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.