Dear Carolyn: When a woman marries a man, it is usually love. If she decides to take his last name as her unhyphenated surname, has no children from the marriage and then decides to divorce her once-enamored because she no longer loves him, or for other reasons — why does she keep his name?
Because her maiden name was Snortflugel. Because she has established a life with her married name. Because she now has a professional reputation with that name. Because she dislikes her family of origin more than she dislikes her ex-husband. Because her Frettes are monogrammed.
Whatever it is, it’s not just loving = take his last name, not loving = shed his last name. There are deeply-in-love newlyweds who keep their own names for their own highly personal reasons, and deeply relieved divorcees who keep their exes’ names for their own highly personal reasons.
What she does and why is beyond your reach now, and beyond your realm of concern. Even if you live in a 12-person town and there are now two Mrs. A’s, you just address any confusion as it arises, the way multiple Liams and Emmas do every day in primary schools across America. So the best I can advise someone with your query is with this: Let. Go.
This relative and I have both battled with our weight. But, we are not close, and I don’t want to discuss it with her.
I invariably find myself speechless as I try, ineffectually, to brush her off. What can I say that will stop her in her tracks, but that won’t be too rude? I really don’t want to offend her, as she has many good qualities and is important to people I love dearly. But, I dread spending time with her because she always does this to me.
“Ooh, not my favorite subject … so great to see you, tell me — how’ve you been?” Know yourself, and rehearse it beforehand — or a version of it in your own words. It’s breezy, sets a boundary, delivers a compliment, appeals to her vanity and speaks only for you.
And it puts the kind words and the query after you state your boundary. That way, you force her to go against the flow of conversation if she insists on talking pounds.
If she persists? Then you deflect more pointedly: Smile. “OK then!” Change subject.
If that fails, then pull her kindly aside later on.
Most important, buy in to the propriety of standing your ground. A light touch means it’s not a public smackdown of a cherished relative, even if the limit is firm. Plus, since it’s polite to ascribe only the best motives to others, it’s also an act of decency to help her avoid upsetting you. Think of your deflection as the ornamental fence that keeps her from blundering into the mums.
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