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Is My Mother-In-Law Co-Opting Another Culture By Asking For Our Child To Call Her 'Meemaw,' And Other Advice Column Questions

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There are too many excellent advice columns to keep up with, so we're committed to bringing you links to the best advice column questions and answers every week. Here's a roundup of the most interesting, thought-provoking and surprising questions that our favorite columnists (and subreddits) addressed in recent days.

Is My Mother-In-Law Co-Opting Another Culture By Asking For Our Child To Call Her 'Meemaw'?

My husband and I have a 4-month-old boy. I'm Korean American, so our son would call my mother Halmoni, the Korean word for grandmother. However, my mother-in-law keeps referring to herself as "Meemaw" and has seemingly decided that this is what our son will call her. I'm reluctant to use that term for her, since it looks like it's commonly used in other cultures that are not her own. From my understanding, my husband's family has distant German roots three or four generations back, so at the very least, Oma would make way more sense. I think she picked "Meemaw" because it sounds more interesting than Grandma, but I'm concerned that it's more "interesting" because it's co-opting another culture. We are very far from when our son would even speak his first word, but I want to sort this out now. Do I just go along with Meemaw as his grandmother's name?


Jamilah Lemieux points out that though "Meemaw" is commonly used in the South, it doesn't belong to any particular cultural group. "I respect and understand your sensitivity toward other cultures, but I don't think you have to worry about your MIL offending anyone as Meemaw, even if she's not actually from the bottom of the map," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Why Won't My Girlfriend Agree To Keep Dating Me After I Kicked Her Out Of Our Home In Favor Of My Daughter?

I am a semiretired man, still in good health both physically and mentally. Several years after my divorce in 2007, I met a woman (I'll refer to her as Jane), and after a few dates, I could tell we could be together for the rest of our lives.

My daughter continued to live with me through her mid-20s because she was still trying to decide on the best career to pursue. Jane lived in an apartment with her teenage son, who has a medical issue that may make living on his own difficult.

After two or three years of dating, Jane told me that she did not want to continue our relationship unless we moved in together. Around this time, my daughter was moving into an apartment with her boyfriend, and I agreed that Jane, with her son, could move into my house.

Well, after three years, my daughter and her now-fiancé decided that they had to move back to my house because of serious financial reasons. I spent much time and money rearranging my house to accommodate my daughter and her fiancé, Jane and her son, and myself… From the start, the two "families" did not get along well, primarily due to different lifestyles. Because my daughter and her fiancé still have no source of income, and Jane has a well-paying job, I realized that, for the sake of harmony, I needed to ask Jane to find an apartment.

Jane found an apartment within two weeks for her and her son, but said she does not want to hear from me ever again, despite the fact that we both really love each other. I do not want to lose Jane and miss her terribly, but I believe I had no other choice...

I have told her of many older couples who, for various reasons — children, finances, personal habits — choose to live not together, but near enough to still have a vibrant relationship. Jane wants none of this "living apart together," which has been the subject of many articles… Am I being unreasonable to expect Jane to see the benefits of our relationship despite not being able to live together with me for the next year or two?

[The Atlantic]

Lori Gottleib observes that the letter writer has attempted to argue with Jane's anger without understanding where it's coming from. "What Jane needs — if she's open to the possibility of reconciliation — is for you to communicate to her that you handled this poorly, caused her unnecessary pain, and can imagine how she must feel," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Should I Tell My Neighbors I'm Upset They Cut Down The Only Tree In My Backyard Without Permission?

I moved into this neighborhood in my city in early May. I rent my house. My neighbor has lived in the neighborhood with their family for years and kind of act like they rule the area.

For example, they place orange parking cones along a specific curb so no one will take their parking spot... My neighbors have also lit fireworks in the basketball court less than 100 feet from my house, which is a) against the rules of the city we live in, and b) dumb and dangerous.

They also regularly pull the cap off the fire hydrant 10 feet from my front door so their kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews can play in the water, which I should note floods the street and makes it impassable for cars.

Lastly, they like to host parties and invite a lot of their raucous friends and relatives… They'll be pretty noisy, but I've been patient and not gotten too annoyed with them, even on Saturday, when they woke up at 6 a.m. and began blasting the Black Eyed Peas in their backyard. Anyway. I digress.

They had another party last night. I've gotten so used to their noise that I tune them out. At some point, a guy in their yard took a chainsaw and cut down the only tree in my backyard. It was beautiful and healthy: Tons of big, graceful green leaves that formed a canopy and gave us a lot of shade. There is literally not a single leaf left on it. They cut the entire thing down except for a bit of the trunk and left a giant mess of branches and leaves for me to clean up. They didn't leave a note or anything. The only reason I found out about it is because my other neighbor said she was up late last night and saw the guy in question hacking away at my tree.

I'm pissed. My backyard is small since I live in a city, and it didn't have any foliage except for that tree. I want to tell my neighbor off, but even so that won't bring the tree back, and I don't want to create bad blood between us. Should I just suck it up and move on?

[Reddit via Twitter]

The commenters on the r/relationship_advice subreddit inform the letter writer that the law is on her side. "Contact your landlord, let them know. They have the ability to sue for damages," one of them writes. "And contact the city." Read the rest of their answers.

Was It Reasonable For My Boss To Ask Me To Do A Video Call, With Eye Contact, While I Was Driving?

The other day I survived a car trip while doing one of those things we know we're not supposed to do while driving: holding my phone in my hand while giving lots of eye contact with the camera. Since I do not typically use my phone while I drive, I did not even have any sort of dashboard system to hold my phone.

The back story is that I had to travel during the workday. Life happened, and I was not able to get back in time for a meeting. My boss told me to join in via Zoom while I drove. Okay. When I got in the car I switched the app to safe driving mode (which mutes my microphone and turns off video).

My boss declared this completely unacceptable. She said faces and eye contact were required. I explained I was driving without equipment, but she didn't care. This is what led to me driving for an over an hour in an extremely uncomfortable situation.

I am kicking myself for not standing up for myself. But is this truly a norm to require camera-on communication during meetings without exception?

[Ask A Manager]

Alison Green rules that this is not an office norm. "She put your life at risk, and the lives of other people on the road. It's reprehensible," she writes. "That's not hyperbole. People die from doing this." Read the rest of her answer.

Do I Have To Hide Away To Pump Breast Milk Because My Husband Thinks Witnessing Me Pumping Kills The Intimacy?

I'm a first-time mom to a beautiful 2-month-old daughter. My company has generous maternity leave, so I'm not expected back in the office until the end of the year.

Since I'm home for the rest of the year, I'm spending a majority of the time breastfeeding, which is going pretty well. I started pumping about a month ago so my husband could start introducing our baby to the bottle (and give me a break). While I'm only pumping once a day to ensure there's a backup in the event I'm away from the baby, my husband has made it clear that he is uncomfortable with me pumping in his presence (and says it kills the intimacy), which has left me feeling upset and unsupported. Eventually I'm going to have to increase the frequency as the baby sleeps for longer stretches, and I'm nearing the end of my leave, so he's going to have to be around it. Do I just hide away and pump so he doesn't have to deal with it, or is there a way to help him get comfortable with this arrangement?


Rumaan Alam encourages the letter writer to tell her husband he's being hurtful and unsupportive. "Your husband's failure to understand that you now physically (for a while anyway!) embody the role of both his partner and your child's parent is his failure, not yours," he writes. Read the rest of his answer.

Can I Ask My Daughter Not To Hang A Deer Head In Her New Home, Which I Helped Her Pay For?

My daughter just informed me that she will be hanging a deer head in their living room. Her live-in boyfriend loves to hunt, and she is doing this for him. Just thinking about it makes me physically ill. My thoughts turn to a dying animal who is suffering. 

My husband and I gave my daughter $12,000 to buy this home. I want her to rethink her decision based on the fact that this disturbs me, not that I'm trying to push her around because we gave her this money. I know she will take it personally and be upset at me. Help!


Abigail Van Buren suggests that the letter writer might be happier inviting the daughter and her boyfriend over if the deer head is too disturbing to look at. "I think we both know your daughter is an adult and entitled to make that decision without worrying that her fella's hobby bothers you," she writes. "We don't have to like it or approve." Read the rest of her answer.

LV Anderson is the news editor at Grist and an advice column aficionado.

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