Honesty is overrated!

Dear Amy: My mother and my brother keep bringing up trips they want to take with us.

I’ve been on trips with them before, and I’m never going to go again.

Both of them are prone to explosive meltdowns that are excruciating to be part of.

I can handle them for a short evening, but that’s it.

The idea of traveling with them is very stressful to me.

I also don’t want my 11-year-old daughter to have the stress of traveling with them.

I keep dodging their requests.

My response is: “Go ahead and go by yourselves, and report back.”

They are not taking the hint.

I see them about twice a month, and the pressure turns any visit with them into a nerve-racking time for me.

I’m at the point of wanting to avoid them completely.

Telling them straight up that we’re not going to go on a trip with them will cause a huge emotional episode, and even then, I don’t think it would sink in.

Any advice on how to have them get the message? Can we recover from this?

— Passport Denied

Passport Denied: The way you are behaving (so far) is to avoid stating your own preferences, while you become increasingly annoyed by the consistent efforts of your family members to include you.

Now you are at the point where you are on the verge of avoiding not just the topic but the people raising the topic. That solves nothing.

These relatives might need you as a competent buffer of sorts because they’re so volatile, and that’s why they are pressuring you.

It’s possible that if you provide a consistent answer, they will eventually stop bothering you about it.

You can state your case without blaming these family members, thereby hoping to avoid a meltdown. You just say, “I don’t want to go. I haven’t had a good time in the past. But you two should go ahead.” Repeat as often as necessary.

Consider the fact that by staying home, you might be preserving the shreds of your relationship with these family members. If your declaration causes a meltdown, then take refuge in the fact that the meltdown isn’t happening in a faraway destination. (c) Ask Amy

It’s really strange that the letter writer can’t be more forthright.

Telling them straight up that we’re not going to go on a trip with them will cause a huge emotional episode, and even then, I don’t think it would sink in.

If that’s true, then she ought to lie. “I can’t. I’m too busy with [insert busy activities here], not to mention [insert some more busy activities here].” I think this would be a time to use dishonesty. If you can’t tell the truth without someone having a guilt-trip laden meltdown, then you shouldn’t tell the truth.

But this letter writer seems to see it as either-or, as though she must be honest about not wanting to go (and why), or she must go. There are gray areas here! Dishonesty has its place, and this is one such place.

Case in point: you all know my evil sister, right? Okay. I accidentally had her high school yearbooks thrown away. It was a total accident, and I deeply regret it. Not enough to go digging through the junkyard, but enough to wish it had never happened. (We paid some people to clean out our basement because it was filled with crap, and there was a lot of pointing and saying, “Take that.”)

Now, my sister has spent years and years searching for them and hoping to find them. At the core of this issue, there’s one very simple reason why I’ll never cop to it. Actually, there are two reasons:

  1. As much as I hate her, I want to keep hope alive; and
  2. She’s violent.

At that point, any compunctures toward honesty I might have get thrown out the window.

There’s much to be said for a strategic lie.

DEAR ABBY: I have three children, ages 10, 8 and 5. I live about 45 minutes from my sisters and my parents, so we spend holidays and more together. My younger sister is pregnant and wants to name the baby “Bradley” because she and her husband can’t agree on any other name. When she asked my opinion, I was taken aback because my 5-year-old’s name is “Bradford.” At first I said it would be OK. But after a few days of thought, I asked her to please not use Bradley as a first name because my son (and hers) may want to use “Brad” in school or sports at some point, and it would be confusing. This has caused a family rift, as everyone thinks I’m being unfair.

At this point, it’s not about the name. It’s more about her deciding to ignore my wishes. Are there baby-naming rules of etiquette to follow? I will, of course, love the child regardless, and I love my sister. We are close. However, I’m surprised they can’t come up with any other name, knowing that it bothers me. Help! — NAME GAME IN ILLINOIS

DEAR NAME GAME: For whatever reason, your sister and her husband seem unable to find another name. Accept it and move on. Because of the five-plus year age difference between the boys, there shouldn’t be a problem with “confusion” because by the time her son is ready for kindergarten, your son will be so much further along in grammar school. He will also be out of high school by the time his cousin enters. Rather than fume over something you can’t control, let it go. (c) DEAR ABBY

I agree. And you can’t predict nicknames. In high school, I knew two sisters who were close in age. Their given names were Megan and Margaret. To this day I still wonder what would’ve happened if they’d both wanted to go by Meg (my name, by the way).

“Meg! Meg! Time for dinner! Meg, can you find Meg?”

“I’m right here, Mom!”

“Yeah, but where’s Meg?!”

Huh. It reminds me of The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Pete and Pete were brothers. Their mom had a plate in her head, which I think explained a lot.


But those sisters I knew chose to go by Megan and Margot. Crisis averted.

I wouldn’t take it as a personal affront. There’s no evidence here that this is being done to upset the letter writer. And if we look to history, I’m pretty sure that Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child, when her name was Laura Ingalls, had a cousin whose name was also Laura Ingalls. They didn’t see each other often.

8 thoughts on “Honesty is overrated!

  1. I totally agree that honesty won’t work in the first letter writer’s case.
    As for the other one, well, yeah, there certainly is name etiquette when it comes to families and it would be great if people could always stick to it, and it’s definitely recommended that family members don’t steal name ideas from each other, and Bradford and Bradley are very similar and both don’t have any other obvious nicknames than Brad so we can certainly consider it a theft, at least theoretically. So on one hand I totally understand the letter writer’s distress, I’d also feel irked or pissed at such a thing, my level of irked-ness depending on additional circumstances. Too matchy sibling sets are very bad (I say this as someone whose birth name’s default nickname rhymed with my sister’s and who at the same time shared name with my aunt, no fun) but very matchy and similar cousin sets in my opinion are worse for many reasons. Perhaps the expecting couple didn’t really expose themselves to a lot of potential name possibilities or aren’t particularly inventive, and that’s why they couldn’t come up with something different that they’d both like. But, I agree with you that they most likely didn’t do this to upset the letter writer. So let’s look at it from their angle now. They told her they don’t have any other names they’d both like. Fair enough, that happens quite often, even to people who do know a lot of names and know well what they like, let’s pray then that they don’t end up having any future kids and don’t call all of them Bradley. They asked her and initially she said okay, so they probably breathed a sigh of relief, and then it suddenly turned out no longer okay because her son may want to use the form Brad. So does that mean he doesn’t go by Brad yet, with family? If so the problem shrinks a whole lot, he could keep being Bradford with extended family and be Brad for parents, siblings and friends. As Dear Abby said there’s a reasonable age difference between them, and if they live 45 minutes away from each other, are they really going to go through the same schools for sure? And, since Brad is such an intuitive nickname for Bradford and Bradley, I wonder why did it take her a few days to figure out that their sons may want to use the same nickname in future, so that she first said she’s okay and then changed her mind? Perhaps if she said right away that it doesn’t sit right with her, they’d be more willing to consider some other, compromise option, but now they’ve probably gotten used to thinking about their son as Bradley and she says that now she thinks they can’t name him this. They have the right to feel just as pissed as she is. Also why not use middle names for less confusion and some more sense of individuality for the boys in settings where confusion is more likely like with grandparents?
    I feel for these sisters you mentioned. I think it’s entirely possible that they both wanted to be called Meg, but simply couldn’t, and that’s tragical.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Soooo many good points!! Now you’ve got me wondering why the letter writer’s sister can’t come up with any other names?! Maybe she’s really picky about names? Weirdness. If I were naming someone, there would be a list. A long, long list. I’d probably spend all my time adding to it and crossing names off, and then the final decision would be based on the baby’s innate energy. Now you’ve got me rethinking the age difference, too. I had cousins who were… well, actually, only my cousin Shannon is five years older than I am. I very rarely hung out with her. Huh. She was cool and popular and feminine, you know. But anyway, I’d be upset if someone else had a similar name. I hate my own birthname as is, and if someone else was being called it… I’m reminded of a friend/mentor I had once whose daughter-in-law was named Megan, and so she kept calling me that. (It’s not my exact birthname, but close.) I couldn’t break her of the habit, and it was very harmful to me. Huh. Thanks for expanding upon the issue!! Very good points indeed!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sure the families will find a way to keep the two names separate, even if both boys want to go by Brad. I have a cousin Bradley who has gone by Brad for most of his life, but within my family he’s still Brad. My mom has a cousin Rob who the family has all called Robbie because that’s what he was called as a kid. And you still get called M-word. Family members will do what they will.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sure the freak do still get M-word. Hmm…. I also have a cousin, Christopher, whose son is Christopher. (Why is it suddenly okay to name your kid after you, but not to name siblings or cousins the same? I just now wondered about that.) But the son goes by Topher, and the dad–my cousin–goes by Chris. What irks me to no end is that Topher has been going by Topher for I don’t know how long, but everyone calls him Topher. I’ve been going by Meg since around when Topher was BORN, but I don’t get the same respect. AAUGH!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sure is!! I think those relationships with my mom’s external family have bit the dust. I mean, you never know what life has in store for you, but I could live happily without interacting with any of them until the end of my life. That probably sounds horrid. I have extreme compassion for one of my aunts, but…. I just think our relationships have reached the end of their natural life expectancies.


    1. Interesting! Oh my gosh, the name Jamie is so adorable. I just now realized how cute I think it is! But, wow. It’s hard to imagine getting away with naming your twins James and Jamie! I’d think the person at the hospital (or whoever you register your kids’ names with) would raise an eyebrow at the very least! 😮 Like when you try to name your kid CutesyWootsy, or something. [Facepalm.]


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