Carolyn Hax: When nicknames become unreasonable

The Washington PostMay 15, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: A parent insists on calling an adult child (as in, career, married, kids, 30s, etc.) a babyish childhood nickname. The child has asked that the parent not use the name multiple times. The parent claims they cannot change that easily and seems (to outside parties) to be using the name more frequently. The parent will slip into this nickname at public events as well, including events involving the child's colleagues.

The child does not believe the parent has tried to adhere to the request. Is either side being unreasonable?

NICKNAMED

The parent who sticks to the name is being unreasonable, I suspect with intent. Power trip? Usually is.

If you've spent any time in this forum at all, you know I'm going to say you can be right about your nickname - you're the adult child, obviously - and still not control your parent's use of it. You can choose not to respond to the nickname. When this parent calls you Pookie, she or he might as well be saying "armchair." Your head does not turn.

You can also limit this parent's presence at events. And, you can take deep, cleansing breaths and remind yourself that a defiant, public nickname-abuser is actually making more of a fool of him/her self than of Pookie.

Refusing to try to see it that way is where the adult child would enter the unreasonable zone. Fair?

Re: Pookie: Thanks Carolyn, that does make sense. What if the parent sends emails that begin with "Pookie"? Would you suggest ignoring the email altogether?

NICKNAMED AGAIN

You can state clearly to the parent: "I'm just letting you know, from now on, if you start an email with Pookie, I will delete it unread" … and stick to it. Or, you can decide this is private communication and not worth the trouble, and fight your battle on the public turf.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at washingtonpost.com.

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