Dear readers: I hope you enjoy these questions and answers about the best of 10 years ago. Today’s topic is: “Keeping Secrets”.
I also invite readers to subscribe to my weekly “Asking Amy” newsletter at Amydickinson.substack.com.
I’ll be back with new questions and answers next week.
Dear Amy: My husband has a sister who was born when he was in high school.
His parents allowed him to name the baby. He had a crush on a classmate at the time and named her after the classmate. “Caroline” knows she was named after my husband’s classmate, but he never met her.
My husband’s 50th reunion is this summer, and they will both be there.
I think my husband should tell his classmate about his namesake, but he is firmly against it and made me promise not to either.
I think anyone would be honored to have an unknown namesake, especially one as charming and accomplished as Caroline.
Dear fan: This is a lovely story, but it is not yours to tell. Also, pushing your husband toward this revelation is not helpful. You’re right that elderly Caroline might be flattered to learn that she has a namesake, but there is a possible equal and opposite reaction.
At the meeting, your husband may choose to find this person to share his story, or these two Carolinas may meet through another medium, but it must not be through you.
Dear Amy: My brother died of AIDS, and our mother has instructed me, my sisters, and our families to keep the cause of his death a secret from other family members, friends, and neighbors.
When asked how he died, he mentions another illness. He has even asked mourners at his funeral to donate to a charity for people suffering from the other disease.
My mother cared for my sick brother for many years. I understand your fears of exclusion due to sexuality (my brother was gay and so was I). These topics are completely taboo for Mom.
How can I respect my mother’s wishes and also tell the truth, so that I can be “real” with my cousins and other family members?
I sincerely want to honor my brother’s memory and show my support for other people with AIDS or HIV.
Dear without words: If your mother has told you to lie about the cause of your brother’s death, then you cannot respect her wishes and also tell the truth. You and your siblings should encourage her to talk about this openly with you, even if she is unable to do so with other people.
You should also consider what you think your brother would have wanted.
You have to be “real” with the people in your life for many reasons, but mainly because you deserve to live honestly and authentically, no matter how you think others want you to be. Your family may find support and community for your mother through PFLAG.org.
Dear Amy: I recently took a short vacation and stayed at the home of my girlfriend’s mother (who lives there). My girlfriend wasn’t there (her spring break is at a different time).
During my visit, the mother told me that she had recently developed a romantic relationship with a man, after the death of her husband for 40 years.
He asked me not to tell my girlfriend, as I would see her next month and did not want her to hear it second hand. I pleased him.
When my girlfriend returned from her vacation, she was furious with me for not revealing her mother’s secret and for forcing her to be surprised by this news, which she doesn’t like.
She accused me of not being on “her team.” I was surprised by his reaction.
Dear secrets: Just because someone asks you to keep something a secret doesn’t mean you have to agree to do so.
Suppose your girlfriend is upset with her mother on several fronts. I think it’s completely understandable that she was quite conflicted and out of place, at least at first.
Also irritating is the idea that her mother trusts you, but not her. This put you in a terrible situation.
The best response would have been for you to say, “I really don’t feel comfortable with this. Now that I know your news, you’d better call her before I get home. I’m sure he would like to talk to you about it. “
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.