Question: At church or other public functions, my ex-boyfriend comes up and greets my friends with kisses and hugs, when I am standing right there. He gives me a nod. This causes me no end of grief.
My question is about my friends' behavior. I think, out of loyalty to me, they should not allow him to greet them so effusively - or else, he should greet me with more than a nod. I spoke to one friend about it, and she said she would "try to remember," but I don't think that's good enough.
Answer: "No end of grief"? That's almost as funny as what your ex is doing.
Yes, funny. When someone does such a clumsy, obvious job of insulting you (at church, no less!), it's actually a backhanded compliment. He's trying to deliver a scathing put-down, right? But the message he's actually sending is this: "I am a graceless dork." As put-downs go, he's brandishing a crayon scribble as if it's the Mona Lisa.
You have a range of appropriate responses, all of which will serve their purpose as long as you treat his behavior as the crayon scribble it is. A pointed "Hello, Ralph" would do it. Or a gently teasing "Really?" Or, ideally, nothing except the laugh this slapstick performance deserves.
No appropriate response, by the way, involves trying to control your friends. Cut that out.
One last thought: Could it be he's not aiming to insult, but instead is just hurt and awkward and at a loss for what to do? If what you know about him suggests that's possible, then your anger is misplaced, and compassion would serve you better, in the form of modeling the civil way to manage this: Extend your hand, "Ralph, hi, good to see you." No lather, just rinse and repeat.
Question: My first marriage ended 15 years ago. It lasted eight years and did not end well. I was devastated when my ex-wife left me.
While we were married, she and I did a lot of world traveling and took many photos of our travels. I have since remarried, and my wife and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary. I have no children from either marriage.
The old photos from my world travels are in a box in the garage. I haven't looked at them in more than 10 years. Included are photos of relatives and friends who have since passed away. Should I take a day and rummage through the photos to see the ones I want to keep, or should I just throw the entire box away? It will be painful and emotional either way.
Answer: I can't imagine throwing away photos of deceased loved ones just because I didn't want to feel bad for a day. It's like abandoning priceless archaeological relics because I don't want dirt under my nails.
If you're not up to seeing these images or having tough feelings right now, for whatever reason, then so be it - that's what garage boxes are for. They keep things out from underfoot until you're good and ready to deal with them. Depending on the climate conditions, though, you might want to upgrade "garage" to "back of a closet"; you want any destruction of photos to be your decision, not mildew's.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.