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Life Hax


Carolyn Hax

A lingerie gift after dating two months? The kids these days!

Ar 171129997
Carolyn Hax
Ar 171129997
Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion:My 17-year-old grandson bought his 17-year-old girlfriend of barely two months lingerie from Victoria’s Secret. I think this is very inappropriate. He thinks I’m a dinosaur. Guidance, please?Dinosaur

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

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

Unless, that is, you’re able to communicate with him – as guardian or grand – not the judgmental aspect of your thinking, but the substance behind it.

So, instead of shooting him down as “inappropriate,” which just begs him to get defensive without providing much enlightenment, try explaining what you believe. Do it in as accessible a way as you can: “It’s your business what you buy with your own money, of course. Be careful about moving fast with new people, though. It takes a long time before you really know someone, and when you fall hard, it’s tempting to get serious right away.” Or similar. Stick to the theme that gifts can speak for us in ways we don’t intend.

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

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

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

Re: Gift:I am a 35-year-old woman who is not even close to prudish, and I would be super weirded out if a guy I was dating for just barely two months bought me lingerie. Can’t hurt to have a conversation about the relative intimacy of gifts.Weirded Out

Absolutely, thanks.

Your being 35 vs. 17 could make you more inclined, though, not less, to see this as too intimate.

There’s also the potential for the 17-year-old girl herself to respond to the gift as too much too soon – and natural consequences are generally more effective teachers than any third-party warning can be. Still, it’s worth a well-meaning try.

Re: Gift:I just queried the 19-year-olds in our office and they all said ICK!!!!!Icked

I am irrationally smitten with this post.

Re: Gift:Nobody knows the details of the couple’s sex life. The guy is in the best position of anyone to know if his girlfriend would like it.Anonymous

... Or to process the information he receives from his girlfriend on its wrongness, right?

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

My boyfriend has made it clear he won’t marry me or anyone who doesn’t want to take his last name. I’m not willing to change it and I don’t want to live with my boyfriend for the rest of my life. I want to be married at some point.I’m not sure how we move forward. Any suggestions?Name Change?

You break up or you agree to change your name upon marriage or you carry on as boyfriend and girlfriend indefinitely. There’s no magic here.

There is, though, the fact of a line in the sand to consider. When both of you draw your own, then it’s easy – he won’t, you won’t, let’s call the whole thing off.

When one of you draws an arbitrary line, though, then I could argue it’s even easier: Who wants to form a life partnership with someone who apparently gave serious thought to his priorities – (BEG ITAL)for your compliance(END ITAL), mind you – and put you, the person, second? At best?

He chose the idea of his name over the reality of you. How lucky you both are to have this information now. The least welcome information tends to tell us the most.

My sister, “Sarah,” is turning 30 soon. Except during college, she has lived with my parents rent-free her entire life. I have always taken the stance of, “It’s my parents’ and sister’s business what they do,” and never brought it up.Sarah is a kind, warm and loving person, but either due to circumstances, anxiety, or lack of motivation (I’m not sure), she has remained in the same low-paying, entry-level job for the last eight years. Recently both of my parents have come separately to ask me to “talk to your sister” and encourage her to move out, but they refuse to confront her directly.I would ask her to move in with me, but I share a one-bedroom apartment with my fiance.What should I do? And is there anything I can do (other than financially) that would help my sister?Conflicted in the Midwest

Don’t throw out an excellent stance just because your parents asked you to.

This IS your parents’ and sister’s business.

You also don’t know whether Sarah needs help. She could be happy in her job and content with the simplicity of her life, not to mention completely unaware the contentment isn’t mutual. You won’t know otherwise until your parents talk to her – as it is absolutely their job to do.

Such a conversation is likely to reveal whether Sarah has been cemented in place by a problem versus a preference, because she’ll either falter or just move out. Even then, the time to help her is when she asks you to, unless she’s plainly in trouble.

One thing you can do is something sibs in healthy families do as a matter of course: Ask about plans and hopes and dreams. Not in a judgy way – in an I-care-and-I’m-curious kind of way. “Milestone-birthday time ... how are you doing, feeling, managing these days?”

In fact, it’s striking that you apparently haven’t asked, perhaps reflecting a family-wide aversion to speaking up. Look: Your first thought isn’t to talk to her, it’s to absorb her.

Your chances of getting good answers to loving inquiry, by the way, are inversely proportional to your certainty that only one path through life will do.

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at tellme@washpost.com.