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Ask Amy: Sister-in-law is a persistent mis-namer

Dear Amy: I’m a 55-year-old man.

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

This change had nothing to do with gender or identity.

Traveling through Europe, I picked up a new, perfectly normal name (nothing wacky), 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 teen and has become the matriarch of the family after our parents’ deaths.

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

I was upset that Wendy objected when I referred to myself as “Uncle Chosen Name.”

She quickly corrected me, using my birth name, which I do not use in any capacity.

Her own children call me by my chosen name, 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 to me as an aside, “I explained about your name.” What?

Why is she explaining ANYTHING for me? They don’t need to have my name explained, especially in a way that makes me look like a gadfly with a personality disorder.

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

How do I get her to understand that my name isn’t her choice and that her actions are extremely insulting and demeaning?

— Call me Ishmael

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

I suspect that her reaction may have to do with a previous “John” in your family (possibly your father) who she would like to continue to honor, but given that this is a pattern with her, you should be able to anticipate her reaction and prepare a response — either directly to her in the moment, or privately with her soon afterward.

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

Rehearse in advance, if that works for you. Try a version of: “Wendy, I don’t get it. What is it with you and my name? I really need you to understand that this is my legal name. Everyone in the world uses it, except for you. And I guess you can call me anything you want, but I’m only going to answer to my name.”

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

Approximately three weeks ago, I received a friend request on social media (along with a private message) from a man I had not seen in over 40 years.

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

He expressed sadness for my loss, and we exchanged telephone numbers.

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

I’m not ready for that, and told him so.

He says he will respect my wishes, and 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 I am at this point.

A 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 lonely. He may be a wonderful companion for me several months from now.

How should I handle this?

— Sleepless

Dear Sleepless: You should explain to this man that his persistence is not having the effect he might desire, and that it is actually delaying the healing you require.

Tell him you’ll meet with him only when you’re ready, and don’t take his calls unless (or until) you are interested in talking.

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

Thank you for encouraging people to try to remain connected. My one remaining friend was my lifeline.

— Survivor

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

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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