DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our adopted son is in kindergarten, and at school there was a discussion about President Lincoln. The topic turned to slavery, where he was singled out for having "brown" skin (he's biracial) and that his relatives were slaves, versus the relatives of the other students who were slave owners because their skin was white.
When he told me the story, it made me cringe. Clearly he's learning about his self-identity, and that is certainly important, but I am uncomfortable with him being pointed out as different because of his skin color in order to illustrate a story.
I try to emphasize when he is making comparisons to why our family looks different than others that we are all like M&M's -- different colors on the outside, same on the inside. Should I approach his teacher about this topic, or let it go?
GENTLE READER: You should get yourself down to that school immediately and explain to the teacher why it is wrong to single out a child like that; and if that doesn't help, you must explain it to the principal. Perhaps you should go to the principal anyway. It strikes Miss Manners that aside from the rudeness of embarrassing a child, someone who does not realize that not all blacks were slaves and not all whites were slave-owners should not be teaching even the most elementary history.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Upon our marriage, my fiance will be taking my last name.
He has a last name that is constantly mispronounced and misspelled. For years, indeed long before he met me, he planned to take his wife's name and luckily, my last name is easy to pronounce and spell. As I would never have changed my name upon marriage, it is a situation that works incredibly well for us.
While we have told our close friends and family of this already, should we inform family friends, colleagues and more distant relatives of this unusual situation before our marriage? How would you suggest we do this? Any advice will be greatly appreciated!
GENTLE READER: You are going to get plenty of advice from just about everyone, and Miss Manners is afraid that your appreciation will soon wear thin.
For that reason, she suggests telling people when the change is an accomplished fact. At the wedding reception, for instance, when people start calling you Mrs. Twiddledom, you can say "No, I'm still Mabel Harris, but now he is Alexander Harris" -- and then move on to greeting the next couple while they process this.
Another way is to send out At Home cards after the wedding with both your married names. (Ms. Mabel Harris/Mr. Alexander Harris/At home/address/ after the thirtieth of July"). And to keep sending your full names on every occasion you write. Your husband might have cards and writing paper made with his new name.
And you know what? Many people will get your names wrong anyway, but fewer of them will chime in with their opinions. Please try to be patient with all of them.