Hax Philes: It’s Sleeping, and It’s a Dog

Decades ago, my cousin was born out of wedlock to my aunt. Two years later, my aunt married someone other than the child’s father, and her husband formally adopted my cousin. All the members of my family are aware of this, but we have been repeatedly instructed in no uncertain terms by my grandmother, my aunt and her sister NEVER to disclose to our cousin the circumstances of her paternity. My grandmother and the other aunt have passed away, and my cousin’s parents are now their seventies.

Over the years, many family members have urged my aunt to be honest with my cousin, but we have all respected her decision, and continue to keep this secret. I can foresee a time when such information may be useful to my cousin for medical reasons, but if that issue does not arise, should I forever remain silent? Or should I be honest with her, when no one else has been?

Would you want to know? Would you want to tell? Would you want to thump the people who imposed this secret on everyone?

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Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers.
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