Dear Amy: Our 28-year-old daughter recently became engaged to a wonderful young man. We couldn’t be happier for them. They plan to marry in two years, after they complete their graduate degrees.
So, what could go wrong?
His parents are adamant that our daughter take her fiance’s last name when they are married. She has research papers published with her current name, and she likes her name and doesn’t want to change it.
To his credit, her fiance has told his parents that she’s not changing it and that’s that.
Nevertheless, they continue to bring up the issue. They claim that people will think their son and our daughter are divorced if they have different names. More hurtfully, they say that this young couple won’t be a “real” family without the same last name, as if sharing the same name or same religion or ethnicity is more important than the love, understanding and support for each other that should be the heart of a family.
Our daughter feels that she is disappointing his parents, and she has begun to feel uncomfortable around them. This is a sad way to begin what will be a long personal relationship.
My husband and I offer advice to our adult children only when it is asked for, and we don’t pout if the advice isn’t taken. We hope her fiance’s parents might see this letter and resist the urge to butt in where their advice is not wanted.
— Non-Meddling Mom
Non-Meddling Mom: Around 1 in 5 American women choose to keep their surname upon marriage. Some couples choose to hyphenate, and some take their spouse’s name but continue to use their surname professionally. It’s hard to imagine that — in this day and age — a woman’s choice to keep her birth surname is still an issue that upsets people.
You aren’t meddling directly (good for you), but your attempt to communicate with your future son-in-law’s parents through this column speaks volumes. You are actually quite attached to this issue and worried about the outcome. You are meddling-by-proxy.
Your daughter’s fiance has stated unequivocally to his parents that your daughter will not be changing her name. Your daughter should also handle this directly, respectfully and with good humor, understanding that her in-laws may always feel a little bit wounded or judgmental about her choice. After she explains that keeping her surname is nonnegotiable, there really is no reason to discuss this further.
Handling this well, firmly and with certitude will set the stage for other choices the couple will make. (c) Ask Amy
Meddling by proxy? I disagree, but this is why I’d be a very overprotective mother. I’d go all kungfu crazy if I had a daughter in this situation. It’s probably best that I don’t have kids.
I’m also bothered by Ask Amy’s insinuation that bullying should be tolerated with humor. Um, no, maybe not? Because they are, in fact, bullying her. Instead of expressing their feelings and then moving on, they’re harassing her about it. It might be subtle and unspoken, but a cold and chilling silence can be unnerving.
However, the daughter is an adult and can fight her own battles. I think Ask Amy’s paragraph about how she should handle it (again with the good humor–that part rubs me the wrong way) is disastrous. If I were the daughter dealing with these future in-laws, I’d handle it Meg-style.
I know you’re all thinking that would make it worse, but I don’t have much energy for passive-aggressive whiners. To be completely honest, I’d probably handle it like this:
Meg’s future mother-in-law: “Meg, your family won’t be a real family if your last name isn’t Wojadubikowski.”
Meg: “I know. Sorry.” [Forced grin.]
Meg’s future father-in-law: “Meg, the Wojadubikowski name is steeped in tradition and culture.”
Meg: “That’s nice.” [Smiles and nods.]
Meg’s future mother-in-law: “How can you do this to our family? Please, I beg of you. Take the last name of Wojadubikowski.”
Meg: “No. Sorry.” [Swallows and pushes hair behind her ear.]
Meg’s future mother-in-law: “No fair! I had to!”
Meg’s future father-in-law: “Darling, you never complained.”
Meg’s future mother-in-law: “How could I? Your mother was a tyrant.”
Meg’s future father-in-law: “How dare you cross Mother? She was a handsome, genteel woman.”
Meg’s future mother-in-law: “Her last name was Wojadubikowski. I think that says it.”
Meg’s future father-in-law [turning to Meg]: “Good job. Now look what you’ve done.”
Meg’s future mother-in-law: “Why, why, why? My maiden name of Danville was so beautiful!”
Meg: “I… aim to please. Thank you.” [Gives awkward thumbs-up.]
Meg’s future husband: “That’s is. I’m changing my name. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad.”
Meg’s future father-in-law: “Don’t you dare, Junior. The Wojadubikowski name means something in this town.”
Huh. Maybe Ask Amy’s onto something in her desire to handle this situation with humor.
Let’s see what Annie Lane’s up to tonight!
Dear Annie: I have been in my stepson’s life since he was 6 and married to his father for 20 years. He lived in our house full time for most of the years. So I view him not just as a stepson but as one of my sons. He and his live-in girlfriend got engaged last year. They planned a wedding for the fall. My husband felt that since he was out of the house and on his own, they should pay for the wedding on their own. I didn’t agree and gave them both cash for the wedding, with my husband’s knowledge. (We don’t share money; it works for us.) They were both very grateful. I told them that I understood that I wasn’t the mother of the groom; I just wanted to feel included in some of the planning and help in any other way I could.
Then they got pregnant and moved the wedding up. Then COVID-19 hit. The wedding date was changed a few times. Ultimately, they ended up getting married in a small ceremony at their home and planned to have the wedding and reception after the baby was born. I totally understood.
But recently, one of the other sons told me that they just canceled the wedding altogether and planned on having a 1st birthday party for the baby at the same venue, because they signed a contract and can’t get the money they have put down back.
I have to say that I am so hurt that my contribution to the wedding (which was actually a lot of money for me) meant so little to them that they didn’t feel the need to tell me in person that the wedding was off and explain the situation that they could not get the money back. I don’t want my money back and totally understand the circumstances, but I feel I shouldn’t have heard this through a third party. I am sure the other mothers were told in person.
So my question is this: Should I bring this up to them at some point or just let it go? Normally, I am the type to keep to myself, and if someone hurts my feelings I “just get over it” without saying anything. But this hurt is lasting much longer, and I feel resentment building inside of me. — Unappreciated Stepmom
Dear Unappreciated: Maybe sometimes we can just will ourselves to “get over it,” but most times that’s a recipe for resentment. This seems to be the latter. So there is no other option than to talk with your stepson. Make it a conversation, not a confrontation. Using “I” statements, let him know that you didn’t expect to be part of the wedding planning process, but that you felt a bit hurt when you learned about the change of plans from someone else.
Go into it with an open mind. It may turn out that there was some miscommunication or context that changes your understanding. But you sound like a thoughtful, supportive stepmom, so I have no doubt you’ll be able to handle this with care. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com
Well, geez. Once again, Annie Lane chose a simple, straightforward question to answer, but she was unable to point out the obvious to this letter writer. Her stepson and his fiancee are embarrassed. Duh. People who are embarrassed often try to hide whatever made them feel that way. Buh-doink. And that awareness should be enough to engender some compassion into the letter writer, but I’m surprised she didn’t figure out that they’re embarrassed, either. She feels miffed? Really? Is Annie Lane making up these letters? Seriously. You have to wonder. I wouldn’t feel miffed if I thought there was embarrassment.
I am sure the other mothers were told in person.
Right, because it wasn’t the other mothers’ money. See? There was no cause for embarrassment when they told the other mothers.
Ohhhh. The letter writer feels unappreciated. (Geez, Meg, are you feeling slow tonight?) Huh. Well, I hope she realizes that (in my opinion, anyway) her stepson and his fiancee aren’t acting ungrateful.
DEAR ABBY: I am in a nearly two-year relationship with a man I love. In so many ways, this is the relationship I’ve always hoped for and, being in my early 30s, I’m feeling ready to settle down. The problem? He doesn’t fight fair.
I have put an exorbitant amount of effort into remaining calm and loving during arguments to prevent our relationship from deteriorating, but he seems incapable of meeting me halfway. His unfair fighting comes in the form of aggressive tones, obscene faces, looking at his phone while I’m talking and sometimes ignoring me entirely.
These arguments are usually over minor issues that are nowhere near warranting a full-blown fight (for example, dishes not being done when he came home from work because I work from home and put it off to do during nonwork hours).
Our relationship is otherwise great, but if I’m going to commit to someone for life, I want them to be capable of having calm and healthy conversations. He thinks I’m controlling when I ask him not to use aggressive tones or make faces. What do I do? — FIGHTING FAIR IN OREGON
DEAR FIGHTING: I will assume that the man you are in love with is around the same age as you. By the time someone reaches their 30s, their personalities are usually set. This man behaves the way he does because it works for him. It enables him to control you.
If he values your relationship, he should be willing to discuss this in couples counseling so these conversations are constructive rather than adversarial. If he isn’t, however, keep looking for a more suitable mate because this Mister ain’t Wonderful. (c) DEAR ABBY
There was some discussion at Dear Abby’s syndicate of what, exactly, constitutes an obscene face. And I have to admit, I’m curious myself. Obscene faces? Like, what the freak?!
She needs to dump him yesterday. If she can dump him while making an obscene face, I’ll give her bonus points.
Oh, okay, there we go. My apologies if that was too obscene.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m trying to figure out why “Karen” has become a name to use when talking about someone perceived as either out of control or a nasty person. I always thought of Karen as a pretty name and now it’s being used to make fun of people.
I have a few friends who have that as their name, and I feel for them. Some of my other friends have used it that way, and I’ve emailed them and gently told them it wasn’t a nice thing to do, as I know a lot of Karens who are really nice people.
I do realize I probably should not be playing the role of grammar police, especially with friends. So is there a way to politely ask people not to use “Karen” that way?
And while I’m at it, the “OMG” thing is driving me nuts, too. If it’s friends, I just let it go, but when an advertiser does it, I write to them to let them know I find it offensive to be taking the name of my God in vain.
And then I get two-faced about it and complain that too many people take offense at too many things.
GENTLE READER: There is a difference, Miss Manners assures you, between policing grammar and defending friends. The next time a Karen’s name is taken in vain, you may say, “Of course not our Karen; she is lovely.” And if you count G-d amongst your intimates, the same tactic (“not my G-d”) may well work for them. (c) MISS MANNERS
I completely agree with this letter writer. Making a name derogatory is hurtful to everyone who was given that name. I feel sorry for Karens near and far. And the OMG thing is upsetting to my best friend, Sonya, who’s very religious, so I never say it anymore at all. She’s gotten me into the habit of oh-my-gosh-ing or oh-my-goodness-ing or oh-my-ing.
I hate taking the Lord’s name in vain, and I think it’s wrong, but I don’t think it offends Him. He’s too wise to get upset over basic human foibles. However, I get upset when people do it. Moreso with the G-D word (gosh darnit!) or JC.
And then I get two-faced about it and complain that too many people take offense at too many things.
Yeah, I hear ya. Where to draw the line? I’d say just try to be courteous. It doesn’t hurt anything.
I fear the f-bomb because I’m afraid that if I let it into my mind, it’ll take up shop there and start paying me rent, and then it’ll never leave. My thoughts will become all like [bleep] this and [bleep] that and [bleep] everything and [bleep] you, kind sir, and I will have lost the battle. I think that might tie into my obsessive tendencies, but who knows? In the meantime, freakin’ works quite nicely for me.