DEAR ABBY: My wife's niece is marrying a wonderful man of Greek descent this summer. Her grandfather insists that his last name is too long and impossible to pronounce. He thinks they need to change the name when they marry. He went so far as to make them call him so he could tell them what he wanted. Then he gave them 10 days to "think about it" and call him back with their answer.
He told the mother of the bride that if they don't change the name, then he's "just not into the wedding anymore," implying that he won't help them pay for the event. Needless to say, this has most of the family shaking their heads and thinking the old man has finally lost it.
We understand that this was common practice for families passing through Ellis Island coming to America a century ago, but have you ever heard of this being done for a wedding? Being a therapist, I thought I'd seen and heard it all -- until now. Please give us some insight. I'm hoping his "ladyfriend" will read your reply and share it with him. -- CAN'T BELIEVE IT DOWN SOUTH
DEAR CAN'T BELIEVE IT: You have described a man who is used to being in control and is not above using his money to manipulate. A century ago when people came to this country through Ellis Island, many of them were escaping discrimination and wanted to leave their past behind them, which is why they Americanized their names.
Others had it done "for" them by government officials who couldn't understand them when they pronounced their names and wrote down what they thought they heard. (Years ago, in Sioux City, Iowa, my mother knew two brothers who walked through different lines and wound up with the names "Ginsberg" and "Landsberg." I don't know which was correct.) Still others were so eager to become "Americans" that they shortened or changed their names for that reason.
I sincerely hope no one is expecting Granddad to pay for the upcoming wedding. That he would attempt to blackmail the young couple in this way is shameful. Let's hope they are mature enough to ignore him, and that they have a long and happy life together. Opa!