Q. Etiquette on Sharing Opinion of Baby Names: What's the appropriate way to act/respond when your pregnant friend tells you the name she's selected for her baby? She's asked what I think, and the truth is I think she's punishing her soon-to-be child for life with such a silly moniker. But she's obviously put a lot of thought into it, and I don't think anything positive will come from me sharing my thoughts. Is it OK to tell a white lie and just say, "Ohh, how original!" And on a similar subject, what's a good way to shut down the conversation when friends start gossiping about her choice? It's sure to come up as a topic of conversation among our group of friends, and I don't want to take part in bashing my friend's name selection.
A: Is the kid going to be named South East? Red Wisteria? You're right that when people say, "We're going to name our child Nimrod Norbert," and the decision seems final, it's best just to say, "What a distinctive name!" But you indicate your friend is not simply making an announcement, she's soliciting an opinion. In that case, you can delicately proffer one. "You'll be ruining your child's life," is not helpful. Something like, "I understand you want an original name, but I worry that your child might end up getting teased when it's time for school." Then drop it. South East will always have to option later in life to say, "Call me Sandy."
Q. Re: Childhood bully: Also please seek counseling for yourself. I got the impression from your letter that you are delighting in a sort of vengeance that this opportunity presents. If your vengeance is derailed by a community that shrugs their shoulders to your account, then you might feel even less empowered by this bully. Work on finding a sense of peace within yourself that does not depend on what happens in this election.
A: Excellent point. A terrible wrong was done to the letter writer, and my colleague Emily Bazelon, in her superb book on bullying, Sticks and Stones, documents the effects of this kind of trauma. But seeking revenge will possibly backfire. I agree the letter writer should seek personal healing.
Q. Friend Calling Too Early!: I have a good friend who insists on calling my house at 8 a.m. and waking up the entire family. I've told her that my younger children are not up that early, and I've directly told her that I cannot talk on the phone before 9:00. When she calls this early, I never, ever answer the phone, because I don't want to reinforce the behavior. But honestly, I'm tired of it (we returned from a vacation late last night and were trying to sleep in this morning when she called at 8:00 sharp). I don't know what more I can say, since I've told her not to call this early, and I can't really turn off the phone because I have elderly parents. Suggestions? I'm about to snap.
A. If she's calling on a cellphone, not a landline, can you block her call? More important, though, is the question of why your friend is such a blockhead. You told her you won't answer until 9:00, you don't pick up so there's no reward for her in calling, and you berate her when she does it. You don't mention her other sterling qualities, but unless she's slipped a psychological gear, a good friend just doesn't deliberately set out to awaken and enrage those closest to her. Maybe it's time for a time out on this relationship. Tell her you don't know what else to say, but if this behavior doesn't stop, your friendship is going to go on a serious break.
Q. Family vs. Freedom: I am a 24-year-old woman. After graduating college two years ago, I moved across the country to start my career, and I now live nine hours away from my family. When I was in college I visited my family several times a year, but since graduating I now only make the trek for Christmas. My job only gives me 14 vacation days. I use five of those for Christmas, and the remaining nine I would like to use for traveling and going on adventures with my friends and boyfriend. However, this is a growing point of contention between me, my dad, and my stepmom. They are becoming increasingly angry that I do not visit home more, and constantly try to guilt me into visiting. Now we aren't even on speaking terms because they refuse to talk to me until I visit. I do miss my family, but I also want to see the world while I'm still young and have relatively few responsibilities. Also, in the six years since I moved out, they have only visited me twice, although I have invited them multiple times. Am I a horrible, selfish daughter, or am I spending my youth wisely?
A: Now that's the way to make a child want to come and see you: Give your kid the silent treatment until she schleps to your home. I don't know how you resolve this if they refuse to talk to you except in person, but by whatever means possible, try to broach this again. Perhaps say you really miss them and since you have such limited vacation time, you were hoping that this year they could take some vacation and come out and see you. Let them at least articulate why visits are only one way. If they refuse then explain that you wish you all could see each other more, but given your distance and your vacation schedule you're going to have to keep on the Christmas routine. Then say there are so many technologies that help people stay in touch that you'd like to have maybe a once-a-week Skype conversation and that you might all find it really fun. If they prefer to punish and stew, then enjoy spending your free time more happily.
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