Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Let my partner be Rich: My partner, whom I love and will likely marry, has an unfortunate nickname from his youth, a form of his name that’s often associated with a child, or, in many cases, a penis. Think “Dickie” for Richard, very similarly phallic. He loves this name and everyone in his life who has known him since he’s a kid still calls him by it.
As you might have guessed, I hate this name. I feel uncomfortable using it to address a grown man, and the few times I’ve used it talking about him early on to family, friends, even my therapist, they all made fun of him.
Until now, professionally and with newer people, he’s always gone with “Rich.” Now he is embarking on a career change and wants to use “Dickie” on all his work. The idea is he’ll be successful and widely known professionally by this name. He knows I don’t love using it personally, and is fine with that.
Please tell me there is something I can say to suggest he stick with his current professional identity and avoid having to be with little Dickie forever.
A: I’m sorry, but I don’t think you should try to change his mind on this. He’s had his name his whole life and used it in his personal life, so he knows how people react to it, and it’s not hurting anyone. It’s nice of him to let you give him a different nickname, but should get to be called what he wants to be called in his professional life. Sure, people might raise eyebrows or chuckle, but if he likes his name, he likes it.
Also, keep an eye on that therapist of yours. Making fun of a client’s partner’s name seems a little on the unprofessional side.
My first husband died when our sons were babies, and for 20 years I carried his name, raised our children, and watched our grandchildren be born. In my late 40s, I found myself in love and engaged. But then my soon-to-be mother-in-law brought up the fact I wasn’t planning on changing my name. It hadn’t been a factor until then—I have had my late husband’s name longer than my maiden one; it is my name, personally and professionally. She told my fiancé and me that it was “disrespectful” that I wasn’t planning on changing my name and I was “still clinging to a dead man.” Worst, my fiancé started bring up his mother’s rhetoric when he had been fine before. We are not having children—he doesn’t even want children—so why does my last name matter so much to him? He repeated his mother’s lie that the only reason why I wouldn’t change my name was that I was still pining for my dead husband.