Meet our daugh­ter, Molly pre­ten­tious-com­pro­mise

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360BETS - Tell Me About It is writ­ten by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. Her col­umn ap­pears on Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day. E-mail her at tellme@ wash­post.com.

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.

CAROLYN NHAX

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