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Carolyn Hax: Don’t get hung up on what happens with surnames after a divorce

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?

A.

DEAR A.: 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.

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.

DEAR CAROLYN: There is a relative we visit three or four times per year. Within the first five minutes, this relative always makes a comment about my weight. “You look like you’ve lost a few pounds” or “I see you gained back the weight you had lost.” These comments are always in front of the entire family, and always catch me off-guard.

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.

What can I say that will stop her in her tracks, but that won’t be too rude? I dread spending time with her because she always does this to me.

Speechless

DEAR SPEECHLESS: “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.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax.

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