Advice columnist

Adapted from recent online discussions.

Dear Carolyn:

In a recent conversation with my significant other, we started talking about baby names we like (no chance of kids yet, just one of those odd conversations you stumble into). He mentioned one boy’s name he really wanted to use.

It is the name of one of my exes, and I am really opposed to using it. He thinks it shouldn’t be a big deal since I didn’t date the guy for long, but I have a problem disassociating the name with the guy. There are a few names I wouldn’t want to use, boy and girl, because they remind me of people I really do not want to be reminded of. Thoughts?


(Nick Galifianakis)

Each parent has veto power over a name, but, for what it’s worth, an association with a non-significant ex will be quickly erased as your someday baby inhabits the name. If the association is too bad for that to be true, then you can both stop reading at, “Each parent has veto power.”

Unasked-for bonus advice: Save any digging in on names for when you and the person in question conceive the child in question and the child turns out to be of the sex of the name in question. Until then, it’s guaranteed that you have better things to fight about, even if you haven’t thought of them yet.

Dear Carolyn:

My husband’s family lives about an hour away from us and we see them on a pretty regular basis, usually once a week or so. For the last two weekends, we’ve gone up to stay with his parents to help them plan and execute a big surprise party for his grandmother’s 90th birthday. We attended last weekend and everyone had a wonderful time.

Now we’re being asked to come up again this weekend for an immediate-family birthday dinner. In addition to the exhaustion of the last few weeks and our need for a break to be by ourselves, we are on a very tight budget, and every trip to see them costs us in both tolls and gas.

When we told my mother-in-law this, she said we need to come up and Yiayia would be very offended if we couldn’t make it.

But we really need some time to ourselves. Is there a way to frame this that isn’t lying (e.g., illness) or being really rude? We feel we did right by her when we celebrated at her party, but are we just being too selfish here?


“I’m sorry to hear that.” That’s all you need to say in response to any declaration that Yiayia will be offended. As for why you’re staying home: “We and our bank balances need some recovery time. Have fun and send Yiayia our love.” That’s all you need to say on that.

The part I can’t script for you is the conversation that transpires between you and your husband. Is he as committed to this boundary as you are? If so, then you’ve got the hard part behind you; the rest is just tuning your ears to filter out guilt frequencies.

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