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QUESTIONS LINGER OVER CONTRACEPTION

Dear Carolyn: When my girlfriend and I first had sex, she assured me she was on birth-control pills. I took her word for it and didn't give it a second thought. Several months ago, we decided to live together. I realized recently I had never seen her actually take the pill. We did a major cleanup of the medicine cabinet and bathroom closet. Birth-control pills never made an appearance. I have no reason not to trust her, but the fact that I am unable to confirm the existence of these pills -- something she would seem to have no reason to hide, after all -- concerns me. Is there a way I can inquire about this without effectively accusing her of lying to me?

-- Wanting to Be Sure

A: "Hey, are you still on the pill? We haven't talked about it in a while, and I've never seen you take one."

I have zero evidence to back this up, but I am nevertheless dead certain she will accuse you of accusing her of lying only if she is lying.

Well, kind of dead certain. But I do believe the first impulse of someone with nothing to hide will be, "Yeah, I leave them in my (wherever)." For what it's worth, she's more likely to keep them in a (wherever) that she won't forget, as opposed to burying them next to the aspirin, and that could easily mean they're in a desk or dresser or nightstand drawer.

In exchange for this last bit of reassuring information, I request that you please not use it to toss your whole dwelling in search of the mystery pills. Have the guts to ask difficult questions (ideally, before you move in).

Trust your instincts

Hi Carolyn: I am 24 and dating a 34-year-old man. We have been together six months, and the relationship has moved very fast. I care a lot for him and trust him but I have some concerns. He is very friendly and flirts with many women, and occasionally goes out with them. It's always an old friend he happened to bump into. I am not jealous but I do have a problem because, after they go out, he'll inform me a few weeks later that he's no longer speaking to them because the women are now in love with him, etc. And although I tell him that makes me uncomfortable, he makes it seem as though I am being insecure because I am so young. Am I being paranoid or should I believe my instincts?

-- A.H.

A: If you're asking me to choose between your instincts and his story, congratulations, you win the steak knives and valuable parting gifts. They all fall in love with him? That goes in the Oh Please Hall of Fame. Even if that somehow managed to be accurate -- imagine the street value of his pheromones -- it hardly reflects well on anyone to be everyone's No. 1 guy.

Regardless, I'd call this a choice between your instincts and his empty condescension. How stupid does he think you are? And when does excusing him become stupid? Besides, when you voice a thoughtful concern, you deserve a thoughtful response, not beside-the-point blame simply for being yourself.

Sibling rivalry

Hi Carolyn: I hope you can help. My sister's pregnant and demanding things of people, just not me yet. Example -- mom can never smoke around the baby or even smoke outside while it's sleeping. Fine, I understand it's her kid and she calls the shots, but if you don't do what she says, then you will never see the kid. Flash back to her wedding a few years ago -- I threw her a bridal shower, gave her very nice gifts for shower and wedding, etc. Very minimal appreciation. The baby shower is soon.

And when the baby comes, what is the proper etiquette of visiting my sister in the hospital? (And can this etiquette be swayed because of past offenses?) Also, next time she shows no appreciation or acts bitchy, any smart remarks to get my point across? Thanks!

-- Washington, D.C.

A: Ugh, I thought we established this isn't a smart-remarks drive-thru. SAY what you have to SAY, OK? "You make a lot of demands of me, and it hurts me when you then show little or no gratitude for what I do."

As for her demands of people who aren't you, they really aren't your problem. Especially when your sister is absolutely (bleeping) right -- NO ONE should smoke around BABIES, AAAGH. Not even around children. (Not even around adults, but adults have more room-leaving options.) If it bugs you that she pushes your mom around in general, you can always say, "Hey, lay off mom, she's trying." Or you can let your grown-woman mom fight her own battles.

As for when you visit momma and baby, go when you want to and can (unless you "want to" choose a time that best satisfies your grudge-holding needs). If you've got a problem with her, either address it or start accepting that she's your sister, and you won't always like what she does, and you just have to deal with her on terms you can stand.

Write to "Tell Me About It," c/o The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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