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#728: Baby names, opinions, and old wounds.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I don’t want to get too into backstory here, but my mother was a Darth Vader parent. The abuse was never physical, but emotional/verbal abuse and gaslighting were common. Darth Mom died last year. My sister and brother-in-law—let’s call them Leia and Han—are now expecting a baby girl. I don’t think anyone has said anything to *them* yet, but multiple people have told *me* that they’re disappointed that the baby won’t be named after Darth Mom or that they’re “so very sad” that the baby will never get the chance to meet her “wonderful grandmother.” And I just. No. A world of no. All of the NO.

Han is taking most of the blame for the name thing because he was named after a deceased family member and he wants the baby to have a name of her own. So that’s a script I’ve been using when people bring up the idea of naming the baby for Darth Mom. But I have no idea what to do when people tell me how sad it is that the baby will never meet Darth Mom. I understand that they mean well and they don’t know that Darth Mom was secretly a Sith Lord, but I am so relieved that the baby will never have to meet her grandmother that I kind of want to throttle these people. I have no idea what to say here and I’m afraid I’m going to snap and start airing dirty laundry, and nobody wants that.

Any kind of script or even a mantra for this situation would be much appreciated.

Thank you,

Luke

Dear Luke:

That sounds annoying and exhausting. As tempting as it is to say “Wow, well, I wish I had the good impression of her that you do and that I could say the same, but, nope,” or “Palpatine Voldemort Sauron is also a cool baby name,” I think it would be equally exhausting for you to take on the burden of correcting people’s impression of your mom. So why don’t we try for a response that is true but doesn’t invest you emotionally?

Bland agreement: “Mom would have been excited to meet the baby.””Mom would have had a lot to say about that I am sure.””Mom would have had many opinions about that.”

Vague honesty: “That’s a very sad subject.” “That’s a bit painful for me to discuss, sorry.” “It’s very hard for me to talk about Mom still.”

A reminder that certain things are none-of-anyone-else’s-business: “I have no idea what they are naming the baby. It would take a braver person than me to ask an expectant parent about something that personal, but, go nuts I guess.” “You never know with baby names until the kid is born, do you? Plenty of my friends thought they were having an Anestes or a Theo but when the baby came out it was obviously a Christos.” “I don’t know what’s on their name list, it’s top-secret.”

What you’re already doing: There sure are lots of great old family names they could pass down.” “_____ is a great name, but I think Han & Leia want to start fresh with this generation.”

Key to all of these is a subject change. “How are things with you?” “Wherever did you get that nifty ______ you are wearing?” “What was that book you were reading earlier?” “How did your parents choose your name?” “If you could go back in time and be named after someone in your family, who would it be?”

And if people won’t accept the subject change and insist on harping on the name thing, try, “Well, it’s obvious you have a lot of opinions about that.” “You sure seem very concerned about this.” “I’m sure my sister will pick a great name.” “I can’t wait to meet her, whatever her name is.” “Mom’s death is still fresh, I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I can’t talk about it today.”

Also key: Being really nice to yourself if these questions are making you tired and stressed. These people aren’t trying to open old wounds, but you are smart to recognize that’s what is actually happening, so take care of yourself around this. It’s almost harder to grieve for an awful person, because you’ve been grieving so long for the relationship you should have had and because the cultural scripts are all assuming that you miss her.

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260 comments
  1. Jill said:

    Ugh. This is why we refused to divulge our sons’ names until after they were born. And we DID name our boys after deceased relatives. But even then we got crap from people. It was why this relative and not that one? Why that side of the family and not this one? My sister in a mixed race marriage chose very ethnic sounding names from her husband’s culture and got blasted for that. My second sister chose the trendy, almost made up names and got blasted for that. My brother used alternate spelling for his kids’ names and got blasted.

    People just get irrationally opinionated about baby names – – for kids that aren’t even theirs. I love all the Captain’s scripts. I’d keep it just as simple as the one-liners suggested followed by an immediate subject change away from this boring topic.

    • Whenever anyone I know starts bashing baby names, especially if the name deviates in the slightest from the narrow list of “Approved white, middle class, American names” I love to blithely start gushing about how wonderful those parents are for thinking of their child’s future.

      They’ll be less of a target for identity theft! Their insurance company won’t stick them with someone else’s $30,000 bill! They’ll never be confused on a background check with a sex offender! They won’t have to deal with the headache of being one of four Lisas in their kindergarten class! (All. True. Stories.)

      The baby name basher may bluster a bit, but I’ve yet to meet anyone with a coherent response.

      • monologue said:

        This is great. Other ones that have worked well for me, “Well, it’s not my kid so…” /implied who cares.

        If the other person’s being racist: “Is that a weird name though?” “You might want to think about why that name is considered weird.”

        • Kathryn said:

          Yeah, there’s nothing quite like how racist people can be when they start commenting on names. Holy mother of pearl.

          In my mostly white extended group of aquaintances, two sets of (white) couples have given their kids unique spellings of already very rare names. And wouldn’t you know it, these two couples are always some of the first people to make coded remarks about identifiably black names. It drives me up the fucking wall.

          • manybellsdown said:

            I don’t know if you remember – or even heard – this story, but about 10 years ago, the state Education Secretary of California made a rude joke about a 6-year-old girl’s name. The girl was named “Isis” and people called him racist, saying that he never would have said that to a white child!

            Except, she was. Blonde, blue-eyed, and white as can be. Better never to assume things based on someone’s name!

          • CJ said:

            My unusual first name is almost unknown among white Americans. However, one occasionally encounters it among black Americans, so people sort of have that expectation when the name is mentioned. I didn’t realize this until a black coworker pointed it out to me. She was new to the company and had only seen my name in the employee phone directory, and automatically assumed that I was black like her. I remember how surprised she was when she discovered that I was white.

            Naturally, I couldn’t wait to share this piece of trivia with my racist mother who loves the name so much that she bestowed it on her first born. hehehe

          • The girl was named “Isis”

            I am guessing that he did not remember his eighth-grade segment on Greek and Roman mythology.

      • Andie said:

        “They’ll have great SEO! I bet John Smith can’t say that!” (saw something like this on Tumblr)

        • Monica said:

          I work in digital – this is excellent! lol

      • manybellsdown said:

        Hah that’s fantastic – coming from someone named “Jennifer Commonlastname” who has, more than once, gotten emails containing confidential information for another person with the same name. I’ve never had health insurance in Oklahoma, I should not be getting emails from them!

        • I have been emailed a SHOCKINGLY high number of credit reports and other financial data, because for my gmail address I use part of my name that turns out to be a common surname in parts of the US that have a different ethnic makeup than the one I live in. I’m astounded every time at how people do not verify this info!

        • Sara said:

          I work in insurance. I tell you what, John Richard Johnson, IV causes no end of problems. Talitha McKenzie Snow Whitmore is so, so easy to work with. (Totally made up names).

          • Jenesis said:

            I have definitely experienced the common name fatigue. High school, I was accused of stealing someone else’s gym clothes because we had the same first name and last initial. College, my school-issued email had a “2” awkwardly appended to it because someone else enrolled at the school had the same name as me and the standard email formatting didn’t work. Law school, I was in a class with a Jen, a Jenn, a Gennie, a Jenny, and a Jennifer all within approximately 5 seats of each other; the same class had a Christie, a Christina, and a Tina. And yes, I’ve gotten a few of those confidential emails to not-me as well.

            The worst was my dentist’s office who would repeatedly call Samename Definitelynotme to confirm appointments that I had made, which she ended up canceling. For the longest time I didn’t notice because my mother scheduled all my doctor’s appointments, but this latest time, when I scheduled the appointment and drove myself, I ended up chewing out the receptionist, the dentist’s assistant, and the dentist (when he asked why I looked like I wasn’t feeling well) over their mistake.

            Luckily I have the option of adding on a very rare middle name as necessary. It’s the only way I can actually find myself in Google results.

          • In my first school class of 14 pupils, there were 6 girls, four of whom were called Emma.

            A club I belonged to in my early teens had 13 girls and there were five Sarahs. To make matters worse, two were Sarah A and two were Sarah B.

            Exhausting!

      • Jenny Islander said:

        The only thing I think matters is whether the child, in the social circle the parents expect to be living in for the next 10-15 years, is going to have to spell it over and over and OVER. IOW, if pretty much everybody your family knows is going to pronounce the name Lavender like the flower and spell “l, long E, v, short O, n, d, rrr sound at the end” L-E-V-O-N-D-E-R, don’t name your child Lavender and make your child go “No, it’s lee-VON-durr” umpteen times a day. Or, why I’m glad I’m not Gynnye Eylondre.

        Oh, and don’t name your child something embarrassing,* demeaning, or creepy. But that should go without saying. Unfortunately it doesn’t. 😦

        *Yes, every kid will be embarrassed by their name at the age when they are also incredibly embarrassed by your existence in their general vicinity. But don’t name a kid Tallulah Does the Hula from Hawaii; save that for your purebred spaniel.

        • Andie said:

          I know a kid named Merica, and it’s pronouced Marissa.. and everytime I see her name I want to say ‘Murrrica.

        • Kathryn said:

          I have to agree with this; it gets very frustrating. My name (to the left!) is a legitimate, traditional spelling of a fairly common name. But because there are multiple spellings and because people are somehow unaware of this one, I have to spell it for everyone I meet. Constantly. And I have to spell my last name for them, too. Oh, and my middle name is uncommon and has multiple spellings! It’s just really, really exhausting sometimes, especially when I spell my name for someone and *watch them write it down differently.* I’ve had to correct the spelling of my name on bank accounts, on school records, on name tags…the list goes on and on. My only rule for my future children is that they not have to spell their first names constantly. I won’t even do names with multiple traditional spellings, like Michelle/Michele or Sarah/Sarah. Middle names, however, are fair game. 🙂

          (And don’t get me started on when I introduce myself to someone as Kathryn and they say, “Nice to meet you, Kate.” I am very, very careful to ask people with common nicknames — Christopher, James, Jennifer, etc. — if they prefer the nickname or the real deal.)

          • Kathryn said:

            Sarah/Sara! Gah, typos galore. Sorry, y’all.

          • Hello, fellow Kathryn! I get such crap about my spelling, it’s not even funny. And in grade school, I was always one of 4-8 Kathryns/Katherines/Catherines, etc–and we all went by Katie/Katy. Good lord.

            That being said, ours IS the superior spelling so yay for us 😉

          • TheLadyK said:

            i think I wrote half of this.

            I love my Name (same one, same spelling), and yeah I get to carefully spell it for people a lot,but I don’t mind that part over much. The I stand shortening to something not-me, how ever? Death.

          • Jane said:

            My actual first name has one standard spelling (you can change out the second vowel with a “y” — I think I’ve seen that) but the nickname my parents chose for me has. . . like. . . five spellings, and they used an old-fashioned one that doesn’t follow from the spelling of the whole name. I’m quite relieved to drop the nickname and use my actual name for that reason (which, in my opinion, sits at a sweet spot of “not the most common ever” and “common enough for the spelling to be widely familiar.”)

          • golden peanut said:

            My last name is a common, easy to understand, pronounce, and spell English word, and people still can’t spell it. I’ve gotten used to just spelling it right after I say it. My

          • Trix said:

            To be honest, I don’t think there’s any such platonic ideal when it comes to names. I do agree that it’s frustrating when someone spells their name like a common English word and then insists it is pronounced completely differently because it’s their *name*. If it looks like “Lavender”, then I’m sorry, that’s how I’m going to pronounce it first off without hearing you say it.

            I have a friend that has a name derived from a French masculine name that she insists is pronounced with a hard “G”. In French, the original is “Gi-” so it’s most certainly a soft G (which we do pronounce differently in English). I have to consciously remind me every time I read the name which person it’s referring to (and how she wants it pronounced!)

            But the other way round, I cannot think of any name that does not have alternate spellings. Common Anglo varieties or not – even something like “John Smith”. Frankly, the names that are less Anglo but from European origins tend to be more consistently spelled. I always ask, because even if you think someone has a common name, there may well be an alternate you don’t know of – I remember being tripped up by “Tyffanny” once.

            What irritates me is when I have spelled out my name, or it’s in my email signature (and my email address!) and yet someone *still* spells it incorrectly. My first name – yes, a common Anglo name – has four alternate spellings I’ve seen, and my family name is Mac-, which often gets rendered Mc- by people not paying attention.

          • B said:

            With your name, I ask “C or K? I or Y?” And then I will do my utmost to allllways spell it right.

            I work with someone with your spelling and she is very nice. In my head you are nice by association 🙂

          • My mother’s name is also Kathryn and I know she’s had numerous instances like that. Of course, she didn’t learn from that, and she named me Ann (WITHOUT an E) so I’ve had similar struggles. Our surnames are also less common spellings of fairly common names, so it’s even worse.

          • quinalla said:

            Another Kathryn here too, though I was lucky that apparently everyone in my area growing up used the Kathryn spelling and we also all abbreviated it to Katie. There were three of us that were very good friends in high school that actually numbered ourselves Katie 1, Katie 2 & Katie 3. And my maiden name, people spelled it wrong all the time even though it is exactly the same as a brand that everyone knows, LOL, you can’t win! My married name is much less common, but should be easy to spell, but I still have to spell it to everyone.

            With my children, we tried to pick names that are easy to pronounce and spell, but are not the most popular and names we liked obviously. My name was number 1 in the USA the year I was born. I love the names we picked and while we picked them way before the children were born, we never shared them until after the children were named as people are far, far less likely to make comments (to your face) on names when the children already are named. If you mention them before, a lot of people take that as an invitation to make every horrible and rude comment they can think of!

            For the LW, I think the Captain’s response is great. The only thing I would add that would help me, not sure if it would help you too, is to try and re-frame folks questions in my mind. They (likely) have good intentions, so I’d re-frame their questions in my mind as “It’s too bad she won’t get to meet her wonderful Grandma.” as yup, even if she were still alive, she never would have gotten to have a wonderful grandma because she was actually Darth Grandma and would answer appropriately like “It’s sad, isn’t it.” or something like Captain suggested that is truthful to your feelings without having to get into a discussion about how she was really Darth Mom. And I would definitely respond to baby name nonsense with something like “I wouldn’t touch a baby name discussion with a 10 ft pole.” or something similar as seriously, no! If people want your advice especially on a topic this fraught, they will ask, otherwise keep your mouth shut 🙂

        • Brooks said:

          I once knew a Malissa. Her father was an ethnographic linguist (or something along those lines), and so he spelled her name that way so that people from Spanish/French-speaking backgrounds would pronounce it correctly. Apparently it worked quite well for that, but she was always having to tell people how to spell it.

        • aebhel said:

          Yeah, I have an unusual name that I always have to spell, but at least it sounds unusual, so I at least don’t have the issue of ‘unusual spelling for common-counding name’ which sounds like a giant headache.

    • jaynn said:

      I try not to be too vocal about it, but baby names are a bit of a bugbear of mine. My parents went similar to your first sister, (French, but I grew up anglophone) trying for a unique name, and boy did they succeed. End result, I’ve spent thirty years correcting people on both spellingand pronunciation of my name and it took about half that time to get old. (Added fun, my husbands surname is similarly an issue) At this point I just want Ise my credit card without a cashier commenting on it.

      • CJ said:

        I have one of those unusual names too and have spent my life enduring all the spelling and pronunciation errors, as well as random people (like cashiers) always seeming to comment on it. My unusual name also makes it difficult to travel incognito when I might otherwise want to remain anonymous. I hated my name growing up, as my peers would often compare it to rhyming words or similar sounding words. This got old very fast since the words chosen always seemed to be the same across different peer groups. All that being said, I now like my unusual name despite its disadvantages. It looks pretty when written, and has lots of well spaced vowels. Moreover, I can honestly say that I’m the only girl I know who was named after a famous warlord. lol

        • here for the cookies said:

          KHAAAAAAAAN! ?

          • Alias Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK said:

            Gods, I wish I could thumbs up that.

          • Mayati said:

            I’m starting a slow clap for this.

        • Nerdmama said:

          Unusual first and last name here! Nobody ever spells my first name right and even when I’m wearing a nametag, I get called similar, more common names instead. My last name went from something Polish to a common noun/verb when I married, and I still have to spell it out for people. (It’s also a female first name to add to the confusion.) Still, even with all the problems, I love my name!

        • Elizabeth said:

          Totally off topic, but I love that one of your favorite things about your name is the well spaced vowels. The way words sound and look is so often underappreciated *wordnerd out*

          • B said:

            Oh oh oh I read about words that are alternate CVCVC recently, I never realised they were rare. Damned I can remember what the word is for them though!

            (In a book by David Crystal, By Hook or by Crook)

      • wondering said:

        Just popping up to say that I really enjoy my unusual name with way too many consonants in it. I’m just very careful spelling it over the phone and always make them read it back to me if it is something important (like a utility company). It’s a great way to deal with cold callers – if they can’t pronounce the name, then it’s definitely not someone who knows me.

        • Skeetpea said:

          I use that last feature a lot. On the other hand, one common mispronunciation is an obscenity. And as it happens, there’s another person in town with the same unusual surname and the same forename, and debt collectors are after them.

          • manybellsdown said:

            Oh man, that’s worse than my problem; in my previous town there was another “M. Bellsdown” who owned a house across town, and I got on the order of 10 calls a week from contractors wanting to do work on it. I got used to asking “Are you calling for Many or Margaret?” every time someone asked to speak to “Mrs. Bellsdown”. There’d be a hesitation, while they tried to guess, and then they’d invariably say “Margaret”.

            And some of them would flat-out lie about having spoken to her at my number before, or having been given this number by her personally. This went on for *seven years*. It’s a good thing I was renting, because there wasn’t a contractor within 40 miles I would have trusted at that point.

          • MadDissector said:

            I once heard the story of two brothers. One was a quite decent guy, father of three, steady job. The other was a gambler and good-for-nothing, and owed a lot of money to particulars who wouldn’t care how they would get the money back. So, what usually happened was that the good-for-nothing brother refused to pay, and then these people would go for the phone book, find the decent brother with the same surnames, and menace him saying that they would harm the brother or his family. The brother kept paying the debts until the day that he had enough and went to the register. Their first family name was Gimenez. So he went and changed the family name to Jimenez, which is pronounced the same. That stopped the flow of people demanding money.

          • Cricket said:

            My maternal grandfather had an unusual first name and used an unrelated common name as a nickname. It was always clear if someone was trying to contact him or investigate him because they’d use his very distinct legal name rather than the nickname he actually used.

          • Andie said:

            “My maternal grandfather had an unusual first name and used an unrelated common name as a nickname.”

            My ex-husband had the same deal.

        • Cactus said:

          My last name isn’t even particularly unusual–there was a character on a well-known TV show with said name for a while–but it still trips people up. So I follow the same rule: if they can’t pronounce my name, I tell them that they have the wrong number and hang up.

        • Izzy said:

          Oh yes. I love catching telephone solicitors out. To add to the fun (we have not one but two hard-to-pronounce last names!), nobody in my family uses their first name. Only middle names. I know what’s happening by the end of the first syllable. Good times!

        • Dizzy said:

          My married name was DesMoines. With two silent s. Besides the joy of getting rid of my Darth ex, I was so relieved to go back to my family name, which is spelled exactly as it’s pronounced. Because no one ever. ever. EVER. pronounced it correctly. It got super frustrating.

          Not that I’m the only one, mind you. When I was in the Army, they’d have us do some appointments in huge groups–so everyone got a dental inspection the same day, then rescheduled later for cleaning/filling/whatever you needed. When the nurse/tech would come for the next person, you could see them get to a difficult last name, turn it over in their heads, give up, and then call out the last four digits of the person’s social security number.

      • OTWF said:

        Similar story, though not as bad. I have a unisex name that is predominantly a boy’s name, but is spelled in the “girl’s” way. It sounds a lot like several common girl names. I constantly have to say my name two or three times to get someone to hear it correctly, and frequently have to clarify the spelling. I don’t mind it much these days, but it was a pain growing up, especially as adults would go on about it and I couldn’t change the subject as easily. My significant other and his sibling also have unisex names, and wants to continue that with whatever children we have. Probably because of my unisex name, I’d probably rather a more feminine (and verbally distinct) name that offers a unisex abbreviation for any female children.

        • wondering said:

          My sister has the same problem and she finds it very annoying. She just turned 19 and as a birthday gift, I offered to pay for a name change if she wanted. She has said yes, but now finds she can’t settle on a name, and is thinking about just adding a middle name instead of changing the offending first name.

          • Caraval said:

            That is an awesome idea and gift! Welcome to the Amazing Sister Club.

        • Neuroturtle said:

          Oh hey, me too! There are many feminine spellings of my first name, but I have the masculine one. And my last name is a common male first name. Every appointment for the past few years, the person will call out “Turtle Neuro?” looking for a man, and end up totally confused when a woman stands up.

          I think the profuse apologies are more annoying, though. Yes, you misgendered my name. BFD, I’m used to it. Stop acting like it’s a mortal sin.

      • thegirlfrommarz said:

        I have an unusual last name (only 4 of us in the UK, and that’s my nuclear family) and have got to the point that when I give my name, I give it as “firstname lastnamewouldyoulikemetospellthatforyou”. I don’t mind people asking me about it (which happens a lot), and have a little spiel I trot out. It does make me less likely to ask other people about their unusual names, though!

        • Jane said:

          Oh, ha, my last name isn’t *that* uncommon (there are definitely people in at least FOUR states who can pronounce it), but I don’t even ask before I start spelling it for any kind of official purchase/document.

        • Queen of Scarves said:

          Yeah, I was going to say I just say my name then start spelling it usually. Whether in my home country or the one I’m now living in.

          • Jane said:

            Ironically, my home country has a much bigger problem with my last name than the Francophone country where I did my master’s degree. People where I did my bachelor came up with dozens of mispronunciations or just didn’t attempt the name, but I guess it looks French *enough* that French-speakers are unperturbed by it. They mispronounce it, but they all mispronounce it *exactly the same way*, so I can pronounce it that way and generally they can even spell it based on hearing it.

            Of course, I later found out that the name is probably from the country where I did the master’s (though not from the Francophone end of it), so that might be why it didn’t throw people so much.

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            Same here — I have the more common spelling of my first and last name, but they both have alternate spellings and I figure it’s better to just spell it out to make sure. And if someone’s native language isn’t English, I have no idea what they might think the logical spelling is.

          • Alexia said:

            I also have a francophone name that’s very common in one part of my home country. I’m now living in another francophone area of said home country, and for some reason, here they can never spell it right. Never. They believe it’s a muslim last name or something, even though it clearly has a French accent in it.

        • My maiden surname was just the same (I’ve done a LOT of research and everyone in the world with that name can be traced back to one pair of common ancestors). I had that name for 32 years and in that time TWO people got it right first time.

          So I opted to change my name when I got married. My new name’s far less unusual but sounds a little like another, much more common name. So what people tend to come out with is a sort of mash-up of my actual name and the more common one.

        • strophoria said:

          I have surname that isn’t french, and doesnt look french, but *sounds* like it could be. I recently moved to a francophone area and I am already lastname-sans-un-“e” on the phone. As a bonus my previously unisex first name is now generally a man’s name, so I get misgendered in new and exciting ways! (I am non-binary)

      • Phospherocity said:

        Mine is an unusual/old-fashioned pronunciation of an otherwise fairly popular name. Have still never worked out the right point in the conversation to say “Actually, it’s LIZA not LISA” (as an example, not actually my name) nor quite what to do when you have been friends with someone for FOUR YEARS and they still get it wrong every time. The thing I can’t stand is when people basically CORRECT me. Me: My name is Liza! “What? What? You’re name’s what?” Me: *spells it* Them: OH, LISA!

        • Andie said:

          I made the mistake with my youngest of not actually specifying how to pronounce her name for people when she was young, and as it turns out, the pronunciation that stuck was actually not the correct pronunciation for the variation on the spelling we chose. (Her first name is the same as the last name of one of the more famous presidents of recent years).

          As for my oldest, I picked out her name when I was fifteen, and up until she was born, five years later, NO ONE had any difficulty pronouncing it. After she was born and the registration was signed, we got all manner of bizarre pronunciations (HER first name is the same the last name of a famous actress from the 40s and another kinda famous actress from the 90s)

          • perlhaqr said:

            Man, how hard can it be to pronounce “Roosevelt”? 😀

        • thepaintedlady said:

          I have a first name AND a last name that have several different spellings (Mac/Mc, Malley/Mally, for example), and also my first name looks as much like a last name as my last name does. I have also had friends who have known me for YEARS, who will hear me grousing about how no one knows which name is my first name and interject, “So which *is* your first name?” And this in the era of facebook meaning they likely scroll past my correct name in its entirety and in the correct order on a daily basis. And my boss regularly uses the wrong spelling of my name when referring to me in department emails, which is infuriating given that he has to click on my name to add me to an email.

          • It seriously annoys me when people spell my name wrong when they’re replying to comments I’ve made on Facebook. I mean, it’s right in freaking front of you. Doesn’t take that much effort to pay someone the small respect of paying attention to what their actual name is.

        • Or when you introduce yourself to someone at a party, so they’re saying your name precisely as you told them, and a mutual friend CORRECTS THEM IN FRONT OF YOU TO THE WRONG PRONUNCIATION.

        • Cricket said:

          My first name has two common pronunciations among anglophones – it’s about a 50/50 chance of someone using “my” pronunciation when I meet them. The best way to get folks to remember the way I pronounce it is for me to neigh like a horse to replicate the crucial varied vowel. People usually laugh/seem puzzled, but then they say my name correctly!

      • My parents went VERY old fashioned, found a long-dead relative on my mom’s side and a living she-devil parent on my dad’s, which both had an already unusual old-fashioned name but spelled even more unusually (just for funsies), and I consider it a great triumph when I am called by the right name, as opposed to anything vaguely feminine that starts with an M (I look up whenever any M-name is mentioned within earshot), and it is likely I will be good friends with people who care enough to spell it right consistently. (It is also my middle name, so I have a handy telemarketer / annoying caller filter: anyone calling me by my unused first name is not my friend and does not have my best interests in mind. I can hang up without hesitation.)

        Never for us will be the joy of personalized tchotchkes in a gift store or reading a popular book with a protagonist that shares our name, my friend. *fistbump of solidarity*

        (It also used to make me very easy to stalk before I hid all traces of myself online and started using a pseudonym exclusively.)

        On the plus side, if and when I do anything worthy of note, my friends will be pretty sure it was me who did it. (If they spell my name right, that is.) And I was able to get a website and email with my name spelled correctly without any problems. So, there’s that! Maybe you can, too! Huzzah?

        • Jaz said:

          I had a stalker once, who found me from my msn-handle (which used to be NameBirthyear). I can be found just knowing how to spell my first name. These days I mostly go by a nick-name and I have friends I’ve known for years who don’t know my real name.

        • thelittlepakeha said:

          I literally changed my surname so I couldn’t be stalked. (Two branches of the family in the country. If we don’t know someone with that name, we know who does.) My dad didn’t really understand until someone turned up at the house asking for help with something in the field he’s very well-known in. Now I use my mother’s maiden name – Miller 😀

      • Commander Banana said:

        My parents plucked my name from a baby book without actually knowing how to pronounce it – so while I have a name that is not all that uncommon, the pronunciation they use is weird. I don’t have a middle name I can use, and yeah, thirty years of having to explain how to say my name has gotten old. Most people meeting me for the first time either pronounce it the way it’s commonly said (fine with me) or horribly mangle it by adding extra sounds and letters to a name that isn’t that long. Weird.

      • Angel said:

        I chose an unusual first name. My given name is a pretty easy one, but I decided over five years ago to go by a nickname, which I somehow unvented? (Invented, but discovered later it already existed as a nickname for my name, albeit a very uncommon one.) I love how it sounds and how it’s spelled, and I still don’t mind spelling it out for people or correcting their pronunciation.

        I have a difficult last name. It’s one syllable but spelled it looks like two (there’s some unnecessary letters — thanks, Irish!), so I always have to correct that as well. When I was young I used to say that one of the great things about getting married was I could ditch the difficult surname… then I took up with a boy whose name is harder than mine. Not only that, but it alliterates with my given first name. Awesome. (I’m contemplating changing my name legally to my chosen name, when we get married. An alliterative legal name does not appeal to me — nor do the initials EAE.)

    • IKR? What IS it with people and baby names? A friend of mine posted on FB (during a particularly emotional time in her pregnancy) about how hurt she was that people kept criticizing her baby name and asking them to please stop. The baby’s name – Mitchell. I can’t imagine a scenario where in real life I would comment on someone’s name choice. If I thought it was awful they would probably get an “oh . . . how original!” while I tried to conjure up images of white walls to keep my face from betraying my real thoughts. That said, I do love the STFU baby name take-downs.

      • manybellsdown said:

        This is why my best friend of 25+ years didn’t even tell ME the names she’d chosen for her kids until they were born. Didn’t stop her mother from giving her constant grief over what she “should” name them, though. And she was only naming them Catherine and Alexander.

        • Ole Golly said:

          Those are both GREAT (get it?) names!

          • Well played! 😀

      • Laughing Giraffe said:

        Some friends of mine gave their daughter an unusual name that could be shortened to something more “normal” sounding. My mother – yes, the mother of a high school friend of the parents of the child – will every so often comment on what a weird name it is, despite her contact with said child being limited to saying hello to the mother once while she was pregnant.
        I am also forbidden from ever naming any fruit of my loins either Madison or Mackenzie, because Mom’s a public school teacher and has apparently had it with those names. This from a woman who gave my brother the middle name Sheldon.

        • thelittlepakeha said:

          lol my flatmate picked Madison as one of her daughter’s middle names. I find it kind of eyerolly but I’ve never felt the need to *tell* her that. It’s a middle name and it’s not my kid.

      • dataphiliac said:

        I never ask people what the name is before the baby is born, because I don’t want to be in the position of having to say something if I think it’s stupid. Once they’re born it’s a done deal and I always say it’s lovely even if I hate it. Also, it just feels weird to know the baby’s name before they’re even born. When I have kids I’m not going to tell anyone before they’re born (well, maybe my best friend. Maybe.)

        I also find that as ridiculous as some names seem at first, once the baby starts growing up it just becomes their name and you don’t think about it as much.

    • TootsNYC said:

      Boy, they all do think they’re entitled to tell you their opinion, aren’t they? I told my husband, I didn’t want to reveal the name, or even get stuck in a convo in which people were suggesting names. So when someone asked if we’d picked a name and he said yes, I panicked. I should have trusted him; his next words were: “Gomez if it’s a boy, Morticia if it’s a girl.” So the person asked me, “You’ll tell me!” I’m no dummy; I said, “Gomez if it’s a boy, Morticia if it’s a girl.” It shut them down completely.

      For the OP, I’d suggest relying on some general platitudes with more than one meaning. “Oh, it’s so sad the baby won’t get to meet Grandma!” And you reply, “Yeah, a good grandma is a valuable thing for a kid. It’s too bad Baby won’t get that.” And you will know what that means.

  2. All excellent advice. This is not something I’ve had to deal with (no kids! 🙂 but as a veteran of awkward interactions with well-meaning people about Difficult Family Members and/or Difficult Dead People, practice your deflections, because it’s the deflection that’s really key. Anyone who isn’t well-meaning won’t take the deflection, but then you’ll know that nuclear options are on the table.

    And for yourself–please, please be kind to yourself. I’m sure this has been and continues to be very difficult, and you don’t owe anything to anyone. If you don’t want to talk about it, just stop people right there and say “I’m sorry, I can’t talk about this.” If they won’t stop, they’re being rude–and more than rude, *cruel*–and you can just disengage and get out of the situation. No one will blame you and you will feel better for not being prodded through ritualized expressions of the appropriate degrees of the appropriate range of feelings.

    • That is the great thing about vagueness! “I can’t talk about this” can mean “I am so overcome with grief that I cannot speak”, or it can mean “I can’t talk about this because I will tell you all the terribleness that was my mother, who was essentially some Evil Bees wearing a skin suit” (which no one will assume but you can know for yourself is the real reason).

      • Cleo said:

        “Evil Bees wearing a skin suit”–you win the internets today!

        • why, thank you! I shall no doubt use these internets for nefarious purposes. [starts posting garden pictures all over]

  3. B. said:

    Lots of jedi hugs if you’d like some, LW (I love how you used the Star Wars analogies for your letter).
    I think the Captain’s spot on, as always, and I’m sure you’ll find many other useful scripts in the comments 🙂

    My personal mantra for these kind of situations is a mental exasperated “Lord, grant me patience”, but that may not work for you. How about “Just ___ hours more till I get home” or “This conversation is almost over”? Or some sentence that you’ve always found calming? (If you’re a spiritual person, maybe check out actual meditation mantras?)

    As for possible out loud answers to “What a pity she won’t get to know her Grandmother”, I have some suggestions:
    – That’s a painful topic for me, sorry. (Decent people will apologise and change course or leave you alone. Jerks who insist are giving you permission to exit the conversation)
    – Well, life’s unfair, you know. (AKA, invitation to agree with you on the unfairness of life)
    – I’m sure she’ll get to meet lots of loving, wonderful people, though. (AKA, invitation to agree with you on the wonderfulness of people)
    – Oh? Did you get to know both your grandmothers, then? (AKA, invitation to talk about themselves and allow you to tune out).

    Hope you find the right comeback for you, LW, and lots of sympathy. I’m sorry that Darthmom is still haunting around your life via well-intended-but-misguided people 😦

    • Alli525 said:

      My “mental exasperated mantra” is “Jesus take the wheel!” It’s a little silly, so more often than not it shakes me out of my anger a little bit.

      It may also be helpful to know, especially in situations like LW’s, that closing your eyes for a moment (so you can count to 10 or calm yourself before replying) does not necessarily read “angry” or “I am glad that my awful mother is no longer here on this earth to torment me” – unless of course you are scowling or punching something with your eyes closed. If I were commenting on someone’s deceased parent (who I personally liked and had no knowledge of how awful they were), and that someone closed her eyes for a moment, I would assume that she was collecting herself after being reminded of her dear, deceased parent, for whom she grieved for many fortnights.

      Kind of how when your parents punished you for something by making you stay in the car while they went into the store … random passers-by don’t think you’re being punished, they just think you didn’t want to go into the store. You and your parents are the only ones that know you’re being punished. (This DID happen to other people besides me, right?)

      • Carolyn said:

        Thank you for this idea about closing your eyes. My boyfriend’s mother is about to lose her partner of the last 30+years – I can’t get into all the ugliness but the other night my boyfriend said “it’s hard to see my mom and brother hurting, but I don’t care about R__.” And he has VERY good reason not to, but he is a very private person and he barely talks to me about those reasons … his mother, brother and other family either have no idea how ugly things were or have no idea things were ugly at all. As R___ declines further it is starting to come to a head – BF wants to be supportive, but is angry at the damage R__ did to his family and the things that were done personally to him. I already gave him my “Its so hard to see you so upset – I’m sorry.” and “I am so sorry you are hurting.” etc. scripts so he doesn’t have to lie about how he feels, but closing your eyes? Genius! Just that extra few seconds of cover while you try to replace the things you would love to say with the things you can allow yourself to say!

  4. DameB said:

    Another possibility might be to build your deflection in with the response.

    For the name thing, my kid has a slightly unusual name and people just really love to talk about weird names for some reason. “Names are such a .. personal decision, don’t you think? I mean, there’s that Texas Gov. Hogg who named his daughter Ima!” I’ve never started the weird name conversation and had it putter out quickly.

    For the “never got to meet Darth Mom,” I love all of Cap’s scripts, especially, “It’s just too hard for me to talk about my mother.” But if you need another, when people want to talk to me about my kid’s relationship with my mom, I say, “Oh, were you really close to your grandparents?” Like funny pet stories, this is another topic that seems to be almost inexhaustible.

    And I’m sorry that you’re dealing with this.

    • EarlGrey said:

      I love the suggestion to ask about THEIR family (or maybe, ask “were you named after a relative?” or “what are some common names in your family?”) This is one of those conversation subjects that is well within typical etiquette boundaries but is obviously quite fraught for plenty of folks….well, at least it would be well within typical etiquette boundaries if everyone stuck to the “What’s her name going to be?….Oh, what a nice name!” script instead of veering into the “What’s her name going to be?….Let me list the reasons that’s a bad decision” script. But anyway, they’re telling you they don’t find the subject to be unpleasant and fraught, so go ahead and encourage them to share their own stories.

      • I like to do the turning of the tables on the random stranger people who constantly approach me and my two month old daughter in public to ask the same old questions. Is it a boy or a girl/how old/how much does she weigh? I give a vague response then ask “So how about you? How old? How much do you weigh?”

        Just to remind them that she’s as much a person as they are and not some toy I like to carry around. I mean, they don’t even bother learning her name before asking about her personal details and medical history. You don’t do that to adults, do you?

    • Meg Danger said:

      Good script… I also like “You are so right, grandparents are really special.” Or if you are feeling a little snarky “… every child deserves a kind and loving grandmother.”

  5. bleh said:

    ‘Palpatine Voldemort Sauron is also a cool baby name” wins the inter webs!

    • Cleo said:

      Ok, they can share.

  6. lizinthelibrary said:

    I like speculating on who the baby will be as a diversion tactic. “I can’t wait to watch little Antigone grow up. To see if she has Leia eyes and Hans hair, wouldn’t that be spectacular? Do you think she will be as into small arms combat as they are? ” Speculating on who the baby will be is much more fun than speculating on who they won’t be. (They won’t be Darth Mom.) Maybe toss in a generic neutral trait of darth mom if they keep coming back to it. “Maybe Antigone will like gardening like darth mom did.” Or get them to talk about their kids. People love that.

  7. BiancaSnoozes said:

    It would be so nice if it were socially acceptable to respond to conversations in which the other person has said something like “Oh, won’t it be nice to be with your family!” or “I’m sure you miss your mom a lot!” with “Actually, my family is/was abusive, so nothing you just said actually applies to me.” And the socially acceptable response would be “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. So, how’s about that local sports team!?”

    I too have a Darth mom, and although she is still alive, I understand this very uncomfortable dynamic. It is socially unacceptable to dislike your family, especially your mother, no matter how they behave. Even vague allusions like “Actually we don’t really get along,” are met with “Oh, that will change as you get older!” (I don’t think this applies after age 25, thx tho) or “You don’t really mean that!” See also, “still, it’s FAAAAMMMIIILLLY!” You can’t really come back with, “Well, my therapist and I have discussed how abusive her behavior is, so I’ll follow her advice and stay away.” Because, well, TMI. You can’t actually describe the situation without the other person feeling like you dropped a feelingsbomb right in the middle of the break room.

    I think the Captain has great advice re: dismissing the remark and quickly changing the subject. Fortunately, this particular issue is not actually relevant to you, as you can’t dictate what the baby is named anyway, (and giving opinions about baby names is RUDE!!) and so you have even more outs of the conversation.

    I completely agree that trying to recalibrate everyone’s opinion of your mom is not worth the exhaustion. You know what you went through with her, and your reasons for feeling the way you do are legitimate. They don’t need to agree with you in order for your feelings to be allowed. I say this because this is something I struggle with myself (“what is wrong with me that I feel this way about her, when everyone says I should feel a different way?” which sometimes turns into “BUT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW BAD SHE IS!”).

    • Aurora_Belle said:

      Personally, I describe a similar relationship with my father as being “strained.” It seems to be a handy shortcut for people to realize that this isn’t a matter of not liking the same hobbies or not having fully adjusted to the reality of having an “adult child” without having to get specific.

      With regards to names, my mom hated her name because it was super popular and there were always 3 or 4 people with the same name. When naming me and my brother, she wanted to choose unique names… Unfortunately, the name she gave me was popular with the parents of the 20 years older than I am set, and the longer I lived with it, the more I grew to hate it. I legally changed my name to one inspired by a deceased relative (whom I had never met, but was fondly remembered by family). The reason I bring up this particular story is that a good deflection may be something along the lines of, “how interesting that you think that. Well even though I’m sure han and leia will pick a great name there’s no guarantee that kid will like it. If you could pick a name for yourself, what would you choose? ” and then listen, or not, as they contemplate enshrining their perceived good qualities.

      • Ha, I’m the opposite–my name was way down on the popularity list in the 80s when I was born, but now it hovers around #50. I wonder if later in life this will lead to people thinking I am much younger than I am.

        Whenever people talk about being pressured to name babies after family members, I always think of little Charlotte Elizabeth Diana in England, who got father, great-grandmother, and mother in there. Talk about pressure. I wonder how long they deliberated over the order of the names.

        • With the British Royalty, I think the policy is that they keep on piling on names until the birth registrar either collapses with a sprained hand, or (these days) says “That field won’t take any more characters”. I seem to recall Prince Charles has something like about eight before we get to the double-barrelled Mountbatten-Windsor at the end.

          Presumably this is a necessary quality when you have a child whose actions could conceivably start wars, and where you therefore need a certain measure of precision so as to indicate just how much trouble they’re in. Us middle-class and working-class kids know we’re for it when our parents mention our (single) middle name as part of a summons, but with the royals, the number of middle names mentioned would be a handy barometer as to how severe the problem is. One middle name? You’ve broken a favourite vase. All of them? Kid, how did you manage to kick off World War III?

          • twomoogles said:

            This is my favourite comment ever. 😀

          • Squeaky said:

            This comment made my morning. Thank you! 😂

          • LOLOLOLOL!

          • Private Business said:

            +1 Internets!

        • PBnoJ said:

          Charlotte is named for her grand-father, great-grandmother, and grand-mother. (Not father and mother.) And I bet they didn’t deliberate all that long! They were never going to call her Diana as a first name, and the royals in general seem to be moving away from repeated names, though I wouldn’t be surprised if regnal/reign names got repeated again (e.g. Charles being George VII instead of Charles III.)

          • B said:

            Apparently there is an association with King Charleses being beheaded. Apparently it’s always been understood that if his mother really does ever die he’ll take another name.

          • Laughing Giraffe said:

            @ B: I’m of the opinion that QEII will expire 24 hours after Charles does, and not one second sooner, because she’s aware of what a disaster it will be for him to ever take the throne. Skip straight to William and prevent the centuries-long tradition from crashing down around everyone’s ears.

          • Izzy said:

            @B: I’m not sure I get it. If Charles is a cursed name, why give it to your son at all? Like, were they just setting him up to be, well, the less-than-stellar person he turned out to be (possibly minus his head), or was there a reason to name him Charles?

          • @Izzy Well, they have a relatively limited field of pre-established royal names to choose from, they just seem to reshuffle the order in each generation and this time Charles floated to the top.

      • azurelunatic said:

        I’ve had decent results with “difficult, we get along best in small doses.” (Sometimes those doses are homeopathically small.)

      • I’ve also got a 20-years-older name. Everyone I’ve ever met with my name is at least 20 years older than me, and usually from a different ethnic background.

        I don’t mind it though. Given the first letter my mom was working with (following the Jewish tradition), it could have been a lot worse.

        • Angel said:

          Sorry, I’m super curious. What Jewish tradition is this involving letters?

          • You’re supposed to name children with the first letter of a close deceased relative. So, my first name starts with B after my mom’s grandfather Barney and my middle name is N after her other grandfather Nathan, both died before I was born. You’re not supposed to give children the same name as someone older and still alive because then when it’s time for the older person to die Death might get mixed up and take the baby by accident.

            My grandparents have the same initials on both sides (they were M and G on one side and G and M) on the other. When I told my grandmother, the only one still alive, that I had a G name in mind, she said “what, I’m not dead yet!”

            I love this tradition and plan to follow it, but I’m finding that all my favourite names aren’t the right letters! Fortunately we’re not at the child-having stage yet so I’ve got a while to figure it out.

          • Um, I just replied but it ate my post! You’re supposed to name children with the first name of a deceased relative. So, my first name starts with B after my great-grandfather Barney and my middle name is N after my great-grandfather Nathan. You’re not supposed to give the same name as an older relative who’s still alive, because when the time comes for the older person to die, Death might get mixed up and take the baby instead.

          • Sorry, that was supposed to say “first letter of the name of a deceased relative”

          • Reading up on this further, this is an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) tradition, whereas Sephardis (Spanish, North African and Middle Eastern) name their children after living relatives. My grandmother told me the angel of death thing, but most things I’m reading talk about how it’s supposed to create a spiritual connection between he child and the namesake – the soul lives on in the new baby, that sort of thing. Also you don’t name a baby after someone who was a bad person or died tragically, because that might influence the baby’s life. Either way, it’s about superstition in the way that many traditions are, but I still like it.

            Thanks for asking and inspiring me to read up about this!

      • TootsNYC said:

        I think “strained” as a way to describe a relationship is actually genius–it doesn’t come across as an absolute rejection, so people don’t feel panicked about the idea that a parent could totally lose a child this way (or vice versa). But it really does shut down any expectation of stereotypical closeness. Understated is often more powerful than the extreme truth.

    • Ugh, I know this dance well. I don’t want to talk about the abuse because I know the people concerned will load every bit of victim stigma they can find onto me so I say that we have a personality clash. And then I become the selfish dad that’s denying his daughter a relationship with her granny over some trivial difference of opinion. It sucks.

    • Myrin said:

      Re: your second paragraph, I actually had a very different experience only last Sunday! I started working part-time in a kitchen two months ago and on Sunday, my boss brought up recognising my surname because of [my father’s not-existing-anymore company] and if I was in any way related to them? I simply said “Yeah, that’s my father” and that was that. However, about ten minutes later, other boss said something else about fathers and I said the exact “Actually we don’t really get along” thing you mention. And he was very apologetic and said “Oh no, sorry for bringing it up!”. But then again, these are decent people we’re talking about.

      • Redgirl said:

        Your boss’s response to that is the only one I can ever imagine giving. Who ARE these people who think they can mend decades of family dysfunction with a platitude?

    • I always have the “My mom and I just aren’t really that close” “But she’s the most wonderfulest person that I have ever met!!” conversation. I always want to retort with “if she was that wonderful to me do you really think we’d be strained?” but alas when your family member is a saint in public that “love they family always no matter what” narrative is almost impossible to shake.

      • Drew said:

        Snarky reply: “Huh, you should get out more.”

        Honest reply: “I’m glad you think so. My experience as her kid was different.” (and if they press the point, start offering details)

        Superpolite, I-am-leaving-now/I-am-changing-the-subject-now reply: “It’s nice to hear a different perspective. Lovely to chat with you!/How is your family doing these days?”

        I-am-willing-to-let-it-be-awkward reply: “Huh. Wow.”

      • At the funeral of someone who was not nice to me, hearing the, “But X was sooo wonderful!”, wondering if X was so great, why wasn’t X ever nice to me? Just smiling and biting it back, but shaking my head.

    • perlhaqr said:

      You can’t really come back with, “Well, my therapist and I have discussed how abusive her behavior is, so I’ll follow her advice and stay away.” Because, well, TMI.

      Oh, I dunno. I feel like if someone is going to keep pushing on the rocks, they kinda deserve to get the avalanche.

      • miss_chevious said:

        I feel like if someone is going to keep pushing on the rocks, they kinda deserve to get the avalanche.

        This is the BEST expression, and I am totally going to steal it. My mother passed away right before the July 4th holiday and there was a woman at work who just WOULD NOT STOP nagging me about what I was planning on doing over the holiday. Finally, after I had tried deflecting her repeatedly with “nothing worth sharing” and other vague answers, and she just kept prodding, I looked straight at her and said “my mother died on Sunday. So I’m BUSY.”

        I wish I could say I didn’t enjoy her subsequent backtracking and apologizing, but it wouldn’t be true.

        • Drew said:

          I am so sorry for your loss. How horrible to have to explain that you weren’t celebrating a holiday because of her passing to someone whose business it was decidedly NOT.

    • Well, my fantastic great-grandmother actually said those things out loud, to a stunning effect (she died two years before I was born, but the legend has it that she was both feared and respected for her no-nonsense personality and her ability to gracefully tell the truth to anyone). My dad was named after his great uncle, partly because he was awesome and like a father to my grandad, but partly because my grandma just always loved the name and would have named her kid like that anyway. When my uncle was born, some “clan elders” were assholes about the youngest not being named for their paternal grandfather. During a pestering session at the christening, the paternal grandmother finally stepped in and calmely said: “Why do you say that? Of course my husband was a war hero/great guy on his good days, but you know very well that by the end of his life, on his bad days he was AN ABBUSIVE ALCOHOLIC WHO COULDN’T KEEP ANY JOB. WHY would they want to name this sweet baby after someone like that?” Some witnesses claimed that she gave the persterers a long look as if awaiting an answer.

      (Also, my grandparents started a lovely naming tradition that my parents kept: first name=new to the family, middle= parent’s name. If anyone asks: why, we named her after a relative, we named her after me!)

  8. Anna Sthetic said:

    ‘I’m mainly really excited about meeting the baby, rather than wondering about might-have-beens/details like names…’

    ‘wondering about might-have-beens’ is simultaneously neutral and dismissive, if that’s a thing you want to be.

    • Paulina said:

      This looks like a great response. My reaction to both of the things the LW is being told is that they seem really inappropriate even if the Mom had not been a Darth. Nobody should be expected to name a kid after a loved one (deceased or otherwise) to prove their love, or be subject to any other name expectations, and I don’t know what the “it’s so sad that” people are trying to accomplish — underscoring that particular aspect of the loss? It seems like making it about their own reaction, dumping in on you.

      So an “excited about meeting the baby, don’t want to think about anything else” dismissal of the interference, followed by a change of subject, looks very appropriate.

      • Drew said:

        “I’m sure my sister and brother-in-law would rather let their daughter find her own way, rather than trying to take up the legacy tied to the name of a grandmother she never met.”

      • Alexia said:

        Re: Nobody should be expected to name a kid after a loved one (deceased or otherwise) –

        Indeed. My DarthMom is actually named after *her* dead sister, who was accidentally run over by their dad at the age of 4. There may have been alcohol involved.

        We don’t think about it much, but often the names of the people we know *do* have legacies attached to them. Some have positive legacies, others, not so much. So why do it at all? The last thing I want for my own future kid is to maintain that type of negative legacy.

      • simonthegrey said:

        Good point, and honestly, my mom didn’t like her first name (she has always gone by a nickname) and neither did my grandma on my dad’s side, so neither of them would have wanted me to saddle a kid with their name.

        Also, a friend of mine answered the “what will you name it” question with the name “Hannibal Xerxes” completely straight-faced. Best answer ever.

        • Funny: my grandma hated her first name and always went by her middle name or a nickname. So what did she do? Yep, she gave my mother the same first name as herself, the one she hated. My mother also hates it and goes by a nickname. But she’s given it to me as a middle name, which I NEVER use as I, too, hate it. My daughter has escaped the damn name because I have no idea why anyone would want to pass it on.

  9. Mary&Dorothy said:

    Wow. It’s amazingly awful how much terribleness Darths keep making, even after death. Like, can’t you just be gone? Why do you have to keep hanging around and showing up to make ghostly trouble at all my major life events?

    Captain is spot-on with vagueness and re-direction in the moment…but maybe try that in combination with letting your rageasaurus get some exercise? Who, besides Leia, knows how much of a Dark Lord your mom was? Can you find someone (a professional, if you want, but also a friend) that you can tell some or all of these things to? My situation-that-the-world-assumed-I-was-feeling-one-way-when-in-fact-I-was-feeling-quite-another was pretty different from yours, but having a friend that really got it, that I could text when people said (well-meaning but) unintentionally enraging things was a gamechanger – like a pressure valve. I could respond to people in the moment with “Wow, thanks for your input, I’ll keep it under consideration, and here’s another topic!” and then pass the stressful comments on to someone who wouldn’t be hurt by them.

    Obv make sure whoever it is that you’re offloading onto is down for it, and give them some structure (“I’m going to text you things that make me enraged, can you respond within 8 hours with something along the lines of ‘Dude. That continues to be shitty, and I hear you’? And I’ll ask you once a week if this is something you’re still down for, and trust you to answer honestly.”) but if you’re feeling all this rage and the only output you’re giving is bland and vague and involves taking care of other people’s feelings…yeah, I don’t blame you for wanting to throttle everyone.

    Jedi hugs, if you want them.

    • Jen said:

      Mmhmm. And then you get the types that are all “But I’d give *anything* to have another day with my deceased mom!” (Granted, I’m no-contact with my mom, which is a little different.) I’m glad they have a great relationship with their mom, but I could’ve gone without the guilt trip.

      • Druidspell said:

        My lifelong best friend is one of those people who would give anything for another day with her dad (although to her credit, it would never occur to her to use her dad’s death to make me feel bad about my own relationship with Darth Vader). I mentioned to her once a few years ago how I sometimes felt guilty that I wished that my (living) dad were out of the picture when I knew that she missed her dad every day, and she said something that I’ve since used to stop other people in their tracks: “I’d give anything for another day with MY dad, sure, but I wouldn’t give anything for another day with YOUR dad!”

  10. mercutia said:

    “Palpatine Voldemort Sauron is also a cool baby name.”

    OFF TO GET PREGNANT, BRB.

    • Calliope said:

      I predict that within the next five years, we’ll start seeing popular baby name articles listing this as #1 most popular baby name.

    • AthenaC said:

      Oh my word I laughed out loud when I read this! Which wouldn’t be a problem, except I was on the train is a designated “quiet car” and my fellow commuters were giving me dirty looks.

    • perlhaqr said:

      *actually laughing out loud*

      But man, you know that kid’s going to get teased. “Hey, what’s up, Puppeteer Voldemoron?”

      Actually, they’d probably some up with some jerkface thing to say if he was named “John Smith”, anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

      *has way too much experience with the skill at which children can mock other children* :-/

      • SarahTheEntwife said:

        Yep. :-/ I’m all for avoiding really unfortunate initials or first-last name combinations if you happen to notice, but your (generic) children’s classmates will find something to mock about their name. If by some miracle they can’t, they will just find something else to mock. Use the awesome name that you love even if it’s potentially “weird”.

      • victoria said:

        I worked with a group of 2nd-5th graders when I was pregnant, and when we were considering names I’d ask them, “If you knew a kid named _______ and you didn’t like them very much, how would you tease them?” If they couldn’t come up with something in a matter of a few minutes, I felt reasonably confident that the name itself wouldn’t be the butt of jokes (which was important to us given that we have a HIGHLY teasable last name already).

  11. I think there’s a lot to be said for willfully ignoring their ignorance and going positive. Oh, it’s sad that baby Leiahan won’t get to meet Gamma Awfulness? “Happily this is a baby that’s going to grow up with a lot of other loving family.” Not named after Gram Wormtongue? “I’m pretty excited by the choice of a totally new name to the family.” People who want to keep with the (ignorant) downer talk in the face of that are revealing their jerkiness in useful ways.

    • Light37 said:

      I like this. Playing innocent is a great defense in this case and makes it easier to steer the conversation to something else.

  12. Kristin said:

    Another option for the “It’s so sad she won’t get to know Darth Mom!” could be, “At least she’ll still have [other grandparent(s)]. That’s so important.” Follow with a story about your own grandparents, or ask about theirs.

  13. mythbri said:

    “Palpatine Voldemort Sauron is also a cool baby name,”

    Sounds like Harry Potter named that kid.

    • omg yes

  14. slythwolf said:

    If I thought I could pull it off with a totally straight face, I might try something like “It really is a shame the baby won’t get to grow up with the wonderful grandmother Darth Mom could have been.” Because, you know, Darth Mom could have been a wonderful grandmother, and a wonderful mother, but she chose not to.

  15. Clarry said:

    “So many children never meet their grandparents.”
    “What are your memories of your grandmother?”
    “I’m so glad you have good memories of her.”
    “Who are you named after?” or “How did your parents choose your name?”

    Really, the suggestion to ask about names in the offender’s family is the best. It works for a lot of situations, not just names. In my family, my mother has not aged well. She’s old, and she looks a mess. This is not a bad thing in itself, but I never used to know what to say when people would drone on about how I look just like her. They obviously meant a compliment. I sat there not exactly insulted but definitely bored, uncomfortable, and at a loss as to how to change the subject. “Which of your grandchildren look like you?” turned out to be the way to do it, and then it turned out to be the way to do everything. Whatever they say about my mother– what a terrific person she is, how she wrote that great book, how she taught that great class, made that great comment– became asking about the terrific people in my interlocutor’s family, their favorite books, their favorite classes, etc. It’s not much, but it would buy me enough time to listen for a minute and then make my getaway.

  16. peardi said:

    Also key: Being really nice to yourself if these questions are making you tired and stressed. These people aren’t trying to open old wounds, but you are smart to recognize that’s what is actually happening, so take care of yourself around this. It’s almost harder to grieve for an awful person, because you’ve been grieving so long for the relationship you should have had and because the cultural scripts are all assuming that you miss her.

    First time commenter because I needed to say a world of YES to this. My version of this story doesn’t have a baby (yet) and I won’t go into details, but my relationship with my mother was not healthy, especially at the end of her life. When she died people kept saying stuff like “think about your happy memories of her to comfort you” or “you were so blessed to have her as a mom” or “she was so proud of you.” And I *knew* people were going to say this stuff, I knew it was coming and I would think “I should just come up with some script to respond.” But every single time it happened it was like I had been freshly kicked open and my mind was a complete blank and I couldn’t remember what I had said the previous 345 times someone said this to me, let alone apply it in this new conversation. I don’t know it just feels horrible and even though you know it’s coming it somehow feels like you’ve been freshly ambushed each time. So yes, be very kind to yourself. And in my experience, if you struggled with gaslighting from/about your mom, these social expectations like “you must miss your mom because she was great!” (or “she would have been a great grandmother!”) are like random (probably) well-meaning people breaking in to your mind space and mashing at those same gaslighting leavers/buttons. Even if you’re totally on board with “no, a Darth is a Darth and the Dark Side has no cookies,” people mashing those old buttons can still be exhausting/frustrating/aggravating. Unfortunately, I don’t have any script/mantra suggestions just sympathy/commiseration. (Tho I’m liking an internal mantra of “nope, the dark side still doesn’t have cookies,” or “sorry, a ghost Darth is still a Darth” I may try those for myself.)

    • mstabbity said:

      Well hell. Here I was thinking all I’d have to deal with when my mother dies is my own conflicted feelings. I’m actually really grateful you brought it up, because now I can sort of gird my loins and make sure my team me is in place when the time comes (probably not for a while yet, I’m only 32).

      It must have been absolutely exhausting to hear people say stuff like that and not know how to respond. All the jedi hugs to you and the LW, and if anybody has a half-ways civil script for “no, I wasn’t blessed to have her as a mother. she violently abused my sister and I spent my whole childhood terrified of her.” I would love to hear it.

      ps “nope, the dark side still doesn’t have cookies” is awesome.

      • Drew said:

        “Things certainly are different without her” is the best I can do. Other people can interpret that however they want, but we’ll know you meant to add, “…and AWESOME.”

        As for the OP, perhaps, “I’m sure my niece will hear lots of stories” and a subject change is the way to go.

        • Cor! said:

          This, so much of this.

        • mstabbity said:

          You know, that’s not bad 🙂

      • B. said:

        How about “She’s in a better place now”? The “because she’s away from me and can never come back” is silent.
        I think it’d work best if you said it in a clipped tone, because people will likely interpret that as grieving you trying to keep your composure. It’s usually easier for subject changes to take if people perceive the previous topic was difficult or thorny (though not for the reason they’d think).

        • Drew said:

          “She went to a better place.” […the crematorium, because we wanted to be SURE.]

  17. Dear LW,

    It’s really unpleasant to have to field other people’s inaccurate assumptions about your feelings – especially towards abusive people.

    I don’t have scripts for you, but I do have Jedi hugs if you want them.

    PS I bet your niece, will be awesome.

  18. ladysugarquill said:

    I would go for airing the dirty laundry. ALL OF IT. Horrible people deserve to be remembered as horrible people, mostly since in many cases that’s the only punishment they’ll ever get.

    But I get that may be tiresome and ugly on its own 😦

    When I deal with tiresome family members (particularly the old or distantly-related, I go for the ~frivolous~ answer. In this case something like: “oh, but that name is SOOOO old-fashioned! Kid should get a ~modern~ name!”

    • Twitchy said:

      This has come up once or twice for me around my parents. And I do feel better when I talk about it, but that’s a personal thing. I really, really hate feeling like I have to take the emotional hit and hold it all inside to cover up someone else’s bad actions. For other people, the discomfort of talking about it will be more painful.

      Like I ran into my old high school teachers once, and they were talking about how generous and kind my mom was, and how she’d help out in the class. And that was all true, and I acknowledged it, but I’m like, “Yeah, but she also used to hit me and my brother.” The teachers were really understanding about it, and I felt a lot better.

    • Druidspell said:

      On the one hand, sometimes airing the dirty laundry is so exhausting, and it stinks all around you while you do it.
      On the other hand, if people are going to bully you into pretending everything is fine, sometimes it’s a relief to dump it all onto their head.
      “Oh, you think that the grandkids should be named variations on Anakin to honor him? It’s so weird that you feel that way. I mean, he did murder children with a light saber, destroy a planet, cut off my sibling’s hand, and terrorize a galaxy.”

  19. craniest said:

    I was named after my grandmother. Who was still alive. Because she hated my mom and it was a peace offering, basically. Once I was named after grandma (who I call the piranha because she was small but nasty) suddenly my mom was an okay person.

    Grandma piranha was a nasty piece of work. She had a shit list that dated back to 1947 and every one of her twelve siblings was on it for some imagined slight or another. She was the second to last of them to pass on and I can only imagine her last sister was relieved at not having to deal with her anymore. Once you got on grandma’s list you NEVER came off. Also she had no filter whatsoever and going out with her in public was like having your own nasty racist spewing voice over following you everywhere. And she was also hard of hearing so she yelled her nastiness everywhere. I didnt’ go to the funeral, pleading poverty and inability to travel. But it was like a mini me shaped gargoyle had just been lifted off me.

    Did I mention I was named after her? and because it’s my dad’s mom, I have the EXACT name? (bonus points is that we also share the same initials as a certain Very Bad DIctator.)

    tl;dr, dear Luke Letterwriter, stand by Han and Leia. Naming kids after relatives is a personal thing, and remember that the kid has to live with that person’s reputation and personality over them the rest of their life. May they give the kid a name that will be their own, to imprint as they wish to make it themselves, and not have to crawl out of someone else’s shadow.

    And my own script for what to say to the Imperial Senate hovering around tutting about poor Darth Mom not having grandbaby named for her: “Oh, but there’s only one Darth Mom. She was in a class by herself.”

    /been there, done that, legally changing my name once my dad dies

    • Dana said:

      “There’s only one Darth Mom. She’s in a class by herself.”

      This is SO BRILLIANT.

      We had a Darth Vader grandpa, but he was one of those characters who was utterly charming to outsiders and a complete bastard to two of his three children — so no one outside the family, basically, had any idea what an awful person he was. I so sympathized with my mom once I was old enough to see what a crazy maker he was.

      Basically a great person to meet as a character in a book. Not someone you would want around in RL. Ever. But there was no explaining this. Ever. So this letter really resonates with me.

      I love your answer. Short, deflecting, witty. *applause*

  20. Charmed.Omega said:

    If you get very tired of people making namesake comments, I think a trite “Actually, she’s not your child and you have no right to have an opinion on this” (and exit) is OK. The people pressuring your sister to give her child a name of their choosing are out of line and being not-nice about it could shield your sister from some of them.

    For the “shame she won’t meet her grandmother” I’d go with “yeah.” + new topic. In your head you can try to turn their comment into static.

  21. Sometimes it’s not a tragedy when parents are gone from our lives, whether through death or estrangement.And I’m kind of with ladysugarquill on the dirty laundry: LW is in the position of having to manage the feelings and discomfort of others, which leaves LW feeling the awkwardness. Not cool. Every person and situation is different, but for me, I think I’d be more like:
    “Oh, how sad that she won’t be able to meet Darth Gramma!”
    “I know, right? How lucky is this kid?”
    …and let what happens, happen.

    • Og said:

      I’m with you on that. Captain’s + commentors suggestions so far are AWESOME for non-confrontational redirection, but I think if I tried to use them I’d explode. As other commentors have said, it can feel like being gaslit all over again, having your memories overruled by others. It’s definitely emotional work to go into your entire Tragic Backstory (and nobody’s business!) but it’s also work to bite your tongue and let them believe Darth Grandma was a saint.

      I might go with disbelief, like, “Haha! Wow! You’re assuming quite a lot.” “You… think that? Okay.” As if you’re surprised that their family IS functional (I don’t know about LW, but it can feel pretty good to me to allow my own experience the title of What is Normal.) Being just a little bitter with them about their assumptions — not allowing a misperception of me and my feelings, without putting the details up for debate — tends to help me not just unload all that frustration on one specific assumer.

      • JenniferP said:

        I love this comment so much. You don’t have to soothe people’s assumptions!

      • Yes, I prefer to interrupt the assumption that all families are healthy. How you put it– allowing your “own experience the title of What is Normal”–is so perfect. Thanks for saying what I was trying to say but way better. 🙂

      • Cor! said:

        Whoooa, ok random person on the interwebs, you are officially my new hero. I was also getting a case of the fist clenchings and the temptation to float out of my body, temporarily haunt LW’s, and blast these people with “but my mom was a total BE-YOTCH!!!”, I must say, you’re way is so much better.

    • azurelunatic said:

      The following make up for what they lack in tact with brevity:

      “Our relationship was never the same after [I found out] she [terrible bombshell].”
      “God, that ancient $!%(#.”
      “Kid really dodged a bullet.”
      “Glad someone thought well of her.”
      *fake laugh* “No.” *turn and walk away*

      • Hannah said:

        I love “glad someone thought well of her” because it’s pretty subtle if you say it with the same tone of voice you would use for someone who was actually worth thinking well of 9if you want to go subtle) and it’s kind of hard to engage with however you say it. Social slyness FTW!1

        • Redgirl said:

          Yes, I was totally imagining that in a friendly tone. It would be so perfect.

    • ReanaZ said:

      Yeah, I LOVE the cheerful shut down of the assumption that family=automatically good and healthy and valued. It’s my go-to solution to navigating these kind of situations where someone is generally well-intentioned (and thus undeserving of tooooo much awkwardness or scorn shoved their way) and where I don’t really want to be shoved into negative emotions or lying about my negative emotions.

      I’m an expat and I get varients of “Oh, it must be sooooo haaaard to be so far from faaaaamily.” or “Oh, is it sad to not be going home to see family this holiday?” Generally from lovely, well-meaning coworkers from stable homes. My favorite response to anything involving me not interacting with my family is a cheerful “Feature not a bug!” It both confuses and deflects people, allows honestly without being too invasive or detailed, and generally flags that those aren’t great topics without any emotional fallout on either side.

      From inspiration here, I’ll need to try “Ha, no dodged that bullet!” and “I’m glad some people have positive experiences with that!”

  22. Leonine said:

    Sigh. I’m sorry, LW. My second son has a name that no one else in my family has, and I am irrationally proud of him for that. Every so often, I just look at him and think, “Well done, kid.” I am also irrationally proud of him for having been born four days before his due date, which was his grandmother’s birthday (*shudder*). He’s not even in the same month! Good job, baby! I don’t have any advice, I guess, but I predict that all the noise and nonsense will settle down quickly after the baby is born.

    • boutet said:

      Our baby was due around my mom’s birthday. Then he was born over a month early. I also felt like, good job baby! Dodged that one!

    • manybellsdown said:

      Oh oh man did this trigger a memory. I had to have a planned c-section with my daughter because of a medical issue. Her due date was the week of my mother’s birthday. My mother was super mad at me for not scheduling my baby’s birth on her birthday, even though my OB/GYN *was out of town that week*.

      • Leonine said:

        Wow. I’m so sorry. If that were my mom, everyone would have to hear about it twice a year for the rest of her life. That’s why I was so pleased that he was born in a different month. I was so afraid he’d spend his (HIS!) birthdays with her glomming on and making them all about her. Ugh. I’m getting sick and angry just thinking about it. Fortunately, he was clever enough to avoid that problem. 🙂

      • You folks are making me tear up over hear. My birthday is a few days after my tiny Darth grandma’s birthday and without fail she will call me on my birthday to tell me what she did for hers. This is mostly because I intentionally do not call her on her birthday in passive aggressive protest on my mother’s behalf since my grandmother has forgotten my mother’s birthday every year since she was a child. tldr I’m so glad that I’m not the only one with serious birthday rage.

        • Leonine said:

          😦 Hugs if you want them, lookpeople. If my son had been born on or closer to his grandma’s birthday, I would have immediately established some super-important, set-in-stone, inviolable family birthday tradition that included only him, his father, his brother, and me, and it would have to be done on his birthday, no exceptions. I’m thinking something to do with, I dunno, the position of the sun or something. Doesn’t matter–what matters is that it would be only his. If you don’t already have a way to seal your birthday off from hers, you might find it therapeutic to establish one, maybe with your mother, if you have that kind of relationship with her.

          Actually, now that I think about it, it seems like a good idea anyway. Hmm. Okay, now I gotta go Google astronomy and birthday traditions.

  23. muddydone said:

    It’s not about naming, but when my monstrously abusive mother died and everyone said to me what a wonderful person she was, I just replied, “Everyone says that!” and no more. It’s the truth, as that goes. They do. People important to me know she was a monster, and for people who aren’t I’m not wasting my time getting into it with them.

  24. AthenaC said:

    “It’s so sad the little one won’t get to meet Grandma Darth!”

    You know, I think this is the only situation where you can legitimately respond “Everything happens for a reason!” or “God’s ways are not our ways!” or any of the other usual useless platitudes the grieving are assaulted with.

    P.S. No I’m not serious. But it would be fun to watch their facial expressions at least.

  25. When it comes to baby names, I’d go with *shrug* “It’s not my business,” and change the subject (hopefully with enough repetitions, the commenters will get the hint that if it isn’t your business, as one of the baby’s nearer relatives, it certainly isn’t theirs either).

    For comments referencing your mother, stick with either “I’d rather not talk about that” and change the subject; or “that’s a rather painful topic” and change the subject. If they keep coming back to the topics you would rather not talk on, you can bring out the big guns and the nuclear options.

  26. Fiver said:

    My favorite conversation redirect is:
    “Hmm.” + [subject change/awkward pause]

    You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. You don’t have to smooth things over. You don’t even have to respond. Let it be awkward for them to bring Darth up to you. They will either drop the subject, or get nosy. And if they get nosy, they’re the ones who are making it awkward. People generally don’t want to make a conversation awkward by being pushy about unpleasant subjects. You can repeat the “Hm.” like a broken record, or go for, “That’s kind of personal,” + [subject change/exit conversation].

    It’s actually pretty amazing how much you can get by conversations with “hm,” “oh?”, “yeah,” “no,” and the occasional nod or grunt. Give yourself permission to totally check out of these conversations. It’s nobody’s business. You don’t have to debate how terrible Darthy Dearest was. You don’t have to lie, and you don’t owe anyone the truth either. Whatever deflection or explanation is easiest for you, that’s fine. You don’t have to engage.

  27. thebearpelt said:

    Also something you can say, “Well, it IS up to THEM. Just them. Nobody else.”

    I really don’t understand why people would want to comment on other people’s baby name choices w/o invite. Fuckin rude tbh. I know someone who’s having her 2nd baby and I casually asked about names and she said she was keeping it to herself and her husband for now. I asked why and she said people had been really mean about her last baby’s name. One ex-friend even told her that she refused to call her baby by his name. The gall! The baby’s name was Wolfgang, btw. Unusual, but a cool name and not even that weird, it’s been a first name before. And she didn’t tell anybody till after the baby was born, which I was like, the ink is already dry on the birth certificate, keep your opinions to yourself! I don’t understand people.

    • CJ said:

      “One ex-friend even told her that she refused to call her baby by his name.”

      The same thing happened when my husband and I married back in the 1980s. We both changed our last name to one hyphenated name that was a combination of both our names. The order was determined by which one sounded better going first.

      Now granted that very few married couples do this (even in 2015 those who do take flak for it), so we were expecting to have to educate people and be patient as folks got accustomed to the norm violation. What we were not prepared for was the passive-aggressiveness and outright RESISTANCE to using my husband’s new name. Some people just would not honor it, using his ‘maiden’ name instead. The cowardly ones just kept ‘forgetting’, even after my husband reminded them a bunch of times. He had to be extra careful with management, as there are only so many times one can insist before it disrupts work relationships. Then there were his coworkers, who made a lot of pussywhip jokes about how no man changes his name unless a woman bullies him into it. It was just awful. Eventually we just got tired of fighting the culture wars and both reverted to our original birth names.

      • Leonine said:

        “[E]ven in 2015 those who do take flak for it.”

        Sad but true. My name is Leonine Claw*. My husband’s name is Bookish Kitten. Yes, Uncle Ted, we really are legally married, thank you, not that that’s your business. Our kids’ names are Big Kitten-Claw and Little Kitten-Claw. Several family members, including my mom, has expressed disapproval that I would “do that to the children,” “that” being give them hyphenated last names. They had the good sense to say this behind my back, but still. One of them sends things addressed to Mrs. Bockish Kity. I don’t know who she is or why her husband spells his name like that. Oh, and my maternal grandmother, rest her prickly soul, refused to call me Leonine. She preferred Leona, so that’s what she called me. My BFF’s mom does the same thing. Interestingly, all these people are jerks.

        * These are not our real names. Alas.

        • Commander Banana said:

          My mother gave my brother and I her maiden name (which she didn’t change for either of her marriages) as our middle name. I realize now it was her sneaky way of hyphenating without hyphenating our last names!

          • That’s the default in some parts of the world, and it seems to be a great way to honour both sides of the family!

          • Private Business said:

            Oh, that’s awesome!

        • RunForChocolate said:

          Ohhh, my mom used to send me notes addressed to “Mrs. ExHusbandfirstname ExHusbandlastname”. Drove me APESHIT. I did take my ex’s last name, so that part was fine, but addressing my by his first name rather than my own? What, I gave up being an individual (as opposed to an appendage) when I got married? She finally quit when I defended and she could address things to “Dr. ExHusbandlastname”. Which is still my name.

          I kind of regret taking his last name, but then you get into what last name you want the kids to have and whose last name will match theirs… And, frankly, I wasn’t ever exposed to any feminist thoughts or people at all, and it never even occurred to me I could keep my very own name. Argh, in retrospect. Lemme tell you, my daughters will KNOW they have options.

          I may get married again in the near future, and I will NOT be changing my name again, both for professional and maternal reasons. Though I did tell my boyfriend that I was totally open to being called “Dr. Boyfriendlastname” in social settings so I could have the same name as a mad scientist character in a classic 80’s movie.

          • Caraval said:

            When it comes up, my dad always jokes that Mom didn’t make him take her last name. Usually gets a laugh and subject change. The last jerk who didn’t get the message (while talking to ManagerMom) got told, “My husband’s secure enough not to need it.” Burn! Never came up again.

            Props for mad scientist last name!

          • perlhaqr said:

            You may be amused to know that on occasion I get commercial mail at my house addressed to “Mr. Firstname Wifelastname”.

          • CJ said:

            As I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband and I both hyphenated our surnames when we married. We would occasionally receive mail addressed to Mr. & Mrs. his first name, our hyphenated surname.

            Which is really weird, if you think about it. The whole purpose of merging our surnames into one was to create a symbol of unity, while at the same time avoiding the scenario of Mr. & Mrs. his first name.

            People just don’t know what to do when the conventional rules no longer apply. So they take the familiar etiquette they know, then apply it to a situation where it makes no sense.

          • mintylime said:

            /fistbump_of_solidarity

            I refused to change my name this time because I had *legally changed it* and I *liked it just fine, thanks*. Also professional reasons and personal reasons that I don’t want to mention because they’d identify me.

            I think my spouse’s mother is *still* pissed off that our child is Wee Lime instead of Wee Spousesurname, but that was our arrangement – gender A got mine, gender Y got spouse’s. So, suck it up, buttercup.

          • Private Editor said:

            RunForChocolate, that’s actually the old school way and dates from a time when women WERE considered appendages, and couldn’t own property or sign contracts and were subject to their husbands. I think it’s well past time for the custom to die a neglected, dusty death.

            Personally, I use “Ms.” because my name does not need to declaim my marital status to all who hear it, thankyouverymuch.

            (And it’s a long story, but my husband and I both hyphenated, and anyone who thinks it’s weird can kiss my ass.)

        • Alice_Fraggle said:

          I planned to do the opposite if my husband & I had kids. I hyphenated my last name (Please don’t get me started on *those* conversations), but if we ever had kids we decided that our kids would have two middle names – whatever we chose for them, and my maiden last name, and then they’d have my husband’s last name as their last name. I’m sure there’d be flack, but we’re not having kids so whatever.
          I’m gonna go ahead and get myself started on the hyphenated conversations – since when is it anyone’s dang business if someone hyphenates their last name? They don’t have to deal with the inconvenience, they don’t have to spell it to every one, etc., so why do they feel they get to comment on it?

          • Tabitha said:

            My middle name is my great-grandmother’s maiden name. She gave it to her son (my grandfather) as a middle name and it skipped a generation before I ended up with it. I really like it. It’s slightly unusual and it gives me a really strong connection to my much loved grandfather and the great-grandmother I never got to meet (in family legend she sounds amazing, I wouldn’t be quite so thrilled if she was as awful as the LW’s mother).

            I’m probably not going to have kids either and my only real regret about that is that I won’t get the chance to pass it on to anyone else.

          • Annora said:

            That’s what we did! Both of our kids have a first name new to the family, a middle name vaguely related to a grandparent’s name, my maiden name, husband’s last name. (Fortunately, the Dark Side extended family was already well-identified and avoided so the arrival of baby gifts and Xmas cards that somehow always managed to be addressed using all of the kid’s name except my maiden name was just added to the “use for stand-up fodder” pile.)

        • perlhaqr said:

          “These are not our real names. Alas.”

          But they could be! 😀

        • bleh said:

          Yeah, we created a new surname for our new family. We both have doctorates, so title is “Dr.” We still got mail addressed to Mr. & Mrs. his first name, his unmarried surname. They forgot for a number of years. I finally wrote to say, technically my title is Dr, and my surname is X. If the Drs. X is uncomfortable, please just address it to “bleh” & “fred”

          • manybellsdown said:

            Heh I’ve got some friends who frequently get mail addressed to “Doctor Schmocktor*”. Mr. Schmocktor’s wife is the doctor. Her name is not Schmocktor.

            *his last name really does rhyme with doctor, unfortunately.

          • CJ said:

            As I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband and I both hyphenated our surnames when we married. We would occasionally receive mail addressed to Mr. & Mrs. his first name, our hyphenated surname.

            Which is really weird, if you think about it. The whole purpose of merging our surnames into one was to create a symbol of unity, while at the same time avoiding the scenario of Mr. & Mrs. his first name.

            People just don’t know what to do when the conventional rules no longer apply. So they take the familiar etiquette they know, then apply it to a situation where it makes no sense.

        • Haha, oh man, some people are STILL UPSET about our kids’ surnames (I am Preposterice, and my husband is Hypotenuse, and the kids are Preposterice Hypotenuse. As a unit, we use “The Preposterice Hypotenuse Family” or “The Hyposterices”).

      • Alli525 said:

        Oh no, that’s awful! I wish you would’ve been able to stick with the names you chose for yourselves… If that had happened to me I would have dumped my terrible friends and just started over somewhere where no one would know that my surname was so “crazy” or “unusual.” Ugh. Some people.

      • Impasto said:

        Ugh! I have a pair of married friends who each kept their own surnames. When they had a child, for various reasons they named him FirstName Mom’sSurname. But his dad’s parents are so butthurt that they insist on calling him FirstName Dad’sSurname. Recently, in an amusing display of passive aggressiveness, they sent him a postcard simply addressed to FirstName.

      • jdrives said:

        “Then there were his coworkers, who made a lot of pussywhip jokes about how no man changes his name unless a woman bullies him into it.” BOOHISS. I would love for this belief that a man’s last name is some symbol of his manly man-ness to wither away and die already. No one is “less than” for changing their name.

        I completely understand how that constant grinding of society’s expectations could wear a person out. I’m sorry you weren’t able to keep your new names that you created together (which is a really cool and beautiful thing, IMO).

        • RunForChocolate said:

          “No one is “less than” for changing their name. ”

          Exactly. If women aren’t diminished by it, men aren’t either.

          I’m not sure whether I myself feel diminished by taking my ex’s last name. I really wish I’d known I had options at the time; I was young (23), and it never even occurred to me–I didn’t know anybody who’d done anything differently. My parents were old-school and I’m sure it never crossed their minds that I wouldn’t follow tradition. I was never exposed to feminism in any other form than the basic tenet that women should have equal rights. Literally, that was all I ever heard on the topic (not that that isn’t a really great place to start from), until I was in college.

          I knew a guy whose sister and her partner combined last names– “Crazypants” and “Sobersocks” got merged into “Crazysocks.”* I loved that.

          *Not their real names.

          • jdrives said:

            Damn! I was so hoping those were there real names!

            A high school friend did the same thing when he got married, and their new last name is extremely cool. I’m slightly envious! I ended up taking my husband’s last name for no great reason other than it was important to him. After pointing out that keeping my last name was important to me too, I made it my middle name so I’m still J. Drives, technically 🙂

          • jdrives said:

            *their, whoops

          • CJ said:

            ” I ended up taking my husband’s last name for no great reason other than it was important to him. After pointing out that keeping my last name was important to me too”

            I’m glad that you found a way to make that work out for you. I don’t think I could myself.

            We all have red flags that spell DANGER to us in relationships. For me, one of those red flags is a man who is very attached to his bride taking his surname. I have to wonder why he values that patriarchal symbol so badly, and to what degree that insecurity may extend to other gender role issues in the marriage.

            My husband was married (briefly) before we met. He was only 19 and married his high school sweetheart (she was only 16). It wasn’t his idea that she change her name — it was hers, all part of her Dream Wedding script. He actually resisted, being more worldly and understanding the reality of the loss of identity involved for the woman. By the time she figured it out, they were in the process of ending the marriage.

            Years later when my husband and I started to discuss marriage, one of the first topics he broached was the Name Thing. Please don’t, he begged. You are not going to like how this turns out.

            Fortunately, I had no plans to take his surname. We both planned to use our own surnames. As we discussed it more, we began toying with the idea of how cool and intimate it would be to both share a different surname, and that’s how the idea of combining our surnames into one common surname came about. At the time, neither of us was worldly enough to realize just what a $#!tstorm we were about to unleash upon our world. lol

          • I guess it depends on your reasons. I took my husband’s name because I hated my maiden name and wanted to be dissociated from my parents as far as possible. My husband, on the other hand, likes his name and has a great relationship with his own family. So that works for us both.

          • I guess it depends on your reasons. I took my husband’s name because I hated my maiden name and wanted to be dissociated from my parents as far as possible. My husband, on the other hand, likes his name and has a great relationship with his own family. So that works for us both.

          • Brightwanderer said:

            My fiance and I are keeping our birth names but we did have a speculative conversation about combining. Turns out every combination we could think of was HILARIOUS – and one of them sounded very similar to Groot. So we were all, lol, we should go for that one and tell people “we are Groot!” for the rest of our lives!

            And THEN I talked to my sister, and it turned out that she and her partner had had the same conversation and due to a quirk of similar surnames between her partner and mine, had also come up with Groot, and also made that same joke with each other. So then we all four of us semi-seriously considered whether maybe we wanted to start a new clan of Groots… 🙂

          • Brooks said:

            amberxebi: I’m very glad to hear that. My wife had the same situation — though she somewhat liked her last time, she didn’t feel particularly attached to it, and she had a Darth Dad. If she’d had her mom’s maiden name, she would have wanted to keep it, but she didn’t … so she took mine, which she also liked. Sometimes I feel like we’re sort of an anomaly in that choice, so it’s nice to hear we’re not the only ones!

          • When I was a younger woman, the assumption (in the circles I knew) was that women didn’t change their names just because of marriage to a man. The big question was What Name Will The Children Get. (Spoiler alert: usually their father’s)

            I’m always surprised that so many women younger than I automatically change their names.

        • CJ said:

          Yeah, it was a real grind and an ongoing source of stress that really took a toll on our friendships and interactions in the workplace. We actually lost touch with previously loyal and devoted friends because of this issue. The entire experience was a real eye-opener and reality check regarding human nature and the extent to which some people will go when feeling threatened or uncomfortable.

          I’m surprised at just how much of an emotional issue the social convention (of a woman adopting her husband’s surname) remains, even among people who are not particularly traditional in other areas. It’s especially emotional for many men, who expect that their wife (and definitely their offspring) will adopt his surname without question. Almost as if his wife and children were his property, and the carrying on of his surname is somehow proof of his worth as a man.

          A few weeks ago I read an article announcing the recent marriage of an A-list celebrity couple who both hyphenated their surnames in the same way that my husband and I did back in the 1980s. After reading through the abundance of venomous reader comments about their most personal decision, it would seem that not much has changed with respect to this issue in the 30 years since I walked down the aisle.

          • jdrives said:

            I’m newly married and can definitely attest to this being a very emotional issue, without a real basis other than “This is what I really want and also what is right!”. I’m encouraged to see more and more people bucking the norm and finding new ways to be named together, even though I took the more “traditional” route and became J. Drives Newlastname. With all things that go against the grain, this will take time to become less heated of a subject, I’m sure.

          • B. said:

            “It’s especially emotional for many men, who expect that their wife (and definitely their offspring) will adopt his surname without question. Almost as if his wife and children were his property, and the carrying on of his surname is somehow proof of his worth as a man.”
            To me, it seems like a cultural thing. In my country, nobody changes their names to anything for marriage and kids get two surnames, one for each parent*. It’s always made me feel very sad that a woman would give up her birth name, her identity, for a marriage, as if she was a child-birthing present from one family to the other. However, this naming convention is just as patriarchal** as the Anglo-Saxon one, and people can be as awful to anyone who doesn’t follow it.

            *When both of these surnames are hyphenated or a compound of various names, things can get interesting. Usually the father’s surname goes first, but parents can decide to change that or the kids can alter the order when they’re 18.
            ** The reasoning is that the wife never ever stops being her father’s daughter(/property), and that she owes herself first to her birth family, then to her chosen family.

        • Bashelor said:

          There was a court case up here I’m not sure how many years ago where a man wanted to take his wife’s last name. His last name was one that was hard to spell/had too many consonants in it and she didn’t want to take his name. So he went to the bank with the marriage licence just like women do and was told it wasn’t good enough for his accounts to be changed. If he wanted to change his name, he would have to legally change it and bring in that documentation. So they sued for discrimination or something. Never heard how that worked out. It was an interesting point, though, that a woman can get married and everyone just accepts the marriage licence as proof of name change instantly without question.

          • CJ said:

            My husband looked into the merits of a legal name change when we married back in the 1980s. Since it was almost unknown back then for a man to change his name at marriage, we verified that his chances of being issued new identification (e.g., driver’s license, passport) would be near impossible without a legal name change. And without one of those forms of ID, financial institutions would not open accounts or do business with him. (Had I9 forms already become a necessity for employment in the U.S., he would not have been able to get a job either.)

            I’m all for bucking the system, yet I believe in picking my battles, as there is a point of diminishing return where it’s just not worth the aggravation. My husband was also of similar mind. Being a social maverick comes with a lot of hassles, and we both chose to pick our battles. We were both starting new careers and had just become first-time homeowners, and decided that these were stressful enough. So he did the legal name change. (Less than 3 years later, he went back through the legal system to undo it when the name change turned out to be a nightmare (see my previous message).)

          • quinalla said:

            Yes, it’s a really bad double standard as it is easy to change your name with just a marriage license as a woman, in fact people will assume you are changing your name even if you aren’t. I did change my last name to my husband’s for various reasons when I got married and I don’t regret it, though if I got married today I might make a different choice, but one of the reasons was I didn’t care that much and it is a hell of a lot easier in most ways for wife to adopt husband’s last name. I think if I had to choose today, I would at least have kept my maiden name by making it a 2nd middle name or something, dunno. But yeah, a man who wants to change his name to his wife’s, good luck, it’s a rough road to do that for sure!

            And agreed CJ, I too feel like I need to choose my battles as I only have so many spoons and this was one I decided to not fight, though if my husband had pressured me or assumed I would take his name, I probably would have fought and fought hard.

      • Redgirl said:

        The younger brother of my middle-school BFF recently got married. He’s on my Facebook so I know that he and his new wife changed their last names to a hyphenated one, but it doesn’t contain either one of their original last names. I’m curious to know how they came up with it, but I’d never think to give them flak or call them anything but their new names. People can really get worked up about things that don’t concern them in the least!

      • B. said:

        I’m sorry you got so much shit for that, CJ >__<
        Why is it that people feel attacked when someone else that's not them makes a decision that goes against the norm? It's not like you're invalidating their choices! You guys shouldn't have gotten punished by that 😦

    • Haflina said:

      One ex-friend even told her that she refused to call her baby by his name.

      Oof, my stepmother has been doing that to me since I changed my first name to one she disapproved of. Like wow, step off lady, you weren’t even involved in picking out my birth name, what gives you the right to insist I keep using it? Ironically, my actual mother, the one whose middle name I originally carried as a first name, has been fine with the name change and has had fun coming up with ways to run my new first and old first (which is now my middle) together so she can keep using all my childhood nicknames while also acknowledging that my name has changed.

      • Drew said:

        I think that if I were to change my name and a close relative kept using the old one, I would have a number of conversations that went like this:

        Mercutio (formerly Drew): Hello?
        Relative: Drew, is that you?
        Mercutio: I’m sorry, there is no Drew here.
        Relative: Drew, I know it’s you.
        Mercutio: You must have the wrong number. No one named Drew lives here. *hangup*

        However, I am stubborn and get REALLY testy when people ignore me about stuff that is my business and not theirs.

        • CJ said:

          My husband tried something similar with the people at work who wouldn’t honor his married name change. Humor can often be helpful to diffuse an awkward issue. This sort of thing is not advised with superiors (i.e., management) or clients though, as it could be perceived as smart-aleck-y. With some people, he just needed to suck it up.

    • LemonEucalyptus said:

      Wolfgang is an an unequivocally awesome name!!! That was Mozart’s first name!

    • Laughing Giraffe said:

      One ex-friend even told her that she refused to call her baby by his name.
      This reminds me of a teacher I had in junior high who refused to call people by nicknames, no matter how cumbersome the full name or how ingrained the use of the nickname. For bonus points, this was a French immersion class and she insisted on using the French pronunciation – fine when your name is Christine or Suzanne, but a real pain in the arse when you think of yourself as Michael and someone keeps calling you Michel (which is pronounced the same as the girl’s name Michelle).
      One of my classmates got into a fight with the teacher about this, because she said she would only use people’s “real” names. He finally brought in his passport to prove that his legal name was Nick, not Nicolas, and SHE STILL REFUSED. This teacher, needless to say, was not popular.

      • Augh! The rudeness, I can’t even! Aside from that, the real name thing is a big pet peeve of mine. To me, if you willingly answer to a name then it’s your real name. It may not be your legal name, but since my job does not involve figuring out whether you’re entitled to cash that cheque, it’s really none of my business what your legal name is.

      • Lindsay said:

        My best friend’s younger brother goes by his middle name. Always has, always will. That is his name. He had a substitute teacher last school year who called him Firstname and when he corrected her and said that he went by Middlename, she said “No nicknames.” ????? That still makes me angrier than it should. I hate adults who think they don’t have to respect a child’s wishes.

      • RedSonja said:

        Holy crap! I had no idea other people had teachers like this too! Though mine was in first grade. My parents talked to her, to the principal – she was having NONE of it. So the next year, in second grade, I had to retrain my classmates to call me [nickname] instead of [legal name].

  28. EllenS said:

    I have some Darth Relatives, and my mom had her own set of issues. When dealing with the Well-intentioned Clueless, I sometimes just answer them as if their imaginary world were true. Because it *would* be nice if Baby could meet the Wonderful Imaginary Grandma they think she’d have. And it’s never going to happen. Me saying it is not going to make it less imaginary. So, I say stuff like, “Oh, I know.” or “Aw, every baby should have sweet grandma hugs, right?”
    Basically, I just pretend that they said, “don’t you wish the baby had a unicorn?”
    Sure, Clueless. That would be lovely. That’s so sweet.

  29. Msconduct said:

    The Captain’s suggestions are fantastic, not just for this situation but for many, many others. It still amazes me, even if it shouldn’t by now, how much unnecessary pain is caused in the world by people seeing fit to make comments on things that are absolutely none of their business.

  30. Kootiepatra said:

    I think to the name issue, I am a big fan of, “Not my business” (or “Not your business” if you want to be confrontational about it).

    To the “Oh it’s so sad,” I think I would try something like, “Welp, there’s nothing to be done about that.” Because there isn’t. And I feel like this kind of highlights the pointlessness of the comment in the first place. I mean, okay, even if Darth Mom wasn’t darth-y, we can’t bring her back. What does this sort of statement achieve, besides throwing a big wet blanket on a family celebrating a forthcoming new baby? Isn’t it just effectively saying, “Oh, you’re pregnant? Better not be too happy about it.”

  31. Serin said:

    When people say, “It’s a shame the baby will never get to meet Darth Maum,” I suspect what they’re really saying translates to, “I remember that you had a death in your family recently, and it doesn’t seem right not to mention it.”

    So if you want to, you can respond to the translation rather than the literal words: “Thanks for remembering. But we’re all really excited about the baby.”

    • Anonaconda said:

      I like this a lot. This seems to me a very gentle, empathetic response, both for the letter writer and the instigator. (Of course, some days, you don’t need gentle, you need, “Well, actually, it was pretty difficult being her daughter.”)

  32. TO_Ont said:

    I think it makes a difference whether these are people who are closer to the situation but have been willfully blind to or turning away from your mother’s true behaviour towards her children, or people who are more innocently clueless and trying to be empathetic about your mother’s death and just tripping up accidentally.

    I would probably be a lot kinder and more forgiving in the second scenario, and if possible (and I know it isn’t always possible) try to respond in a way that gives them an out or changes the subject or acknowledges their kind intent and moves on.

    • CJ said:

      I agree that there is a real difference between the two. Because I don’t really have any family to speak of (dysfunctional or otherwise), I mostly encounter the innocently clueless variety in the form of casual friends and acquaintances. In their awkward way, I really do believe that they have kind intentions. For that reason, I also like to give them a graceful out. And reserve my most scathing and witty retorts for the busybodies who really deserve to be put in their place and shut down.

  33. I understand (but don’t endorse) where they are coming from with the “it’s sad baby will never meet Darth Mom” and think that “it’s hard for me to talk about” is the perfect vague but all encompassing response. But in terms of the baby name thing… ugh, why are they even asking that? There are billions of families out there not following that naming system, why do they care at all? I’d be tempted to respond to those comments with “they’ll name the kid whatever the F they want you busy body.”

    • RunForChocolate said:

      Yes– you could highlight the inappropriateness of second-guessing the parents’ name choice with something like, “Mmm. It’s such a personal decision for the parents to make. I can’t believe some people think it’s okay to mock/second guess them on that.” In a light, pleasant tone, if you like, to maintain the friendly feel of the mammal-to-mammal socialization attempt britpoptarts referenced below.

  34. When people make comments about Darth Mother, be it regarding the baby or that she was a lovely lady or whatever, I use “Ive heard people say that”, “thats one opinion”, “so you say” etc. As non commital as possible. OP that might help you too?

    • Irene said:

      Like Stephen Maturin: “Sure, ’tis a point of view.”

  35. I am guessing that anyone commenting on the alleged awesomeness of Darth Mom clearly was not actually close enough to Darth Mom to really know her. As such, they are cluelessly making mouth noises in your general direction in an attempt to socialize, mammal-to-mammal, in a setting they recognize is supposedly a place where one is supposed to be social. You don’t have to engage in any deep or lengthy manner if you choose not to. It’s certainly not worth your time, current good-enough mood or energy to tweeze out an explanation about the Darthness of Mom or anything. (Those who really matter, know. You can commiserate with them later.) The scripts here are great, and practicing a few deflections and sticking them in your pocket for later use is a fantastic idea. I find actually saying some out loud before leaving the house is a good way to get your brain primed to grab one off the shelf when something unpleasant happens…like you being surprised by yet another Not-Your-Baby conversational gambit that brings up yucky memories.

    (I hope the number of people choosing to confront you about a baby that isn’t even your baby will taper off after you prove to be exquisitely unsatisfying and maybe even really boring when they try to chat you up about Not-Your-Baby. If the existence of Not-Your-Baby is a new topic, the subject may get boring faster than anticipated, because surely someone else in their social circle or orbiting near their social circle will likewise become ensproggenated soon enough and then their family members will have to ward off long chats about Not-Their-Babies instead of you! :D)

  36. Hannah said:

    I haven’t read through all the comments yet, so sorry if this has been suggested already, but the comedian Maria Bamford has a bit about making something not a lie by whispering the part that makes it true. One of them is “I can’t make it to work, I’m sick (of this job).” I can’t find the link just now, sorry! I think you should totally lie away if you want, but if you want to maintain the truth in your own head, I wonder if that might help with the mantra part of things. Like “I’m sure Darth Mom would have been very excited (to have a new planet to explode)” or “I’m disappointed too (that you think that this is an ok thing to talk about you well-meaning STORMTROOPER!!!)”

    • Alexia said:

      Now I’m tempted to tell them “Oh, DarthMom is just busy haunting Relative X. Eventually she’ll get to visiting us, but I’ve already prepared for the exorcism so everything should go fine :3”

  37. RunForChocolate said:

    My stepmother’s son and his wife had their second baby around a year ago. Their first child’s name was a bit off the beaten track, but perfectly pronounceable and close enough to mainstream to not be worth an eyebrow raise from all normal, decent people. They didn’t want to tell anybody the name of their second baby before she was born, and my stepmother badly wanted to know. She tried to pry the information from the then-2-year-old. I was really surprised; she’s usually a thoughtful and reasonable person. I thought that using the kid as a way to pry private information from her son/daughter-in-law was very uncool. Granted, she’s not the kind of person to tell somebody their name choice is bad, but still. Baby names bring out the cray-cray in some people!

    Do you think people who comment on your mom are generally well-meaning? It sound like this might be the case from your letter. If so, the scripts to reply to them and close that conversational circuit might well be different from those to reply to people who are insensitive or passive-aggressive. You can always say, “Mmmmm,” in a thoughtful way, then change the subject. I like the neutral non-responses others have suggested, too. One of those, coupled with a quick segue to a different conversation via a question from you about their own experiences or opinions on a not-your-mother topic, might head off any other comments you’d rather not have to deal with. Mostly people like to talk about themselves so it can often be a good diversion from an uncomfortable topic.

    I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. It’s tough to have a happy time (arrival of a new niece!) tainted by all the bad feelings around your awful mother. But soon enough, hopefully, the time-and-energy-sucking reality of the impending baby will overtake all the crap about your mom.

    • Drew said:

      I am generally willing to give two or three “I’m sorry, but I/we aren’t discussing it” before I allow myself permission to deploy one of two strategies, depending on whether I want to fight or not.

      Fight: “Look, shut up about it. It’s none of your business and I’m not talking about it with you. If you keep asking, this conversation is OVER.”

      Not fight: I lie. The obviousness of the lie is directly correlated to how much I want to convey “You are out of line and should stop asking” with my answer and how amused I will be to have this person spreading misinformation around for several months until I come out and say, “No, I don’t know where Peter could have gotten the idea that we were naming our daughter Beauregarde. She’s Matilda.”

      • jdrives said:

        My husband and I already decided that if people are being obnoxious about our future children’s names, we’re going to demur until pressed, and then say “Alright, if you must know…we’re naming him/her Lucifer.”

  38. boutet said:

    I find it uncomfortable that people assume that recently-dead-person’s name is such a great idea for a baby. I loved my Dad, he was a wonderful person. And I can not imagine being anything like happy or comfortable cooing, saying, scolding his name over and over again daily for years. I would not be thrilled talking about Dad’sname’s pooping schedule. It HURTS that’s he’s dead and I have no interest in reopening that wound constantly.

    I know there are people would experience it differently but I don’t get why the assumption is that it’ll be a great experience for everyone even if you did really love the dead person.

    • Redgirl said:

      Wow, I NEVER thought about it that way, but yeah, changing diapers and baby-talking at someone with my mother or father’s name would seriously creep me out. And yeah, if either of them were dead then saying their name all day long would be agonizing.

  39. sara said:

    On the name thing, my second-hand experience with this has been family members complaining about my cousin’s choice of names for his kids. (Perfectly lovely names! People are just ridiculous!). I’ve found things get shut down pretty fast when I cheerily say “Well, I think XXX is a lovely name! I just think it’s so beautiful!” So in this case, I would talk up whatever name has been chosen and how you just love it so much. Makes the conversation way less interesting for the negative person!

    On the “so sad the grandchild will never meet his/her grandparent”, I think there are some great scripts above. I also like “Yes, a strong grandparent-grandchild bond can be so beautiful, can’t it! Were you close to your grandparents? Totally true, in that the relationship CAN be very beautiful….you don’t need to mention that in this case it ISN’T.

  40. Jenny Islander said:

    LW, after my mother died I got “Oh, she was a grand lady, a pillar of the community” wherever I went. Actually she was a self-absorbed unadmitted alcoholic who left me with a lifetime of medical issues due to neglect and also sexually abused me. I just responded “Mmm-hmm,” and changed the subject, except for the one person who kept on talking about her. Her I told, “She had one personality in public and another at home, and I would rather not get into it.”

    Basically, I find it better not to attempt to explain.

  41. I’m named after my mom’s little sister’s persona in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

    No, really.

    Disadvantages: nobody knows how to pronounce “Ealasaid.” Nobody knows how to spell it, either. There aren’t any Coke cans with my name on ’em (or pencils, or barrettes, or anything else).

    Advantages: If you Google me (and spell my name right), you will find *ME*. I am the only Ealasaid Haas in the world, apparently. As someone mentioned above, this is a huge advantage these days! I don’t have much in the way of identity mishaps.

    My one gripe these days, really, is that it’s become semi-popular as a handle online because it’s Scots Gaelic. I have to be careful to register with pretty much every new social media site / free email service / whatever or I wind up having to be “EalasaidH” or something because someone already has “Ealasaid.”

    • MadDissector said:

      Hey, I am also the only one in the world with my name (after Google)! Although in my case it’s because of the unusual combination if my first and second name, and a very rare first family name (Spanish people have two surnames). I only began to appreciate that rather recently. On the other hand, it helps people that I cannot bother about to held easily track of me, like high school ex-class partners and some gossipy family members.

  42. Anyanka said:

    One of the comments you could make, LW, would be “Well, no matter what, if they really don’t like it, they can always change it when they grow up”.

    (Though maybe that’s a cultural thing, too.)

  43. Wow, yeah. I have a DVM as well, and all through my pregnancy people kept saying stuff like “I bet your mum is really excited” and “When are your parents visiting?” and “Your mum must be very proud.” Yes, it’s annoying and exhausting indeed, and kind of stressful for me because my mother has never once in my life said she’s proud or excited about me/something I’ve done. But rather than respond “I’d rather keep my kid the hell away from that woman thx” (which would have triggered an even more annoying/exhausting barrage of questions and “but faaaaamily!” type comments, I opted to do as Cap says and throw back a bland response + subject change like “Yes, I’m sure she is. So how’s your crochet project coming along?” or “We haven’t arranged anything yet. But how about you? Would you like to come visit when we’ve got the baby?”

    Trust me LW, this does work. People assume there just isn’t anything else to say, and if your responses are that boring they might not bother asking again.

    People do turn into interfering busybodies as soon as other people’s babies are on the radar but it truly sucks when said baby isn’t even yours and you still get quizzed :-/

  44. fraija said:

    Well…what do they want you to do about it? Even if she was the greatest mother and person in the world, are you going to get out your necromancer’s robe and bring her back to meet the baby?

    It’s just a terrible way to try to offer sympathy on her death. I mean, if everything was as they suppose it was, how would it make you feel better to think of all the things your mother will never do? (And because I’m blunt, I’d probably tell people that.)

    I think it’s okay not to want to talk about your mother’s death, even if your feelings about it were simple. A year isn’t long, and if it was pre-mature, then it’s reasonable to expect people not to be over it. I think this works for both the name and the comments:

    “I’d really rather not associate my mother’s passing with my new nibling, (my brother probably feels the same,)”

    “I’ll never forget my mother, but I’d rather be happy about the new baby!”

    “This is a time to be happy, I’d rather not think about that!”

    She was your mother. You get to deal with her death how you want, and if that is by asking people not to mention her, they should do that because you have to live with your feelings.

    (This is all fairly generic, because I do sympathise with your feelings, but if you’d rather not go into it with people, these are assumptions they should make when talking to ANYONE who’s recently lost a parent!)

    • Bashelor said:

      “are you going to get out your necromancer’s robe and bring her back to meet the baby? “

      OMG that would be the most awesome response to the whole “It’s a shame NewBaby will never know Darth Granny”

      “Great Scott! You’re right! You find a black goat and some red candles and I’ll get our robes and review what it says in the Necronomicon about correct pronunciation during the rite and… what do you mean that wasn’t what you had in mind? This is the only way your wish can be fulfilled!” Sadly, things like this work better in TV sketches than real life. *sigh*

  45. I definitely like the route of basically saying “it’s not my business” about the name choice. Something along the lines of “Sister and Husband get to choose their own traditions with naming their children.” Or, “It’s not really for me to judge their choices, I’m just excited to be an aunt/uncle.” As far as the comments related to how the baby will not get to have a relationship with your mother, another thing you could say is, “Well, I’m sure my sister will have another way of remembering (or possibly ‘honoring’) mom.”

  46. johann7 said:

    Or, if you’re like me, which the LW clearly isn’t, given zir use of the euphemistic “airing dirty laundry”* and the assertion that nobody wants that, you can take the scorched-earth** approach:
    “Actually, Darth Mom was a horribly abusive asshole. The primary emotion I felt in response to her death was relief, and I’m glad that Jacen/Jaina*** and everyone else will never have to deal with her again.”

    *I just realized how little sense that phrase makes in its usual context of usage: airing dirty laundry is what one does to make it smell better.
    **This one too: slash-and-burn ENRICHES soil. This probably ought to be “salted earth”.
    ***Jacen and Jaina were the names of Han and Leah’s first (twin) children in the original Star Wars Expanded Universe continuity, before the prequel trilogy. I have no idea if that was carried over to the post-prequel EU or the upcoming sequel trilogy.

    • fraija said:

      But the phrase is ‘airing your dirty laundry in public’. Airing isn’t actually something you do to dirty laundry on purpose, it’s more just the idea of keeping your dirty laundry (with all its personal stains and what it can reveal about you/your family) hidden from other people who aren’t in on the laundry load. Imagine sorting through the laundry basket and picking up your stained underwear and folding it in full view of guests. It does actually make sense because LW doesn’t want to reveal things about his family and upbringing, which he considers private, to people who aren’t involved.

      Salting the earth is something you do to make sure that nothing can ever grow there again. This would only make sense if LW said something, or intended to say something that would ruin a relationship with someone past the point of repair, with the intention of never returning to it. it’s similar to burning bridges. Scorched earth has implications of vicious, indiscriminate destruction: burning to the ground so that nothing survives. It’s not usually suggesting that you’re doing it to a forest, or a heather moor, it’s usually suggesting that you’re an invading force attacking a township.

      My favourite no-apparent-sense-phrase is ‘it’s an ill wind’. The full phrase is ‘it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’. The way you have to think it to make sense is ‘Truly, it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good,”. (It means that very rarely do things happen which don’t benefit someone, and is usually used wryly when someone benefits from a bad thing. E.g. Someone suddenly making more money selling merchandise after a celebrity’s death.)

    • Brooks said:

      Being silly and pedantic about your scorched-earth footnote: Scorched-earth is the first level of destroying the enemy’s fields — you kill everything that’s growing there now and leave nothing standing, but then they can rebuild. Salted-earth is the second level, where you also destroy the land itself to prevent them from regrowing. So, by that logic, scorched-earth is exactly appropriate for a metaphor here in that it immediately kills _that_ conversation, but now they understand and once they get over the shock you will likely be able to have other conversations with them in the future and they may even be enriched by their having learned something.

      Or so I’d argue if we were in an in-person conversation and you seemed more likely to find a tongue-in-cheek disagreement amusing than annoying. 🙂

  47. Anon said:

    LW the people who say these things are not worth the effort. Say whatever you need to with the aim of changing the direction of the conversation, in my experience these types of people are only interested in their own opinions anyway. They are not interested in you (sorry – it sounds harsh but it is true).

    Husband and I made the mistake of announcing our unborn baby was a boy. We were so excited we did not realize he would be the first grandson and great grand son on both sides of our family. The pressure to give the kid a “family” name become intense from both of our families. We announced we were fed up and instead of upsetting one family, the fairest way to deal with this was to upset everyone. We gave the kid a name which had never been used by either family, but which was an old, traditional one from our Celtic background.

    Everyone got over it. Mainly because if they did not, they understood they would not get to see baby.

  48. Alex said:

    “Well, it’s obvious you have a lot of opinions about that.”
    Just wanted to say this is THE BEST response to 90% of things you just don’t have the time or energy to get involved in. I love it.

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