Welcome to re-Prudied where I fix the terrible advice of Emily Yoffe, a.k.a. Dear Prudie, in the dim hopes that the original letter writer will read it and disregard Prudie’s terrible advice. Today’s response fixes Prudie’s tone deaf response to a woman who shares a first name with Hillary Clinton and is understandably tired of references and jokes.
Q. Not Like Hillary Clinton: My name is Hilary, with one L. Ever since I was a young child, acquaintances have jokingly called me “Hillary Clinton” or made Hillary Clinton–related jokes. Recently, for obvious reasons, these jokes seem to occur more often than ever, especially when I’m meeting someone for the first time. I find these comments incredibly aggravating, especially as I don’t care for many of Clinton’s political views. Is there something I can say to new acquaintances who bring this up, and/or to those who repeatedly make the joke?
A: It says something about how long two-L Hillary has been in public life that you have been hearing Hillary Clinton remarks since you were a little girl, and now you’re a grown woman. I’m afraid as we’re heading to the 2016 campaign, you’re going to have to deal with a lot more of these comments. Do not take offense or get into political hassles. Just laugh this off—you can imitate Hillary’s own well-known belly laugh. Have a canned phrase or two to deal with this, something like, “When my parents named me, they were never expecting that Hilary would have a presidential ring!”
I can’t believe I’d ever say this, but I’m jealous of Prudie. Clearly someone with the first name Emily got it pretty easy growing up. No wonder Prudie ignores the real problem here and thinks that a “belly laugh” is an ideal response. How about some empathy?
My name was bastardized thanks to a couple of well-known 80s songs, a musical, and a handful of movies so I understand the frustration and irritation coming from this letter. I wish this woman had contacted me because I have so much experience in this department!
Instead of telling this LW to laugh it off, Prudie, how about giving her some practical advice that sends the message such comments aren’t welcome?
Taken from my own playbook:
- Turn the corners of your mouth up slightly and shake your head.
- “Are you done with your joke yet? Or do you want more time to continue?”
- “Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that one. You’re a comedic trailblazer.” Bonus if they ask, “Really?” Then you can say, “No. Not really.”
- Say, “That’s so funny,” without smiling.
- Stare at the person with no expression. If he tries to explain or asks why you’re not laughing, say, “Oh no I get the joke. I don’t think it’s funny.”
- If you’re with a group and the person is done, say, “Let’s give this person a round of applause for his quick wit, originality, and unique insight.”
- “Comparing my name to that of a presidential candidate? That’s the best you can do?”
The one thing people who tell name holders like us to “lighten up” or “laugh it off” do not realize is this: you may be performing and/or hearing this crap for the first time but the Amys, Jennys, Roxannes, Laylas, and Carolines* of this world have heard it for the zillionth. If you have the patience to hear this cliched crap repeatedly over many decades, then you are a better person than we are. Regardless, I reserve my right to be an asshole about it and so should the LW.
As for everyone else, if you meet someone who has a name in a well-known movie, song, play, book, etc., please refrain from saying the most obvious reference. You may think you’re funny, but you’re really showing everyone in hearing range that you’re lazy and unoriginal.
I welcome other responses in the comments.
*Not an exhaustive list.