DEAR CAROLYN: I’m in my 40s and heading to graduate school for a completely different career. I’ve always hated my first name – it sounds great for a child but does not transfer very well as a professional name. I’d like to change it as I embark on my new direction, but I feel silly being my age and sounding like I’m having an identity crisis. Thoughts?
DEAR NAME CHANGE: But do you like it otherwise? Sounding professional strikes me as a subordinate goal, not a defining one.
If you’re sure: This is a pain-now-vs.-nuisance-forever question. Yes, you'll feel like a dork changing your name at your age. But, climbing Dork Mountain now means one day leaving the whole thing behind you.
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If instead you decide the hassle isn’t worth it, then be ready to ask yourself whether it’s silly at 50-something to own this identity crisis. Though maybe at that point you'll have summited Mount Don’t Give-a-Whit, which often occurs around then.
DEAR CAROLYN: I am an adult (35) with a great relationship with my mother. We have had one longstanding issue that was a lot worse when I was a teenager but now is almost just silly, but not silly enough for me not to want advice!
When I ask my mother’s opinion on things she will often say it is “fine” or “OK.” To me, this leaves a lot of room for improvement. When I follow up with, “What should I do better?” she says, “I said it was OK!”
So the crux is really I don’t like the terms OK and fine – to me they mean something is subpar (especially not enjoyable when used related to appearance) – and she wants me to accept that “OK is OK!”
What should we do? Twenty years later and we are both clinging to our positions on this.
DEAR MOTHER-DAUGHTER: Then it’s time to accept that both of you would rather take this disagreement to one of your deathbeds than be the one to give in.
You could solve it in five seconds by saying, “Great, thanks,” when she declares something “fine” or “OK.” (Or in zero seconds by choosing not to seek her approval for things anymore.)
She could solve it in 10 seconds by replacing “fine” with something more usefully descriptive. “Flattering.” “Nice color!” “A little too loose in the seat.”
Neither of you does this, though, so it’s safe to conclude both of you have objectives more pressing to you than resolving this issue. Maybe Mom’s trying either not to say something mean or not to say something nice, while you just want kindness to be her first impulse. Maybe you can reflect your way to an epiphany on these objectives.
But it’s also OK – fine, even – to reconcile yourself to the fact that this is just who she is.
DEAR CAROLYN: I am in my early 20s. My parents have been divorced for three years. Dad “moved on” within months of their separating. Although his lady friend was not the cause of the divorce, I’m sure my mother believes that if she hadn’t been in the picture, they may have had a chance to repair things.
I am not wild about Dad’s lady friend, although we have both been nothing but friendly. I have purposely skipped some events because I know she will be there.
When I am hosting an event, is it rude of me to invite my dad and not her? They are living together.
A Different Torn
DEAR TORN: Yes, it is rude to exclude, I’m sorry. You can ask to see your dad one-on-one, but any event that includes mates has to include her.
As for your mother’s discomfort, it is understandable, but it does not confer an obligation – or permission – for you to shut the lady friend out.