Bad Advice On Trashy Baby Names And Faux Food Allergies

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Welcome to our latest Bad Advice column! Stay tuned every Tuesday for more terrible guidance based on actual letters.
“My wife and I were elated to find out we are going to have a daughter! We decided to discuss names last week and gave ourselves three days to prepare our ideas. I spent a ton of time on this and even put together a presentation with each name and the reasons I liked them. I chose some important family names and some special names from literature and the arts — all of which I think would be beautiful. My wife showed up with a few names scribbled on the back of a grocery list as if she hardly even cared! Also her ideas were trashy misspelled names like Lauryn and Bethonie and 18th-century presidents’ names like Madison, Taylor, and Polk. I was so disappointed in my wife for not taking this seriously, as I feel it is very important. Honestly, this episode has me questioning the foundation of our relationship, let alone raising a child together. Obviously, I can’t just leave now because I am committed to the child, but how can my wife and I get past this major red flag in our relationship? I have tried to discuss it with her and she doesn’t even think she has done anything wrong, so we are at a major impasse.”
— From “Baby Name Blow-Up” via “Dear Prudence,” Slate, 13 April 2017

Dear Baby Name Blow-Up,

If your wife can’t get her shit together enough to make an elaborate Power Point presentation that validates the objective correctness of your opinions on baby stuff, the Bad Advisor is afraid you may have no choice but to leave her to a solitary life of just dealing with this (hopelessly trashy) baby the best way she knows how. This is not, of course, the way anyone in the history of humanity has ever approached parenting, but maybe your wife will be able to overcome her appalling taste and raise a child that is worth a damn, despite the irredeemable shortcomings for which she is so unwilling to flagellate herself at your request. It’s unlikely, of course, but remotely possible that a child who should rightly have been christened Howl Salinger, opening up for it a world of guaranteed easy success and goodwill, could succeed as plain, poor Lauryn — after all, that Madison fellow did manage to become president despite being held back by his gauche 18th-century president’s name.

Even a person of rare taste such as yourself cannot impregnate one’s wife with sophistication.

The single most important determining factor in a person’s worth, in or out of a relationship, is the effort they put into making a persuasive argument for naming their children good names (from literature and the arts). Not only does your wife’s laissez-faire approach to her own baby-name preferences undermine her fitness as a partner, it demonstrates the extent to which her classlessness will bleed over into “Bethonie,” or whatever other foul moniker with which she would besmirch your offspring.

Sadly, even a person of rare taste such as yourself cannot impregnate one’s wife with sophistication; maybe you can spread some of your own refined elegance on the placenta and hope that a delicious baby-sack-shake will impart unto her the refinement you require in a co-parent. Failing that, continue to scold your wife for thinking differently than you; it’ll be good practice for the kind of parent you’ll be.

“Is it rude to scream in a shrill voice in crowds? I am so tired of having my eardrum ruptured by screaming girls and women at social events.”
— Via “Miss Manners,” Washington Post, 6 April 2017

Gentle Reader,

It is extremely rude! Lady voices are only for softly crying while being very pretty in an attic somewhere.

“My brother and I suspect that our sister-in-law has either embellished the extent of our niece’s food allergy or made it up completely. The same holds true for the child’s ‘asthma.’
Our brother, who is married to the mom in question, is not one to make waves. They live across the country from us, so we do not see them often, and when we do it’s usually not conducive to discussing this. This little girl — home-schooled and an only child — only knows what her parents tell her. There is much joy to derive from food, and this kid has it in her mind that a lot of food is dangerous. My brother and I believe that our sister-in-law does not want her child to grow up and one day leave her. My sister-in-law’s brother still lives with their mother. He is middle-aged, of sound body and mind, but the mother kept him in the nest. We feel strongly that my sister-in-law is repeating this with our niece; if she has severe allergies, it makes it easier to explain the home schooling.
My brother and I were thinking about calling my niece’s allergist to let him know that we are skeptical. I would imagine that he must have an obligation to cease treating someone if there is no evidence of disease. That said, we don’t know if my niece sees the allergist often. We have tried to bring it up with my brother, even sarcastically asking to see the medical chart, but it doesn’t lead to anything productive. My sister-in-law needs to be exposed, but we certainly don’t want to damage the bond between mother and daughter.”
— From “Name Withheld” via “The Ethicist,” New York Times, 15 March 2017

Dear Name Withheld,

It’s so important not to damage the bond between mother and daughter when you’re trying to expose the mother as a lying monster desperate to smother her child into a lifetime of obedient submission. But you cannot let your selfless and admirable concern for the beautiful connection between this unfit wench and her hapless family outweigh the duty you have to your brother to let him know that the life he is living is unsatisfactory in the opinion of people who see him a couple of times a year.

Although employing sarcasm as a verbal cover for pretending not to want the thing that you want is a very good tactic, and there’s no reason to cease saying the opposite of what you mean when you believe a child’s wellbeing is at stake, obviously the allergist is your first stop. He will be happy and willing to discuss your niece’s medical history with strangers over the phone, and appreciate your candor about his treatment plan for a child you barely know. Like most people, doctors appreciate being told how to do their job by strangers who have read a couple of articles about their profession. This man will undoubtedly cease treatment immediately at your behest, leaving you only to solve the remaining issues: the entirety of your sister-in-law’s parenting style and your browbeaten brother’s unwitting complicity in perpetuating a family cycle that you can say with a certainty is being repeated in this generation by people you rarely see and who live thousands of miles away from you.

The next time you see this bunch, speak up. Make sure they’re aware that you can no longer sit idly by and speculate the very worst things about their family without saying something, and that, as you’re ringing in 2023, you will absolutely say something as you sit idly by and speculate the very worst things about their family!

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