Dear Care and Feeding,
Our son, almost 17, shares his otherwise unique name with an adult film star. We first realized this about two years ago, and the problem has only gotten worse, as the star has become more … prolific. Any search of the name yields only pages and pages of the star’s porn links. There’s no shortened form or nickname, and our son has no middle name, so we don’t have options but to legally change it.
The problem is our son does not want to do this. He doesn’t care about the overlap, it’s the only name he and everyone else has ever known him by, and a change will likely highlight the underlying reason. But we’re worried that this will follow him negatively as he starts to apply to schools and, eventually, workplaces that will search his name. Rather disturbingly, a very cursory review of appearances might compound this: The adult performer is fairly young and shares race and hair color with our son.
Should we play the parent card and force a legal name change? We would allow him to go by the former name with friends and family.
—This Cannot Come to Any Good
You absolutely should not force a legal name change, that’s a ridiculous overreaction. This is not a problem if your son doesn’t care.
Porn stars do not have, for the most part, the longest of careers, and this is not going to ruin your son’s life. When future employers Google him, which is now pretty standard, he can calmly and wryly say, “There is an adult performer who shares my name, which unfortunately makes me very difficult to accurately Google.”
Enjoy holiday content from our Care and Feeding columnists, including Jamilah Lemieux on self-care items to help parents survive the holidays, and our Ask a Teacher columnists on gifts teachers actually want.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My wife was the surrogate for her gay brother in his first marriage. Genetically, her nephew is her son by her brother’s ex. She has a daughter by her first marriage, and together we have twins. I love my wife and accept what she went through to give her brother a child. I don’t want it to happen again. My brother-in-law has remarried. He and his new husband are interested in having a child, and they want to repeat everything with my wife.
I love my wife, my stepdaughter, and our twins, but I know I will not be able to rationally be able to abide my wife getting pregnant by another man and giving up a baby. I can’t handle it. My wife is disappointed by my reaction and my brother-in-law has gone so far as to accuse me of being homophobic and “possessive.” I told him to concentrate on the child that he has instead of getting a new shiny one (my nephew lives with this other father 90 percent of the time).
This has cooled relationships with my in-laws. I am tired of defending myself. Am I out of line? We don’t know if we want more children but my wife is in her late 30s now. Is it wrong to feel like any child she has should be ours and not her brother’s?
—Through the Looking Glass Over Here
What a mess. On one hand, obviously it’s your wife’s body. However, this is the clearest case of “two yeses, one no” I have ever seen. You are not out of line, and I am not impressed that her brother has largely peaced out on his first child (however impolitic and/or rudely you may have pointed that out).
I am happy to give you a “this is neither homophobic nor possessive” get-out-of-jail free card.
This may end your marriage. I’m very sorry about that. I do think this conversation with your wife would benefit from a disinterested third party, and if you have the resources and your wife agrees, this is a couples counseling situation.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I’m 15, and three years ago I was adopted by my Uncle “John” and his husband “Greg.” My parents lost custody of me because my dad put me in a coma (and went to jail for it), and my mom defended him because I’d been “provocative.” There’d been a lot of abuse over the years, but that was when police got involved and I went to stay with my uncles.
I was so happy when they adopted me—and then I kind of lost my mind. I behaved terribly: stole their money, deliberately broke things, skipped school, wrote homophobic things about Greg on Facebook (he found out, which was awful), and just generally acted like a nightmare brat. I genuinely can’t wrap my head around why they put up with me and didn’t throw me out of their home, but I’m so grateful to them for how kind and forgiving they’ve been to me.
A few months ago, I suddenly got some perspective on how I’d been behaving, and it felt like waking up from a trance. I apologized a lot and have just been trying very hard to be better and nicer to them since. I’ve started actually being honest with the therapist they get me to see, which is helping a lot.
My issue is that now that I’ve started behaving like an OK person again, Greg’s adult kids have started inviting me to family events that I previously would definitely have ruined or refused to go to. (I used to do a thing of complaining that Greg had “nothing to do with me,” which makes me want to curl up and die thinking about now.) There’s an event upcoming in November, and they’ve asked if I want to join them for a meal with Greg and John, and if I want to go in on a present.
I absolutely do, but I hate the thought of intruding on his family time. He hasn’t had any time with his real kids in months. I think he won’t really want me there, considering how I’ve treated him in the past. I know that he and my uncle would definitely tell me I was welcome if I asked them, but that’s because they’re too nice to say anything else. But if I skip it, they might think I’m lashing out at Greg again. What should I do? Do I go and risk intruding on his family time, or not go and risk him thinking I’m being awful again? Is there another option?
—I’m Not a Monster Anymore
I think that you will be surprised at the amount of love and forgiveness people are prepared to show a 12-year-old who has been placed in a literal coma by their “parents” and weathered years of prior abuse. Your uncles are, as you know, wonderful people, and although I’m sure your actions were deeply painful for them, they did not boot you out because they understood why your trauma and anger might spill over onto a “safe” target. Kudos to them.
I would write a letter to your uncles. I know you have apologized, and are trying to make amends, but there is much to be said for getting everything out in a medium where no one will cut you off and say “it’s OK, it’s OK.” It’s not OK, you behaved badly, and you will feel better if you can truly get it all out on “paper.” (I assume you’ll email them, I know it’s not the 1800s.)
Once you have covered your gratitude, your behavior, your sorrow at it, and your wish to make amends, I would ask Greg if he is comfortable with you attending events with his kids, and ask him if he needs more time. Emphasize you do not want him to just say yes to make you happy, that you genuinely want to take your time proving that you are now a safe and better person.
Then trust him when he answers you. You’ll be in my thoughts.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My husband caught two of the neighbor’s kids breaking into our house (we have cameras). He prevented them from doing more than breaking a window and our screen door. The boys were 12 and 14. We didn’t call the cops and instead called their parents.
Our neighbors acted grateful. We told them we wanted compensation for the damage done and have the boys do 50 hours of volunteering. The parents of the older boy immediately paid us and had their son volunteer at their church. The pastor signed off on the hours. The mother of the younger boy begged off on paying her share. She gave us about $40 and then forgot how to return calls. After two weeks, we waited for her at her home; she drove up and refused to talk to us. The last thing she said was, “Don’t tell me how to raise my kid.” My husband is fuming and wants to get the police or courts involved. I don’t want to involve the other boy. He and his parents complied with our requests; they should not be punished for this nasty woman. We have the agreement in writing (all the parents signed), if that helps. My husband and I are on a fixed income. It took several hundred dollars to replace everything. We don’t really have that money. What should we do?
—Give Me the Money
I am so thrilled you have a signed agreement. Send them a certified letter with a photocopy of the agreement, an accounting of what they have paid you so far ($40), and say that unless a payment plan or full restitution is made in the next 30 days, you will take this to small claims court.
If not, take them to small claims court. I really admire that you avoided getting the police involved—you’ve handled things very admirably. There’s “calling the cops” and there’s “doing nothing,” and right in the middle of those two is small claims court. The fees are quite low, and also I suspect they will, in fact, pay you back before it gets to that point. If you were not on a fixed income I might respond differently, but you absolutely need that money and they owe it to you. I do not know their financial situation, but if they have to borrow money from family, fine. That is not your problem.
Again, for the benefit of all readers, getting things like this in writing and signed is vital. Anyone who balks at it has zero intention of paying you back.
I hope you hear back quickly and do not have to interact with these people again.
More Advice From Slate
Before he got his own car, my son used to spend a couple of nights a week and every other weekend with his dad. I assumed this would continue after he started driving, but it hasn’t. Whenever I talk to my ex, he makes thinly veiled comments about how he never gets to see our son anymore, implying that I have something to do with it. I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place. Is there anything I can do here?