Dear Prudence: My family is using nicknames my nephew made up, and it's awful.

Help! My Family Calls Everyone by the Nicknames My Baby Nephew Makes Up.

Help! My Family Calls Everyone by the Nicknames My Baby Nephew Makes Up.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 10 2013 6:00 AM

Mork and Mommy

In a live chat, Prudie offers advice about out-of-control family nicknames.

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Q. Re: Husband and wife look-a-like: After too many of these questions, I would probably just answer "yes" very dryly and move the conversation to another topic, just to see the reactions.

A: Agreed. They could also add that at this time of year it's a great benefit to only have one set of parents they have to visit.

Q. Past Cheater: I have been with my boyfriend for four years. We live together and things are currently going great. We are talking about marriage and future children. The problem is when we met I was single and extremely promiscuous. Mostly because of my low self-esteem and need to feel loved. Unfortunately I had a hard time going from that lifestyle to an exclusive relationship and I ended up cheating on my boyfriend with three of my "friends with benefits" within the first couple of months. It hasn't happened again and I completely cut off contact with all of my previous lovers. My question is, when my boyfriend proposes and I accept, should I tell him about my infidelity so our marriage isn't based on a lie, or is it acceptable to not tell him since it was four years ago and hasn't happened again?


A: I think you should consider those first couple of months a trial run for your real relationship. Your committed relationship began almost four years ago, after you cut off your previous lovers. Three-plus years is plenty of time to prove to yourself that you've changed. There's no point in undermining your happy relationship now with revelations about behavior that's far in the past and hasn't been repeated. Living with knowing what you almost lost should help keep you faithful. Accept the proposal equanimity and joy.

Q. Two Brides, Father/Daughter Dance Etiquette: My girlfriend and I are getting married. She wants to have a father/daughter dance and I really don't want to. I don't mind if she dances with her father, but my feelings toward my father are rather complicated and I'd rather just skip the whole tradition, though my father will attend the wedding. I feel very awkward about this because if she dances and I skip, it WILL be noticed. I brought this up with her but I believe she feels like I'm pressuring her to skip the tradition for my sake, which is understandable from her point of view. I definitely don't want her to sacrifice her happiness just to make an awkward situation less awkward. I'm at a loss.

A: Since you don't want to do it, she shouldn't force you to nor should you force her not to. When the dances start you two should get out on the floor for the first dance. Then have the M.C. open up the floor, and at that point, your girlfriend and her father should have the next dance. You can sit it out or dance with whomever you like.

Q. Overstepping Substitute Teacher: My son is in the third grade, and last week they had a substitute teacher. My son came home to tell me a girl in the class asked the teacher if Santa was real (keep in mind these are 8 and 9 year olds) and she said no! Am I wrong to thinks she should have deflected this question to the child's parents? My son was sad to think that Santa might not be real. Should this be brought up with the school or will I then be overstepping? As far as my son goes, we cleared up that Santa is real if you believe, and he now understands not everyone believes. It worked out OK with us, but there were 15 other kids subjected to that same answer from an adult.

A: I'm going to guess this substitute's name is Miss Viola Swamp. This is a substitute who really doesn't have a feel for third graders if she doesn't know how to gracefully not answer that question. But the news about Santa was not going to be able to be kept under wraps forever. You know you're at the outer limit of kids fervently believing he's real. You handled this beautifully for you son. If you want to talk to the school it should be in the spirit of informing them that this happened, not as a demand that Miss Swamp never be allowed in the school again.

Q. Work/Life Balance: I am a 32-year-old attorney and a mom of a 2-year-old daughter. For the past few years, I have worked at a corporation with an easy 8 to 5 schedule and lots of flexibility. I'm also bored out of my mind. I really want to get into a firm so that I can learn new skills and be challenged, but law firms aren't known for being family friendly. There's a firm interested in me, but they made a point of emphasizing that they never know what time they'll be home and they come into the office every weekend. I am so torn and miserable as it really seems I have to choose between the career I want and time with my daughter. She is my joy and the most important thing in my life. But I've been trying to take better care of myself, as well, and changing jobs is really necessary to do that. My daughter goes to bed at 7 p.m. I could end up not spending time with her at all during the week and that breaks my heart. How do I decide what to do?

A: You stop thinking of this as an binary choice. Your options are far greater than stay in the easy job you hate or take the more challenging one with brutal hours. I know the economy remains weak, but it sounds as if you are in a great position to start exploring other options. There may be all sorts of interesting jobs that would provide you with the necessary flexibility. So you need to take charge of this search. It could also be that there are opportunities to make your job more engaging at your current firm—explore those. You are in the enviable position of having the kind of skills and earning the kind of income that allows you the possibility of being professionally satisfied while being able to get enough time with your precious little girl.

Q. Re: Past Cheater: I have noticed a little bit of a double standard when it comes to men versus women cheating. I'm pretty certain that you would NOT have given a man a pass if he had admitted to cheating on his current girlfriend, not one but three times. What gives?

A: Nope. If the situation were reversed I would have said the same thing. I have written often that I believe in honesty, but there are some things that are just best lived with and not revealed. A contained infidelity that is regretted and not repeated (OK, let's put the three times under a collective umbrella) is one of those things. Coming clean as a way of seeking absolution can end up causing unnecessary pain and havoc for the innocent partner.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone. Stay safe, more snow and ice ahead!

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.