Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
My parents gave me a really terrible name, that half-rhymes and contains a racial slur—think “Gypsy-Pixie,” and misspelled. (We are a white family.) I have hated it my whole life and was bullied mercilessly for it in school. My friends and teachers called me an initial-based nickname at my request, although when my parents found out that teachers used my nickname, they called the school and complained, to my absolute mortification. I changed my name legally as soon as I could upon adulthood. Everyone now knows me as “Ann,” and my friends who knew me before made the change smoothly.
My parents are furious. They refuse point-blank to use my name, although they have had a full year now. They always used to tell me I would “grow to love” my “beautiful and unique” name when I cried about it as a child, and are obviously angry that they have been proven wrong on that. I get that it must be painful for a parent to feel like their child has rejected the name they chose, but … come on. They have always known how much I hated it, always ignored my pleading to be called nicknames, and on top of all this, THEIR names are completely normal (e.g., “Bob” and “Liz”), so they have no idea what this has been like for me.
I know this seems petty, but my relationship with them is deeply strained because of this. I gave them an “adjustment period” where I said I wouldn’t mind them occasionally using the old name, but they ignored that completely. When I said I would be cutting short calls or meetups if they called me my old name, they went ahead and called me it anyway (in front of others), then acted stunned and hurt when I left the exchange as promised. I am increasingly pulling away from them because of this—I don’t want to be called the wrong name multiple times per conversation, and it hurts me that they’re willing to die on this hill rather than just respect my right to have a name I don’t hate and doesn’t get me laughed at on the regular. They called me “Gypsy-Pixie” for 20 years. Am I wrong for thinking they should be able to adjust to “Ann” now that I’m an adult? Can you recommend a way for me to handle this better—or am I being immature for dying on this hill with them?
—No My Bullies Weren’t Just Jealous
Dear Just Jealous,
You were on the right track when you cut short meetups and calls when they said your old name, but you have to stick with the plan and keep doing it until they get the message. It’s they who are choosing to die on a ridiculous hill—let’s hope they realize their error before they take your relationship down with them.
I need an opinion about what’s fair in a marriage. My husband’s family members are all financially comfortable (as are we); most of mine, while not destitute, struggle a bit to make ends meet. We live near my family, so I get to (have to?) see my family often; we live far from his and they’re spread far and wide, so he gets to see them only a couple times a year. Those times are expensive—we spend several thousand a year on those trips, one where he or we travel to his parents’ home and another family get together in some touristy area at a nice Airbnb. I don’t have an issue with that since he certainly deserves to spend time with his family. My husband and I each get an “allowance” out of our joint income to spend how we want and without justification, which we use for things like gifts for one another, solo trips with friends and mine with my sisters, etc. Trips to and with his family have, however, always come out of our general travel budget.
I’d now like to plan a trip with my family that entails a bit more luxury than most of them can comfortably afford and would like to pick up the bulk of it. I don’t have enough saved from my “allowance” to pay for it. My husband is about the nicest guy in the world, so I always have to be careful about being fair and considerate. I know he’d tell me to take it out of our travel budget, but I’m torn about whether spending this money on my family from our general budget is a fair thing to do under these circumstances. I mean, this money doesn’t have to be spent for me to be able to see them. Also, we pay only our share for the Airbnb trips and don’t subsidize his family at all. However, those trips are always much more luxurious than my family could ever afford, both in terms of location and accommodations. Also, because my family is much larger and we see them more often, we undoubtedly spend significantly more on gifts for them than for his family members. We also spend a chunk of our time helping them with work they’re physically incapable of doing, which we never do for his family (something I know he’s beginning to resent as they’re getting older and needing more and more help.)
I know this is a first-world problem, but it’s creating a great deal of angst for me right now. If I had a less accommodating husband, where we could hash it out, it might be easier. Where would you come down on the fairness question here?
—Nice Guys Can Create Problems Too
Dear Nice Guys,
It’s not as much a first-world problem as it is a nonproblem. I was reading this saying to myself, “Marriage isn’t a business and it’s not about formal rules. You love each other and want each other to be happy and he should support this.” And then I kept reading and was delighted to learn that he gets it. Take him up on his offer. Thank him and tell him you appreciate his flexibility and sometimes worry about walking all over him because he’s so kind. And make sure to look for opportunities to do something that departs from your budget or bends the rules a little but brings him joy.
My fiancé and I have been trying to have a baby. All of my friends have gotten pregnant without trying. I’m starting to envy them. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve stopped talking to them. I feel really depressed. Like it’s gotten to the point of self-harm. I’m in therapy and have been for as long as I remember, but I don’t feel comfortable with opening up to my therapist about this. I don’t feel comfortable talking to her about how I’ve tracked my cycle and how I’ve struggled with it. I feel like it’s too personal. I’d rather be anonymous. I’ve tracked my cycle and basal temp. And kept track of discharge. I’ve calculated when I’m most fertile. We’ve even tried constant sex. I’ve been eating healthy and exercising. But no result. I feel like my whole world is crashing down. I don’t want to tell my fiancé because he’ll be way too concerned. How can I deal with all of this? Is it all my fault we haven’t been able to conceive a baby? Am I being overly dramatic about not talking to my friends since they’ve had babies?
—Struggling to Cope
You have a lot going on here! I suggest these steps, in this order:
1) Find a new therapist who makes you comfortable. There is nothing that is too personal for therapy, and you are wasting your time and money if you hold things back.
2) Get help from your new therapist for your depression and self-harm. And make sure your fiancé and other people who love you know that you’re struggling and need support.
3) Reconsider avoiding friends with babies, baby talk, and baby showers. It’s like avoiding gluten. Unless it’s going to kill you, it’s just too much work! Babies are a big part of life. If it’s at all possible, reframe your thinking so that you see friends with babies as evidence that parenthood happens for most people who want it. Plus you are going to need the wisdom (and used expensive, controversial bassinets) of those mom friends when your time comes.
4) Take charge of your fertility. The right way to think of this is that nobody else on earth cares as much as you do about whether you get pregnant, and no one will take as much responsibility. Do your research, join online communities where you can learn from other people’s experiences, go to a reproductive endocrinologist (or two! Second opinions are great) and insist on having every test and treatment under the sun to figure out why you aren’t getting pregnant and how you can. Don’t let anyone dismiss you, and don’t take no for an answer. You didn’t say how long you’ve been trying, so it could be nothing or there could be something that really needs attention.
Oh, and share all of this with your fiancé rather than keeping it bottled up. You say you’re worried that he’ll be concerned, but he’s in this with you and if you’re concerned, he should be too.
More Advice From Pay Dirt
My boyfriend is extremely well-compensated for his comically corporate job. (I say “comically” because he works for the type of entity considered immoral by some.) I am very poorly compensated for my do-gooder job. I am also at the beginning of my career, given extra schooling I had, and make one-sixth of what he does. I am so freaked out by this pay disparity. We are still living with his roommate, but eventually we plan to move out and get our own place. Except he is in a position to buy a place, and I am eating a lot of PB&J so as not to spend too much. I know other couples must have figured this out. But I also secretly feel doomed. Should I dump him because I’m so in my own head about this?