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Ask Alex: What Family Member Are You Going To Kill?

by Alex Iwashyna

in Ask Alex, My Daughter, My Son

One of my favorite readers and email forwarded-ers asks the question this week. Walt of and I are proof that a flaming liberal and a kooky conservative can be friends.

Walt asks: You made it to the life boat and have strength to pull one person from the water. Scott (husband), E (4 year old son), N (2 year old daughter), Aunt Katie (only sister) and your mom are in the water. You cannot sacrifice yourself. Who would you choose?

I once asked my husband a similar question. I asked him: Scott, if you had to chose one person to die between E or me, who would it be? (N wasn’t on the radar yet.)

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Don’t ever ask your husband that.

I’m an idiot for even bringing it up.  This is probably why Walt and I get along so well.

Since I’ve clearly thought about this for years, my answer isn’t what is difficult about this question. I know exactly what I would do. I know that the choice would come close to destroying me. I also know that my flare for the dramatic is unparalleled. UNPARALLELED, I SAY!

What I don’t feel like I can do with this answer is make it public record. The private conversation with my husband caused a rift for weeks. Did I mention that I’m dramatic?

I promised myself and my invisible friend, Joyce, two things when I began this blog:
1) I would always be honest.
2) I would never use it to hurt someone.

I have kept the first promise. Even when it sucked. Oh, which reminds me. I thought that updating my disclaimer would cover my Amazon Affiliate links, but I realized that I should’ve also been including it at the end of each post as well. I have not gone back to the earlier posts yet, but I wanted to say (in a public record) that never meant to mislead you. I researched and thought that I was doing what was the norm online. And it is within acceptable limits, but I’ve decided that I could’ve erred further on the side of openness. I wish that I did it initially though.

As for the second promise, I have never written something on this blog to purposely hurt anyone. To my knowledge, I have walked on the wrong side of that line three times. I have probably hurt more than three people since not everyone is willing to email me about it. To all those people, I am sorry. Unless you’re a gay-hating, mom-bashing, intolerant jerk. Then I’m not so much SORRY as PLEASED.

As to your question, Walt, I’m stuck. If I’m honest, I’m not kind, and I’ll only do that when absolutely necessary (I don’t believe in the “white lie” shebang).  But I’m pretty sure that answering this question in a public forum isn’t necessary.

Wow. Did I mention that I also over-think everything?

If you would like to see previous questions that I’ve over-thought, click here. If you would like to submit your own question to me, fill out this form or email me with the subject “Ask Alex.” If you just want to know what I’ve asked YOU, click on “I Ask.” It’s probably better that way.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie May 6, 2011 1

Don’t worry out secret’s safe ;)


Katie May 6, 2011 2



andygirl May 7, 2011 3

if someone asked me this question, they’d have to choose carefully which family members they named as I know a couple I’d definitely let drown. does that make me awful? maybe. but hell, it’s true. but I also don’t have kids or a husband. that would make it harder to choose.
andygirl recently posted..This Week at Sprocket Ink


TheKitchenWitch May 7, 2011 4

I want an invisible friend! Can you send one my way?


Abby May 7, 2011 5

This question would be easy for me, as I only have my hubby. No kids. And if my father-in-law was there, he would understand, since he asked the question to begin with. ♥
Abby recently posted..Lessons Learned


Walt May 7, 2011 6

I also don’t swim well so I won’t be waving good bye for long.
Walt recently posted..Osama Sleeps with the Fishes


Sarah May 7, 2011 7

You know what? I am finding myself an imaginary friend. If you have one, then I can have one, too. It must be okay, if I’m not the only one! I’ve been denying myself too long.
Sarah recently posted..There Comes a Time


Walt May 7, 2011 8

Great post! It had everything a GREAT POST needs to have.
2. Family
3. Death.
4. Ambiguous Political correctness.
5. Link to my blog.

You should be the White House Press Secretary.
(Which would be great if you showed up wearing Sarah Palin hair, glasses, pencil skirt and heels).
Walt recently posted..Osama Sleeps with the Fishes


Julie May 7, 2011 9

I’m pretty sure I remember my Memom telling me she’d rather lose a child than a husband (she lost 3 husbands and no children). At the time her rationale was the experience she had of a friend who had lost a child. I was a child myself, so I didn’t consider the irony or think to ask her about her own experience.


Stay At Home Babe May 7, 2011 10

What if by not answering the question, you’ve hurt my feelings? THEN would you answer it, huh huh? Talk about a moral dilemma, eh?


vikki May 7, 2011 11

remember when ayelet waldman wrote that piece in salon (or was it slate?) about how she loved her husband more than her kids? that was 6 years ago and people still haven’t gotten over it. before i read her article i thought it went without saying that you’d save your child before you’d save your husband, but apparently that inclination is not universal. anyway, the answer to that question is nobody’s business but your own. and as long as you never take a cruise with scott, your kids, your mom, and katie, then no one will ever have to find out.
vikki recently posted..Why I Still Believe In GodKind Of


Kate May 7, 2011 12

Okay, when we moved from our door crazy house (four external doors for 1600 square feet! Every room had two or more exits!) I had nightmares for weeks. What if we were attacked or there was a fire or (cue anxiety provoking thought of your choice) – how would I get out? How could I get both kids out (#2 was new)? Choosing one? Oh hell no.

I didn’t think to worry about my guy. Probably because he was traveling lots, but also he’s big and able to find his own escape route.

Then again, maybe I’m foolish to even write that.


Tracie May 8, 2011 13

I don’t blame you for not answering this publicly, because I can just imagine the fight that would ensue if my husband and I asked each other this question.


(but that doesn’t mean that I won’t think about my answer…..and that I won’t have to work really hard to not ask him his.)
Tracie recently posted..A Heart To GO!


Suniverse May 8, 2011 14

Decisions, decisions.

[PS Why do husband's NEVER get the answer right? WHY?]
Suniverse recently posted..Week in Review – Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut


Colleen May 9, 2011 15

This question is way tricky because what if the person you save can save someone else and that person can pull another person out of the water…. Can it be a decision based solely on love? By choosing the right order could you save everyone?

I hope never to encounter this paradox OR any situation that would make me choose between loved ones. The whole process would kill me anyway.

Wonderful thought provoking post!


Walt July 2, 2011 16

You’re Welcome.
Walt recently posted..Wal Mart Greeters


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