ASK AMY: Sister-in-law is a persistent bad name

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Dear Amy: I am a 55 year old male.

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I legally changed my (first name) when I was 25, mainly because I was the fourth “John” in my family, many of us sharing the same name.

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This change had nothing to do with gender or identity.

While traveling through Europe, I picked up a perfectly normal new name (nothing outlandish) and never looked back.

I have used this name personally and professionally for over 30 years.

Everyone in my life calls me by my chosen name – except my sister-in-law, “Wendy”.

She married my older brother when I was a teenager and became the family matriarch after our parents died.

My younger brother and sister-in-law recently welcomed the first grandchildren into the clan.

I was upset that Wendy objected when I called myself “Uncle Chosen Name”.

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She quickly corrected me, using my birth name, which I don’t use in any capacity.

His own children call me by the name I chose, so there is no way this child will grow up using my birth name.

Wendy also creates awkward moments when she introduces me to her friends and says aside, “I explained your name.” What?

Why does she explain NOTHING to me? They don’t need to explain my name, especially in a way that makes me look like a gadfly with a personality disorder.

I have no other issues with Wendy and have always considered her family.

How do I make him understand that my name is not his choice and that his actions are extremely insulting and degrading?

– Call me Ishmael

Dear Ishmael: You don’t seem to have ever responded directly to “Wendy” when she refuses to use your three-decade legal name.

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I suspect her reaction may have to do with a former “John” in your family (perhaps your father) whom she would like to continue to honor, but given that he is a role model with her, you should be able anticipate her reaction and prepare a response – either directly to her at the time, or privately with her soon after.

Wendy is a very long-time member of the family. Your big sister, in a way. So, use your words!

Rehearse ahead of time, if it works for you. Try a version of: “Wendy, I don’t understand. What’s with you and my name? I really need you to understand this is my legal name. Everyone in the world uses it except you. And I guess you can call me whatever you want, but I’ll only answer my name.


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Dear Amy: Just eight weeks ago, I lost my partner of 20 years. My grief is real.

About three weeks ago, I received a friend request on social media (along with a private message) from a man I hadn’t seen in over 40 years.

I knew him briefly as a child, connected with him and his family once after childhood, and didn’t even know he had moved to this area.

He expressed his sadness for my loss and we exchanged phone numbers.

Now he calls me every day and asks me if I want to meet for lunch, coffee or whatever my heart desires.

I’m not ready for this, and I told him.

He says he will respect my wishes, yet he continues to contact me every day.

He lost his wife over a year ago, so I can understand he’s ready for more than me at this point.

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Part of me says to cut ties now because he won’t take no for an answer, and another part of me understands that he’s probably alone. He may be a wonderful companion for me in a few months.

How should I handle this?

– Insomnia

Dear Insomniac: You should explain to this man that his persistence is not having the effect he might want and is actually delaying the healing you need.

Tell him you won’t meet him until you’re ready, and don’t answer his calls unless (or until) you want to talk.

Dear Amy: The Worried Friends letter could have been written about me. I was trapped in an abusive marriage and my husband did his best to isolate me from my friends and family.

Please encourage people to try to stay connected. My only remaining friend was my lifeline.

– Survivor

Dear Survivor: Connection is vital. Anyone in crisis can connect with the Crisis Text Line: Text “home” to 741741.

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