February 11, 2009 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Insistent advice was out of line


Dear Carolyn: I have five beautiful nieces, whom I adore. The eldest has been accepted to a prestigious design school. Her mom is ecstatic, and so am I. I helped her prepare a portfolio, take the SATs and apply to schools.

Tuition will cost her well over $100,000. Since I am a practical person, who is still paying loans 15 years after graduating, I have advised her to consider studying in state.

Her mom called me enraged that I would “discourage her daughter from pursuing her dreams.” When I pointed out that it’s not realistic to take on that kind of debt, she said, “We are more than capable” of paying for college and that she would appreciate if I kept my ideas to myself.

I just don’t want to see my nieces burdened down with debt. No one explained debt to me at that age. Am I out of line? – Overbearing Auntie?

Way. Even if the family can’t pay the tab, your being right doesn’t make it OK to keep pressing your point after you’ve been told, quite explicitly, that your opinion isn’t welcome. Because of your close relationship, you had a right to warn your niece about debt. Once. When that raised hackles, the right thing to do was apologize – and thereafter bite your tongue.

Dear Carolyn: I am in high school. My best friend was dating someone we both thought was a really nice girl. On their five-month anniversary, he gave her jewelry. The following day, she said she just didn’t feel the same, wanted some space, and became very nasty toward him like he did something wrong.

I just found out that she never stopped talking to her ex-boyfriend while she was seeing my friend. My friend seems to be getting over the heartbreak, but I feel like he was made a fool of. I don’t know if I should tell him, let it go or get even with her in some way. – Hurt

It’s great that you care about your friend, but it’s tough to overstate how many bad moves can be traced to that motivation.

Revenge, for one. Everybody who tries it looks petty and juvenile. Everybody.

Also, your information about the ex is incomplete: Were they crossing lines, or just friends? Did the ex cause the breakup, or was he irrelevant? Did her nastiness expose her as a bad person, or just bad at tough conversations?

Your friend had a good thing, until he didn’t anymore; he seems to be accepting that. Nothing wrong with your accepting it, too.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at 9 a.m. Pacific time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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