The Commercial Appeal

Baby’s name from outside parents’ culture causes ‘alarm bells’ to go off


Adapted from an online discussion. Dear Carolyn: My cousin is having her first child. She and her husband (both non-hispanic White) have decided to name the baby Mateo. They work with people of Latino descent, and I believe this name is a nod to where they are situated in their lives. This seems especially strange to me nowadays when people are much more aware of cultural appropriat­ion. They do not plan to raise the child bilinguall­y. Is this name appropriat­e for them to use? I like it, but it is setting off alarm bells. – Cousin

Cousin: I understand you mean well, but this really isn’t your business.

Plus, you’re projecting – you “believe” they’re nodding to something. If you’re going to assume, then assume they just like the name.

Re: Baby Mateo: Why would they share the baby name ahead of time if they weren’t honestly interested in hearing our opinion? – Anonymous

Anonymous: Can’t tell if I’m being punked.

People can share names for about a million reasons that do not include hearing negative feedback about the name.

Even if the chosen name were an overt appropriat­ion (which Mateo isn’t, in my irrelevant opinion), I still think the bar for negative feedback is set in the exosphere. Other readers’ thoughts: h And that’s why you shouldn’t share your baby name until the kid is born. No one can give an opinion then (or they can, but it won’t change anything).

h The only response to the baby name of a baby not yours is, “How nice/ lovely/cute,” etc.

Hi, Carolyn: Someone I have known since elementary school just professed to having feelings for me. I told them I don’t see anything happening between us. I kinda did the “It’s not you, it’s me” thing, hinging it on plans that might take me to a new part of the country soon. I don’t share their feelings, though I love them dearly as a friend.

What are best practices now when I interact with them? We cross paths often – and we used to hang out together intentiona­lly, but I suspect that will have to stop now. – It’s Me

It’s Me: Why will it have to stop? Different people have different reactions, so there’s no one rule. Some people in your friend’s spot want to take a step back, to regroup and try to get past the feelings. Others would be really annoyed that being honest cost them a valued friendship, and would prefer to be trusted to handle the now-only-platonic friendship like an adult. A little awkwardnes­s to work through, then business as usual.

The only way to know which one you’re dealing with is to be upfront, kind and flexible: “Hey, I’d like to stay friends, but I don’t want to do anything insensitiv­e. We good? Or would you like some space?” That kind of thing.

If you “suspect” because that’s what your friend indicated or hinted at, then picture me backspacin­g everything and saying, yeah, if that’s what they want, then intentiona­l hangouts will have to stop. But best practices beyond that are to be friendly, not make assumption­s, and remain receptive to their friendship if/when they welcome a purely platonic one again.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost .com.

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