Meet our daughter, Molly pretentious-compromise
Dear Carolyn: I’m getting married soon, and my fiancé and I want to have two kids in the next few years (bestlaid plans, I know, but roll with me here). Neither of us is changing our name, but we don’t want to do the “kids get Dad’s last name” thing, I don’t want to make up a new last name, and he doesn’t want to hyphenate. So, what we settled on is, one kid will have my last name, one will have his, and they will each have the other parent’s last name as a middle name (so: Molly Jones Smith, John Smith Jones).
Does this sound horrifying to you? Because it sure did to my sister, who freaked out when I told her. She thinks the only moral choice (her words) is for a woman to take a man’s name, so we’re clearly not on the same page to begin with, but she thinks this is an act of cruelty to children. I don’t think it will be that big a deal, and might have some advantages, like that each kid will have an identity in school without the expectations of being Someone’s Sibling.
— Kids’ Names
Dear Kids’ Names:“ Horrifying,” no, “cruelty,” no, “immoral,” no — but forced and cutesy, and damned inconvenient for people trying to figure out how you’re related to each other and how to address envelopes? Yeah.
It’s easy to say, well, we’re doing this on principle, and things like envelopes are trivial. However, in opting for negotiating-table surname contortionism, you both come across as more interested in holding your individual ground than you do in building something together.
So even if you have no sympathy for the people who get stuck saying to each other, “Hey, let’s see if the Smith Joneses/Jones Smiths want to come to the pool with us,” then at least have some sympathy for the idea of throwing your lot in with each other on the big things. The first step is embracing the idea, both of you, that it’s better not to get your way on every little thing.
Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend of a year bought me a very expensive gift for my birthday. I know he can’t afford it, and this really bothers me because I see it as insight to potentially bad spending habits, which otherwise are currently responsible. How do I tell him I don’t want this gift without seeming like I’m ungrateful or, worse, policing his spending?
— Dollar Debutante
Dear Dollar Debutante: You say he handles his money responsibly; maybe he researched his way to a good deal, or used credit-card points, or saved his pennies with this gift in mind. Maybe his motivation for keeping clean finances is the ability to splurge when he wants.
It’s fine, and even sweet, to say you appreciate the gift while also assuring him that you’re a cheap date and you’re happy with just his company. You can also say that it’s beautiful/wonderful/exquisite, but that you won’t be able to enjoy it if the expense was a hardship for him.
But it doesn’t seem fair to take one exceptional act as the beginning of a pattern. Grant him the joy of giving on this one, and deal with patterns when they emerge.