Q. Finding Bio Parents: I wrote into this column about four weeks ago because I am adopted and my biological mother reached out to me via attorney to see if I wanted to set up a meeting. I could not decide if I wanted to, but thanks to this column, I gained the confidence to make a decision I was really happy with. I set my birth mother a "bio" of me—notable dates, achievements, life plans so that she would have a sense of what I am doing. This way, she got closure but I didn't have to meet her and put myself through unwanted meetings and emotions.
A: Thank you so much for writing back! I wish I heard from more letter writers about how things turned out. This sounds like a compassionate response to your biological mother and an excellent decision for you. I'm glad to hear it.
Q. Visine Is Deadly Poison!: Since the Visine trick has come up again, please inform your readers that Visine, ingested, is not something that causes mild diarrhea, but can cause serious illness and death. You can check this on Snopes.
A: If anyone thinks I am advocating Visine, or any other poison, in the food of one's nasty relatives, I am not. Thanks for the clarification.
Q. Re: Flag: The most intolerant folks on earth are the ones that preach tolerance. If she wants to show she is TRULY "PC" that she needs to allow her roommate to be herself. Part of rooming with folks in college is learning to put up with stuff you wouldn't do yourself.
A: It is pushing the definition of tolerance to its limits that in order to learn how to get along with people with different viewpoints, you have to live with a noxious symbol. The flag is impinging on the letter writer's ability to have comfortable relations with her other classmates. Being proud of being from Mississippi should not mean someone forces her roommate to condone a Confederate flag on the wall of her room. The flag needs to come down.
Q. I Love My Biological Children More: I do not love my adopted daughter as much as my biological children. My wife and I adopted our daughter four months ago. I have two biological children from my first marriage. I felt an overwhelming love for them from the moment I first laid eyes on them. I do not feel that visceral connection, that primal adoration, with my adopted daughter. My wife is herself adopted and adores our little girl. I, in turn, adore my wife. I'm terrified she'll leave me or hate me if I'm honest about my feelings. I am ashamed and disgusted by how I feel, too. I do love my adopted daughter, and I would gladly die for her. But I know my experiences with and feelings for my biological children were much different. I never anticipated this problem. What should I do?
A: Be glad you are able to be this honest with yourself and are mature enough to recognize your feelings and wonder what to do about them. I think what you've written sounds perfectly normal. Four months is a relatively short time. You already love your little girl enough to say you'd die for her—so that's a lot! This sounds like the kind of thing that you could explore in an online support group. I'm sure you'll be swamped with responses from people saying they felt the same way, and you should just hang in there. That should make you feel better about yourself—there's no reason to be disgusted by what you're experiencing. While I believe in honesty in a marriage, I don't think marriage requires we take everything that's in our heads and share it with our partner. If a support group, and time, don't solve this problem, then talk it out in short-term therapy. You love all your kids, so don't beat yourself up that you don't love them precisely the same way.
Q. Outraged Wife and Mother: Two months ago I gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. They are healthy and thriving, but I had major complications that kept me in the hospital another 12 days, so you know they were serious. My husband and I had agreed on names, e.g., "Karen" and "Kevin." However, while I was completely out of it, he put different names on the birth certificates, e.g., "Brian Mark" and "Brenda Marie." Since our last name starts with W, their initials are now BMW! I only realized this shortly before I was discharged, when the nurses asked me why I was not calling them by their right names. I am furious beyond belief at this, but my husband insists it's no big deal. He says people think it is "cute" and in time I will, too. Trust me, I am now a BMW-type person! It turns out that changing their names legally is a big hairy mess. I'm so angry I'm about ready to divorce him and take the children with me. I'm independently wealthy so can afford to do this. What do you think?
A: I can understand your distress, but it's odd to think this the first stunt your husband has pulled during the course of your marriage. You just had twins, so before rushing to court to dissolve your union, step back, try to put this perspective, and tell your husband you two have to give your kids names you’re both happy with. It sounds as if your children are actually Karen and Kevin, except on paper. So explain to your husband his unilateral action requires his unilateral fix—you're a little busy caring for twins. Please don't rip your family apart before you've even had time to physically heal.
Q. Attention Hog: My brother recently purchased a house and is having a housewarming party in a few weeks. Last weekend, my boyfriend of two years proposed to me on a date that was significant to us. I happily accepted. When I called my parents to tell them my news, my mother asked me to refrain from telling the rest of our family about the engagement until after my brother's housewarming party. She said that announcing this before or at the party would draw attention away from my brother and that is poor form, particularly since I will be having showers and a wedding in the future. I agree with her that announcing it at the party is inappropriate, but I would like to call my relatives and tell them before the party. My fiance and I do not want to steal attention from my brother's day, but we also do not think we should have to keep our engagement under wraps. Is this the sort of thing that is not worth an argument and possible hurt feelings? Or should my brother just deal with the fact that I am engaged now, regardless of his party? I don't want to be one of those horrible brides I read about in this column, but I also don't want to keep my mouth shut when people ask ,"So what's new with you?"
A: Please don't tell me that ever since he was a little boy your brother has dreamed of the day he would own his own home and has been saving pictures of the perfect powder room for decades. I hope we are not now entering the land of the homeownerzilla. I assume your mother for some reason is being overly protective of your brother—only you know that back story. But you don't have to keep your happy announcement a secret until all your brother’s trivets have been unwrapped. You're engaged—start spreading the news.
Q. Flag: “The flag is impinging on the letter writer's ability to have comfortable relations with her other classmates.” If you take a closer look at LW's letter, she says the classmates are commenting on her roommate, not LW. And maybe you don't realize, but there is Confederate imagery in the state flag of Mississippi, so would the roommate not be allowed to have that up either?
A: And there will be people who come in and don't say anything but think both these students like the Confederate flag. I'm surprised by the number of commenters who are saying the girl with the flag objection should be the one to compromise, and that the flag could prompt many fascinating discussions. I wouldn't want a big Confederate flag in my room, period. I don't care how many fascinating conversations about the Civil War, civil rights, or political correctness it might spark.
Q. RE: Adoptive Dad: I hope it's not sacrilegious to mention another advice columnist here. But Dan Savage is the father of an adopted son. He wrote frankly about how he didn't feel an instant connection with his child while his partner Terry did. I'm fairly certain there's a This American Life episode in which Savage talks about this. Sometimes connecting with an adopted child takes time.
A: That's very helpful, and the adoptive father should definitely read and listen to what Dan has to say. (Dan and I sometimes agree, and sometimes disagree. But I was amused to read he was annoyed that the gay incestuous twins wrote to me!)
Q. Adoptive Dad Might Consider Telling Wife: I'm an adoptive mom. My husband didn't have kids before we married, but he didn't connect instantly with our first son either. It took time and patience, but eventually he came to love our baby boy "more than life itself." My husband was honest with me about his feelings. Knowing about them helped me to help him bond with our son. The wife can be his greatest ally in finding support while bonding with his daughter.
A: This is a good point, but it's a little more complicated to say, "I'm not feeling the same way about our child as I did about my biological children." Of course he should be able to explore his feelings with his wife. But if he accepts his feelings are completely normal, he might stop feeling shame and disgust and the issue will evaporate.
Q. Enough Flag: Goodness! To my knowledge, all colleges allow you to switch rooms within the first few weeks if there is a problem. But since it's March, how can this be a new problem? She has about six weeks left with this roommate and then never has to live with her again.
Emily Yoffe: Now there's a good point! And there's no time left in this chat. Thanks, everyone.