Posted by honorh

Q. Not forgetting: My mother was a free spirit. While she was married to my father, she spent a lot of time on solo adventures, one of which ended with her pregnant by another man. My father took me to where my grandparents lived and divorced her. I never saw her at all. She never contacted me. I grew up and went looking for some answers. My mother married the man she had the affair with and had four other children. The younger ones didn’t even know I existed. I never got an apology from her, only a lot of excuses and crocodile tears.

I honestly don’t want anything to do with her or her husband (he tried to blame my father). But I am interested in building a relationship with my half-siblings. “Amy” is in college and closest to me in age. We talk a lot and have even gone on some trips together. Amy keeps trying to get me forgive our mother so we can start “being a family again.” She doesn’t understand why I carry a grudge. My mother left my father and me as soon as she could upgrade to a better model of family. For 20 years, she ignored me, didn’t fight for me, or pay one red penny of child support. I don’t wish harm on her, but I have no interest in letting bygones be bygones.

How do I keep my relationships with my siblings separate and get Amy to understand? My pain isn’t their fault, but Amy keeps pressing on the wound.

A: “She’s not a part of my life, and I don’t consider her to be my mother. I understand that your relationship with her has looked dramatically different from mine, and that you may wish things were otherwise between us, but I’m asking you to respect this and to stop asking me when I’m going to forgive her and let her back into my life. She’s never been in it. I’ve loved getting to know you, and I value our relationship, so I very much hope you can respect this request.”

I like Prudie's answer here, and it dovetails neatly with a later letter in the same column:

Q. Brother won’t let dad meet his baby: Despite having been raised in different parts of the country, I have developed a wonderful relationship with my older half-brother, “Tony,” over the last few years. When he was an adolescent, our father made the painful decision to cut off contact with him because of the strain it put on his relationship with my mother. My father is a wonderfully caring man, is regretful about how he treated Tony, and has reached out a number of times, including recently when Tony’s daughter was born. Tony refuses to acknowledge these efforts.

While I understand that Tony doesn’t have the same insight into our father’s choices as I do, I feel that he is being punitive and small by refusing any type of rapprochement. My father is dying to meet his first grandchild, but I can’t even mention our father to Tony without him making a face and changing the subject. How can I talk about this with him?

A: Earlier I answered a letter from someone else who’s in Tony’s exact position, and I’m going to give you the exact same advice in reverse. You cannot, and should not, try to manage your brother’s relationship with your father.

Just because your father was caring toward you does not mean that he is incapable of doing the wrong thing, and by your own account, he chose not to be a parent to your brother. Whether or not you think he had sufficient reason to abandon his own son, and whether or not you think his current regret outweighs his past choices, is frankly irrelevant. Please respect Tony’s decision and let him choose whether he wants to re-engage with your father. You cannot pressure him into forgiveness, and you should not attempt to do so. Your goal should not be to “talk about this” with Tony (by which you mean, “convince Tony to see things the way you do”). Your goal should be to let him make his own decisions and to respect the boundary he has so clearly drawn.

Amen, preach it, Prudie! LW, no matter how good a dad your father was to you, the truth is, he abandoned Tony. However much he regrets it--and he should--it doesn't make him any less of a stranger in Tony's life. Enjoy your good relationship with your brother, and MYOB.
([syndicated profile] post_secret_feed Oct. 14th, 2017 11:33 pm)

Posted by Frank


Hi Frank,

We met at your Nebraska PostSecret Live! event last night.  I’m the woman who drove down from Minnesota and who told my secret to everyone about why that was so significant to me.

Firstly, I want to thank you so much for everything. Your acknowledgement 
and validation of my struggle means more to me than you can ever know. I have never felt anything like that in my life. My heart is overflowing with love for everyone I met there.


Like you talked about, we often keep secrets from ourselves, and I think in the end the real secret was I couldn’t forgive myself. There is still a ways to go, but realizing this I can let go a bit and start to heal. I know I will never gain back what was lost completely. But like I said in my secret, I am gaining back a piece of what was lost. Right now that’s honestly more than I thought I’d ever 


PS. Oh, and you managed to pull off my hat quite nicely.

([syndicated profile] cfabbytribute_feed Oct. 12th, 2017 03:42 pm)

Posted by macychick

Some of you may remember a letter from a few years ago that went something like this: Boy meets girl, boy asks girl out, girl says yes and she and boy start dating and promise to always be honest with each other. Boy tells girl that he had a dream about ex-girl, girl gets upset, boy says, "Why? I thought you wanted me to be honest with you about everything!" Girl says, "But not about stuff that would make me upset!" Some time later, boy's father is in the hospital, boy doesn't tell girl because he thinks it would make her upset, girl finds out about boy's father and berates boy for not telling her. Boy says "I thought you didn't want me to tell you about stuff that would make me upset!" Girl tries to tell boy why the two things are different, boy doesn't understand, boy is further confused and writes to an advice columnist.
Well, I think I found the other side of that letter:

Hey Polly.

I have a boyfriend — we’ve been dating for about six months now — who has a stated goal of “emotional transparency.” He wants to know what’s in my head all the time, and he wants to be able to say whatever he’s thinking, too. In his view, the best intimate relationships are completely honest.

Sounds good, right? But I’m a little suspicious of the theory and the practice, because I’m sensitive and I don’t like to be criticized. On top of that, I have a substantial amount of negative patter in my head that I honestly don’t want to voice. When I feel something irrational, I want to go to bed, wake up feeling sane again, and talk things out without the shame of knowing that I said some crazy shit the night before. He’s also said something that I find patently nuts: “I’d like to be able to say critical-sounding things without you feeling criticized.”

I’m still mostly willing to try it. There’s not too much I don’t want to discuss with my partner, with one big exception: I don’t want to hear about his ex-girlfriend and how sad he is about their breakup anymore. When we got together and were still casual, he was three months post-dumping and extremely depressed. We talked a lot about how sad he was, and it was obviously something he needed. Because he was extremely clear about his interest in me, and a great conversational and sexual partner, I thought it was worth seeing if he would make a recovery. He became a lot less depressed in the months that followed, and we started dating seriously.

He would say things like “I had a bad day of nostalgia for [ex]” or “I had a painful dream about [ex] last night.” And, since he would ask how that made me feel, I would tell him I didn’t really like hearing about it, that it made me feel jealous and bad, even though he has a right to his emotions. I thought maybe he could talk about ex stuff with some of his other friends instead. He says he wants to tell me these things because he likes me so much, and he’s visibly baffled and annoyed as to why I’m not persuaded.

Recently, he did it again (another dream about being back together with her), and I responded with something supportive and emotionally nonreactive because I didn’t want to shut him down; he pressed me on how I was feeling about it until I had a whole new reason to be pissed off. I felt like he wouldn’t be satisfied until I told him that I was feeling hurt and angry, so he could assess whether I was still being unreasonable.

Then, while he was away visiting his chronically ill, hospitalized father, my sister had a traumatic and dangerous C-section to deliver her premature son. That night, he said that he didn’t want to talk about his dad because he felt bad about the times he’d tried to be vulnerable to me. He predicted that I would view that as an emotional attack, and that he felt bad about that, too.

Not only did I feel like a day that we both spent at the hospital — me in a panic, him in slow, grinding misery — was not the right time to broach serious relationship issues, it honestly didn’t make sense to me. He doesn’t want to tell me about his dad because it hurts my feelings when he talks about missing his ex? It felt like tit-for-tat withholding, and it definitely does not make me want to enter into a radical-intimacy experiment with him. The next day, when I said I felt pretty bad, his response was “I can’t deal with this right now” — which I get, because that’s MY default position. But when he’s been urging me to be open, it feels a lot like he’s lobbying for transparency on his terms. I tried to point out the parallels between his inability to deal today and mine previously, but he said it didn’t apply, because his situation was worse.

The last piece of this is maybe the key: The person who introduced him to this idea of emotional transparency (oh how I’ve come to loathe the words) was his ex. She was divorcing and told him everything about her feelings and cried a lot and it felt really good to him, I guess, because he wants that again. It was so much better, he says, than all the flimsy, superficial relationships that he’d had before.

Am I afraid of realness and being soft, or am I being taken for a ride? Is emotional transparency a Thing, and should I have it? Help a sister out.

Emotionally Opaque

And here's the answer (it's Polly so a little TL;DR)

Dear Emotionally Opaque,

I’m all for honesty in a relationship. It’s a good way to embrace the fact that every person (even the one who’s supposed to play the role of Prince Charming or Irresistible Wife) is complicated, conflicted, and flawed. Managing this kind of honesty can be difficult at first, particularly if you don’t love sharing your vulnerability or your anger. But as the trust between you grows, it can make almost every dimension of your relationship richer and stronger.

Sometimes that’s not how it goes, though. You’re welcomed in — “Tell me everything! It’s safe, I swear!” — and then attacked or rejected. Plenty of people like the idea of total honesty and sharing, but they can’t really deliver the goods: They only want to express their own emotions and needs but won’t tolerate anyone else’s. Someone will say he wants a communing of souls, but what he really wants is control over an out-of-control world. He can’t tolerate caring about someone else unless that person abides by certain rules of intimate engagement — rules that shift and change constantly based on his ultrasensitive needs and ever-changing moods.

Maybe your boyfriend fits into that category, and maybe he doesn’t. At the very least, he sounds extremely sensitive and illogical. Like a confused and misguided disciple, he’s advocating a belief system that he doesn’t understand. Instead of listening and respecting your boundaries, he’s pushing you to say more, and then creating trouble over what you reveal. That’s not emotional transparency. It’s emotional terrorism. No wonder you don’t feel safe.

And then there’s the tiny issue of him not being over his ex yet. Somehow that loss isn’t tragic as long as he can institute the same program with you. But he’s using you as a surrogate. It’s not surprising that you feel uncomfortable with that. The fact that you don’t feel safe is actually a sign that you’re sane and healthy — that you have decent boundaries. You should trust your instincts there.

After all, if he’s all amped up about honesty, why can’t he accept your conflicted feelings around his nostalgia, his recurring dreams, and the fact that he’s trying to replicate the same extreme-intimacy boot camp he went through with his lost love? What’s more honest than admitting that you’re a little worried about what you’ve fallen into?

But even if he were over his ex, there are other red flags. No. 1 is that when things got heavy for both of you, he didn’t take a supportive, positive stance, recognizing (as an adult might!) that you were both in a tough place emotionally. Instead, he acted like your emotions were an enormous inconvenience to him. Only a pretty confused person would conflate your hesitance to hear about his ex-girlfriend with a hesitance to hear about his sick father. That’s a big sign that he’s going to take his own emotional struggles and try to make them your problem over and over again.

Of course, it’s always a red flag when someone tells you that their problems trump your problems. That’s not how adults talk to each other. You both have stuff going on, and you both have feelings about what you’re going through. When two people are generous about each other’s struggles, that makes for a healthy relationship. Ask anyone in a good marriage or partnership, and they’ll tell you that their partner takes their personal struggles seriously. It’s easy to trust someone who shows you, again and again, that he understands how big something is for you, even when it seems small to him. Nothing makes it easier to express your honest emotions to your partner than his demonstrated ability to make room for those emotions. I don’t see him making a lot of room for you.

I had a boyfriend like that once. He was fresh off a divorce and very intense and enthusiastic about what came next. It all seemed so promising, but he was very dogmatic, very attached to the concepts he’d read in books, and very insistent about the “right” ways to live together and “create intimacy.” I was constantly being urged to find the sadness underneath my anger. (Yes, he really talked that way.) But when I did open up and tell him the truth about my emotions, I was always doing it wrong. I could be kind, reflective, careful. I could lay out a precise narrative of what made me feel bad. I could admit my shortcomings along the way. It never worked for him. Every time I thought I was making progress, getting to the heart of the matter, he would shut down and get gloomy and blame me for screwing it all up. He would say crazy shit like “HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? HOW DID WE LAND HERE? TELL ME WHAT I DID TO START THIS SO I CAN AVOID IT THE NEXT TIME!”

It makes a great dark comedy in retrospect, but at the time I felt so completely befuddled by it all. I would try to assert clear boundaries: “Look, this isn’t working for me,” and he’d lose his temper and then accuse me of being a bully. I believe that he had good intentions, but he was too sensitive and too full of rage to let another person in. He could never just sit and listen and let someone (who wasn’t the author of a badly written, reductive self-help tome) tell him something new.

He talked a big game about admitting his mistakes, but in practice he always proclaimed himself beyond reproach. I was the one fucking everything up, and he was, as he put it, “waiting for me to catch up.” (This was the same story he told about his ex.) He used his “emotional technologies” (could he really have called them that? What the fuck was I doing there?) as a means of control. He said he wanted a partnership, but what he really wanted was a rigid script for every situation, so nothing was left to chance.

Is your boyfriend smart enough for you? Because you’d be amazed at how much easier it is to negotiate complicated emotional issues with someone who’s your intellectual equal. Even if a very smart guy doesn’t grasp all of the emotional layers of a situation, he can at least process the logic of what you’re saying. When someone doesn’t understand the discrepancies in his own “systems” and constantly returns to the words of his half-assed gurus (or worse, supremely wise ex-girlfriends)? Fuck that noise. That’s not living.

Forget what you THINK about him, and examine how you actually FEEL when you’re in his company. I stayed with my controlling ex for so long, even though I was stressed out and dissatisfied most of the time. We almost never had fun together! He could never relax! He got angry about the tiniest things! He condescended to me even when (especially when?) he couldn’t follow what I was saying!

The danger of a guy who’s very intense is that it seems like a huge mistake to pass him by. He’s so honest and vulnerable and he really wants to work on himself! But sometimes what a man (or a woman) like that really wants is safety. He wants an obedient follower. He doesn’t really want YOU. If you keep trying and trying and it always feels risky and wrong, that tells you something.

You know how true love feels? Relaxing. Here is someone who loves me just the way I am. Talking feels soothing and restorative, not nonsensical and frustrating. Don’t stay locked into a puzzle just because it’s challenging and you haven’t figured it out yet. Kick those puzzle pieces across the room, and walk out the door.


P.S. Come to think of it, this just might be the original letter and for some reason I remember it from being from Boy when it was really from Girl.

P.P.S. Never mind, I did a bit of digging and this, is in fact, the original letter. It was posted here:
([syndicated profile] cfabbytribute_feed Oct. 12th, 2017 03:49 am)

Posted by iczer6

Dear Carolyn:

Ever since my now-tween daughter was a toddler, she has been a little chubby. I routinely found hidden food wrappers under her bed, under the couch cushions and shoved in her closet. Yes, at 3 she had the wherewithal to find food and hide her eating.

I read about appropriate food control and thought the most useful suggestion was to provide a ready plate of fresh fruit. It would be completely gone before her brother even knew it was available. It didn't seem to matter what she was eating as long as she was eating.

As she got older I showed her how to read nutrition labels and find portion sizes. I showed her to measure food with a measuring cup. I even bought premeasured snack bags for her school lunch. Her weight continues to increase. She is 12 and 165 pounds.

Her doctor takes little notice and even chastised me for asking about it in front of my daughter. She will not discuss my concerns, falling back on a speech about children needing healthy nutrients and as long as she is growing height-wise then she is not concerned about her weight.

My daughter gets high marks and succeeds tremendously at her musical instrument. But now in middle school she is withdrawing socially. She says all she is interested in is her schoolwork but I wonder if it isn't also that kids are more interested in sports, school dances and appearance. She has become frustrated when she points out a store where a friend shops only to realize they don't carry her size.

This is another issue. It is very difficult to find clothing to fit a 165-pound 12-year-old that's fashionable and age-appropriate, and I have to take the brunt of why we can't shop at XYZ store. Not to mention the constant cost of new clothes as she grows out of them.

We have always been an active and involved family. Many of our vacations revolve around outdoor experiences. I learned how to cook from real foods at a young age and continue doing so for my family. We are not on an "American" diet of convenience foods. Our son is thin and active, I am a long-distance runner, and my husband gets out and does what he can at the gym. We've signed her up for various rec sports over the years but she gets frustrated and has no interest in being uncomfortable. At the same time, she feels left out and left behind.

I am so sad and worried for her. She gets out of breath quicker than she should, carries her weight bulkily, hates going shopping, and hides further and further in her schoolwork. What can I do for her? What can she do for herself? I am worried her mental health will suffer as much as her physical health. Do I have to watch idly as she self-destructs?

-- Sad and Worried

It appears to me there's one thing you haven't yet tried: accepting her weight.

As a crucial element of accepting her.

As a crucial element of her accepting herself.

As a crucial element of not layering an emotional struggle on top of physical and societal ones.

In your careful and well-intentioned way, you have drawn thinness as the only path to a good life.

So what is your daughter to think when her body won't take her there? Her life is bad?

Let's take a moment to parse the idea of where her body "won't" take her, too. There's always someone ready to argue that any fat person can be a thin one through some set of choices or another. OK. Sure.

But bodies differ in the way they burn (or store) fuel. One person can drop weight doing X, but another has to do X, Y and Z to drop the same weight. So it's not a matter of "I did X so she can do X too," but instead of recognizing that you might have been her size at 12, too, if you'd had to fight yourself as hard as she does to be otherwise.

So stop fixing and start supporting. Find a pretty-clothes source and keep them coming. Internet (equal sign) no excuses. (Curvy bloggers HERE Teach your son about nutrition labels, too, and let your daughter see you do it. And learn what you're really saying when you give your kids different messages -- or when "fat is sooo expensive/upsetting/terrible" is your message, even unspoken.

Find a physical activity you can enjoy together; yoga via YouTube is free, private, and as good for heads as for hearts.

Enjoy your daughter's company. Work harder to meet her where she is.

Talk privately with her doctor about your girl's comprehensive health. Feelings, friends, food choices, activity levels. Doc was right to call you out: What "chubby" American needs another shaming message? From Mom?

And read Lindy West -- copiously. Get thoroughly entertained as you rethink what you think you know about weight.

Carolyn is awesome. LW while I get that you're worried and concerned even I, a complete stranger, can feel the contempt coming off your letter. Your daughter gets good grades and is learning an instrument but all you seem to care about is what size she is. No wonder she's withdrawing all she's getting from you is disappoint that she's not thinner. Even I wonder how better her brother's treatment for his thinness. Take Carolyn's advice and try accepting your daughter instead acting like she's a disappointment. You might be surprised at the change.

Posted by honorh

Dear Carolyn: My girlfriend is crazy (maybe literally?) about her dog. “Amy” and I are both 32 and have talked seriously about marriage. I love Amy, and she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Since the beginning I’ve known her dog is a big part of her life, and that’s fine with me, though I’ve never had or wanted pets myself.

The thing is, I’ve started wondering about her priorities. The dog was diagnosed with incurable kidney disease. He is 10 and had a good life and I expected Amy would put him down. Instead, she’s spending insane amounts of money on “supportive care” (specialty vets — yes, there is such a thing — meds, supplies, etc.) and plans to keep him alive as long as his “quality of life” is good. She has to give him fluids under the skin every day, cook him special food and so on.

To me, all of this is just crazy for a dog who is going to die anyway. I can’t help but think of all the worthwhile things she could be doing with that money rather than throwing it away on her dog, who, as I said, is going to die anyway.
(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

It’s gotten to the point where she has asked me to refrain from even talking to her about this, and I wonder if this is a sign that she loves that dog more than me. Are Amy’s priorities screwed up or am I insensitive?

— Wondering

Wondering: You’re going to die anyway. Should anyone cook you special food?

Sure, it’s money for a “lost” cause, and it’s a reasonable discussion to have — for human health care, too. How much intervention is reasonable, at what expense, for what effect on duration and quality of life? These are ethical issues without pat answers.

On the other hand: The companionship provided by an animal is real. Obviously there are degrees of attachment, but I expect anyone who has ever bonded with a dog understands Amy, even those who’d opt for euthanasia.

Plus: She has her priorities, you have yours. Compatibility requires respect for each other’s priorities where they differ. No respect, no you and Amy.

Finally, you’ve made this so binary. Where do you get the idea that if Amy loved you, she’d euthanize her dog?! That’s just an emotional non sequitur. Her dog certainly isn’t saying, “It’s me or the guy,” though maybe he is in his way (good dog).

You had the very viable option to say, “It’s not my thing, but it’s hers, so I respect that.” It’s not either-or. It’s two individual sets of values you’re both entitled to have — and to try to reconcile.

But you leapfrogged to calling her “crazy.” Yikes.

I'm just wondering why Amy told him to stop talking to her about it. I would guess that he's been giving her shit about her devotion to this dog and not-so-subtly suggesting that a trip to the vet would solve everything. Dude, I'm not sure I'd give a dog IV fluids every day, but it's not my dog. He's been Amy's buddy for longer than you've been in her life, and if you can't have some sympathy for the fact that she's not ready to let him go, he'll outlast your relationship.
([syndicated profile] post_secret_feed Oct. 7th, 2017 10:48 pm)

Posted by Frank

Thank you so much for agreeing to ask your Facebook fans to help me decode these postcards from my Great-Grandfather in the 1800’s. He owned a farm and a mill and apparently was involved in a war that was going on at that time… We don’t know who he was corresponding with or why. None of us have been able to crack the code.

I just read all three decoded messages on Facebook I called my mother again and she was so excited. My Great Grandfather’s name is Harry (whom the cards are written to). She doesn’t know who the M is – and she found the one card that says “I am your true love” very interesting  – – – because his wife’s name was Helen (eek!). Thank you SO very much and feel free to share this email with the P.S. community! You’re bringing so many smiles to my family right now!

([syndicated profile] post_secret_feed Oct. 7th, 2017 10:36 pm)

Posted by Frank


This Sunday you posted the classic secret of Purell and a note to Katie from her mother. I saw that secret when it was originally posted as a Sunday Secret. It is the only secret I ever printed. I carried it in my purse folded up for YEARS to remind me that MY having OCD and Anxiety was okay. Nobody needed to tell me that because the literal secret in my purse told me. I was no longer ashamed and was able to be open and a self-advocate for my needs. Now as a teacher I often tell my students, who are struggling, about that secret. I am going to print the secret again and keep extras in my office for future people who need it ❤️ What I’m trying to say is thank you and thanks to Katie. You’ve changed my life for the better.



([syndicated profile] post_secret_feed Oct. 7th, 2017 09:56 pm)

Posted by Frank

Thank you Rutgers and CMU for two memorable and emotional PostSecret Live! events.

I appreciate your courage to share your stories and secrets and was not surprised by the audience’s compassion, understanding and support.

Telling our story can be transformative. Next stop Nebraska.

Free and open to all. RSVP and details.