitor." Example 2: We recently dropped off our daughter at a reading program at the public library and afterward she said a parent volunteer at the program told her something along the lines of, "If you read you can do anything but if you don't read you'll probably wind up being a cleaning lady." I'm very troubled by this kind of casual disrespect for people who have less prestigious jobs or make less money than most of the people who live in our community. Thankfully, I don't think my kids have internalized this attitude -- in both cases they told it to me in a tone like, "This adult said something not very nice" -- but I wonder if I need to do more to push back against these attitudes. Any ideas for how I could do that?

Uuugh. Painful.

I'm glad you're on it, though. 

With the teacher (or if you hear of this again from some other authority figure), a brief meeting is in order, to say respectfully: "I know you mean to encourage students to work hard, but is it the right message to send, that some work is bad and some is good? I want my kids to respect work of all kinds as necessary and honorable." 

With a person just donating time, it's probably not worth pursuing.

With your kids, I wouldn't just think they're probably okay. These instances are opportunities to discuss values, ideally by asking about theirs. "What did you think when s/he said that?" is the trailhead to ethical thought.


Most book stores have book clubs. No need for prior social circle.

I'm crying as I write this. I've been taking care of my baby sister since I was 20. I'm 28 now and she's 15, and I'm planning to get married. The problem is, my fiance lives with his grandmother two hours from where I live; our original plan was to have one of us move, but my sister doesn't want to change schools, and his grandmother doesn't want to move out of her house. She's too frail to live by herself. We're at an impasse. The only way we could do this is to be long-distance married until my sister graduates high school, but I don't want to be long-distance anymore. My sister and I just got into a huge fight, but I don't think she understands how much I've had to sacrifice in order to raise her. Please help me, I don't want to break up with my fiance but I don't know what to do.

You and your fiance get to decide this. You are not subordinate to the people counting on you.

And if you don't like what your fiance wants to do, then you don't have to do that, either. You are not subordinate to him.

People move all the time when they don't want to, or adapt to different care arrangements--or put off weddings, but that's not going to feel like a good option to you unless it's your choice from a menu of options, vs. something you feel forced to do because no one else budges.

You (bravely) took on an enormous responsibility at an unusually young age, so it's natural you're feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by having other considerations when people your age normally are able to make decisions unencumbered. I also wouldn't expect your sister to understand--someday, yes, but not yet. 

If it's feasible, I urge you to get solo counseling with a good therapist to help you sort out your own voice from all the other ones shouting you down. It's a tough process but it's worth it. Sorting out conflicting needs, using the context you have, is a skill, which means it's something you can learn. It's also a skill to remain calm and patient through the sorting process. In fact, you can even look at this not as an impasse, but as a situation you haven't finished sorting yet. Something will give, something will work; you're just not getting clear enough signals on what.


My younger, adult brother died 4 years ago by suicide. Carolyn's advice is on target. LW needs to process the death of her mother and not worry about the go-fund-me account or kooky grandmother. A death like this, when there was an intentional estrangement, for good reason, can make the grief even more complicated. My remaining brother and I both benefited from a structured support group for adult survivors. One book I found helpful "Life after Suicide" T.W. Barrett. Condolences

Thank you, and mine to you as well.

Hi Carolyn, Just recently got diagnosed with cancer, and was told there’s a possibility it has spread. I have chronic anxiety to boot and am really struggling to keep it together and put on a brave face. I have to wait another week to get a full picture of what’s to come. Any advice, books, resources you can recommend? I know I need to be strong but I’m falling apart. Thanks

Oh I'm so sorry. I urge you to find, asap, a place where you -don't- have to put on a brave face. Close friend(s)? Cancer support group? A private hour at home to cry? Provider who treats your anxiety? If you don't have one, then now's the time to line that up.

For the time in between, give yourself to fill the nonessential hours (i.e., time you aren't working, sleeping, doing home-, pet- or self-care) with distractions. Fave movies, shows, books, whatever it takes to move you through the hours between you and your full picture.

And ... do what you can to be where you are now. If I'm using this uncredited, my apologies to the source, but I heard a snippet that made sense to me. Depression is about living while stuck in the past, anxiety is about trying to live in the future. You'll find the calmest place available to you is now. What is it that you want to do with this hour, this day? 

Do check back in, and I hope the full picture is the brightest possible one.

Maybe the poster could set up a book club on Meetup and host? I belong to the best bookclub because we don't tell people what to read! Every month we meet and say "I read this and I liked/didn't like it because of x, y, and z." Sometime we loan each other books if they sound interesting to another member. I find it so much more enjoyable than the "You must read this" type of club.

I don't enjoy most people. I just don't enjoy them. I'd rather slam my hand in a car door that force myself to spend time over and over with people I don't enjoy in the hopes that something eventually "takes". If I hated opera, I wouldn't force myself to keep going to the opera in the hopes that eventually I would learn to like it. So my advise would be to cut yourself some slack, keep opportunities in your schedule that allow you to meet different people and, if you don't happen on anyone you want to make friends with, try a different activity the next time. That's what works for me at any rate.

A lot of people are in that boat with you, and sympathize. I hope your fiance doesn't plan to become her full-time caregiver because that will exhaust him and he's very likely not a geriatric nurse (he may not plan to do so but events usually overtake this kind of situation). I'd say the best thing is to enlist an eldercare specialist in grandmother's area to introduce the need for assisted living, applying pressure if necessary, because it's much better for everyone for her to move while she's capable than to have her go straight into full-time memory unit. And no, I'm not saying young people's needs take precedence over older people's. It's just that grandmother's situation is only going to get worse and it's better for her to be nudged into assisted living than to move a teenager who needs stability.

Good points about the future caregiving needs of the grandmother, thanks. FWIW, moving can be perilous for the elderly, too, but it's all part of the bigger landscape they need to plan out.

Thanks for posting this. I was brought up with these kinds of comments "study hard or you'll end up a cleaning lady" all the time and never thought anything of them, it was just my family's culture and totally normal stuff that my parents said all the time, but I never realized that it is not very nice, heads up for me not so say it to my kiddo. Thanks!

Thanks for being open minded.

It's not just not-nice, either. Kids who get these messages also get the underlying message, that some life outcomes are good and some are bad, which creates pressure to make choices toward the "good" outcome instead of listening to their own wants, needs and values come choice-making time. It's what makes kids choose X school or major or career instead of Y because X is has more money or status, even though they'd prefer Y. It messes with heads. And it encourages shame, which is corrosive to mental and societal health.

I have no idea who "poverty guy" is, and forgot what today's column was about! links, pls. thank you!

Last week's chat guy: LINK 

And today's column: LINK

Teaching a 9 month old about consent? Does the baby even speak at this age???


The easiest time to get this stuff right is right away.

There will be a time when the child is old enough, and the message will matter more then, but they're not going to know the exact date and time. And is that really when you want parents and grandparents discussing it openly, even arguing about it?

Set the habits now and explain why. It's just smart to. has listings for local book groups. As someone very similar to the OP, I have found this helpful, especially because I can get overwhelmed by groups like meetup, where it’s sometimes different people at each group.

Attending a club to hear a bunch of random Philistines give their mind numbing opinions on the swill from the Best Sellers List sounds like true hell. I'd just stay single and hope for the best.

Call me when you start a book club.

Dude, you have got to see a therapist about this. Your dad and minister were giant glassbowls to you during your time of trouble -- two people who are definitely supposed to, in normal life, be super supportive and understanding. My parents are gracious and generous and I don't really lose sleep about my life because I will always have them to fall back on. Maybe you thought you were, to turn a phrase, playing a trust fall game with your dad and pastor and it turned out your back wasn't to a helpful presence, but to a cliff drop. I don't know. I second the PTSD possibility. But you are not past this, and you could be with some help.

Is "trust fall game" yours? Excellent. A great and supportive post all around, thanks.

Just because there wasn't a church or funeral home service doesn't mean there aren't costs involved that your grandmother may want help on. A quick google search indicates a basic cremation costs just over a thousand dollars. Not everyone has an emergency account with that much in it, and if your mother didn't have life insurance to cover it, your grandmother might be pinched paying for it.

True, thanks.

For goodness sakes, it's not a zero-sum game. Celebrate everything! And instead of being cranky, be happy that there are many things to celebrate and people to celebrate with. A happy birthday to your niece will in no way take away anything from your kids' graduations unless you let it.

Find something that interests you that involves other people and also takes time. I signed up for a weekly adult foreign language class three years ago and have made some dear friends there.

peasant food and you could start a new food trend, start an Instagram account and have a massive following among millennials with student loans up to their eyeballs.


Ouch. Man, that sucks. But nothing you have said has dissuaded me from thinking that you a totally a badass, too. You effin' made it.

A few minutes had passed after I'd read your response to Party Tag On and nothing was in my head but cake. I stood up, went downstairs to the grocery store attached to my building, bought a slice of cheesecake, and am bettered.

As are we all, now.

Thanks to Hax and the chatters for the suggestions. I think maybe it is the case that I have unrealistic expectations of how long it takes to develop bonds. The close friends I have are from time in the military, where not only is the environment more geared towards quick camaraderie, but you also have a ton of people who are also "the new kid" and who are also looking for people to hang out with. I'm finding it difficult to build relationships in a more traditional setting, where people may have been in the same social circles for years or decades and the idea of having to break into (for lack of a better term) a circle like that is intimidating. I'm sensing the possibility that I bail quickly before giving new acquaintances a chance to become friends. I think I might find a women's golf league or volunteering gig and be open to what happens from there!

Sounds great. If you can tap into your area's newcomer supply, that might help, too. You said NOVA, right? Pretty transient. 

Anyway--yes, it takes a very long time.

Be kind. Sing happy birthday.

There it is. 

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

In This Chat
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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