what do I say to call in for a mental health day, I’ve never worked in an office, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. What do I say when I’m calling in sick for a mental health day?

I am a firm believer in (occasionally) using a sick day as a mental health day, when I know I’m not leaving my coworkers hanging. What do I say when I’m calling in sick, but I’m not actually sick? Am I supposed to lie and say that I’m sick? I am a part of a fairly small, close-knit team, so I hate coming back to people asking if I’m feeling better, out of genuine concern. On the other hand, I don’t want my coworkers to think I’m taking advantage of our generous policy just because I felt like taking a day to stay in my pajamas and watch Netflix.

With “mental health days” — meaning a day that you take off to relieve stress/avoid burnout or when you just can’t face the world — say that you’re “under the weather” or “ a bit ill.” You can’t really call up and say, “I can’t bear the thought of coming into work today,” but you also shouldn’t make up a hacking cough. It fine to just be vague. (In fact, it’s fine to be vague even when you have an actual sickness like the flu or horrific diarrhea or whatever. Decent managers will accept “I’m sick today and won’t be in” rather than expecting or even wanting a detailed list of your symptoms.)

2. Will it be a problem that I’ve never worked in an office?

I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’ve been working freelance ever since I graduated, in the arts and media sector. The jobs I do are typically now freelance positions, but 5-10 years ago they were always entry-level in-house positions (and some lucky orgs still have in-house workers for these jobs). I’ve actually gotten pretty good at what I do, my income isn’t so bad, and I’m satisfied with how things are progressing.

However, it’s ultimately my aim to get an office job in this industry, even if it’s not the specific role that I’m in now, and I’m wondering whether I’ll be at a disadvantage by the time the opportunity rolls around. I’m young, but I’m not a recent graduate, and I haven’t ever worked in an office (my previous jobs were retail and cleaning work). I’m getting decent experience in my field, but it’s definitely very different to freelance than to work in office as part of a team, and I understand that.

Will people look unfavorably on the fact that I’ve only ever worked from home, and have no experience working in an office? Is it unwise to only have a freelance background so early on in my career?

Possibly. If your work is excellent, it’s unlikely to keep you from getting hired, but it’s true that never having worked in an office before may giving some hiring managers pause. There’s actually a fairly steep learning curve in your first year or two in an office job, where you’re figuring out … just how to be in an office, and how to get things done in that context. You’re not going to come in like a inexperienced intern who’s learning everything for the first time, but there’s likely to be a learning curve and adjustment period. Not a huge one, and not one that would stand in the way of hiring you if your work is great … but if you’re competing against candidates whose work is equally great and have been working in an office environment, then yeah, it could put you at a disadvantage. Not a significant one, just a small one. But someone who really wants to hire you isn’t likely to be deterred.

The bigger question for you, I think, is whether you’re losing out on things that will later be valuable to you by staying fully freelance now. Are you losing out on the kind of mentoring and feedback you’d get from a decent manager? Are you losing out on collaboration with colleagues? Are you missing out by not having coworkers at all? What about benefits, like paid vacation and retirement contributions? What about the specific type of professional growth that comes from learning to work effectively in an office — will you feel at a disadvantage later if you’re starting from scratch there? You may calculate that the benefits you get from freelancing outweigh all of those things — and they may because there are a lot of them! — but ensure that you’re factoring them into your calculus.

3. People keep asking the origin of my name

I am a white woman with an African-sounding name. Most people assume that I am black before they meet me in person. I love my name. I couldn’t imagine for even a second being called anything else, and I think my name has given me a very unique perspective on race relations in my everyday life (including watching how a LOT of white people will try to ask why I have a black name without actually saying it, as if it’s a bad thing). However, I am very white. My parents have been here for generations, so far back that no one is entirely sure where in Europe we are from.

I am a clinician in my field, and it is a very customer-centered field. I work almost entirely with seniors, and I am very comfortable talking to my clients in a professional but warm and friendly way. But my name is always something that comes up, and I still don’t know how to get around the inevitable “Oh, interesting name, where does it come from?” question.

Here’s the thing. I don’t actually know the answer. I come from an abusive and racist household, so every time I asked my parents, I was given a jokey non-answer. This is obviously not something I want to talk about.

I have tried EVERYTHING to get out of answering the question. I’ve been doing it my whole life. I’ve tried the “Oh, it’s really personal/private/special to me” — which tells the client too much already, and they always try to get more. The “It’s a long and boring story” — which results in something like “I’ve got time.” I went by a nickname for a long time, but now that my diploma and licence to practice have my full name, and that just results in them asking who the person on the wall is. Everyone expects this long story about where my name comes from and what my name means, and I just don’t know how to get out of this conversation while still giving a satisfactory answer to my clients, that won’t harm the rapport I am trying to build with them. I’ll be their clinician for a full three years, we need to have a good relationship.

I’m with each client for an entire hour, and it comes up with Every. Single. Client. Multiple times. They’re coming from good — albeit ignorant — places. Do you have any suggestions of how to navigate this?

How about a bland “Oh, there’s no story behind it, it’s just my name”? Or “I guess my parents just liked it”?

Because of the history with your parents, I think this is feeling more fraught to you than it needs to. The answers you’ve been using suggest that there is a story but not one you want to share, which is reinforcing their belief that there’s something to hear. But you don’t have to indulge people in the idea that there must be a story at all (and it’s a problematic assumption for them to make in the first place). You’re not obligated to come up with an answer that will satisfy them. “There’s no story!” is perfectly fine, just like you’d say about any name where there was no story. And then follow it up with an immediate subject change to signal that there’s nothing else to discuss about it.

4. A graduation mix-up and a pulled job offer

My stepdaughter, who is not the most responsible person in the world, recently graduated from college. She has been job hunting for several months and has finally gotten an offer. When her new employer (a multi-thousand employee, multi-location corporation) did a background check, they discovered that she had indeed not graduated. It turns out she had a financial hold on her account (less than $100) and, as she did not pay it, the university did not graduate her. She has taken care of the financial hold and the registrar’s office provided a letter saying that her coursework has been completed, that she is qualified to graduate, and she will receive her diploma at the end of the next semester, which is December. Her new employer, though, has pulled her offer and blacklisted her.

As someone who is involved in the hiring process for our new candidates, I have never encountered a situation precisely like this. You say you have your diploma, but in reality you don’t, but it’s due to an oversight. I would have indeed pulled the offer. (How could you not have your act together enough to know whether you’ve graduated or not? The fact that your diploma never arrived in the mail didn’t cause you concern? Huge read flags there.) I’m not sure on the blacklisting though. So I wanted to ask your opinion on this. Would you consider this just an oversight? As a hiring manager with no knowledge of all of the circumstances, would you just see it as lying on your resume? This employer decided it qualified as lying on an application. How would you have handled this? Since I know the circumstances around my stepdaughter, my view is clouded. I’m am trying to view this as an outsider would and determine what I would do if ever in this situation.

I wouldn’t have even pulled the offer if she’d explained the situation. Pulling an offer makes sense when a candidate knowingly lied or was so reckless with the truth that it amounts to the same thing. But someone who understandably assumed she’d graduated and didn’t realize a $100 charge was holding up the paperwork, and then took care of it once she found out? That stuff happens, and it doesn’t sound like she was deliberately representing the situation on her resume — presenting herself as a graduate while knowing she wasn’t. Pulling the offer seems more punitive than anything else; they’re saying this is something about her integrity when it’s really not. (Unless it’s a situation where she cannot start the job until she formally has her diploma, but I’m skeptical that it’s that, given the timeline.)

And the blacklisting is absurd, although I suppose if they see this as enough of an ethical violation to pull the offer, it makes sense that they wouldn’t be open to hiring her in the future either.

5. A company responded to my application by suggesting I follow them on social media

I recently applied for a role within a social media business. I received the standard “Thanks for your application; we will be in contact soon” email, but the last paragraph stood out to me: “In the meantime, you can build your digital skills by reading our expert articles published on our blog, following us on Twitter, or joining in the discussion on LinkedIn.”

Do you think following them on these sites would help my chances? Are they just looking for more followers? Or is this becoming a normal way to end this kind of email?

Nope, it sounds like they’re just marketing to job candidates, which is pretty tacky. It’s very unlikely that following them on social media will increase your chances (and indeed, they’re not suggesting that; they’re just suggesting it’s a way to build your skills).

{ 728 comments… read them below }

  1. Phil*

    #1 I normally just text my boss and say “I’m not feeling 100%.” They don’t question it. But then, the fact that I’ve accrued about 14 weeks of sick leave over the last 8 years shows it’s not something I make a habit of…

    1. Phouka*

      I honestly have called my boss and said “I just can’t bear coming to work today.” He may have laughed a bit, but didn’t really say anything about it. It was pretty normal to have a mental-health-day absence once in a while and as long as it didn’t impact a client, no one really cared. Definitely a laid-back boss.

      Of course, now I wish I had used the excuse someone called in (from a post earlier this week of most embarassing things) — “I can’t come in today. I just feel hateful.”

      1. On Fire*

        I almost left work early yesterday because I was cranky. I’m not client-facing, but I felt like I would be more productive taking out my aggression on cleaning my floors. =)

      2. Mommy MD*

        This would not fly with 99 percent of Bosses. Especially in a job where it is vital that you show up. A true mental health day is legitimate. It’s no different than calling off for anything else.

        1. MLB*

          Which is why most people should never be managers. You should be able to be an actual adult and not treated like a 5 year old. People shouldn’t feel the need to make up crap to take a day off once in a while.

          Once I had a job and by the end of the year I was out of vacation time, so I asked my boss if I could use a sick day to finish up my Christmas shopping. Because we were both adults and my being out wouldn’t cause any issues, he said yes.

          1. Boo Hoo*

            I’ve called in busy. We had a work trip coming up and had already been traveling a lot. I had a ton to do and just said I needed the day to get it done before we left again so I wasn’t up until 3 am getting it done. He didn’t even deduct a day. Truly I really needed to do laundry, pack, run some errands, bring my dog to my parents.

            1. EMW*

              We call these structured freedom days. If you’ve been on the road a lot (and presumably putting in longer hours while travelling), you can just send a note out about taking a structured freedom day. People know you’ll not be online but can call if something is urgent.

            2. Cathy Gale*

              To me this should be common sense. But it’s not, especially here in America. I’m very disappointed how stingy many employers are about this sort of thing. If you’re giving 110% to a business travel trip, you should not be expected to work until 10 PM the night before – cutting out at 1 PM so you can safely cover your needed errands the day before shouldn’t be a big deal. People should be like your boss, Boo Hoo.

          2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            But a manager acting like an adult and trusting people is dependent on the employees being adults and deserving that trust. I’ve never had a workplace where every single employee was honest, hardworking and reasonable and wouldn’t take a mile when given an inch in a situation like that.

            I don’t think you can say “most people should never be managers” without also saying “most people should never be employees.”

            1. Amber T*

              I mean, sure, there’s probably going to be a few people who are eager to take advantage of the system, but most people are going to be just fine.

              To go along with the phrase – if the company is only offering an inch, but most people need a foot… well yeah, there’s going to be a problem and they’ll fight back. My company has unlimited sick days. From that, I think I’ve taken 3 this year (and two of them were mental health days). That’s pretty standard with pretty much everyone here. My company offers a mile, and we’re all happy taking less.

            2. JessaB*

              Yes, but a good manager who has someone abusing a policy or perk or any other thing, disciplines that person based on what behaviours they want changed “Sam you’re taking too many Mondays off, if you’ve got some kind of regular appointment, let me know but then I need you in the rest of the day or I need you to switch days off and work Sunday or whatever day is needed.” If an employee is doing something that hurts the company, the bottom line or their coworkers, then deal with it. Do not then go and say “nobody in this company can ever call off Mondays again,” which is what bad managers do. Managers have all the power they need, hopefully to deal with bad employees.

            3. Gumby*

              I have a different experience. When you have a high functioning team, someone who is prone to slacking off all the time sticks out like a sore thumb and they generally do not last long at the company. It was clear what she-who-texted-all-day was doing about 2 days into her employment. Various people talked to her about what she needed to do differently, it didn’t work, she was gone within 3 months. The rest of us still had unlimited sick days, 2 mental-health days per year, flexible hours, etc. And we got our work done and done well. It doesn’t work for all jobs, but if you have a job where you *can* offer the flexibility then it’s on you to build teams of people who *do* deserve the trust. It doesn’t just happen.

            4. MLB*

              Of course there will be employees who take advantage of things, but a good manager will reel that in, stop the abuse of company policy and not make a blanket rule for all employees based on one bad egg. I’ve encountered way more people who had no business being a manager than I’ve encountered policy abusing employees, so I 100% disagree with your last statement.

        2. Zillah*

          I think that parsing what counts as a “true mental health day” isn’t particularly helpful, though – as long as you have the time and aren’t unreasonably impacting clients/your coworkers, calling out when you’re in a really negative “I can’t deal with this right now” mode can stop you from having a more acute issue later.

          1. Armchair Analyst*

            This! Where is the line between “not feeling 100%” and “needing a break from work”? It’s not for me (or for most good managers) to judge.

          2. Bunny Girl*

            Absolutely. I just recently had a pre-rabies series done for my volunteer job. One of the side effects can be extreme irritability and holy lord it hit me really hard during shot two. I was so irrationally irritated that I ended up calling out the day after I got it because mentally I just wasn’t good to go.

      3. TechServLib*

        I’ve come so close to saying “I just feel hateful!”
        I had an awful morning a while back when it seemed like everything was exploding in my face and there was nothing I could do to fix it at the time. I got snippy with a coworker, tried to buckle down and work but ended up making a silly mistake on something important, and finally just told my boss “I’m not feeling well, so I’m going to go home.”
        She had seen how my morning had gone and didn’t question me. The next day I came in, apologized to my coworker, and was able to address the problems much more calmly and rationally. All was well, which definitely wouldn’t have been the case if I had tried to stay in the office the day before.
        In my eyes, I did not lie. I was not feeling well. I was feeling like screaming and smashing computers against the wall. My boss didn’t say so explicitly, but I think she understood that leaving for the sake of my mental health that day was best.

      4. Nancie*

        I’ve called my boss and told him “I’m calling in sick…. of work.” He just laughs. It’s definitely a know-your-audience thing, of course!

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Haha my grandad has a joke about calling in to work with “illness and fatigue.” (Translation: I’m sick and tired of coming to work.)

          1. rahp*

            My dad used to work for a company whose name sounded a lot like “salmon” and people would call in sick with salmonella all the time haha.

      5. Alli525*

        I’ve done this too – I texted my boss once that my boyfriend had dumped me and could I take a mental health day? And another time that I was just depressed about the person currently occupying the Oval Office and had overextended myself with protesting. But I have a fabulous, supportive boss (at a nonprofit) who completely understood, and recognized that since I rarely ever take sick days (and she has to beg me to take vacation days sometimes when they pile up), we could afford to have me stay home for a day.

        1. Maeve*

          Once I called (well, emailed) out with “My girlfriend just broke up with me, apparently my cat is in heart failure and I think I might have the flu” two weeks into a job. In retrospect, I could have stuck to the last point even though the first two ones were the most relevant. (They really did happen within an hour of each other.) I’m glad my boss was understanding…

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      This. A vague but true-ish statement, like, “I don’t feel well,” or “I’m a little under the weather,” or “I’m just not 100%.” Rotate. Done.

      1. Blue*

        Yeah, I tend to go with, “I’m not feeling well,” because it’s true – it’s just depression that’s making me feel poorly, not the flu or whatever.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          That’s what I say, too – “I’m just not feeling well today.” There are lots of things that might make one feel not well, and only some of them involve bacteria or viruses.

        2. myswtghst*

          Same. I rarely say more than “I’m not feeling well and can’t make it in today” when I text my boss, regardless of whether I’m ill, or just need a mental health day or some extra rest.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          Yup. I say “I’m not feeling well.” I might not be feeling well because of a virus, or stress, or because my cat died, but it’s still 100% true.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        Definitely this. I usually just email my boss (normal in my office) with something like “Not feeling well; going to stay home and get some rest.” And then the next day when my coworkers ask, I’ll just say something like “Much better; just needed some rest” or something else along that line.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          This exactly. Things I’ve said when calling in:
          “I was up sick all night” (kind of true: I’d been awake with worry/anxiety)
          “I’m not feeling well, I’m going to take a sick day.”

          My boss’ response was only, “OK, feel better!”

          If anyone asked the next day, I just said I felt much better and maybe added that a day of rest helped.

      3. Smithy*

        I’ve actually tried saying a version of “I’m not feeling well/I’m feeling ill” for all sick days if it looks like I’ll only be out a day.

        I used to work at a super toxic place – and forget mental health days – but there were people happy to judge whether someone’s headache or cold or whatever was actually warranting a sick day. And so folks got super trapped into giving the excessive stomach flu/temperature of 108/passed out on the subway and required paramedics etc type sick day stories. The situation made me really try to hold the line on giving no details for a one day absence as a way of establishing some kind of boundary that I still try to maintain.

        I now work somewhere where questions of “are you ok” don’t come from a bad place – but formally speaking it is something I try to stick with.

    3. Sled dog mama*

      At my previous job my boss and I were contractors from an outside company so a lot got dumped on us which resulted in a very toxic environment. I once called in and told him I was taking a “marriage health day” he laughed and said maybe he should too. I think with mental health days it’s a matter of knowing your audience, do you have the kind of boss who, the relationship with said boss and the right work place where “I can’t face the world” would be ok or is “I’m feeling under the weather” be more appropriate for your situation.

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          At my job, it would fly too much; I’d be encouraged to take as much time as I needed–and then I’d be dealing with well-meaning and invasive concern for weeks.

          1. Matilda Jefferies*

            This happened to me! One day back in the spring, I was feeling extra tired and exasperated, and said something like “I feel like I need a month off work.” It was hyperbole – I mean, I would have loved to take a month off, but I didn’t need it, and didn’t expect anyone to take me seriously.

            But then all of a sudden people were looking up the LOA policies, and calculating sick time for me, and helping me figure out the best timing for my leave and what I needed to finish before I went. It took a couple of weeks to put out that particular fire, which I had never intended to start in the first place!

        2. schnauzerfan*

          “mental health day” in the sense that I’m just not feeling the love for work, would absolutely not fly at my office. We serve the public and have a lot of hours to cover (15 per day) and a small staff. We have to get the hourly staff out at 8 hours on the nose. Everyone needs an hour lunch, etc… We have very generous annual leave, but you need to ask at least 24 hours in advance just so we can make sure to arrange coverage. We also have generous sick leave that you can use on demand. But. If you call in at noon to tell me you aren’t coming in because, no reason, just not? That means I or my other salaried co-worker will pull a 16 hour shift. I’m ok doing it if you’re not able to work for physical or mental health reasons, but if you just want a day off? Ask today, and we’ll get it scheduled tomorrow or the next day, but don’t leave me or anyone else stuck with your shift.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            The unwritten rule about mental health/”I just don’t feel like coming in today” days is that, assuming you don’t have a toxic workplace or anything, you should not take them if you’re going to be greatly inconveniencing your coworkers. If you have the kind of job where an unexpected absence will generate a bunch of troubles – scrambling to cover shifts and so on – well, you really can’t take a mental health day. That’s how it seems to me, anyway.

            1. Amber T*

              Yeah, I’ve taken plenty of mental health days in my time, but it’s usually AFTER a project or a generally busy time has wrapped up, and I just need to recharge.

          2. Not enough workers*

            I think you probably already know this, but if one person being out means everyone else has to work a SIXTEEN hour shift, your office is stretched WAY too thin. What happens if, god forbid, an employee is hospitalized, or dies?

            1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

              This is how you end up in a situation where a comatose employee is fired via voicemail, or someone returns from a funeral to a write-up about how they did not provide enough notice that their father had passed away.

            2. schnauzerfan*

              Not everyone. Just one of the two people on salary. We don’t have overtime for our hourly people.

              Given a days notice we rearrange and someone comes in late to cover the evening/Sunday shift. No problem. It’s quite possible to shift things around given any advanced notice. It’s the last minute, wake up this morning call outs (or more likely at noon cause it’s the evening shifts that really give us trouble.) Just going to blow off work today. Everyone who could cover for you has already worked 1/2 a shift, so someone needs to work a long shift or a split, not popular and not really allowed except on a truly voluntary basis. So management ends up covering, but we often have commitments in the afternoon and can’t work a split, so hello 16 hour day… If an employee is hospitalized we have one bad day. If they die, well obviously we will rearrange and again only have one bad day, coverage wise.

              Will it surprise you if I mention I’m still bitter about the employee who called out “just can’t do it today” and then plastered his social media with pictures from comic con… which was happening 6 hours away?

              1. Perse's Mom*

                The situation with that coworker would irritate a lot of people, but that’s one person on one occasion.

                What I think you should be mindful of is whether your employees feel a lot of pressure to show up no matter what (from peers OR management) – and nice policies around notice to take time off don’t necessarily help if this pressure exists. People still wake up truly sick, or just mentally/emotionally incapable of handling the day in front of them. If they have the PTO, they shouldn’t feel punished for using it; that’s a recipe for burn-out and losing your best people.

              2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Holy chutzpah, Batman…that’s an egregious abuse worthy of a formal warning.
                The social media visibility rubs it in badly.

              3. TardyTardis*

                But that attitude only encourages people to stay when they have a severe earache, 101 degree fever, or stomach flu, and then give it to everyone else.

          3. Babs*

            I am angry that people think lying to their employer about being sick is acceptable. There was a thread just the other day complaining that employers are not offering sick days and people are thus coming to work sick. Well, if “mental health days” are now a thing, what do you expect?

            1. Not a machine*

              It’s not lying about being sick. It’s that looking after your mental health is sometimes difficult when you’re at work, and taking a day off can give you space and energy to recover and then be more productive when you come back. I’ve had to take time off (full on, with a certificate from my doctor, doctor told me to stop going in to work, kind of time off) for my mental health. It would be good not to get to that point before it’s “legitimate” to take leave for mental health.

        3. Kathleen_A*

          I am pretty sure there are some bosses who, even if they understand and approve of the concept of “mental health days,” would still prefer a nice, vague “I’m not feeling well today.” I don’t currently manage anybody, thank goodness, but when I did, I would have preferred vagueness. I’m not sure why, really – plausible deniability, maybe. If someone asks me, “Why is Dorothy out?” I’d rather not be burdened with the knowledge that she’s not actually sick, strictly speaking. I suspect that I’m not alone in that.

          1. Hey Nonnie*

            You can achieve the same effect by recognizing mental illness flare-ups as “actually sick, strictly speaking.”

            But yeah, this stigma is why we have learned to be vague.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              I wasn’t talking about days when one’s mental *illness* flares up. If you have an actual mental condition, you do what you need to do and what works with your boss and workplace. That’s how I look at it. But the ordinary meaning of a “mental health day” is, as others have noted, a day when an employee who isn’t actually sick – physically or mentally – calls in sick just to sort of relax and recharge. So not really the same thing at all.

      1. Tardigrade*

        Yeah, this is one where your relationship with your boss is important. Even my best bosses wouldn’t have enjoyed hearing “I feel hateful today” because we didn’t have that kind of relationship, so they got, “I’m just not feeling like myself today.”

    4. BRR*

      This is what I do whether it’s a mental health day or other type of sick day. Yesterday, a colleague did what’s typical for my team and emailed the team that they would be out sick. But they went into such detail that I ended up feeling uncomfortable knowing so much information (and a little grossed out). I wish they would have just said they weren’t feeling well.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’m the same way with my direct reports and TMI about the nature of their illness. Trouble is, some of them worked for managers in the past who wanted to know every detail of the illness to make sure no one was lying. Some people never lost the habit of explaining themselves to a ridiculous degree – what a shame.

        1. Psyche*

          I find myself thinking a lot about how many details to give when I am calling out. It feels weird to just say “sick” especially if I want to indicate how available I will be that day.

        2. Not Today*

          I don’t understand this at all. People don’t lose the right to privacy just because they work. I’ve read that over-explaining can actually be a sign of lying! There are events where disclosure may be required, but for random sick days, just no. It’s invasive.

      2. Allison*

        Sorry boss, I can’t leave the house, I’ve had my butt on the toilet and my head in a trash can all night. I’m honestly not sure how there’s anything left at this point, but here we are.

        I think some people feel the need to convince others they’re really sick enough to miss work.

        1. Kathlynn*

          I had to get this detailed so as not to spend $40 on a doctor’s note once. It should have been enough to say “I’ve a stomach bug” but nope, I got the “are you going to bring in a doctor’s note” first day of being sick. Suddenly I didn’t need to bring a doctors note (sadly I also had the chills and stuff to)

    5. What's with Today, today?*

      I have a unique situation in that I have to be at work at 5 a.m., for an on air radio shift, and the only other person that can cover my shift comes in at 10. I just won’t call him at 4 a.m. and say you have to go in because I’m sick, (besides, the times I have tried that there was no answer that early anyway) so I often end up going in and then leaving at 10 when he comes in. I’m on the air until 10 anyway, so this set up has fine with my boss. (And they never track my PTO when I do that…boss is like, you came in sick. We’re totally even.) I have on occasion said, “Hey, I’m not feeling good, I’m going to go ahead and plan on not coming in tomorrow.” It’s never been an issue, but I feel weird about doing that.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        In your situation, I think that’s fair to tell them the day before. I’m sure your coworker would rather plan ahead to be at work at 5am rather than get an early wake-up call.

    6. PNW Jenn*

      It’s like there’s some unspoken rule in my workplace that all sick leave requests must référence diarrhea. I always feel squicky when people come back after being gone due to the unwanted knowledge about their buttholes.

      Just say you don’t feel well, don’t want to get others sick, and stay home.

      1. TootsNYC*

        will this help you to not feel squicky? Diarrhea is a great excuse when you feel like you need a medical reason, because it can be here today and gone tomorrow. And nobody wants to ask for details.

        So it’s possible many of those people are lying.

    7. Hailrobonia*

      Also putting in too many details is a sign of lying (that’s one of the biggest “tells”). The only details I give when I call in sick are things that may affect the length of time I am out (i.e. if I have a really bad cold I will include that info, or something like “I’m feeling so sick I won’t be able to come to work today, and might be out tomorrow as well…”) or if something might be going around the office (“I felt really sick after our company dinner, I hope it wasn’t food poisoning because we all ate it…”)

      1. Zillah*

        It can definitely be a sign of lying, but I think that with sickness in particular, it’s more likely that people have internalized an expectation that they need to justify staying home; there are a lot of people who will judge you for it.

            1. fposte*

              That doesn’t mean it’s requisite. It’s just that when you’re basically friends with people you report to, you’ve shared a lot of health stuff over the years.

        1. Coffee*

          Yeah, my boss has pressed me for details in the past. Even when I’ve told her I have a certificate.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I don’t usually give a detailed reason, I just say I am not feeling well. But the last time I was sick I did send my manager a copy of my Dr’s note because it was supposed to be my first day back from a 2 week overseas vacation and I did not want them to think I was calling out for no real reason.

    8. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      My go to is “I’m feeling under the weather and don’t have anything on my schedule today. I’m going to stay home unless there is something you need me for in the office” Never once had anyone ask me to clarify what “under the weather” was

    9. IL JimP*

      I totally wish people on my team would just say this but a lot of them are oversharers no matter how often I say you can just say you’re not feeling well I don’t need the details :)

    10. Black Bellamy*

      Yup, and that’s good enough for me 100%. I never inquire of my reports for any specific reasons for any absence. I just need to know what kind of absence it is so I can keep track. Sick day, personal day, vacation, bereavement, just let me know what it is and that’s it. If the person wants to talk to me about it, I’m always open to a confidential session, but I never pry. If the absences are excessive, meaning they affect work and not imbue me with a vague feeling that this is just “too much”, then there needs to be a discussion on what we can do to mitigate that. I also encourage everyone to stay home or work remotely if they can if there is any kind of sickness. I need my people well rested, healthy in the body and in the mind.

    11. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      This makes me think of the joke from 30 Rock about calling in sick with March Madness.

    12. iglwif*

      This. When you say “I’m not feeling 100%” or “I’m not feeling so great” or some variation of that, you’re not lying or making something up, you’re just … not specifying whether the feeling in question is physical, emotional, mental, or some combination. And if your track record is good and your boss is decent, that should be enough!

      If your boss sucks, that’s a whole other question. Unfortunately, I’ve needed those mental health days most when I had a boss that sucked, and I’m betting I’m not the only one :P

    13. Lauren*

      I’m prone to migraines, which all of my bosses know. I’ve claimed migraine for those days, but I’m mostly home and not out and about. Though when I have been seen, I usually say I was feeling better enough to get fresh air. Also, if you know you are taking the day in advance, just take it as a personal day. PTO may be odd at OP’s workplace where sick days are separate and she/he doesn’t want to use vacation time for this.

    14. TakingTheFifth*

      You’re lucky. I always have to tell my boss what’s wrong & why it’s bad enough that I’m staying home. If I happen to be sick on a Monday or Friday, boss & grandboss both warn me to be careful about not making it a habit.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Have you tried saying “I’m not comfortable sharing private health information with you; this is something I discuss with my doctor”?

        If they would actually deny you sick leave because you won’t describe the color of your norovirus-induced bodily excretions, then they are terrible people and I wouldn’t feel guilty about making crap up to get them off my back. If they’re going to be invasive of your privacy, they can deal with the consequences.

    15. Hey Nonnie*

      My phrase of choice is “I won’t be in because I’m not feeling well.” Which is, of course, the truth, because-and-also:

      I’d REALLY REALLY like to dispel the notion that mental health needs are not legitimate health needs. They are. I’ll type it louder of the people in the back: MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS ARE LEGITIMATE HEALTH NEEDS. If you wouldn’t think twice about calling out sick because you can’t get out of bed due to the flu, there is no need to question calling out sick when you can’t get out of bed due to sheer mental/emotional exhaustion. If you would call out because your herniated disk is giving you a bad pain day, you are allowed to call out because your depression is giving you a bad pain day. (Studies show that mental and physical pain are experienced in the same regions of the brain, for those who are tempted to say that they “aren’t the same.”)

      Unfortunately, due to stigma, you probably have to be more private about the details than you otherwise could be. At the same time, those details don’t belong to anyone but you and your healthcare providers, regardless of what illness we’re talking about. You’re not required to share them with your boss.

      Take your sick leave, and don’t feel like you’re “cheating” to do so.

      1. Windchime*

        Thank you! This is how I feel about it, too. I do sometimes have mental health issues and at a previous job, I mentioned that. Never again. The bullying began at that point and things went downhill fast. So now, on the rare occasion when I just need a mental health day, I call in with “under the weather” or “not feeling well”. My boss trusts us and there are no questions asked. We have generous sick leave; it’s part of our benefits package and there should be no repercussions for using it. (I will say that I’m in a job where we don’t cover each other for shifts or anything, so that makes it easier to not feel guilty about being sick.)

      2. Gatomon*

        Yes! Some mental illnesses (I’m thinking of depression and anxiety-type illnesses in particular) can manifest physical symptoms. Whether the root cause is viral, bacterial or mental doesn’t make it any less legitimate of an illness. I’d rather cover for a day or two than cover after someone burns out and quits, or has to go into inpatient treatment or harms themselves.

        As for the people who lie about being ill to skip work, that is what management is for! (And no, that doesn’t mean instigating a punitive sick leave policy where everyone must show a doctor’s note if they’re out for a day. Let’s trust people to be adults until they prove otherwise.)

  2. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #3: One of my colleagues became a father last year. He and his girlfriend named their son the Italian version of a common German name. Neither of them are Italian.

    He also mentioned how EVERYONE in the family kept asking the reasoning behind the name.

    I just went: ‘I figured you just liked it…’

    Apparently that was it.

    And I think that’s true for most people. I know it is for me.

    1. Artemesia*

      Yeah. I have one of those names people got in the 40s and 50s but aren’t naming their kids anymore, like Barbara (although that isn’t it). There is no story at all except my Dad liked the name. I suspect most names are like that.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think you’re right there. And also, if someone’s over about 25 years of age, googling the name to find out its significance was not a thing their parents could do. You had your baby name books, which covered mostly fairly mainstream names, and beyond that you were on your own.

        So it’s entirely possible that the OP’s parents saw the name somewhere, liked it, and if they lived in a mostly white area, had no idea it was an African sounding name in the first place.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          25? That many? More like 10-15, tops.

          20 years ago we had Lycos and Alta Vista and the Jumpstations.

        2. Flash Bristow*

          OMG yes the baby names books! I have my parents’, complete with annotations. FWIW they were so sure I’d be a boy that they hadn’t prepped much for a girl…

          My dad really like Celeste(!) Apparently he conceded and accepted it as my middle name. My mother didn’t want it, so when it came time to write the baby name tag she just said my middle name was Jane. And so it was.

          Anyway the books are all very 70s. With lots of anglo saxon and/or Welsh names like Aethelred or Eowyn. Rather funny.

          (apols that this is just chat and not advice, but I posted suggestions below.)

          1. Not Rebee*

            My parents were pretty convinced I would be a boy. Well, my mom was, because she was sure someone had hinted I would be while my dad was out of the room. So she tried to con my dad into picking the girl name (they wanted a girl, so this was a good deal for him on paper), which left her with the boy name (which was sneaky because she thought she knew I’d be a boy so she was rigging it so she got to name me). I was not a boy at all, and that’s the story of how my dad ended up naming me. I would have been a Michael.

            1. uranus wars*

              Same happen to me…only they were so convinced I’d be a boy I didn’t have a name at all for 2 days…..

            2. many bells down*

              My parents thought I was going to be a boy, and my brother would be a girl. I was to be named Matthew, and he would have been Sarah.

              And that’s why we’re named Jennifer and Geoffrey.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I had a very German looking friend with a classic Indian name:
            “My parents picked it out of a baby name book.”

        3. Blueberry*

          I am also a white woman with an African-American-sounding name. To top it off, my last name is also really common in the African-American communities. When people ask me about my name, I tell them my mom read it in a magazine, liked it, and failed to do any further research. I tend to follow this up by telling them how awful my first name could have been because my paternal grandmother had suggested making my dad’s name feminine, and my dad’s name does NOT lend itself to being feminized.

          1. schnauzerfan*

            I avoided Haroldeen. (a combination of my father & my mother’s names.) I can live with the fact that my “real” name is usually a nickname. And all the “just Susie… not Susan, not Suzanne” that I have to do. It’s not really Susie either. But my Aunt did seriously urge my parents to go with Haroldeen. I’ve always worried about her taste and judgment.

          2. Aiani*

            I am pretty much exactly the same, white woman with a name which people often assume to be African-American. My last name could really go either way. I just tell people that my mom read my name in the Bible and she liked it which is true. I’ve just gotten kind of used to people making assumptions and asking about my name and never knowing how to say it until I tell them.

          3. TardyTardis*

            I was supposed to be named the Arabic version of my name (Dad did occupation duty in Tunisia waaay back when) but ended up with the more Anglo version because the nurse who wrote it down was bigger than he was. Nobody spells it right anyway, so when I went to college, I went with my middle name. Mind you, things were a bit easier after 9/11 with my name the way it turned out to be.

        4. selena81*

          that sounds like a very real possibility: they gave baby-girl a nice-sounding name from a book or movie or something and kick themselves 10 years later when they finally realized how ‘ethnic’ the name is

          my uncle gave his 8 children names from whatever book he was reading at that time. i really don’t like that approach: i think the semi-famous person i’m named after is irritatingly stupid and obnoxious.
          afaic there is something to be said for the whole ‘first child named after grandparents, second child after uncles, etc’ tradition (my appreciation of tradition is mostly rooted in growing up without an extended family due to my mother’s mental health issues, maybe i would have hated my relatives if it’d grown up around them)

          1. Phrunicus*

            “there is something to be said for the whole ‘first child named after grandparents, second child after uncles, etc’ tradition”

            I never thought of it as tradition, but for our son, my wife and I, after considering things like “Christopher David” (or vice versa) after Doctor Who actors (we both love the show, and thought those names weren’t terrible, and, well, were just trying things out) went with naming him (very late in the process, and not confirming it until pretty much his birth) with the first names of my paternal grandfather + my wife’s paternal grandfather (and also her dad’s name) for first and middle name respectively, which are both fairly ‘normal’ names. (Coincidentally, this gives my son the same first name + middle initial as my grandfather, but different actual middle names.) For his godfather, we went with one of my younger brothers, whose middle name is also our paternal grandfather’s first name.

            The real back-and-forth is what we’d do for a girl’s name, cuz family names are mainly limited to the grandmothers (HEAVILY boys amongst my family and hers), and while my wife is interested in having her mom’s name be part of it… I’m not so much. (Nor my mom’s name. And my grandmothers, bless them both, had names that are just a little too old-fashioned for me.)

      2. MattKnifeNinja*

        I LOATHE my name. My mom let the nurses pick it because 1) I was a boy, and she was so disappointed. 2) She had no girl names pick.

        So when asked why someone why someone my age has a name like “Barbara” (it’s a 1950-ish sounding name), I do say the nurses named me. I don’t add the part my mother felt she wasted 9 months with her body to create something she really didn’t want.

        Anyway, I usually go by initials, and it slows down the questions.

        Boys were more valued than gold. My female cousins had similar experiences.

        OP just tell people that your parents loved how your name sounded, and move the conversation along. I find punting a question to the other person will shift the focus off you.

        1. fposte*

          MKN–I’m just curious–did you mean “I *wasn’t* a boy” in the first sentence?

          And overall sorry, that sucks.

        2. George Herbert Walker Bush is my patronus*

          Why not change your name, if you hate it? That’s perfectly acceptable. I have two middle names; I like my first name and first middle name, but I hate the second middle name and am in the process of changing it to one I do like!

        3. selena81*

          that’s terrible

          Please don’t let it turn you into my mother: she loves complaining about how her greatgrandfather was disappointed with her only having sisters (no male heirs for the company).

          But this made her into an ultra-feminist who bullied both my brothers: she spend years telling my eldest brother how stupid and useless all men including him are (to a 7 year old child! i still feel ashamed that i did not stand up for him), and seriously considered aborting the youngest one for his gender.

          she ‘learned her lesson’ in the sense that some women tried to intervene (calling her a terrible mother in the process) so now she has decided she hates women more then men

    2. Turquoisecow*

      There’s no story behind my name. My middle name, yes, because it’s a variation on my grandmother’s name (my mom did the same with my siblings as well), but my first name has no story. Mom just likes the name, as she likes my sister’s name and my brother’s name. It’s kind of disappointing in a way, but it is what it is and I’m hardly unique.

      OP, have you tried to change the subject by asking the person about their name? As comments on this site indicate whenever the topic of names come up, people like to talk about their own names, or their children’s names or their friends’ names. Try saying something like “I think my mom just came across it somewhere and liked it. Your name is interesting. I have a friend named (x), but he spells it Y” or “I have a friend named (b), it’s an unusual name,” or “my great grandma’s name was (person’s name),” even if none of that is really true, and it might work even better than “how about that subject change?” since most people like to talk about themselves.

      1. Anancy*

        The asking them about their names is a great idea. “Oh, my parents found it in a book, tell me about your name?”

        1. GreenDoor*

          This is how I deferred when I was pregnant. We didn’t want to reveal our name choices before the birth so I’d just say, “We’re still deciding….how did you select your kids’ names?” or “How would you go about deciding?” People LOVE telling other people what to name their kids.

          OP, you could also defer with, “Hmm….I never really asked my parents about my name. How did you get your name” Gosh – especially if you work with seniors! They love the opportuinity to tell a story. You could change the subject really quickly away from you and onto them.

          1. selena81*

            i think it’s kinda sad that so many old people jump on any chance to talk: clearly there is a lot of loneliness
            (but also irritating the hell out of me with their endless jabbering though)

            1. Gigglemesh*

              Tell me about it. I sympathize with the loneliness they’ve got going on, but there’s only so many times I can be politely enthused about a story I’ve heard 50 times. Caregivers are saints!

      2. Double A*

        This is the case for my daughter as well! Her first name, we just liked it. Her middle name is for a rad relative. I think that’s pretty common because a lot of people want to honor a relative but may not love the name, so they give it as a middle name.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Especially if the relative in question is still living (as my grandmother was), it’s awkward or confusing to have two people with the same name in the same family.

          1. EPLawyer*

            clearly not from an Italian family. I joke there are only 4 names for kids in Italian. My dad likes to tell the story of the time he, his father and his uncle who all had the same name were painting an upstairs room, someone yelled the name up the stairs, all 3 answered. My original name was very common in my family. I changed it in self-defense.

            1. Rumbakalao*

              What are the 4 names? I’m from a very Italian American area (though I myself am not) and there’s a plethora of options that I’ve heard.

                1. doreen*

                  In reality, they’re different for each family and often based on naming traditions where children were named after grandparents. My great-grandfather’s name was Paolo, and my mother has so many cousins named “Paul” (all with the same surname) that we have to distinguish them by their wife’s name. Same thing for the other side of her family with “Joseph”.

              1. Half Italian*

                In many Italian families, the first boy is named for their paternal grandfather, second for the maternal grandfather. Girls follow the same pattern, but with their grandmothers. So names get repeated. A lot. My husband still gets confused because there are so many same-named people in my family!

                We didn’t follow that convention. We picked names we liked, and used middle names after relatives.

                1. Carrie*

                  Are your family Vor? I don’t remember any Vordeangelos in the books! ;)

                  (In Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels, the first boy gets his paternal and maternal grandfather’s first names and the second boy gets maternal and paternal middle names. So if Dad’s father is Ivan Pierre and Mom’s is Aral Gregor, the first boy is Ivan Aral and the second is Gregor Pierre. It apparently makes for difficult geneology…)

              2. Lola*

                Anthony and Maria, to start. Quite common with more traditional Italian Americans to use the same name in families. I even knew a non Italian family where every girl had the first name Maria and they all went by their middle names.

                1. jolene*

                  In Italy: Riccardo, Giovanni, Luca, Andrea, Stefano, Marco, Paolo, Gianni are so common that it made my dating life a misery before cellphones. I had no idea whether the Luca calling me was the one I liked and the one I didn’t. Italians in small towns like San Gimignano often have nicknames they’re known by to avoid endless confusion.

            2. Aveline*

              My family has about 15 men with variations of William/Bill/Billy and a metric ton of Alexander’s living and dead. Adopted father’s Scots-Irish side loved those traditional names.

            3. rahp*

              My dad is from a huge Irish Catholic family, he has 31 cousins on one side, and they all share the same approximately six names. It’s insane. He’s close with pretty much all of them, yet we have to refer to everyone by First Last. There’s over 120 in my generation and literally none of us share a name, if that gives any indication of how my dad and his cousins felt about their names!

            4. SusanIvanova*

              My mom was doing genealogy research for a friend of hers. His family had been pretty prominent when the local counties were being settled, so there were lots of newspaper articles about them.

              Unfortunately, the patriarch was Steve, he named his three boys Steve, Mike, and John, and they named their sons Steve, Mike, and John… and the newspaper articles didn’t bother to distinguish which one they were talking about because everybody already knew.

              (And my mom’s friend, who was a great-grandson of one of the youngest Steves? Also a Steve.)

            5. NotAnotherManager!*

              Southerners are the same way. God forbid someone doesn’t “honor” great-grandpa Beauregard. My cousin Larry was going to name a daughter Laramie, which my spouse pointed out was the cigarette brand in The Simpsons, after himself. In the extended family, there are approximately 20 people named James or some variant thereof, too.

              My family is still tut-tutting about neither our kids being named after my spouse (I thought the last name was enough to draw the connection). I have one of those generationally-inappropriate names (as does a sister) because we’re named after family (and living family, so we both end up being called by middle names). I literally do not answer to my first name when my mom says it – I assume she’s talking to her sister.

              1. Phrunicus*

                Not sure if it started there, but there was a pattern in a branch of my family from one of my great-grandfathers (dad’s maternal grandfather, so it didn’t come down our branch), where the naming went:

                Great-Grandfather: First1 Middle1, went by Middle1
                His son (dad’s uncle): Middle1 Middle2, went by Middle2
                His son (dad’s cousin): Middle2 Middle3, went by Middle3

                I think it may have stopped cuz dad’s cousin had daughters and not sons, or he just stopped it finally, I forget.

            6. Orientalist*

              I once had a very PC professor show a video clip of someone in the Middle East yelling “ya Muhammad,” which prompts every male around him to turn around. The prof cited it as an example of how terrible Western culture is, how everyone is “orientalist,” etc.

              Five years later, I’m in the Middle East. 100% Egyptian friend wants to tell a joke, and it’s the same one (“how do you get everyone’s attention in Cairo? Yell ‘ya Muhammad’ on a busy street”).

              The overly PC are like a parody of themselves.

            7. Deep Purple Dream*

              I love the name Joseph, but with FIL, BIL, his son, and his son all being named Joseph, plus cousins, uncles, etc., it wasn’t happening. My oldest was given a common name that was unusual in the family and the male form of my first name. No “Little Frank” or “Frank Jr.” for a man in his 30s.

          2. Wulfgar*

            One of my friends is named Corinne, and she named her daughter Corinne. Everyone calls the daughter Little Corinne. I think that’s a good work around.

            1. Artemesia*

              I would hate that. My brother was a junior and my husband a ‘third’ — we were quite clear there was not going to be a ‘IV’ when our son was born — although all 3 of the name were still living. My brother hated, HATED being ‘little John’ and ‘Jr.’ was even worse and my husband grew up with a variation on his name and his dad was called Junior in the family.

              When ‘Little John’ is 6 inches taller than ‘Big John’ it is amusing only once.

              Our pattern was first names we liked and middle names for family as is our daughter’s.

              1. Aveline*

                I know a man named after his father. Dad died decades ago. People still refer to son as “Clarence, the lesser”


                1. TootsNYC*

                  they couldn’t even do “Pitt the Younger”?

                  We have a family at church where the dad and son have the same name, and I call the son “Robert the Younger” sometimes when I’m joking. I also gave him a biography of Wilberforce when he told me he was thinking of going into politics.

                2. Aveline*


                  I’m told that it started b/c the father was a great advocate of the poor and downtrodden and picked up the monicker “Clarence, the greater” as a shorthand for “Clarence, the advocate of the greater good” (much to his blushes).

                  While the description of son sprang from this, I still find it a bit mean.

              2. Dankar*

                My partner’s brother is a II, but he goes by a nickname to avoid it. Both sons are named after their father, though: my partner’s middle name is his brother’s first.

                It always reminds me of a joke I saw floating around on Twitter. “Men think women who take too many selfies are obsessed with themselves, but they’re not the ones naming children their same exact names!”

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  My partner’s brother is also a II, but the nickname he is still stuck with is an -ie diminutive of the name. Professionally, he goes by the same thing his dad does, but the whole family calls him the equivalent of Mikey, and he’s nearly 50.

                2. many bells down*

                  My ex was Herman III. Apparently, his father got remarried and his new wife got on my ex to change his name because she wanted HER son to be Herman III. My ex hated Herman and never ever used it, but he refused to give it up, either.

                  There’s not going to be a Herman IV, fortunately.

              3. gmg22*

                I had an Uncle Junior (yes, just like on “The Sopranos”). His wife called him George, but none of the rest of us did.

              4. Phrunicus*

                I decided early on when my wife was pregnant that I didn’t have the ego to make my son a “…Junior”.

                “Our pattern was first names we liked and middle names for family as is our daughter’s.”

                My parents did that for me and 2 of my brothers, but gave it up for the last son, for whatever reason (middle isn’t a family name). (They also gave up the pattern of using family names that started with the same initial, when I know for a fact that there was an easy family name left that fit the pattern from like a great-grandfather, not to mention uncles on either side. Go figure.)

            2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

              My cousin and uncle are both Neal. They are now identified as “Neal Young” and “O’Neal”

            3. EH*

              I was “Little [name]” for a long time and loathed it. Eventually I started informing people I was “BIG [name]” (the aunt I’m named after is very short so it took no time to get taller than she was). My Dad still calls me “Big [initial].”

              1. emmelemm*

                Same. I was named after a beloved great-aunt who was about 4’10” and 90 pounds. I was bigger than she was by the time I was maybe 10, at least 12, but I was still called “Little [Me]” forever and ever.

              2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                If your username starts with the same initial as your first name, you might want to consider an early fall vacation to Springfield MA for the Eastern States Exposition. That fair is commonly known as “The Big E”.

          3. Rebecca in Dallas*

            Trust me, it is super confusing. My dad, husband and his dad all have the same first name. There are 4 Davids in our immediate families and 3 Daniel/Dannys. Even more in the extended families.

      3. Construction Safety*

        I get that name selection can be highly personal to the parents, but sometimes I just shake my head a little.
        I went to school with a Krystal Diamond.
        Saw on the news awhile back: Billion Aire?
        In yesterday’s news, a woman named her daughter Abcde. pronounced “Ab-City”.

        1. Carrie*

          I went to school with Brandy Alexander. Her brother’s name was Ryan, called Rye. The dogs were Gin and Tonic.

          That family was special.

          1. Eirene*

            I went to high school with a girl who went by Charlie, which I assumed was a cute nickname for Charlotte – until I heard her name being called over the PA. It was Chardonnay. I didn’t blame her one bit.

            1. OT*

              What is wrong with that? It is a beautiful name. She can decide to change it if she doesn’t like it, why you so judgmental?

              1. Dodged that bullet*

                I’ve never met a person named after an alcoholic beverage who liked their name, except Margarita (who went by Maggy – never, if you valued your toes, Rita). This includes a Brandy, two Brandis, a Campari, a Hennessey, and a Chardonee (with an accent over the first e).

                1. EOA*

                  Don’t know if she was specifically named for the drink but Margarita is a form of Margaret in Italian, I believe (and yes, it is often shortened to Rita). Spanish, too, IRC. Rita Hayworth was a Margarita.

            2. Anon55*

              Omg I wonder if her parents were fans of the classic cheeseball British soap opera known as “Footballers Wives”?! Character Chardonnay offer a dude with a champagne bottle, which I found highly ironic!

          1. selena81*

            Well, the computer won’t take Abcde for a password and they didn’t exert all that mental energy for nothing…

      4. Secretary*

        Asking them about their name is a great strategy. Also, you’ll get the benefit of getting good at remembering names which helps build the relationship!
        You could also learn what your name means on a baby names website, if you like the meaning you could share that too.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You could also respond with “Karen, you can’t just ask people why they’re white!” and leave it at that :)

    3. Les G*

      That’s great that you accepted your friend’s name choice without comment, but I fail to see how this helps the OP, who is encountering people decidedly more nosy and less enlightened.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        That’s kind of hostile.

        I think what KnittingCatLady is saying is that “we just liked it” is a perfectly acceptable reason for choosing a name (it was my mom’s reason for all 3 of her kids), and if OP just says something like that, most people won’t push back and say “oh no, there MUST be a story!!”

      2. WellRed*

        It helps by giving her a script. It helps by reframing it as no big deal, which in mind, it was. “We liked it.” “My mom thought it was pretty.” Honestly, I think many people are named that way. Boring, but true.

    4. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      When asked about my name which doesn’t match me, I simply say that my mother couldn’t spell.

      1. Phrunicus*

        Is your first name Magrat, by any chance?

        Did you by any chance have a daughter named “Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling”?


    5. FaintlyMacabre*

      For whatever reason, before I was born, my parents were sure I was going to be a boy. They only bothered to think of nsmes that they would give to a boy. And as I was emerging my father saw my broad shoulders and said, “It’s a boy!” And then the rest of me came out and no, I was not a boy, so they named me after a woman they knew who also had broad shoulders. On occasion, I have told that story and I have yet to come across someone who really wanted to know all that.

      “My parents liked the name” is totally fine, possibly better than the real story.

      1. Blossom*

        I love this! I thought you were going to say “so they gave me a boy’s name anyway”. Great comic twist; how random :-) I hope it’s a name you’ve been happy with.

      2. Bagpuss*

        My brother didn’t have a name at all for the first weeks or so as he was expected to be a girl – he has three older sisters. My mother’s response to the midwife saying “It’s a boy!” was “Are you sure?”

        I’m another one with a name which is very unusual for people of my generation. When asked, my rely is that my parents just liked the name . Which is true, but is not the only reason I was given that name.

        1. Asenath*

          I had a friend at school who confided in me how much she hated her middle name, which she told me, and I let it be seen I was startled she’d been given a boy’s name “Don”. Then she went on to say her mother thought Dawn was a really great name because she’d (the daughter) had been born at dawn.

          1. RainyDay*

            I’m from New York. Someone once called my mother about a reference for her friend Don. I was very confused, as I didn’t know a friend named Don.

            My mom cracked up when I gave her the phone and told me it was about her friend Dawn. Up to that point I’d never heard the name without that thick “awn” sound!!

          2. Dodged that bullet*

            I was very nearly named Tammi Dawn. Nixing that may be the nicest thing my father ever did for me as those are two of my very least favorite names (plus the cutesy spelling on Tammi).

        2. iglwif*

          I also have a name that was popular about 2 generations before I was born. I *hated* it as a kid and wished I were named Jennifer or Danielle or Tracy like everyone else, but like to think I’ve grown into it ;)

          One result has been that when people meet me for the first time after email correspondence, they tend to do a double take: in addition to actually being way younger than they expected, I also look younger than I am. I’m guessing OP#3 gets the same thing, just around race rather than age.

          The good news is that while there definitely is a story, I usually don’t bother with it — I just tell people my parents liked the name, which is true although incomplete — and people almost never keep pushing once I say that.

          OP3, I think Alison is right that you can make a lot of this go away by acting like it’s no big deal. There will always be obnoxiously nosy people, but most of those who ask you probably think they’re making innocent small talk!

          1. WS*

            I’ve got the opposite – I have a name that almost nobody my age has, but 18, 19 and 20 years later it was the #1 most popular name!

            1. selena81*

              you too?
              when i was born my name was rare enough that it constantly got misspelled and mispronounced, when i was 10 it ended up being the most popular name in the country for several years (thank god with the correct spelling, or i’d have to constantly correct everyone)

              since i’m a bit behind in my career i hope this works to my advantage: people usually think i’m 5-10 years younger then my age and i don’t correct them unless specifically asked about my age

      3. The Other Dawn*

        Yup, I was supposed to be a boy, too. But no. Since I was supposed to be David, they had to change to Dawn. So they ended up with four girls with a “D” name and one boy with a “C” name.

    6. Asenath*

      I had thought she meant her surname was unusual – mine is too, locally, but I just say that it was my father’s name and he wasn’t from around here, which is true and a bit boring and ordinary. So people go on to something else. First name – that’s even easier. She could just say “my parents liked the name” which is presumably true, but also unlikely to lead to lengthy discussions. If there is a follow-up question, a response could be “Oh, I think they read or heard it somewhere.” That’s basically the story I got when I complained about my real first and middle names when I was a child. That, and my mother’s complaint that my father didn’t want her to give me her first choice of name (which I was always grateful to my father for, since I liked it even less than the names they eventually compromised on).

      1. KHB*

        My first name is a slightly unusual (and foreign-looking) spelling of a more common name, so occasionally I get questions about it. I just say “Oh, you’ll have to ask my parents about that.” People generally accept that as an answer (and since my parents are usually nowhere around, it means they let it drop). Because really – I was way too young to have been part of that decision-making process, so how much can you really expect me to tell you about it?

        (In fact, I do know why they chose the spelling they did, because they explained it to me, but the reasoning is kind of weird and not very interesting, so “I don’t know, wasn’t my decision, it’s just my name” is just an easier answer.)

      2. Someone Else*

        I don’t think it’s her surname. OP mentioned previously going by a nickname to avoid questions but now her diploma and certification are on the wall, so she gets asked anyway. Usually nicknames are for one’s given name.

    7. Magenta*

      My very ordinary first name has two very common spelling variations, one English, the other Irish.
      My Mum liked the name but wanted me to be “different” so decided on a third spelling that is actually an archaic French boy’s name (she didn’t know this at the time).
      It always gets spelt wrong and I end up not getting emails etc because people think a letter was missed off by mistake and add it back in.
      People often ask why it is spelt like that and the only answer I have is “my Mum wanted it spelt that way”

    8. Queen Esmerelda*

      People asking about your name is sort of an ice-breaker or conversation starter; they’re assuming you’ll like to talk about it. My mother gave me a weird name, and every. single. person. I meet asks about it. I just say “My mother made it up” and move on to another topic. All you have to say is “My parents just liked it” and the conversation is over.

      1. selena81*

        i’m socially handicapped and the very first trick i thought myself is mirroring: if someone asks you about x you give a sort response and ask them about their x.
        a lot of everyday interaction seems to boil down to simple algoritms (there is mirroring, there are conversation starters, there are ‘safe subjects’ such as the weather or vacation-plans, you are supposed to switch around the asking and answering a few times, etc), i’m still bad at human contact, but i feel i’ve moved beyond being the weirdo that gives only one-word replies

    9. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      If you have a jokey relationship with someone I would be really tempted to say “Oh – I have no idea why, my parents both DIED when I was a baby.” Then give it three really long beats and say “hahaha, no, my parents just liked it.” I realize that may not go over well with everyone, but sometimes the right joke can be a warning light to people that they are crossing a line and let them retreat gracefully.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      Joan Hess had a character named Ariel due to a misspelling of the caption on “Aerial Photograph.” Sometimes people just like how a name sounds.

      “No story, my parents just thought it sounded pretty” should work for OP.

    11. Nerdgal*

      Same story here. I’m a white woman with a name that is very uncommon on the USA. My three siblings have standard names. My father just liked this name. That’s what I tell people. Also, it’s a name that could be given to either gender and I’m in a predominately male field, so many people assume I am a man until they meet me. I feel for you; the resulting conversations are repetitive and tedious.

    12. Jules the 3rd*

      hunh. Names having significance is so much a part of the culture that I grew up in (midwestern US farming, I guess, though also US South), and so visible in name trends, that I’m surprised to see so many people go ‘it’s just a word my parents liked’ and so few ‘well, it is A Thing in some cultures’. My experience has been that ‘name has a meaning / history’ is true for about half the people, where it’s come up in conversation.

      [Anecdotes supporting this deleted] It’s *very* common for popular figures to drive a lot of kid’s names, there’s a reason I know 3 ‘Judys’ in their 70s (J Garland). My parents claim up down and sideways they would have named me ‘Courtney Aloysius’ if I’d been a boy, after a couple of great grandfathers… that’s always good for a laugh, when I tell people about it.

      I second the ‘tell me about yours’ as a comeback when you don’t want to talk about it, tho. I will tell the story of my kid’s name at the drop of a hat.

      1. Asenath*

        Oh, using family names is traditional in my part of Canada, too, as are naming children after celebrities or characters on TV. Lots of my relatives have family names, including two of my siblings. One never uses her middle name, which is that of one of our grandmothers and does sound rather old-fashioned, the only complaint the other had (Fathername Grandfathername Surname) was that people kept shortening his first name to a nickname he hated. The name my mother wanted for me that my father disliked was a family name, well, female version of a male family name – Edwina. I almost got another family name, but that late relative had always gone by a nickname my mother disliked. So, in the end, according to my parents, they saw a name they liked under a baby picture in the obstetrician’s office, and gave me that one. (It wasn’t Asenath or Jane)

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Yeah, I was thinking that too. Names very often DO have a family or cultural significance. My name is a family name, so at least I can just say that when I get the inevitable “What an unusual name! Where does it come from?” Because my name is weird and obviously foreign. My husband’s family has very rigid naming traditions, so his name was essentially decided before he even existed. There’s a few- but only a few- “we just liked it” names in my family. Most of us were named for someone.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          “Oh, there’s one odd name in every generation of my family and I got the short stick.”
          Which is true. But also apparently my dad got tired of normal names with my older siblings and I got a triple-whammy of unpronounceable names.

      3. Working Mom Having It All*

        I’m also from the rural South and… yeah my parents just liked my name. They also just liked my three brothers’ names. All four of us have very typical names for white kids born in the US in the 1980s. It seems odd to me that the US South and Midwest are seen as having Extremely Significant Raisons D’Etre as opposed to other places or cultures.

        Based on the number of Jessicas, Tiffanys, and Bryans I grew up with in the rural South, and the number of kids I run into there with names like Brinley and Caden, my assumption is that the vast majority of Southerners and Midwesterners also just pick names because they like them. While you will occasionally run into a Thurston Brooks McStuffington IV or a trio of kids named Trigger, Ruger, and Baretta, where their names obviously have deep significance, it seems less common than just naming your kid Emma and moving on with your life.

    13. Key lime pie*

      Yep, I have an unusual name that belongs to a really specific white ethnic group of which I’m not a part. I’ve been asked “where it’s from” or “what it means” by random people all my life. I always say, “My parents just liked it,” and no one’s ever had a problem with that. If I’m feeling chatty, I say something like, “It’s funny, it’s actually a Basque name but I’m not Basque – my parents just liked the name.”

    14. voluptuousfire*

      My niece is called Winona (she was born right around the first season of Stranger Things). Her mom was watching it and hadn’t decided on a name for a girl yet, and Winona just popped out of her mouth. She was like “I like it!” and after some discussion, she was called Winona. They just liked the name and got the name from Winona Ryder, but didn’t name her after her.

    15. Oxford Comma*

      I like Alison’s second option best: “I guess my parents just liked it”?

      The question implies very heavily that you don’t know and that your really don’t care. It’s short. It’s simple. It’s to the point.

    16. Risha*

      Risha is a Hindi name (that sounds black to a lot of people, especially black people), but I’m mostly Northern/Western European mutt and absolutely no form of Asian at all. I love my name (short, pretty, easy to say, easy to spell once you’ve seen it, stands out from the crowd but people like it, easily passes as an internet handle), and while I occasionally worry that my resume might be being passed over because of it, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

      I’m frequently asked about my name upon introduction, and my answer is “my parents were hippies and liked it,” which conveniently is both the truth and stops the conversation at that point. Then if I feel like making small talk about it further with that person, I continue with “it’s Hindi, and it means x, and and there’s also an Arabic star system Al-Risha” etc etc etc.

    17. Working Mom Having It All*

      Yep. We named our son a very unusual name that happens to be shared by a character in a well-known movie. We like that movie, and the existence of the name in the pop cultural consciousness is what made us think of it. We constantly get asked if we’re big fans of the movie or if we named our son “after” the character. Honestly, we just liked the name.

      Usually I’ll say that we just liked the name, or I’ll give into the “you must be huge fans of [movie]!” stuff because honestly who cares. One of the main things I’ve learned in getting married and having a kid is that most people feel free to ask shockingly personal questions in the name of small talk.

    18. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I had a great aunt named Juanita. We have zero Hispanic heritage. Her parents just liked it and might have been running out of name ideas with 10 daughters.

  3. Not a morning person*

    #3 You say you’ve tried everything, but have you tried saying you don’t know? That’s the actual answer, so why not just say that?

    I also have family issues and have found that if you say this in response to questions, it’s fine. If anyone follows up with “Why don’t you ask your parents” you just say “that’s not possible” and change the subject.

    1. Dan*

      That’s where I’m at. OP’s letter really does suggest *she* is making it a bigger deal than need be.

      On a related note, I was reading something today where someone had named their kid “Abcde”. That kid is going to get that question from every person she ever meets every day for the rest of her life.

      1. Artemesia*

        They are obviously attention seekers; they were whining in the press today that people had made fun of the name when they flew Southwest. Of course people should not be so unprofessional or unkind as to ridicule a name, BUT what did these people think was going to happen when they tagged their poor baby with that name?

        1. beth*

          She’ll have the option to change it legally once she reaches adulthood (or possibly earlier, if she can convince her parents to sign off on it). It’s a pain, but I’m betting she’ll go for it sooner rather than later. She’ll probably go by a nickname with her friends and classmates anyways–like you said, she’s bound to get teased if she goes by her legal name–which she could switch to.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          While not technically illegal I suspecct that posting it to social media violated something in the employee handbook. Ridiculing paying customers isn’t a good look.

      2. Aveline*

        One thing we all need to remember: most people don’t name themselves. So if someone gets harassed for their name it’s mean and wrong even if their parents did it on purpose.

        Remember the kid whose dad wanted to name him Adolph Hitler? There would be zero excuse for mocking the child’s name. Mocking dad? Yes. But we all know that’s not what happens.

        I’ve often thought we’d all be better off if we had a chance to change our names then minute we turned18 (or subsidtutd the applicable age or adulthood in your jurisdiction) to something we chose for ourselves.

        People get such hassle over their names. It’s not as

    2. nnn*

      That’s what I was thinking. Shrugging your shoulders and saying “No idea! It’s completely lost to history!” (with your tone some combination of casual/cheerful/sharing their bafflement) would convey that there’s simply no information in existence. (And if you say “We have no idea!”, that would suggest that you’ve already consulted your family and they have no insight either.)

      1. KimberlyR*

        I do think tone of voice is key. When you say something in a casual and cheerful tone, people let it go. When you say something that sounds interesting or sinister or fraught with tension, they’re intrigued. Any variation of “I don’t know. Just liked it, I guess” or “There isn’t anything interesting, unfortunately” or even “You know, I wish there was a reason because then I’d have a story for you” in a cheerful, dismissive tone is likely to sound boring enough that they’ll move on.

        1. Blue*

          I can imagine that last response working well. Or something like, “I don’t know; you’d have to ask my parents!” in a similar tone would probably accomplish the same.

        2. LQ*

          I agree about tone of voice but I’d lean in a little to the curiosity with a very dramatic “Lost to the sands of time…” and then laugh, shrug, and very dismissive “Idunno. How about them TPS reports?”

    3. Double A*

      I’m very white and I have a Japanese name. Most people expect me to be Japanese before they meet me, so I’m very familiar with the cocked head, slightly squinted eyes as they think, and sometimes says, “but you don’t LOOK Japanese.” My standard response is, “I’m not Japanese, my parents just liked it.” Which is true. Sometimes my answer is “I was born in Berkeley” (true) or “My parents were hippies” (marginally true). Occasionally I tell the full story, which is just that my parents had some friends with a daughter named.Double A, and they liked the name.

      Very occasionally someone will try to speak Japanese to me or have a discussion about Japan, even when they learn I have no connection, but mostly they move on when I give them a simple response.

      Also I think it’s funny that if you have a unique name people think it’ll have some big story behind it, but often it has even less of a story than a “standard” name, which often is family name with a story behind it.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        My half me half Southeast Asian son had a name similar to Alexander Michael. Everyone expected him to be named something like Hito or Chin or Wong or something.

        They also expected that my born in California, surfer duuudddeee son would speak Chinese or Japanese…apparently thete are no other Asian countries.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I am an immigrant from Eastern Europe living in the US and I have an international name that is extremely common in several countries, like Greece or Italy. I live in an Italian neighborhood, and used to go to a Greek church, and as such has been surrounded by people with my exact name. No one of Italian or Greek origin ever batted an eye. Everyone else though, tends to come up with the most bizarre questions. I’ve had people ask me what my real name is. Like, they think in my home country, everyone has a weird name like Borscht or Ём(ъЪ*ЕъЪР*, and I had to have changed mine to make it sound American. I tell them I was named after my grandmother and witness the shocked reaction.

    4. Dragoning*

      Agreed. “I’m not sure!” seems like it would be my immediate answer to this situation. I think OP might be caught up in wanting to know the meaning of the name themselves.

      In which case–google might help OP figure that one out, although it won’t ever explain why their parents named them that.

    5. Student*

      How about, “I have no idea! But I’ve always loved my name. Did you know [some kind of name trivia here]?” This makes it no big deal, expresses that YOU like it, and gets you off the subject. By saying you like it, you answer a question people aren’t asking directly.

      Alternately, you are welcome to borrow my name origin story: I was named after two of my dad’s exes. Yes, my mom knew. No, she didn’t mind.

      1. I Herd the Cats*

        This. I have an unusual first name that I chose myself in young adulthood, because I hated that while growing up I was always one of three or more girls with the same name in class. It’s now my legal name. And yes, there is a story behind it, but when people comment on my name and where it came from, I always give a cheery variation of “I have no idea!” and move on briskly. Larger lesson: people ask things when they’re surprised, but mostly they’re not that invested in the answer.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Heh. Having been in that boat, I gave my children unusual first names so that they wouldn’t always be “Jessica R” to distinguish them from all the other Jessicas in every class. This year was the very first time my oldest was on a team with someone with the first name, and she wasn’t even “Hazel R” just half of “The Hazels.”

    6. OP3*

      Oh wow, i’ve tried this a few times, and it has resulted in absolute shock and a “You don’t know where your own NAME comes from?!”

      1. Sara without an H*

        Hi, OP#3: That kind of surprises me. But I think some of the earlier suggestions, such as “Oh, my mother saw it in a book and just liked the sound,” followed by a quick change of subject ought to work.

        1. Elemeno P.*

          I say “My mother found it in a book” most of the time (also happens to be true!). Nobody asks for follow-up after that. I’m in the same situation as LW3, though I also have olive skin so people think I’m ~exotic~ (ugh) and want a back story.

        2. Former Retail Manager*

          Orrr…..you can just make up whatever story you want. I had a friend that did this. Her made up story was waaaayyyy more interesting than the real story, which was she was named after a family member who controlled the purse strings and essentially had largely supported her young parents for a number of years (old money) and demanded that my friend be named after her. That’s a little too much drama for initial meetings so she made up a fun story and no one was ever any the wiser.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I agree with the book if you need it. It’s just enough detail that it satisfies them, but it can’t really lead anywhere.

          It’s better than saying, “Oh, we saw it on the sign for the bank, and we liked it,” which is why my nephew is named Brenton.

      2. Queen Esmerelda*

        Or they’ll keep asking questions, like “Well, is it a family name? Did you parents know someone with that name?” which is why I stick with “my mother made it up.” Stops the questions dead.

      3. londonedit*

        I also think that’s a bit of a bizarre reaction to get! I wouldn’t really expect people to have some huge backstory behind their name. Does everyone really know where their name comes from?? Not everyone is named after a family member or has some ‘I know it’s usually a male name in this country but my mum lived in France as a child and had a wonderful friend called Laurence so she named me after her’ sort of story. If I did ask about an unusual name, and the person said ‘Yes, unusual isn’t it – no idea where my parents got it from!’ I’d probably just say ‘Well, it’s lovely!’ and move on.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, that’s so weird to me. I generally assume people had a list of names they liked and then their kid was born and they picked one. Is it that common to have a story? I mean certainly “I was named after X person” is pretty common, but not usually much of a story.

        2. TootsNYC*

          but I would also actually expect that, especially for someone with an unusual name, that the story WAS discussed at some point.

          Even if it was only, “I made it up” or “I saw it in a magazine,” or “I overheard it in the doctor’s office and I liked the sound.”

          As someone with an unusual name, I can tell you that this question of where it came from was brought up often–by other kids, etc. And so my parents told the story, so I knew it.

        1. Part Time Poet*

          Dear #3 Poster:
          Please know that there are people out in the world that read Miss Manners (or don’t) and would never ask you about the origin of your name. Doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be curious, but would keep the question to themselves.

      4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        That is just so rude. Every grade level at my school there were at least a half a dozen girls with my name – and you probably could have filled a large lecture hall at my collage with the girls with my name that went there. And I bet you an early viewing of the Avengers 4 trailer that no one would ever act shocked if they didn’t have a story for why they were named that (and they probably never get asked). The only thing my mom ever said about my name was that she thought it was unusual (big eye roll there mom). Even the person with the most unusual name I know was called that because her mom thought it was pretty. But the point is that they are being rude OP – if that helps at all to have outside verification – they are being rude.

        1. I'm Rude, then*

          People aren’t being rude when they ask, they’re starting a conversation. It’s actually a thoughtful tactic, to ask someone about themselves. The intent, I suspect, is to find common ground…to meet the Original Poster “where she is.” People, generally speaking, don’t set out to be rude…especially with a clinician who will presumably be directly impacting their health. In fact, as a clinician, I would suggest that Original Poster has an obligation to herself and her clients (patients?) to be polite about it. Not saying she hasn’t been unfailingly so, but this harsh judgment of people who are simply attempting to make small talk is an almost pervasive theme in the comments section of this blog.
          Yes, we can make small talk about the weather or sports or something, but most people who find themselves in an ongoing relationship such as these seem to be will seek to make a personal connection. What’s more fundamental than asking about your name?
          What you may perceive as rude, intrusive or boundary-busting; other people see as an effort to get to know her a little. The people who ask about her name, etc. would be stunned, I believe, to learn that you think they’re being rude.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            I’m not saying it is rude to ask about someone’s name. I’m saying it is rude to respond with “You don’t know where your own NAME comes from?!” when she says she doesn’t know why she was named that. Acting like the OP is somehow ignorant or wrong for not having an ‘excuse’ to have a historically black name, when 80% of the people in American could say they don’t have a story behind their name and no one would blink an eye. Acting offended that she doesn’t have some grand story just because her name sounds black is not ok to do. Also – trying to re-open any subject that someone tries to shut down or divert, especially by acting offended or aghast ESPECIALLY when that person is at work and doesn’t have the power to walk away is rude behavior.

            1. Salamander*

              Yup. This. When a person has politely declined to answer a question, continuing to badger someone is rude. A patient’s curiosity does not trump OP’s right to privacy, and refusing to accept her soft “no” is really invasive and pushy.

            2. Yay commenting on AAM!*

              Well, that’s because it doesn’t answer the actual question, which is, “Are you one-drop black or not?”

              They are not being curious , they are being racist, and they suspect she is lying to “trick” them into thinking she’s white when she is not, because they think black people are lesser and should be treated differently than white people, and they want to be seeing a white clinician and not a black one.

              And unfortunately, there is no polite tactic that is going to deter this line of questioning, because racists are not polite people, they only value people based on their ethnic background.

              1. Tupac Coachella*

                “Well, that’s because it doesn’t answer the actual question, which is, ‘Are you one-drop black or not?'”

                Unfortunately, I suspect this is true a disproportionate amount of the time; the underlying question is “so, is one of your parents black?” I don’t agree that we have enough evidence here to assume that the majority of these clients are likely planning to actively discriminate against OP, though. I’d suspect there’s frequently a level of curiosity about OP’s racial background ranging into None of Your Business behind the question, and I’ll concede that for the ones who actually ARE racists, this would be a “logical” vetting question (scare quotes because racial discrimination is highly illogical). But I’m a self professed name nerd who frequently notices unusual names or spellings and loves to hear people’s “how my name was chosen” stories if they offer them up. These names often catch my attention because they’re unusual, either in general or in that context (like if a person is a buttoned up lawyer type who goes by Squiggy, or a baby named Augustus), and I’m curious about where it came from. I’m just a polite person who realizes that just because I’m curious doesn’t mean they owe me any information. I have said “what a pretty/cool/unusual name,” but a simple thank you is the usual response, and I don’t ask follow up questions. If they want to tell me more, they will. I’m a fan of “they just liked it, I guess” as a response for less polite people.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          Haha, my parents also gave me a name they thought wouldn’t be common and there was always another Gazebo, so to speak.

      5. Mynona*

        Yeah, as I was reading the “I don’t know” recommendations, I suspected that would be how a nosy person would respond. “My parents just liked it” gives an actual answer, which should satisfy most folks.

          1. Artemesia*

            This. Given the ‘one drop’ rule in American culture, they are almost certainly angling for information about her racial heritage.

          2. OP3*

            This is exactly where the question comes from. They’re trying to find out why a white girl has my name, without actually coming out and saying it. There’s always follow up questions about where in Africa it is from, whether I have any family there etc.

            1. Salamander*

              I wonder if the Miss Manners classic “Why do you ask?” would help deflect this. You may have to say it more than once, always in a neutral voice, and let there be uncomfortable silent pauses while you look at them, unblinking. I’ve had to do this, and if you practice, it can help shut things down effectively.

              People who are this nosy and rude often use “I’m curious!” as an excuse. As if their curiosity trumps manners.

              I know it’s your goal to build positive relationships with these clients, but you are still entitled to boundaries.

        1. Double A*

          As someone with nearly the same experience as the OP (except white girl with a Japanese name), no one has ever pushed back against “My parents just liked it.”

      6. Jules the 3rd*

        I’d go with ‘my parents just liked how it sound’ and a *fast* question back to them, don’t give them time to respond.

        Most people who ask about someone’s name are probably from a culture where their name’s meaning is a Big Thing, and they’re really looking for an opportunity to tell you about theirs / their kid’s / etc.

      7. Nita*

        “No clue. I think my parents made it up. Now, moving on to…”

        OP, I feel for you! I’ve got an odd name that’s not even a real name (it’s supposed to be a nickname for something else) and I’ve dreaded introducing myself since grade school. It’s annoying to start off every relationship with cringing and feeling embarrassed. I’ve been doing it long enough that I just treat unpleasant introductions as an unavoidable part of my life, and try to get through them as fast as possible.

      8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        “Nope! I do not!” Repeat as needed.

        WTH is wrong with the people who first ask about things that are not their business, and then refuse to accept an answer?

        Why are they shocked that you do not know where your own name comes from? Do they think you were the one that picked it? You were probably not even born yet when that name was chosen, how on earth are you supposed to know?

        1. Artemesia*

          When Moon Unit Zappa was asked why her father had such an ordinary name since she and her brother had such unique ones, she responded ‘well he didn’t name himself, did he?’ Perfect response. (apparently even Frank Zappa gave his kids ordinary names on their birth certificate; he just publicly announced Moon Unit and Dweezil.)

      9. PVR*

        Perfect opportunity to then ask where their name comes from and move the convo on after that. Although honestly, what a weird thing to say on their part.

      10. Aveline*

        I’m adopted. I’ve had people ask about my name. It’s not common like Susan, but it’s also not rare or exotic.

        I say, no idea, my parent shortened it when I was over a year old and came to them as a foster kid whom they adopted. (Think Kate from Katherine or Liz from Elizabeth).

        You would think that would shut people up. Nope.

        Nosy people gonna nosy.

        I’ve learned to be firm and say “I have no idea as I was named by my biological mother. I’ve had a lot of well-meaning people pry in the past, but I’m sure you understand why I don’t care to talk about it further. Instead, I’d love to hear about your dog Muffy.”

        Sometimes treating the person as if they are the one enlightened enough to allow you to switch the subject works.

      11. Ask a Manager* Post author

        OP3: The thing is, you’re not obligated to come up with an answer that satisfies them. If they express surprise that you don’t know, you can just briskly say, “Yep, that’s right. So (subject change)…” That really is better than sounding coy or like there’s a story you’re not sharing.

    7. kittymommy*

      This is exactly what I do. Like LW I’m also a white woman with an African name. It’s also Middle Eastern. And while I actually do know why I was named it (my mom had a friend with the name when she was younger and liked it), I get asked about it so much my go to response is “Oh I don’t really know, I guess they just liked it.” Not once in 30+ years has this not been accepted as an answer.

  4. Anonicat*

    #3: you probably can’t do this in a clinical setting, but my friend these days just baldly answers, “My parents were going to call me Rebecca but then they saw [name that reads as “exotic” here] in a Playboy magazine and decided they liked that better.”
    People either say “That’s cool!” or are too embarrassed to continue the subject.

    1. Lurkersaurus*

      That actually IS how my parents picked my name: from one of my dad’s nudie mags. And I cheerily share the story with anyone asks. I never get follow-up questions.

    2. Elemeno P.*

      Depending on the person asking about my name, I sometimes answer that my parents really enjoyed drugs in the 80s.

    3. TooTiredToThink*

      LOL! I was just going to say LW3 could just say “My parents saw it someplace and liked it.”

      I know my mom was named after a little girl that lived down the street. (Her name isn’t “exotic” but it is pretty rare).

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I totally named one of my sons after a 20-year-old neighbor. This kid was working three jobs and raising his three younger siblings while mom was out drinking and having fun, and the 28-year-old me decided that, if I named my son after him, he’d grow up to be that responsible and caring too. My then-husband said “oh I don’t care what we name him, just pick any name” and I went with that one.

        1. TooTiredToThink*

          Love that! Yeah, in my case I think my grandparents just liked it; but I think your story is awesome.

      2. Anonymeece*

        I had a teacher who was the ninth boy in his family. His mother ran out of names so he ended up being named after his mom’s obstetrician.

        Sometimes people just see a name they like!

        1. Pear*

          My mother was going to name me Holly, after Holly Golightly. My father said, “Okay, but I get to pick her middle name.” Mom agreed. And he said with a smirk, “Bush.”

          That was the end of Holly for consideration. (No disrespect meant to the Hollys out there!)

  5. Jane Alex Marie*

    #1 I always said “stomach problems” if pressed beyond “not feeling well” because my mental health days were due to anxiety and I feel anxiety in my stomach. Stress usually does have a physical component, if someone gets nosey and you don’t want to get into details.

    1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I say headache. Which in my mind is ‘If I come in today you will give me a headache’. It works well because no one really expects you to still be sick the next day, and it spares your coworkers the worry that you were contagious yesterday.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          Know your audience, though. There are plenty of toxic bosses who would hear “insomnia” and interpret that as “lazy.”

    2. Sk*

      I say something generic when I call in like “not feeling very well”, but the next day when people ask how I’m doing I’ll say “oh, it was just a stomach thing”. There’s no confusion why you don’t sound sick and rarely any follow-up questions!

  6. Someone Else*

    For #5 I’d be willing to bet that’s something like the default footer on all their emails and nobody bothered to think about how it’d land when it’s also in a rejection email, and that’s not something they put specifically in the rejection emails due to any type of intentional thought process.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      Yep. I see a lot of email signatures now which include the company’s Facebook/Twitter/Instagram links. It might even be encouraged by the company bigwigs that people include this stuff, especially when conversing with outside people. Probably just no one thought about how tacky it looks on rejection emails, and it’s just part of their signature that’s automatically included whenever they send anything.

      1. Asenath*

        Required, even. We got instructions to used a certain email signature format, and it HAS to go on all work emails.

        1. bonkerballs*

          Yep – I finally convinced my director to let me have a generic email signature with just our logo so I can stop sending emails with past due notices that end in ads for upcoming, expensive events.

    2. Wild Bluebell*

      Yes! I’ve mentioned in a comment below that I’ve received a rejection email with a footer like that!
      It does seem weird. Like “we are rejecting you, but please hang around anyway”. No, thanks.

    3. Hello Sweetie*

      Yeah, I work in a customer support role, but I’m not in sales or marketing. We use a specific software for all our emails to customers, and I have no control over the signature. I actually don’t see the signature – it gets added after I compose the email and send it out. So I was a little embarressed to find out that there’s a lot of marketing added to the bottom – since I’m not in the marketing position it feels weird to have that send on every email.

  7. Well Regulated Mellissa*

    #5 This is a time I gotta disagree with Alison, at least a little bit. They may use social media to post job openings and be awkwardly encouraging you to stay in touch that way. Are they ? Who knows? But it might be worth it to follow them, at least for a while to see for yourself.

    1. Amylou*

      If people were interested in the company, they would start following (in whatever way) themselves right?

      This type of sentence just feels awkward and marketing-y to me. Not every moment needs to be given over to marketing. If you want people to follow you for jobs, you can simply state after the rejection. “We post new positions on website and announce them on our social media channels.” No “call-to-action”, that’s not really the goal of the email, to get more followers. The goal is to kindly tell them you’re not moving on with their application.

      1. Crystal*

        Yeah like if you’re applying for a job at a social media company you would follow them anyway so you know what they’re doing for the interview. I mean, I guess you don’t have to follow them until you got an interview offer but still.

  8. Thornus67*

    #4 I wouldn’t hold the diploma issue against the step-daughter if I were hiring (unless, of course, the diploma is truly mandatory for the job). I graduated from college the summer term after when I should have because I had to take one extra course for my major. My major had like five different categories of major courses we had to take, one of the classes I took was erroneously listed as fulfilling one of those requirements when it really didn’t, and that was caught too late for me to get the right class my spring semester. So I took it over summer. Similarly, my school yanked my scholarship a semester early because they thought I was on pace to graduate a semester early – that took a whole day of marching around to like five different buildings to get it straightened out. Sometimes, schools make mistakes, especially larger universities. There’s a chance her $100 hold was never communicated to her. I wouldn’t hold anything minor like that against her.

    1. Emelle*

      I got a letter a year after I graduated saying I had unpaid parking tickets and if I didn’t pay them, they were going to hold my diploma. My diploma was hanging on my wall, so…good luck? (And I had zero parking tickets, so nope, not sending you money.)
      I would have been beyond irate if I had been blacklisted over a non-existent parking ticket. (You know, if they had sent it in a timely fashion.)

      1. Thornus67*

        In your case, I would guess that holding your diploma would mean that if ever contacted for a transcript, verification of graduation, etc. they would say “nope, didn’t graduate.” Maybe explain there’s a hold on it, but that might violate FERPA.

        1. Emelle*

          I thought so too, but I have pulled official transcripts 3 times in the 20 years since I graduated it has never been an issue.

      2. Didn't Pay It*

        I got a parking ticket from campus police…4 years after I graduated. Apparently during finals week the fall of my senior year I got a ticket, didn’t pay it, and 4.5 years later they found me in Georgia. I still haven’t paid it (and haven’t had any transcript issues).

    2. Woodswoman*

      About six months after I graduated, I went to pick up my diploma in person from the university because I was moving out of state the next day. They told me I hadn’t graduated because I had an incomplete. It turned out that the faculty member who managed my internship had forgotten to submit my grade. My advisor, worth his weight in gold in those pre-internet days, took care of everything in my absence. I got an A in the internship, and my diploma was mailed to me with a graduation date a full semester later than I actually attended.

      Stuff like this happens. OP, I’m sorry that your stepdaughter had the job offer pulled because of it.

      1. Julia*

        Thus happens all the time in Germany. I graduated a full year late because of irresponsible professors.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        Wow, this story was incredibly helpful to me. I’m graduating next term and this story made me nervous, so I checked my degree audit, and…my advisor also seems to have forgotten so submit my internship grade. Thank you for inadvertently helping me out on that!

      3. AnnaBananna*

        Ya I came here to comment on the OP’s “The fact that your diploma never arrived in the mail didn’t cause you concern? ”

        Umm, they don’t mail out diplomas. You have to physically go pick them up from the registrar. In fact, I still didn’t bother picking mine up because who the hell cares? It’s a BA. As long as I can get my transcripts anytime why do I really care about a piece of paper that will just collect dust? So I wouldn’t base your argument on the fact that your step daughter doesn’t physically have her diploma, as it’s a non-issue for 99% of graduates anyway. Everything is electronically verified these days.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Might vary by school. My BAD I had to pick up. My post-grad add-on minor at another school, they mailed.

    3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      When I graduated university about 10 years I owed them less than $20. This year I was registering for an on-line course and checked my financial status and they still owe me the money. If the situation was reversed, I’m sure my diploma wouldn’t be sitting in a box in my closet right now.

    4. MsChanandlerBong*

      I have 87 credits toward a bachelor’s degree, but I couldn’t finish due to a huge screw-up by my school. I took summer classes one year, and I received a financial aid award letter stating that I could get a Stafford loan to cover the whole term. One of my summer classes was the senior seminar in my major. The final project was a 30-page paper. Everyone complained that six weeks (the length of a summer course) was not enough time to write such a long paper, so our teacher didn’t submit any grades for Summer I; instead, she told us to come in during Summer II and do our presentations, and then she’d give us a grade. Unfortunately, not getting a grade in the correct term screwed up my financial aid; the school never certified my Stafford loan, so the Dept. of Ed. didn’t release the funds. I didn’t know any of this until I arrived on campus for the fall term and was told I couldn’t move into my dorm because I owed $4,800 for the summer term. I was not allowed to attend my fall classes due to the balance on my account. It took me six weeks to get it all straightened out. Unfortunately, by the middle of October, I had missed too many classes to catch up, so I had to withdraw…now they won’t even release my transcripts because they say I have to pay them $11,000+ for the courses I withdrew from…even though it was their mistake that caused me to have to withdraw.

      TL;DR I totally understand how a student might not know something is wrong until after the term ends. I was completely blindsided by this issue.

      1. Woodswoman*

        This is outrageous! I used to have a job assisting an elected official with difficulties that constituents had, and this is exactly the kind of crap we could often help with. When someone had been wrestling with bureaucracy for months, we could cut through it in a single phone call. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you reach out to your congressional representative to see if they can help you with this mess.

        1. Amber T*

          Out of curiosity, would this only assist in a state school, or would that help with private schools as well?

          1. LawBee*

            It would be worth a try either way – private schools still depend on state funding for some things.

      2. IvyGirl*

        Many many colleges and universities have committees that hear appeals for just these types of issues. Please consider reaching out to your students financial services office to see if there is such an appeal committee. Be very thorough and detailed, with timelines and any correspondence with that instructor. I’ve served on those committees and most of the time things can be resolved.

        Then email the dean of your school, as that instructor should be reprimanded. That timeline was untenable, and they should have known better than to jeopardize someone’s financial aid by delaying grades.

      3. IvyGirl*

        Adding – you shouldn’t have been able to register for those classes if your balance was so high. Something is off and your bursar’s office dropped the ball.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I registered for fall classes during the previous spring term. The balance didn’t arise until I took summer classes. Unfortunately, it’s been years since this happened. I fought as hard as I could at the time, but I couldn’t afford an attorney and some people at the school went out of their way to try to make the problem my fault (the financial aid office told me I was never eligible for summer financial aid, and then the dean forwarded their email to me and the registrar with a comment about how there are “three sides to every story” and just because someone says something “doesn’t make it true”; she changed her tune when I pulled out the financial aid award letter I got in May, which stated that I was eligible for a summer Stafford loan).

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Can you afford an attorney now? I would revisit it. Colleges shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this.
            I didn’t finish my degree because it became clear colleges were deliberately taking financial advantage. The City Colleges would lie to students and say they could transfer classes to a 4-year – and after the student took the class, the 4-year wouldn’t accept it.
            I’d had enough when an advisor told me I could take two more classes for an associates degree and after I took them, it turned out not to be true. I confronted him and he claimed he’d never said that.
            The whole system is about getting money from the students. Expensive colleges aggressively market trendy degrees and promises fabulous careers to everyone. I’m sure we all know about what student loan debt is doing to our economy, and that doesn’t even count the emotional cost of people having all that debt and still not getting the job they want. I’ve written essays about it.
            Do people really owe these small amounts that are putting holds on their documents? Whether it’s deliberate or incompetence, I have to wonder.

          2. wickedtongue*

            Seriously, though, you should try again! Seconding calling your congressional rep’s constituent services for help.

          3. Woodswoman*

            That bill for $11,000 hasn’t gone away. Even though it’s been years, this is definitely worth trying to get help with from your congressional office. Reaching out to your representative doesn’t cost a thing. I can assure you that when I called about these kinds of problems and told them I worked at the office of an elected official, people paid attention and responded in the right ways quickly.

      4. coffeespoons*

        That’s awful! I work at a university, and my shoulders started going up around my ears when I read what the instructor did. In my job, I am never supposed to just say to faculty members “WHY OH WHY did you make this terrible mess?!” but I can imagine the look of growing horror on my face if I’d had to take a call from an instructor telling me they’d done this.

        Everything about how that situation was handled sounds appalling. I am so sorry.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      That happened to me too! A course I thought counted in the “technology” category for my major in fact did not and I remember going to my advisor’s office in a panic thinking I wouldn’t graduate because I discovered this in my final semester. Fortunately, he was wonderful and basically was like, “eh, let’s look at your electives….. this one sounds good and science-y, fill out this form and get the dean to sign off on it and everything will be fine”. And it was. I also owed the school about $40 for whatever reason and only found out when I went to get certified copies of my transcripts sent out for grad school applications. One would like to believe universities to be bastions of efficiency who would not let such things slip through the cracks, but very often they are no such thing.

      1. sam*

        oh yeah – At my university, if you had two majors you could choose a variety of options a joint degree, if the two majors each led to a different degree (B.A. and B.S), a double major (for anything that led to the same degree), or a “joint major”, for two majors that were within the same category of disciplines (so two scienc-y majors, or two humanities majors).

        For the last one, you only had to do 2/3 of the “normal” requirements for each major, and the requirements for each department were very carefully spelled out in the documentation for each major for the joint degree category.

        So, since I was majoring in Political Science and Women’s Studies (with an extra minor in sociology), and I still wanted to graduate in four years, I opted for the joint degree – did all the paperwork, etc. Did all the right coursework, and then, right before graduation, I call the registrar’s office to confirm that I’m set to graduate, and I get a message that “I haven’t completed all the required coursework for political science”.

        I RUN to the poli sci building (I am not a runner), pretty much have a meltdown (luckily, the assistant to the Dean used to work at an office that I was a student assistant in, so we were actually good friends), she goes through the course requirements manual and sees that I am completely right and that the Dean basically fucked up because he just…didn’t even realize that joint degrees were a thing, and got it fixed by the next day. Always nice when the administration doesn’t bother to check the actual requirements and just…goes by rote.

    6. AnotherAlison*

      Amen to your comments on the scholarship. I think the OP’s negativity towards the stepdaughter for not catching this could be unwarranted. The schools don’t do everything right, and if you aren’t diligently checking your financial statements like an obsessive parent would do, you won’t know.

      My son is a junior transfer at his university, and he has a scholarship that covered everything except his meal plan. It was never applied to his bill, and he got 3 monthly statements before it was straightened out. First, they said go online and do X and that will apply it. A month later we saw that didn’t work. He went into the office and got it straightened out, but then the next invoice had $230 in late fees that accumulated while the scholarship wasn’t applied. He had to go back to the office and have them take those off. I think many students think these things will be handled by the “office”, don’t do anything, and don’t realize it will hold up enrollment each semester or graduation at the end.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I will also add, I completely feel the OP’s frustration with SD, and totally understand the kind of day when you write an exasperated email to Ask A Manager. My son says and does such dumb stuff sometimes, then I talk to friends with similarly aged sons, and I realize it’s just normal. My husband and I were on our own at his age, making our own mistakes, and having to bail ourselves out, so I don’t always have much compassion for my son when he screws things up.

        1. Grapey*

          My mom had compassion but also good common sense to let me handle my own administrivia in my early 20’s. A “that sucks, hope you get it cleared up soon” goes a lot farther than the unhelpful “you’re irresponsible!” blanket value judgements that my dad liked to rain down on me (which sounds a lot like LW 4’s letter).

          Lesson learned for SD that some hiring managers are unreasonable and life sucks sometimes. Stepmom shouldn’t rub it in with comments of her own.

        2. Alli525*

          Agreed with both your initial comment and this one. I haven’t met a 21-year-old yet who is “responsible” in the way that OP seems to expect – sometimes they (including myself at that age) just have to learn things – from managing finances to understanding that some hiring managers are unreasonable people – the hard way.

        3. nonymous*

          Yeah, when I get to interact with people in their twenties and thirties doing adulting type activities, I’m often surprised at the lack of experience out there. I find it baffling because at 25 (and younger!) I was tackling those tasks on my own in a responsible fashion. It also makes me sad and frustrated because I had to suffer the consequences of my own learning curve, and now I get to bail other people out with no consequence to them (but extra effort on my part).

        4. KC*

          I’m a professor, and one of my students lost a job and was blacklisted from an organization, just like LW4 describes! I sort of didn’t feel bad for him.

          In my case, he had been told multiple times that he’d forgotten to sign up for a class. It was easy enough to just have him sign up the next semester and give him the credit, and we told him this, but he never did it. He “graduated,” applied for a job, and lost it once a reference check was conducted. His mother (a VP in HR at another company) tried to raise heck with our registrar, and I think once she realized her son had not been honest with her, he really got it (the registrar got an apology from her, and they could tell she was furious about it). It ended up costing him quite a bit of $$$ because he had to pay an (entirely unnecessary) extra semester of tuition. Lesson learned the hard way!

          Hopefully, SD has been more honest with LW4! :-#

        5. Jadelyn*

          I mean…y’all (not just you, the general y’all here) do realize that the human brain literally doesn’t finish developing until someone is about 25 yrs old, right? And that the last areas to fully develop are around judgment and planning? To a certain extent, it’s really not their fault that we generally don’t teach them squat about How To Adult when they’re in high school, expecting them to just, idk, learn by osmosis? And then punt them out the door at 18, with literally unfinished brains lacking in the ability to plan and make good judgment calls. And then we, the adults around them, have the gall to get scornful/condescending/frustrated/what have you when they screw up or do dumb stuff? You really can’t expect late teens/early 20s folks to have the same amount of critical thinking and foresight/planning/etc as someone in their 30’s or 40’s. It’s not a remotely reasonable expectation.

          (And to all the “Well, when *I* was 20, *I* was handling things, so…” crowd – I’m very happy for you, but you are one person. Your experiences are not universal. Just because you could do something doesn’t mean everyone can and should be expected to do the same thing. If you had one of those 16-year-olds who’ve already graduated Stanford and are in an MBA program acting superior about most people graduating high school at 18 and telling you “Well when *I* was 13, I was ready to graduate high school, so…” you’d laugh, right?

          Just…idk, have some compassion, ffs. Just because you had a hard time and had to learn by the sink-or-swim method doesn’t mean you’re obligated to pass that hard time on to the next generation. If everyone thought that way, nothing would ever improve because we’d all be too focused on making the people coming up after us have to suffer the way we did because otherwise it’s not fair to us.)

    7. Nita*

      Yeah. I’d focus on helping her resolve the situation. If she hasn’t done this yet, can she reach out to the hiring manager and explain what happened with the diploma? Maybe the rescinded offer was some kind of over-reaction in HR because a box hasn’t been checked, and they can still hire her back once she officially has a diploma… Of course, if she tried explaining what a minor oversight it was, and the company’s response was still that She Did Wrong and Can Never Work There… it’s a bullet dodged.

      For what it’s worth, I was accidentally hired while not meeting the job posting requirements – the job required a driver’s license, and the interviewer assumed I have one based on where I live. This didn’t come to light until HR was processing my new hire papers, and requested a copy of the license – at which point I called them in a panic, asking if it’s a must or just proof of identity. They didn’t take back the offer, just told me to get the license ASAP. I had it four months later, and am still working at the same company. That seems like a much more reasonable response than what happened to OP’s stepdaughter.

    8. sam*

      also, receiving a “physical” diploma isn’t really a sign of whether you graduated from many universities these days. Some schools charge a bunch of money for you to get the fancy piece of paper to hang on your wall – you’ve graduated if your official transcript says you graduated.

      Just wanted to point that part out, because the OP4 thought that would have been a clue…not really?

      1. Jadelyn*

        And even if you get a physical copy by default, which you may or may not – those don’t tend to ship until wayyyy after graduation. I think I got mine about six months later? So job-hunting for “several months” might still have her in the period of time where she wouldn’t have gotten the physical paper even if they’d processed her graduation and were going to send one.

      2. Meteor*

        Agreed! I still don’t have a physical copy of my diploma, because my only mailing address at the time was a PO box, and the school would not send the diploma to a PO box. I had moved out of state so was unable to pick it up in person. Luckily my official transcript does show I graduated…

    9. TooTiredToThink*

      Agreed. I graduated but went back to work on my Master’s. Decided not to complete that and withdrew. Everything had been paid up – but apparently due to new FinAid rules; I was left with a balance that I had to pay. I didn’t realize this and went to request a transcript. In order to get that transcript I had to pay …… $3.47. Yep, less than $4.

    10. A CAD Monkey*

      I had something similar with my major. I went to my advisor and was told I needed 9 credits to graduate. So naturally, being the overachiever I was at that time, took an extra class (3 credits) for fun and to round out my schedule. Went in to file the graduation paperwork and found out I was 3 credits short. One of the classes I was able to place out of due to hs exams was a required class for my major. I graduated with 157/160 credits due to the university’s mistake.

    11. Secretary*

      This whole, you-think-you-graduated-turns-out-NOPE was surprisingly common at my university (in CA). Everyone knew someone who thought they were going to graduate one semester, then ended up having to stay on an extra semester because of a technicality. That was best case scenario. A scary amount of people WALKED at graduation and would find out months (IF they noticed they didn’t get their diploma), or YEARS later that they didn’t actually graduate.
      My husband was one who walked and found out he didn’t graduate. He didn’t bother to go back and get it and it hasn’t hurt his career at all because by the time he realized it, employers stopped caring about whether or not he graduated.

    12. Not Rebee*

      If she had recently graduated, it also would not be out of the ordinary for her to assume that she just hadn’t gotten it yet because these things take time. It’s so recent, maybe it hasn’t occurred to her that it was actually held up by anything more than just college slowness.

      My own diploma was almost held up because at the last minute they decided that my full semester of study abroad would only count as 3 classes, not 4, because I only took 3 classes while over there. Over there, 3 classes is a full load, and I was discouraged from trying to take 4 when I explicitly asked about doing it because I would have had to go through a lengthy petition process to get the 4th added. I still had to do a lengthy petition process, just a few years later, to get it to all work out but they counted it as a full load and it was all good. But it almost wasn’t lol

    13. Aisling*

      Yep, I graduated at the end of a summer semester because my school screwed up. I had my graduation check to make sure credits were all in line, got a clean bill of health, and even walked the stage in May. Later that month, when requesting copies of transcripts for jobs, I noticed they did not say I had graduated. Turns out the person doing my graduation check completely missed that I was somehow 2 classes short of graduating. My wonderful advisor (not the person who did my check) got me in to two summer classes after the registration deadline so I could still graduate that year. Schools do make mistakes.

    14. Allison*

      Same – I wouldn’t hold it against her at all. I found out months after graduation that 3 of my credits were considered duplicate, and I had to ask for a waiver to officially be done. I can easily imagine how an unpaid fee or other administrative issue would go overlooked by anyone finishing up their degree. It’s pretty harsh for the company to black ball someone, assuming they didn’t deliberately misrepresent themselves.

    15. Cacwgrl*

      We absolutely would. The jobs we hire require conferral of degree and official transcripts. If you say you’re graduated, it’s hard to understand how you could not know your degree is in fact not awarded. We would give them a narrow window to make amends with the school and get an official transcript but again, it’s hard to trust someone who says they have a degree when they really don’t. Our bread and butter is hiring recent graduates so we’ve seen and heard nearly every circumstance out there when it comes to degrees and graduation.

      1. Change it Up*

        I used to do employment and education verifications. Most colleges/universities in the US (and also oversea) use a third party repository – like Diploma Sender – to do these verifications. We were charged quite a bit – we passed this along to our clients – and we would get a notification a student never graduated. So the client was out the money and already they are mad. Full stop. We would then inform our client that the third party custodian did not have record of the graduation. Our clients would then call the applicant, who would swear they did indeed graduate, they would produce an official looking diploma/transcripts/etc. Then we would have to call the school. Most schools will make you wait WEEKS for an answer – reasoning they ALSO paid to be part of the third party record custodian to avoid such inquiries, and since my company was not the applicant, they would simply say, “He or she did not graduate.”

        The “blackball” was over the larger issue – she misinterpreted herself as a graduate. She lied on her application, and what else is she going to lie about? Yes, the truth is she didn’t know they never awarded her a degree over this small amount of money. Good she got it fixed so it doesn’t happen again.

        Nearly all of the companies we worked for had a clause that any misinterpretation on the application was grounds for the offer to be rescinded and if the company hired you and then they caught you at some later point, that would be grounds for immediate termination.

        Were I stepdaughter (not stepmother because this should be resolved by the stepdaughter) I would want to know that the school reported my graduation date accurately to the third party custodian, so the next employer who goes looking will have the correct information.

      2. Change it Up*

        I think my comment got eaten up, so I am reposting, sorry if you all read this twice!

        Speaking as someone who previously who worked for a company that did this very thing (verifications), were I the stepdaughter, I would want to know how the institution does their verifications. Is the institution small enough that it goes through the Registrar’s office, or do they use a third party custodian like Diploma Sender?

        Most large institutions use a third party custodian for education and employment (such as Diploma Sender for education and WorkNumber for employment). If the information did not match what you told us, we would inform the client. “The third party custodian of record has no record of the applicant graduating.” And imagine you are the HR person, one who has an ironclad, lawyer vetted, application that states in so many words that any lies/omissions/misinterpretations are grounds for your application being rescinded or immediate termination if they did hire you and found out later.

        Some of the companies I worked for would then reach out to the applicant, and every single applicant was able to produce a diploma or degree of some sort. Every.single.one. One can create a VERY REALISTIC looking diploma/degree from a blank template that you can purchase at the office supply place. And the client would then send us a copy, along with their would be employee’s assertion they DID INDEED GRADUATE.

        I would have to call the school. Most schools were extremely reluctant to give that information to me, as I was not the student. (This is key why it is stepdaughter’s responsibility to check this.) Eventually, after many, many phone calls, and weeks worth of waiting, someone from the school MAY call us back. (We have a signed consent for the release of the information, but that mattered little to the schools).

        And because the schools were hampered by privacy laws and state laws and federal laws, they would simply say, “The person did not graduate.”

        And then we would get a name of the person we spoke with, report that to the client, and the client…well, I don’t know what happened on that end. I imagine there was a bit of “blackballing.” The applicant misinterpreted their credentials. (Never use the word lied.) Since that violated the very pre-employment agreement he or she signed, they were denied the opportunity. And since most of our clients did not want to go through the expense/time wasted, the company would decline their applications from that point on. Harsh? Possibly.

        OP, make sure your stepdaughter follows up with the school. See if she can find out how their verifications are done. And you know this, but I’m going to write it – until the school reports through the Registrar or through the third party custodian (and that takes at least a month or more for the latter) she cannot state she graduated. Not even if she has proof the reason the school stated she did not has been resolved.

    16. CoveredInBees*

      Yup. Universities aren’t always great at communications. When I got mail from them it might have gone to my parents’ home, the address I’d applied from, or my official university mailbox (yes, a real one not online).

      Also, it took me ages to get my diploma because the head of my department forgot to sign a bunch of diplomas and went on a 2 month vacation right after graduation. When he got back, the new semester was about to start so diplomas weren’t a priority then either. Since diplomas were largely handled through each department, people got theirs at wildly different times.

      People at other universities had similar experiences regarding notices and diplomas.

  9. Thinking Out Loud*

    #5: Maybe I’m misreading, but I don’t think the applicant was rejected. I think this is confirming that they received her application. If that’s true, and the candidate does end up with an interview, it is often helpful to be aware of the current news related to the company – so it may be helpful to follow them on social media as an easy way to stay current. But I don’t think they’ll notice or check that you followed them and give your application any additional weight as a result.

    1. CatCat*

      I read it the way you did too. I’m not getting how this is about a rejected candidate. I’m missing something here.

    2. Les G*

      My assumption was that the OP supplied the title or that Alison inadvertently redacted a pertinent detail, but my read otherwise is the same.

    3. SushiRoll*

      Yeah and I disagree with Allison this time – I wouldn’t call it tacky. Maybe because I am being defensive – we are rewriting out recruiting comms right now and a draft we have now for this same message has a similar sentence in it, but it’s more general. Our company’s social media has a lot of content about what it’s like to work here, and more about our business (which isnt always clear) so we want to encourage applicants to check it out. I don’t think that is tacky?

  10. Liz*

    #2 I’m in my thirties and I too have been freelance for my whole career, and at this point I’m basically feral. Go get an office job for a bit while you can still stomach the idea so that you don’t end up like meeee.

    1. Owler*

      Feral is the perfect description! I took time off for pregnancy, then was sidelined with cancer. I don’t know that I can ever go back to an office.

    2. Ali G*

      I was in between jobs for year. I thought about freelancing, but it wasn’t for me. After like 6 months I desperate for something to do, so I took a temp position in a non-profit, just doing office work.
      My suggestion for the OP would be to either volunteer, or get a part-time position in an office environment to get the basics down. Volunteer work is a double whammy for your resume too. Lots of non-profits would love volunteers for basic office work they don’t have time for. Or if your line of work is something that can benefit a non-profit you could offer your services, but ask to work in the office to gain experience as an exchange of sorts.

        1. Liz*

          Thanks friends! Indeed I am a writer, but in the sort of niche where snark is, alas, under-appreciated. Thank goodness for internet comment sections (said no one else ever).

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      #2 — Before you start thinking you’re feral … let’s break down the office environment…
      There’s desks and chairs and coffee machines and whatnot, which I’m expecting you’re familiar with.
      There’s also other humans to interact with on a social level … which you’ve done before.
      There’s humans who will tell you what to do — sorta like the clients you’ve had, but with a bit more control over how you do it and possibly what you look like while doing it (much like parents you may have had). You’ve also worked retail, so yup, you’ve done this.
      And there’s humans that you’ve interacted with to achieve common goals.
      The actual work product that you’re going to do is going to be pretty much what you do as a freelancer, so that’s the same too.

      That the package looks different when you go into an office doesn’t mean that you don’t have the transferable skills to handle it.
      For the rest of it, just keep reading AAM.

      1. SavannahMiranda*

        My first ever office job was in my mom’s place of employment (yay, nepotism?). She was never my supervisor, but she ensured that I got hardcore schooled on exactly how and how not to handle certain tasks, bosses, and subordinates. How to ask someone for a deliverable when I was junior to them and not in their chain of command. How to turn over a deliverable to my boss in the best presentation possible and ahead of deadline. How to refuse a deliverable to someone who wasn’t supposed to receive it from me. How to make an argument for what I wanted, and how to accept commands when there was no appropriate argument to be made. And every other aspect of office politics. Even how to make business phone calls and write work emails.

        Twenty years later I still use every day what I was taught during trial by fire for a year in an office environment with my own mom. It became my reference point for Office Etiquette and Politics. I honestly don’t know where I’d be if I had to learn all of that on my own, in an environment where I would not have gotten such direct and merciless instruction.

        I guess my point is there is so much more to working in an office than meets the eye. It’s not simply that there’s a cadre of people who get to tell you what to do, a cohort of people you work with to do it, and space and resources to do it. I sympathize with OP #2 feeling uncertain about this.

        Honestly, if I were OP #2’s best friend, I’d get a couple bottles of wine and spend several weekends with her binge watching key programming like Mad Men and The Office. Cover the gamut of corporate drama and comedy in pop culture. Shows like that were compelling and humorous because they reflected the work realities we all experience, albeit it in a heightened and more colorful manner. I still pigeonhole people I work with as “a Roger Sterling” or “a Jim Halpert” and it helps me deal with them better!

    4. Working Mom Having It All*

      I’m also in my 30s and got my first full on legit permanent corporate office job this year. It’s AMAZING. I’m a little sad I waited so long. That said, I have worked in an office environment for most of my career, just not a corporate one.

  11. amapolita*

    OP #3, if having a story makes you feel better, I don’t see anything wrong with making up something plausible and harmless, like “My father read it in a book/heard it in a movie and loved it” or “It was the name of my mother’s dear friend/favorite teacher/fairy godmother.” No one will be harmed if you deflect with a minor lie.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      My name is generally recognized as Irish in origin, so I get a lot of”oh, are you Irish?” Nope; my mom got it from a book (and then I finally read said book and discovered my opposite-of-namesake {does English really not have a noun for this?} character isn’t Irish, either!).

      1. Dragoning*

        Augh, my legal name is about as Irish as “Seamus Finnegan.”

        My family is actually Irish, though, so when I get the inevitable “You must be Irish!” I can say “Yes.”

        One time someone told me that was why I looked good in green…which was just my work uniform at the time…

      2. Red Reader*

        Same; I’m a redhead, first name legally Ginger, and I used to have an O’Lastname.

        Constantly, “Oh, you must be Irish!” Not a whit; my family origin is almost purely Scandinavian, my ex-husband was the O’Lastname. People get so affronted when I say no though, like … why are you taking this so personally, it’s not like I was gunning to fool you on purpose.

        1. Melly*

          Also a redhead, with an Irish sounding maiden name. People did get wholly offended when I don’t claim Irish descent. It’s bizarre!

          1. Aveline*

            People don’t like it when things fall outside the cognitive buses they have set up.

            Too many humans can’t handle the actual thinking requires when something is outside their experience or preconceived notions.

            I look white, but have another ethnicity in my DNA. (Substantially). I have a husband who is a different race. His name is rare, rare, rare in his country of origin. In the USA, there may be less than 200 people with the name. All kith and kinfolk. They all live in one state.

            I checked. Husband and I are the only people with us last name in the state we now live in.

            People don’t get upset about the rarity of thr name when dealing with him. They do get upset when dealing with me because it’s a They do get upset when dealing with me because it’s a last name that they don’t think a white woman should have.

            I also have a female friend who don’t take he husbands Irish/Scottish (exists in both countries) surname.

            You can’t win!

        2. Snow Drift*

          I always get asked “Are you related to [random person with my surname that the asker knows]?” I always reply “I’m not related to anyone named [my surname]. It’s my married name.” If they push further, I make a joke about hearing banjos.

        3. Minocho*

          Yeah, redhead here too. Mostly Dutch and German, with a sprinkling of Scandinavian. People seem really invested in redheads being Irish, even without an Irish name!

        4. TiffanyAching*

          People getting offended that their assumptions about my name are wrong is something I’ve dealt with my whole life, too. I have a two-part first name, along the lines of Mary Ann, but less recognizable. Many people assume the “Ann” portion is my middle name, or that because I have “two first names” I must not have a middle name, or that my name should be hyphenated, and are weirdly offended when I say No, actually this is my name and how it is punctuated. Like, I’m not having this name AT you, it’s just my name…

    2. Lexi Kate*

      Yes, make up a story and tell it well. My Niece went through a stage when she was 7 where she told everyone her father was a pirate and was out pillaging villages that explained why he is a very dark skinned white man and why he was gone for long trips. In reality he is in networking and goes overseas for a month at a time to set up internet in poverty areas and while there he always gets very dark. My BIL loved the story and when people ask why he is so dark in January he uses his daughters story instead of the real one.

    3. Ali G*

      I agree with this. I think the OP feels like she owes people the “right” answer when they ask. OP doesn’t. They only owes themselves the task of picking something they are comfortable with saying.
      This is slightly off-topic but I have a mutt of a dog, but he’s really interesting colored, well built, and adorable. So many people ask me what breed he is, because they assume he is purebred. I got tired of explaining he was a mutt and I have no idea what kinds of dogs he has in him (especially when people would argue with me that he couldn’t possibly be so beautiful and a mutt! As if being a mutt is a bad thing), that I made up a breed. He is an Appalachian Mountain Dog. It’s hilarious when people act like they’ve heard of it!

      1. SavannahMiranda*

        This is awesome.

        I remember when I first heard of Catahoula Leopard Hounds, I thought they couldn’t possible be a real breed. Nope, real dogs! And they even climb trees. Really! I was convinced someone was pulling my leg.

        Applause for Appalachian Mountain Dog. That’s fantastic. He’s lucky to have such a hilarious and devoted human.

      2. Office Gumby*

        Make something up. Just because someone asks an awkward question does not mean they are entitled to the full truth, or even any truth.
        My name is a rarity in the country where I now live, but common back home. I am also not from the ethnic subgroup of its origin. When ppl ask me about it, I tell them, “It’s Swiss for ‘Fairest Maiden’.” If they push for further info, i tell them it was family tradition, shrug and, “boring, I know.” (After all, giving a child a first name is a tradition in most families.) Any further probes, I turn the awkwardness back with, “why are you interested in boring stuff?”

    4. calonkat*

      I really like this option. It gives the person asking the question the option to then go “oh, isn’t that nice” and presto, it’s over. That’s all most people are looking for, they’re there in a clinical situation trying to make a connection with the clinician, and an unusual name is something they can focus on.
      My mother has a somewhat unusual name that seems to have been created in a novel written about 15 years before she was born. It’s also her MIDDLE name, which she’s always used because her first name was also her mother’s (and her eventual mother-in-law, and eventually mine). So she has LOTS of conversations with medical personnel about why she goes by her middle name and where it comes from. It’s just a way for them to connect with her on a more personal level, which helps her feel more comfortable.

  12. Mary S*

    #1: I suggest saying “I need to use a sick day today”: it’s honest but vague, and I’ve never been asked for more detail. Mischief managed!

    1. VioletEMT*

      I was coming here to post the same thing. Regardless of the reason for my abscence, I always say, “I’m taking a sick day today.” No one ever questions, and the details are none of anyone’s business.

    2. Mommy MD*

      A true mental health day is legitimate. It’s much different than an I just don’t feel like going to work mischief day.

      1. Student*

        This. I get that “mental health day” is shorthand for “I used a sick day when I wasn’t sick”, but that implies that mental health is not actually a legitimate health problem. And since most depressed people I know are already filled with self-blame about not being able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps–well, it can exacerbate the problem.

        Illness is illness, and sick people should not feel bad about using sick days.

        1. bonkerballs*

          I don’t really agree. People tend to use “mental health day” to mean two different things. Some use it to mean “I am actually in the throes of an anxiety attack and can’t come in today.” And some use it to mean “I need a break.” And personally, I find both to be completely legitimate. When people talk about mental health, they don’t just mean depression or anxiety or other mental health disorders. They’re also talking about things like stress management and preventative care. You don’t need to have a mental health disorder in order to care for your mental health just like you don’t need to have cancer or the flu in order to care for your physical health.

          1. rogue axolotl*

            Yeah, I think it’s legitimate to use it either for a serious mental health issue or because of stress or burnout or whatever, because those are all health related. If you’re just using it to extend your vacation or whatever, that’s more questionable.

      2. Khlovia*

        Late; sorry; but “mischief managed” is a Harry Potter reference. I believe Mary S is using it here in the sense of “done and done” or “problem solved”. She did not say anything at all that would imply she believed that someone using a sick day for a mental health day was using it mischievously or illegitimately; in fact she said just the opposite.

    3. Lucille2*

      I think this is perfect. And if there is a question or comment requesting more info, you can always respond again vaguely like, “Nothing terrible, just need a day, so I expect to be back tomorrow.”

      I’ve taken sick days for things like insomnia or feeling I’m at my wit’s end. I find if I’m starting to feel like I’m burning the candle at both ends, I’ll schedule a Fri off for PTO. I’ve also been known to work from home because I had some work that required my focus and I just couldn’t deal with people around me that day. And for those days, I’ve used the “I’m not well enough to be in office, but well enough to work” excuse. That’s mainly because I’m not sure my manager would be supportive.

    4. Yay commenting on AAM!*

      Pro tip: When I lived in California, which offered paid sick time to part-time employees, if the employee did not say, “I am using my paid sick time for today’s shift,” the employer was under no obligation to give them sick pay. Some (good) managers would check their balance and apply it, but others would not unless the sick pay was asked for at the time of the call out.

    5. LurkieLoo*

      As long as you don’t then post all over social media about your extra long beach weekend when you call in sick on Thursday and “WFH” on Friday.

  13. nnn*

    For situations like #1, a useful script can be “I’m going to have to take a sick day today.” You’re not lying or misrepresenting, but you’re not telling them anything either.

    If that seems evasive compared with what you’ve been using in the past, an option might be to start using it next time you clearly have a physical illness they can perceive. (Coughing, sneezing, congestion, laryngitis, taking a sick day after a day spent stewing in your symptoms at work, etc.)

  14. Dan*


    I had a boss who was a bit of an ass. I also took my sweet time finishing my MS thesis… so much so that I actually finished it two years after I started my post-grad school job.

    About a year or so into my job, I ended up with said boss, to whom I was gifted during a reorg. He wasn’t my original hiring boss, and he didn’t like me very much.

    I forget the circumstances of the conversation, but I very clearly remember him asking me, “You don’t have your MS, do you?” Nope. He then simultaneously asked me what I had put on my resume, while pulling it out. I just shrugged my shoulders and said it was “anticipated” to be conferred on some date that had, um, since long passed. He looks at it, says “sure enough” and puts it away.

    To this day, I have no idea what he wanted out of that conversation. I didn’t misrepresent the status, and my offer letter wasn’t contingent on my graduation.

    Said boss once told me to my face in no uncertain terms that he thought I was overpaid.

    I really think he didn’t like me because I’m not an ass kisser. Said boss left the Air Force as a Major. My org didn’t have much of a military influence — when asked, I would just say that if I wanted to salute people all day, I would have joined the military and signed a contract.

  15. Not A Manager*

    LW#3, why don’t you just answer with the truth? “Interesting name, where does it come from?” – “I have no idea, it’s just what my parents named me.”

    1. Jerusha*

      I wonder if phrasing like “I never did find out why my parents picked it” would help? At least to my ear, that carries a clear implication of “and there isn’t ever going to be another opportunity to ask them”. And if the listener hears that as “my parents are dead” rather than “my parents and I are estranged” or even “that’s not a topic I feel like I’ll ever be able to discuss with my parents”, well, that will probably help with shutting the discussion down. (You may, however, want to come up with in advance some similarly-deflecting response if they express sympathy for your parents being dead…)

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        I really like that phrasing for younger people, but with it being elderly people (who generally are used to death and read obits all the time; etc…) that might bring more questions like “Oh I’m so sorry, when did they die?” etc…

    2. Jane*

      I have similar issue to OP but worse in a way because I’m first-gen and so people automatically start asking me where I am from because of my name and because of my looks. It is very annoying. OP – Allison has great advice just brush it off and don’t let it get to you. People are naturally curious and probably don’t mean anything behind it.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        sigh. I love names / their meanings / “has it resonated in your life” kinda questions but I won’t ask because I know it’s often a microaggression.

        It kinda sounds like, though, the question is now tied to the less-than-ideal family of origin, which makes it harder to brush off.

        OP, does the ‘make up my own story about it’ resonate at all? Something like, ‘it means [some characteristic you like about yourself] to me’ ? The source of my name is sweet but boring (godmother), so I’ve leaned hard into ‘female form of Julius, a jewel, something precious.’

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Agreed with the coming up with the OP coming up with a story. “Oh, my mom read it in a book and liked it” For things like this I would treat the questions the same as a hallway nod “How’s it going” type question.

          To the OP:
          It’s social lubricant. Just as you wouldn’t answer the “how’s it going” question with an in depth description of your recent colonoscopy instead “good how about you” you are ‘expected’ to have a neutral to pithy story about your name.

          Unfortunately we all have subjects that are deeper to us than the average person realizes, from our name origins, to where we learned our hobby, and all other kinds of innocuous topics. There’s no need to let it turn into a big deal. I promise that other person is just trying to make small talk or a surface level connection with you. My advice is to reframe these conversations and inquiries as such.

          1. Silamy*

            OP3 -I get where you’re coming from. I’m Jewish. My name is fairly common in Jewish communities, relatively unknown outside them, and routinely mangled, especially in American southern accents (and I’m a Texan in Alabama).

            On the ‘social lubricant’ note, the response that usually works for me is some variant of ‘thanks! It was a birthday present.’ -it works in a range of tones from ‘perfect deadpan’ to ‘genuinely flattered’ to ‘friendly joking’, and it’s enough of a response for most people to just laugh and move on, especially if I introduce a subject change with it. There are many stories behind my full name, but there’s no reason for them to come up on my first time meeting someone, and I usually don’t feel like sharing them anyway.

  16. SignalLost*

    #4, the way you’re describing what is a ludicrously common mistake (in fact, technically *I* haven’t graduated from my Masters program due to library fines, but a) I did my degree at a school that doesn’t regard graduation as the important event of the academic year and b) I’m not looking for work in my degree field plus c) there’s a benefit to not graduating that is both material and substantial) is surprisingly hostile. Schools aren’t particularly proactive about notifying people of these things in my experience so acting like your stepdaughter is a gibbering loon for saying she graduated when she basically had seems strange to me. I have questions about a company that would pull an offer and blacklist a candidate over something that’s so easily explained as an oversight. Assuming it’s a deliberate lie and ethical violation is … heavy-handed and odd.

      1. Eliza*

        I don’t know SignalLost’s specific circumstances, but if someone is looking for work in a field with a rigid pay scale that factors in educational attainment, an advanced degree that’s not sufficiently relevant to the work you’ll be doing can make you a lot less hireable. Public school education pretty much works that way in my country, for example.

        1. SignalLost*

          I don’t work in the field my Masters is in, though. I’m a web developer; my Masters is in anthropology. My degree was fun to get, but I realized partway through that I wasn’t done with education, but I was done with research anthropology.

      2. SignalLost*

        It may have changed during austerity, but I did my degree at Oxford and they had a policy that if you didn’t graduate (i.e., formally separate yourself from the university) returning for another degree would stack, and you only pay three years of tuition. So essentially, assuming that the rules haven’t changed, I could do a doctorate for the cost of one year of tuition. But for Oxford (and Cambridge, I believe, and probably other schools) matriculation was the event treated the way US schools treat graduation.

      3. Just Employed Here*

        It seems this is not the case for SignalLost, but there are countries where students get access to a lot of subsidized stuff: housing, meals, local and national travel, admission to a whole range of events and places.

        Although the rules tend to be a lot stricter now than they were, say, 20 years ago (now I think you have to actually get credits every semester rather than just be registered as a student for a nominal fee), it might still make perfect financial sense to drag out graduating, especially if you already have a suitable job.

    1. Indie*

      Yeah…I was taken aback by the seeming exasperation and tutting over what could be described as just a simple mistake or bureaucracy. I cant imagine being okay with a person in my life describing me as ‘not having your act together’ or ‘not the most responsible person in the world’. They would lose rights to information even if they were correct!
      I’m hoping the LW was just being overly deprecating on stepdaughter’s behalf before others could criticise…but it read oddly.

      1. TL -*

        If it’s in a pattern of normal ‘young person’ stuff – not realizing you have to pay a bill even if they don’t actually bill you, loading the dishwasher with dish soap, struggling with money management, the OP might just be (pretty normally) frustrated overall with the stepdaughter. Especially if the OP is taking on a parent role and helping her stepdaughter sort things out afterwards – there’s a good chance they’re helping with finances.

        I know my parents got a lot of panicked calls: “I’m $X short for the month! I lost both sets of keys to my car! I locked myself out of my apartment! It’s April 14th and I don’t know how to do taxes!” and they got pretty justifiably frustrated by the (again, very normal) pattern sometimes, even if the sparking incident wasn’t that big of a deal.

          1. Triplestep*

            I am the parent of a child this age and I do feel these kinds of frustrations. I also agree that the LW comes across as a cartoon evil stepmother, and I actually think it’s a kindness to her to point that out. Maybe it’s precisely because I have a child the same age (and I am far from perfect when it comes to handling the frustration!) but I was uncomfortable reading that letter.

            I know from past experience you don’t appreciate comments that ask a letter writer to examine their motivation for writing in, and maybe you will remove this remark, too. But I would ask the LW what is going on at home that she felt the need to tell a bunch of people on the internet what a flake her step-daughter is, by asking about something that had already happened, over which she (the LW) never had any influence anyway? Just because it’s a workplace advice blog doesn’t mean that workplace advice is the primary thing a LW needs.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Literally the only thing she says characterizing her stepdaughter is that she “is not the most responsible person in the world.” That’s hardly cartoon villain-ish.

              Maybe people are reacting to “How could you not have your act together enough to know whether you’ve graduated or not? The fact that your diploma never arrived in the mail didn’t cause you concern? Huge read flags there” but that’s not villainish either — it sounds like a frustrated parent.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I read it more as disappointed and frustrated that this lapse of maturity had cost her stepdaughter so much and incredulous that the employer had actually permanently blacklisted her for a bureaucratic oversight.

                  I think one might also consider that how the LW framed it/reacted to it with Alison may not be representative of how she approached it with her stepdaughter, and, with facts not in evidence, we give the LW the benefit of the doubt. I have certainly used much harsher words about my (much younger) children’s behavior to my husband in private than I would to the kids’ face.

              1. Secretary*

                Yeah cartoon villain evil was a bit harsh there.

                However something like a graduation oversight is such a common problem that “frustrated parent” just kind of makes me shake my head.

                “How could you not have your act together enough to know whether you’ve graduated or not?”

                You know what was the #1 reason that when I moved out I avoided sharing anything in my life with my parents? Because of the judgemental and unkind things they said like this. This is such a common issue at universities… OP#4, what else are you criticizing your step daughter for? Does she ever get encouragement from you and your spouse? What percentage of criticism is there compared to encouragement?
                My parents criticized tiny things like this calling it “not having my act together.” I mentally and emotionally prepare every. single. time. I see them and my spouse comes with me always to help fend off the criticism that cuts into my self image. I avoid seeing them other than out of obligatory respect. I 100% understand why estrangement happens for seemingly silly reasons.

                OP can I just suggest that you give her some grace here? Like, she just graduated*. Job offers get pulled. There are more important things.

                *She went to school, did all her credits, went to class, did her homework, for several years in a row. Don’t nitpick an awesome accomplishment even if there’s a small oversight because that will distance you further from her.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Yup. It may not have been “cartoon villain” but it was honestly overly harsh and kind of rude tbh.

                  And I had an experience similar to yours, re critical parents. My dad nitpicked and criticized everything. (I still remember the time I’d had some issue with my bank, had already called them and sorted it, told Dad about it over the phone a couple days later, and he immediately started lecturing me on how to handle it. I listened for a couple minutes, then interrupted and said, “Dad, I’ve already done XYZ. It’s handled. I was just letting you know. Is there anything else you think I should do about this right now, that I haven’t already done?” He said “Well, no, but…” and I interrupted again and said “Then we don’t need to keep talking about it! I’ll talk to you later, bye.”)

                  My mom might have *thought* to herself that I was being irresponsible or dumb or whatever, but she kept it to herself (and venting to her friends I’m sure) and to me just gently and compassionately helped guide me through what I needed to do to fix things.

                  Guess which parent I still have a good relationship with 15 years later? Which parent I turn to for emotional support when I’m struggling with things like unpaid bills or debt? Which parent I’m open and honest with about how my life is going?

                  Yeah. OP, I’m sure you’re frustrated, but maybe cut your stepdaughter some slack. She’s young. Shit happens. She made a mistake. She fixed it once she knew what went wrong. It doesn’t make her a flake or mean she just overall “doesn’t have her act together”. It makes her a young adult who’s still learning. Let it go.

                2. JSPA*

                  Lot of speculation here…

                  And no, graduating from college is not, in and of itself, an “awesome accomplishment.” There are some situations where that’s entirely true–where people work against the odds to make it happen. There are other situations where going with the flow will get you there (where it’s what 95% or more of your peer group is doing).

                  And the economy must be doing so, so excellently (compared to a decade ago) if a recent graduate can easily say, “Job offers get pulled. There are more important things.” People were committing suicide over this (or over never getting a job offer, after a strong undergraduate or masters degree or PhD effort) just a few years ago. I’m glad it’s an easy job market for you. Nobody should face hunger and homelessness, especially when they’re educated and willing to work hard. But yeah…your attitude is going to rankle not only your parents, but people who graduated in ~2008 (and beyond), or saw what happened to that cohort. Many are still doing temp work while burdened by tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans (and will be judged less hirable than you, because they’re not shiny new graduates).

                  Remember, too, that the next meltdown could happen at any time. So, yeah, parents are going to want someone to have a year of first job to point to, which will be useful in the future even if you get surplussed –“last in, first out”–during the next meltdown.

                3. Secretary*

                  JSPA: who said the OP’s daughter’s in my peer group? I’m not a “shiny new graduate”. That’s speculation. Criticism of the step daughter is happening in the letter.

                  And it’s not the parent’s job to dictate their adult children’s life decisions. The point is NOT that everything is ok, the point is that this OP is missing an opportunity to build a great adult relationship with their step daughter.

              2. MrsCHX*

                I think so many people are predisposed to “Stepmother = Evil! Hates the kids!! Wants to ruin their life and keep their father away!!!”

                The stepdaughter could very well be exactly as the LW described her and that is the backdrop of her not following up / making sure ALL graduation requirements were satisfied.

          2. OP#4*

            OP#4 here. Yes, this is exactly it. As TL pointed out above, her dad and I have dealt with exactly everything she wrote. For us this is one more thing in a long line of frustrations. So that’s why I wrote in. Is my perspective off? (Based on the replies, I am, so thanks for pointing that out.)

            I also wanted to know, truly, how hiring managers look at this? Is blacklisting over something like this normal? (Again, apparently not.) We’re trying to counsel stepdaughter on how freaked out she should be, so I needed some advice on that. So again, I appreciate people pointing out that my reaction is a bit over the top.

            1. SignalLost*

              I’m coming at it from the other side, but I used to teach at a local two-year college and I know with utter certainty they did not reach out to students about financial holds. You were supposed to meet with the admissions office people when you applied to graduate and they would tell you about any holds, but it was stupidly easy to complete coursework and walk without doing the meeting.

              So coming from that background, I honestly think the company is in the wrong here. This wasn’t a serious misrepresentation, where someone deliberately lied for gain; it was an accident with more than one guilty party. It seems very extreme to blacklist her over a financial hold rather than a failure to complete coursework. I could understand delaying start date or at least explaining why they can’t wait until she has the diploma, but not treating it as though it’s an ethics violation. She didn’t lie: she has been granted her degree. She just doesn’t have her diploma.

              And I’m also side-eyeing the school. I’m surprised they can’t send the diploma out now, since the account has been paid. Holding it till the end of fall quarter seems odd. Has her actual completion date changed?

              1. OP#4*

                @Signal Lost: thanks for letting me know about your experience with the two-year college!

                Checking the website of the University in question, though, they would have notified the student about the financial hold.

                1. Zillah*

                  Even if it’s listed as a policy on the website, that doesn’t always mean that it happens, though, and notification isn’t always great.

                  I had late library books that had been registered as “lost” even though I returned them. I either missed the single email that my school sent me over it, because I was getting inundated with emails about activities and graduation and end-of-the-semester stuff completely or saw it and shrugged it off as a mistake because I had returned the books and the library was notoriously pokey about that kind of stuff – I honestly don’t remember which. It’s not ideal, but I think that this is probably one situation where your stepdaughter didn’t screw up, even though I totally hear your frustration in general.

                2. Zillah*

                  Actually, also, though: I think that you’re conflating two different things that don’t actually have that much to do with each other.

                  1) Whether your stepdaughter knew that she had a hold on getting her diploma. We’ve shared our experiences with similar situations and it’s worth acknowledging that not all policies get followed, but ultimately, it feels like that’s getting at a broader frustration about carelessness and lack of attention to detail, and that’s beyond something I think that any of us are able to speak to.

                  2) Whether the company should have pulled your stepdaughter’s offer/blacklisted her over this. The answer to that seems pretty universally to be that it’s an unusual thing to do that wasn’t really fair. Even if your stepdaughter was completely careless and at fault, that’s not something that the company had any way of knowing, so their actions weren’t reasonable.

              2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I had a slightly similar situation. I needed an extra class to meet all my requirements for graduation. I was unable to take it during the spring semester, so I took it in the summer it was a short 6 week intensive class that ended in late June/early July. I was allowed to walk in the May graduation ceremony since it was expected that I would be conferred the degree once I took the final class. But per school policy my degree was not officially granted til August the end of summer semester. I was lucky that my school had 4 separate graduation/conferral dates, December (end of fall term), January (end of winter term), May (end of spring term), and August (end of summer term). The 4 dates might be due to being a bigger state school, but I started at a small private college I believe they only had two graduation/conferral dates, December and May.

                1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

                  The university where my husband got his PhD only had December and May conferral dates.

                  He defended his thesis in the summer semester, and immediately became a postdoc, but the university couldn’t change his job status until September, and they couldn’t issue his diploma until the following January. So there’s a three month period on his CV where he is working as a postdoc but is employed as a grad student after his thesis was defended, then there’s a four month period where he’s titled as a postdoctoral researcher but his degree hasn’t yet been awarded.

                  Were he to leave academia, I’m sure this would confuse hiring managers.

            2. Lynn Whitehat*

              I hire in tech. We would not have pulled the offer. This scenario (completing the course work but technically not graduating because of library fines or something) is pretty common.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Honestly, unless the actual degree is needed for certification reasons or something, someone who’s taken all the coursework is functionally the same level of value as an employee as someone who’s taken all the coursework AND got their actual diploma for it. Same learning, same skills. Only difference is the piece of paper.

            3. love yourself*

              I think you should be nothing but sympathetic to your stepdaughter over having an offer taken away for really not a good reason.

            4. Ella*

              As someone who was that flaky newly graduated person, I understand the frustration but I’d also encourage you not to get too worried or worked up about it. There was a space of a few years where it felt like I constantly locked myself out of my car and had to call my parents to rescue me/forgot to pay a parking ticket and ended up with tons of late fees/etc., and I’ve more than grown out of it at this point. Learning how to be a real adult is hard, and I think it’s easy to forget just how much learning is done by trial and error at that point in life . (And by realizing just how much you don’t want to feel the consequences of failing to pay a bill on time.)

              Your daughter will almost certainly learn that same lesson, and I know I truly appreciate the kindness my parents showed by being tolerant of me at the height of my early twenties “hot mess” phase.

              1. Works in IT*

                After being mostly together for years I’ve lately been so rushed in the morning that I’ve left my purse in my apartment and had to borrow lunch money from my parents. It’s easy to forget the small things when you’re frantic about a new responsibility at work, or anxious about the future.

            5. just another stepdaughter*

              “for us this is one more thing in a long line of frustrations.” You’d be hard pressed to meet a parent who’d be willing to make such a sweeping statement about their kid’s character on the internet. OP #4, as a long time stepdaughter, I’d ask you reconsider how quickly you judge your stepdaughter’s mistakes and veil it as genuine concern. This is a mistake that can happen to almost any 20 year old, as I’m sure many of her other missteps in your “long line of frustrations” are. I don’t know anything about you or your stepdaughter, but this is just too classic of a dynamic not to comment on. I’ve personally experienced this bias with my stepmom, and I’ve seen my own mother act on this bias with my stepsister. It’s super hurtful and unnecessary. Rise above it and be on her team.

              1. Smarty Boots*

                I think this is not fair to the OP — I think this is imputing a LOT of bad intentions to someone we don’t know, who strikes me, anyway, as being loving and concerned and ALSO frustrated because of actions her stepdaughter has/has not taken over a long time that we know nothing about.

                I adore my child, now a college freshman at a school about 800 miles away, and I am quite willing to say right here on the interwebs that he frequently drives me bonkers with the dopey stuff he does/doesn’t do, stuff that is important, like financial aid paperwork and medical appointments and so forth. That does not mean I am being judgmental and veiling my exasperation as genuine concern. No one who knows me would ever think that. You don’t know me. And you don’t know the OP, who strikes ME as a concerned parent who is trying to guide without being too pushy. I don’t see why a chunk of the commentariat here is getting all het up about her when we know NOTHING about her, and when we’re supposed to be kind and presume the best about letter-writers unless there’s some good evidence to the contrary.

                1. Health Insurance Nerd*

                  I’m right there with you, Smarty Boots. My son is also a freshman away at school, and the amount of times my internal voice says “what is WRONG with this kid?!?!” is almost innumerable. But I also absolutely love and adore him, and chalk it up to lack of life experience and the common sense that comes with it. I can 100% understand and relate the the LWs frustration, and the fact that she is a stepparent really has nothing to do with anything.

                2. MrsCHX*

                  My kids (specifically my son) becoming a teenager put my childhood in an entirely new light.

                  He’s 18 and I’m not sure that more than a day or two passes without me shaking my head with a “what in the entire hell…”

              2. Genny*

                This is really unfair. LW is hardly maligning her stepdaughter over the internet. She asked a question slightly out of frustration and mostly out of curiosity as a hiring manager herself. She’s hardly airing stepdaughter’s dirty laundry, being disproportionately critical, or berating her stepdaughter for a simple mistake. Young people do stupid things that exasperate their parents. It’s okay to acknowledge that as long as it’s kept in perspective.

                LW, I think there’s a difference between not graduating because of unfulfilled course requirements and not graduating because of outstanding fees. The first is more problematic and I might consider pulling an offer because of that. The second one wouldn’t effect my hiring decision assuming they rectified the issue.

              3. Delphine*

                You’re basing your feelings on stereotypes about stepmothers and personal bias. Would you have this concern if she wasn’t a step-parent? Stepparents are allowed to feel and express frustration at their stepchildren. Doing so doesn’t make her evil.

                1. just another stepdaughter*

                  So my opinion is incorrect because I based it on my actual lived experiences? I never used the word “evil”, and I never said step parents aren’t allowed to feel or express frustration with their stepchildren. I’m just saying that by virtue of being a stepparent, she should be aware that adding every mistake her stepdaughter makes onto a “list of frustrations” and suggesting that an unlucky clerical mistake speaks to her stepdaughter’s character might be a result of her subconscious bias. I certainly didn’t invent the “evil stepmother” stereotype and it exists for a reason. It’s a complicated dynamic and it always has been. I’m suggesting she keep that in mind when making such sweeping statements about her stepdaughter’s overall character. She graduated from college and got a job offer shortly thereafter, how irresponsible and frustrating could this girl actually be?

              4. JSPA*

                I suspect you misunderstand the degree to which all parenting is a “long line of frustrations.” As well as a long line of great rewards. And a long line of thinking back to when you were the source of the frustrations, and sending a “thank you” back in time to those who raised you (whether they did a great job of hiding their frustrations constructively, or not). This sort of “I’m so frustrated, I’m venting to strangers in a way that won’t impact my kid” is…nearly an Every Parent thing.

            6. Triplestep*

              OP#4, I have been both a step-mother and a step-daughter, and as I said, I have a daughter who just graduated, so I feel you on so many levels! Step-mothering can be a really thankless job, so I appreciate your wanting to know how to counsel your step-daughter.

              My reaction above (saying I was uncomfortable reading your letter) was really born out of what I assumed to be the motivation for writing in. As author of this blog, Alison is within her rights to not want her letter-writers questioned on their motivation, but to me it’s important in deciphering the question. Reading just the details you included – no more, no less – one can wonder if you just needed a gut check from a bunch of strangers on how flaky and irresponsible your step-daughter can be. The ordeal you wrote about was over, you were asking advice on something that could not be fixed at this point, and you never had any control over it in the first place. You could have included less detail about your step-daughter and still gotten your answer.

              Likewise, after reading your follow ups I see that you could have included more information – or rather more of the right kind of information – and maybe not have been seen as over-reacting. The mention of wanting to counsel her over how freaked out she should be is important, I think – more important than a lot of the details that you did include that (it turns out) kind of muddied the waters.

              This is a hard time in the lives of parents and children anyway. I myself have been known to vent here on a weekend open thread about living with a recent college grad who behaves as if she has been totally self-sufficient for the last four years. (Um, no!) I have also appealed to Alison if she would write some blog entries for this age group because I agree with her that college career centers are horrible. I’m sorry if my response came off as harsh, and I hope your step-daughter finds something soon.

            7. Another worker bee*

              OP, just to add context, as someone who has gotten SEVERAL degrees in the past decade (finished BS in 2008, all entry level jobs at that point required a PhD and 10 years of experience….so I basically did that), and from 3 different universities, ALL of the diplomas took FOREVER -like pushing a year, especially for the two research degrees. I definitely went through a comprehensive background check for a large company where they confirmed that I had graduated before I ever saw that last diploma, and it would never have occurred to me wait for that that as “confirmation of graduation”. I get that you may have other (age appropriate, as other commenters have pointed out) gripes with the stepdaughter’s attention to detail/adulting skills, but she didn’t screw up there – that’s legitimately not how it works.

            8. Grapey*

              “We’re trying to counsel stepdaughter on how freaked out she should be”

              My advice is to stop trying to do this and let consequences speak for themselves. If she asks for concrete help e.g. “Can I live here for a few more months while I job search”, deal with that as they come and hold your boundaries that way. Calling someone irresponsible doesn’t actually help them, but saying ‘if you live here, you will need to pay rent’ would light a realistic fire under her butt.

              1. Jadelyn*

                That’s pretty unkind to the stepdaughter – sounds like she’s already got a “fire under her butt” since she had an offer within a few months of graduation. It’s not like she’s slacked around for years and refused to do anything about it. She made a mistake. She fixed it as soon as she knew about it. That’s not some layabout who needs someone to “light a fire under her butt”. Come on now.

            9. Health Insurance Nerd*

              Your reaction is that of a (step)parent who is dealing with a child who hasn’t yet figured out life and how to be an actual adult. I too, have one of those children, and the stress, exasperation, the worry and wonder “is this child going to make it in the world once I stop hand holding?” keeps me up at night. Don’t be too hard on yourself :)

              1. Works in IT*

                As a former child who was afflicted with two of these parents, the “is this child going to make it in the world once I stop hand holding” attitude is… bad. It took me a year of job searching to even find a job at a grocery store, and even more time to actually get a job related to my degrees. We live in a world where simply getting an interview is an accomplishment, where there is no incentive to improve the bureaucratic hurdles we have to jump through because the people who design the system refuse to believe the system has flaws, and where our parents think our failure to successfully navigate the obstacle course which is stacked against us is somehow our fault. All of which adds up to a lot of anxiety which manifests in making foolish mistakes at times, which our parents use as further evidence that if we would just *try* we could succeed and all they have to do is make us so miserable and depressed that we will magically unlock our hidden potential and succeed.

                Any parent who says their child deserved to lose a job offer over some trivial bureaucratic mistake reminds me far too much of my own parents. That sounds like the kind of poison my father whispers in my ears.

                1. Works in IT*

                  Seriously there is nothing worse than being forced to live with people who think that everything which does not go your way in life is a result of your own failure.

                2. Health Insurance Nerd*

                  You’re really projecting here. My worries are specific to my own child, and my own experience with that child. I can tell you my attitude towards parenting seems like the complete opposite of your parents’, and that worrying about how your child is going to fare in the world is pretty common. I’m sorry that your parents took it to a place that sounds fairly toxic- as someone who grew up with mom who made it clear that she believed I’d likely never amount to anything, I know how destructive living with that kind of negativity is, and how psychologically damaging it can be. Parenting is hard, and every day brings a new opportunity to get it wrong, but I’d like to think most of us really are doing our best.

            10. Secretary*

              How would you treat a fellow adult that you respect who was having this problem?

              Instead of “counseling her on how freaked out she should be” maybe tell her things happen? You love her no matter what? Teach her how to deal with stuff?
              If you beat up on her about this, you’re teaching her to beat herself up.

              I’m done with this rant I’m sorry. OP #4, I’m not trying to drag you through the mud or tell you you’re awful. You and your spouse are missing an incredible opportunity to build an adult relationship with your step daughter.

          3. JamieS*

            I don’t think whether or not you (or anyone else) were a screw up as a young adult is relevant to the fact the OP is displaying unreasonable expectations. OP said they agreed with pulling the offer over what amounts to a clerical error and would do it themselves which has more to do with OP being unreasonable than with being frustrated with their daughter.

        1. SignalLost*

          I get that, but my parents, who also had similar frustrations with me, would have either Been supportive of my situation in a forum like this or been neutral – it is, to me, extreme enough that the company chose to blacklist the stepdaughter over such a simple, common mistake. That seems way out of proportion. And I’m not particularly comfortable with the LW’s presentation that the company is in the right and the stepdaughter made a huge ethical violation. This is not the same as the below commenter who had a colleague let go who was credits short of the diploma he claimed to have; this is someone who did the work and an easily-solved bureaucratic tangle is in the way. The situation does not, to me, speak to the student’s ethics so much as their lack of experience, that colleges are often poor about notifying people of this kind of thing and she needed to proactively manage this.

          If that’s unkind, so be it, but it is literally in the letter – “how can you not have your act together…”, “my stepdaughter, who is not the most responsible person in the world…” My parents, however frustrated, would not have written something that could be seen as dragging me to a third-party advice column. (Their friends, yes.)

          1. Lemon Bars*

            So your saying as a parent it would better to tell your friends (that presumably considering your age to have a child graduate college) will be around you and possibly your child for the rest of their life, that your child is screwing up her life. However getting advice from the internet where no one will know who the op or her child is a bad idea?

            I really think the internet advice column is a much kinder option for the daughter. As well it allows the poster to vent all frustrations where she would sugar coat it with friends. And while 25% of comments are crap there are good ones.

            For the extremeness of letting her go for not having the Diploma it really depends on what the daughter said when the new boss brought it up and what she was hired for. And OP wouldn’t have been doing her daughter any favors telling her the manager was wrong to resend the offer because she lied, at this point in the daughters life this is a great time to learn this lesson.

            1. SignalLost*

              Actually, what I said was that my parents would constrain their venting about the frustrations I and my siblings caused them to their friends. I did not say they would or should ask their friends about it. I also said that my expectation, based on my parents’ observed behaviour when I was that age, would be that they would not use phrasing such as “not the most responsible person”, precisely because of the risk of misinterpreting text, to a third-party advice column.

              1. Dragoning*

                I agree. At least the friends of the parents probably know the kid and understand what’s going on. Meanwhile, my mother described me to her therapist in such a way that had him asking mine if I was developmentally delayed (I am not) because despite being 21, she described me like I was 10, and he couldn’t figure out what was going on.

                Since he hadn’t met me, he had no way of knowing what was going on.

                1. JSPA*

                  HIPAA was signed in 1996, but compliance went into effect in 2003 (and parts of it not until 2005).

                  Plenty of people posting here are over age 36. At 21, they would have been pre-HIPAA.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  This is a fine example of why we need government! People like these therapists don’t respect and do the right thing on their own. :(

            2. OP#4*

              @Lemon Bars – Thank you for your kind reply. We are trying to figure out how to advise and counsel and hopefully teach a young adult about how the world works. For us (me) to do so, I really do need some advice. As everyone can obviously tell, I am too close to this situation. But in order to advise my stepdaughter, I really do need to know: how common do Hiring Managers see this? How do they react? Is pulling an offer over this common? Is blacking listing common?

              In my employment and career world, a situation like this would have resulted in a pulled offer. But everyone’s world is different. My sample of one (me) is not at all representative. Therefore my advice – and reaction – is not representative either.

              1. OP#4*

                Adding to my above comment: So, yes, this is why I wrote in. Being too close to the situation, and upset over it, I needed perspective of others. And again, thanks to AAM for helping me to gain some perspective.

                1. oscar*

                  Your stepdaughter is an adult, right? How much do you really need to be involved here, actually? Take your own counsel about being “too close” to the situation — turn your attention to other concerns and have faith that as an adult she can handle this. Sometimes parents need for their OWN sake of identity to feel that their kids “need” them to process every problem but that can actually hold back a child’s development, leading to cycles of irresponsibility, parental intervention, over and over again. Let her sink or swim on her own and she will rise to the top.

                2. Zillah*

                  @oscar – This is pretty uncharitable. It’s normal for parents to want to give their children some guidance before sending them off into the world, especially when they’re still financially supporting their children.

                3. Lucille2*

                  I understand, as a parent, the desire to remove obstacles for your child or at least to help them understand the world around them. But, having been a naive, eager new college grad, I also see this from your step-daughter’s perspective. This is a blow to her, there is no sugar coating that. But, in the course of her career, she will face multiple rejections, some of which are unfair. There’s no need to be harsh about it, but understand that this is one of the many adversities she will face in adulthood.

                  I had the impression upon graduating college that I was close to getting an offer from a job. The offer never came, and I don’t recall if I ever heard back from that company at all. It was crushing. From the perspective of experience, I realize how naive I was at that time. This is very different from your letter, but your step-daughter feels the rejection and unfairness of it all just the same. It’s possible she dodged a bullet, or this leaves room for another better opportunity to come her way.

                4. LurkieLoo*

                  “Adult” is so subjective. I have on who claims parents pay nothing even though the only thing NOT paid by one parent or another is gas, special food, and fun.

                  However, I do think it would be ok to step back a little and let her figure this one out. I’m sure it’s a blow to have an offer pulled, but there will be other opportunities. A company that pulls an offer AND blackballs a person over such an explainable mistake is probably not one she wants to work for anyway.

                  I do think it might depend on the industry/degree as well. If she’s trying to get an accounting job or some sort of compliance position where integrity and attention to detail are more important than other jobs, I could see pulling the offer. The blacklisting seems overly harsh.

                  I think your stepdaughter doesn’t need to get too worked up over it. These things happen. Upward and onward.

                5. JSPA*

                  OP#4, the evolutionary explanation for any species having a lifespan that’s longer than their fertile years is that we teach, guide, pass on wisdom and otherwise support our progeny and grand-progeny in ways that make their survival and success more likely.

                  Suggesting that kids “should” survive and prosper equally well with no parental wisdom or support is, in that sense, disprovably false. We evolved to live past 45-odd years because our council past that age consistently adds value to our progeny’s chances of success. We’re now doing what we can to make good advice open to all (the internet). But there’s vastly more bad advice out there than good. So the parenting role is changing, but not going away anytime soon.

                  Good on you for doing it!

                  Good on you, too, for trying to find a balance between being controlling and providing a helpful sense of context. Also, good on you for knowing what you don’t know, and working to remedy the gaps.

                  I do think it matters how your daughter reacted when faced with the fact of her non-graduation (or whether they contacted her at all). She may need to practice her “Sounds like a serious problem with the transcript office, I’ll get on that and get back to you with a solution immediately” delivery. Content, tone, and quick, effective problem solving all matter. If they pulled the offer without even contacting her, then the problem’s with the company. Recording errors happen all the time; it’s very strange to presume ill-will and misrepresentation. But if they called her, and she nattered on about how she didn’t see why it was a big deal, or did some heavy eye rolling about how people there always screw up…that could have tossed fuel on a very small fire. That said, as with driving lessons, parents can be…hard to learn from. Does she have an aunt or uncle or family friend who could game through the process with her, as a learning exercise?

              2. The Other Dawn*

                I would say that in all the companies I’ve worked for, which isn’t that many admittedly, they would not have pulled the offer. She didn’t deliberately mislead the company. It was an oversight. They would’ve asked her about it and accepted the letter explaining that she’s paid up and will get her diploma. As a hiring manager, if this came up with a candidate I’d do the same thing. I guess the only thing I’d wonder about it why she didn’t follow up with the school when she didn’t receive the diploma in the mail when expected. But in my experience academia doesn’t move at the same pace as a business, so maybe it’s normal for it to take a long time to arrive?

              3. Corey*

                To be clear, you would have pulled the offer even after receiving verification of the $100 holdup and subsequent clearing?

                1. OP#4*

                  @Corey – excellent point. No, after the situation was clarified, I would have probably extended the offer. Higher ups where I work may have a different opinion though. Our industry is pretty strict on these things.

                2. nonymous*

                  In my org, some positions require a certain degree for pay classification (and the position is opened at a specific classification). So if someone applied to a job that requires X degree means that the degree would have to be conferred before start of position, proven to HR by submitting an official transcript.

                  In the situation OP described this could mean that the offer is pulled if the applicant does not have the ability to produce an official transcript by the start date. If the applicant is aware of this issue, they can bring it up to the hiring manager and possibly the offer letter can show a start date after the new graduation date. Basically, the expectation after an offer letter is extended is that the applicant will meet all of the documentation requirements before their start date, full stop. I don’t know about blacklisting practices, though.

              4. Parenthetically*

                “hopefully teach a young adult about how the world works”

                Let her get on with it, please. Your teaching/scolding/freaking out days need to be behind you. I wish my folks would have stopped bailing me out in college and restricted their role to a friendly advisory one.

                This is a very common situation, and it sucks for a lot of people, particularly those in financial hardship. And it’s spectacularly sh!tty to pull offers because of it. “You are otherwise a perfectly qualified candidate but you forgot to pay this fee that you may or may not have actually even known about, HOW DARE YOU!” So unnecessary! It’s also self-sabotaging. A pulled offer means they’re willing to take at least one and possibly several steps backward in the hiring process… over a hundred bucks? Give me a break.

              5. T. Boone Pickens*

                Hi OP#4

                I do see your stepdaughter’s offer getting pulled and subsequent blacklisting to be pretty heavy handed. I do think that the company’s size that she had an offer with has a lot to do with it as they often have more rigid standards/protocols in place with less room for grey area. Unfortunately we’ll never be able to get the hiring companies perspective as it could easily be a case of your stepdaughters’ potential manager was fine with the explanation but was overruled by a higher up/HR.

                As a hiring manager I personally would chalk it up to an honest mistake provided I could verification from the school and they vouched for the story. However, I know lots of other managers that would see this as a potential red flag coming in and if there were other red flags about your stepdaughter, this might be the one to tip the scales against her.

              6. Michaela Westen*

                IME them pulling the offer and blacklisting her seems very punitive. Maybe it’s just from my bad experiences, but I feel the company is hostile and has an antagonistic attitude towards its employees. If this is the case, your stepdaughter is better off not working there.
                To me this would only make sense if the company works in something very sensitive where ethics are extremely important. Such as high-level banking or investigating white-collar crime, or something where just the possibility that someone had lied would be reason enough because they can’t take the smallest chance on hiring a liar.

              7. Media Circus*

                Hi, OP#4. One thing I want to check on is — are you in the U.S.?

                Years ago, I worked in the registration office for a very large research university in the U.S. In the U.S. higher education system, proof of graduation is simply whether or not the school’s record-keeping system says you’ve graduated. If a company wants to verify that someone graduated, they can submit a query to the registrar’s office. If the student or another university wants verification of graduation, an official transcript is proof. The diploma is just a nice piece of paper to hang on the wall.

                However, what I learned from our international students is that in many other countries in the world, the diploma IS official proof of graduation. I saw dozens of students who were in delicate situations trying to accept job offers around the world because they were in that four-month limbo between the commencement ceremony and their diploma arriving in the mail.

                For U.S. employers, I think pulling the job offer without letting her explain is a little much and *blacklisting* her feels downright petty. But I wanted to point out that other countries may have different graduation/hiring expectations.

                1. nonegiven*

                  When the diploma comes in the mail, what is the date on it? When the student completed the required work or sometime later, but before the diploma was mailed?

                2. Media Circus*

                  @nonegiven At the university where I worked, it was the last day of the term when work was completed, so even though it can take weeks (especially for spring, when the huge bulk of students usually graduates) to confirm that all students have met all requirements, all degrees were backdated to the date of completion.

              8. Jadelyn*

                Re the specific situation, let me chime in on the “my company wouldn’t pull an offer over that” side. The problem isn’t that she didn’t do the work for the degree, it’s that there was a bureaucratic snafu after the fact. She may have been wrong about her degree being conferred, but it was a mistake in good faith, not a deliberate misrepresentation, as if she hadn’t done all the classes and still claimed to have the degree or something. Any company with half a heart would understand that and extend a little slack to a hire over it.

      2. Jessen*

        I know someone who’s much older than that who forgot to graduate. They’d just had their first child right around the deadline and didn’t get any of the fees and paperwork submitted in time. Fortunately it was cleared up with a simple signed letter from our department chair that stated they had completed the requirements.

      3. Mommy MD*

        Some people are irresponsible and don’t have their acts together. LW probably knows more about it than we do.

        1. Miss Sloane*

          Some people do, indeed. Here, though, we’re talking about a 22ish-year-old who perhaps hasn’t learned yet that bureaucracies make mistakes, that major corporations sometimes have unreasonable policies, and that consequences from a seemingly minor oversight – or just ignorance – ripple across our lives in ways that are really easy for us with many more years of life experience that the OP’s stepkid has to see, particularly in hindsight.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yeah, not a lot of what being called “adult life” in this thread makes a lot of sense, or is well-organized and runs as intended. I still run into issues with the bureaucracy at times. My mom is 81 and on Medicaid and her whole life is one never-ending string of calls and letters to prove to Medicaid that she hasn’t found a job or won the lottery yet, and still qualifies. They keep misrouting the calls and losing the letters. That’s how it works. It was not designed to make sense.

            I have a son who got caught in a weird situation with the DMV, that wouldn’t have even happened if it were someone like me and not a young adult, and almost resulted in him losing his license. (He got pulled over for a rolling stop and the insurance card he showed them was expired. He had a current one – he’s on my insurance – just not on him. He then went to court with the current insurance card, but left it in the car. I took over from there, but by that point, it was an infinite loop of me mailing them proof, them saying they never got it, me mailing it again, them saying they didn’t get it again, and so on. Finally someone on the phone took pity on me and said there was a double-secret location where you could come in person and show them the proof of insurance and they’d close the case.) I liked what my then-SO told my son about it: “you got caught in the bureaucratic machine. It is very easy to fall into, and almost impossible to get out of. Next time, be more careful so you don’t get caught it in in the first place.”

            1. nonegiven*

              I had to get my name put on my official birth certificate when I was 15. It said baby girl lastname. It only came up because I needed it to get my learner’s permit for driving. I guess it was some kind of oversight at the hospital.

              MIL had to get her name put on her official birth certificate because she needed it to collect social security. I don’t think she was even born in a hospital.

      4. Aleta*

        Yeah, definitely agree. I, a person who is absolutely described as very put together by my friends, also definitely wouldn’t have noticed if my diploma hadn’t come, something LW specifically raised. I’m not in a field where you’re required to put it on your wall, so the physical diploma doesn’t matter. It’s not a grimoire wherein everything I learned in college is eternally bound, so that I cannot use any such knowledge without it. I couldn’t tell you where it is – in a closet somewhere, I think? It’s also possible I threw it out when I moved states. Like, if any employer actually needed confirmation (which is unlikely in my case), they’d just call the school. Maybe LW’s stepdaughter is in one of the fields where you do need a physical diploma, but otherwise not noticing that is not something I would ever hold against someone.

        1. Dragoning*

          My diploma came in the mail months after I graduated, since graduation was such a huge, huge thing, they didn’t have everyone’s diplomas on hand to give you as you walked across the stage. I would have assumed it was still on its way.

          1. Aleta*

            Yeah, I’m trying to think of when I did get it (because my mom made a big deal about it, otherwise it wouldn’t have been on my radar at all), and I think it was a good three or four months after I graduated. In my case, I graduated in December and there wasn’t a ceremony then – everyone walked at the same time in May or June or whenever that is. I didn’t go to that ceremony so I don’t know what they would have done, but it was a large school so probably the same as yours.

          2. coffeespoons*

            I work in higher ed administration at a very large university, and that’s how it works here. Former students not knowing that they haven’t officially finished their degree or not knowing that they have a hold on their diploma/transcripts is actually not uncommon. My office doesn’t usually hear from the former students whose diplomas were held up because of fines—we don’t work with any of the financials–but I talk to many who didn’t graduate because they hadn’t met all academic requirements. I take a lot of calls from former students who begin with, “So, I graduated in May, but I have to take another class.” A few times a year I’ll hear from folks who thought they’d graduated YEARS ago and only recently found out that they hadn’t. Some of these situations are very much the result of the student being careless (sometimes it’s pretty egregious—as in, their student files are filled with their advisors emailing them repeatedly about needing to finish a particular requirement that they’d ignored) and some are much less so (like when an instructor miscalculates a student’s final grade, resulting in the student not having the minimum grade for the course, or dropping their GPA below the minimum for graduation). Sometimes they just plain forget that they have to apply to graduate, and then are very shocked when they find out they didn’t graduate!

            Also, lot of students confuse “Commencement”—the ceremony that happens the day after Finals Week ends, where you put on a cap and gown and get congratulated a lot—and “graduation”. At our school, students who apply for graduation and are reasonably on track to graduate can participate in Commencement, but Commencement bears only the vaguest of relationships to actual degree completion. If a student applied for graduation and attended Commencement, but didn’t meet all their graduation requirements, they haven’t graduated. Instructors have a quick turn-around time to submit final grades for courses at the end of the semester, and then schools go through and audit each student’s record, to make sure that the student has met all degree requirements. Since we’re talking thousands of students, and there is no way to do this earlier—the folks certifying graduation have to be able to verify that the student earned the necessary grades in the courses they just finished—this takes a few weeks! We also have to allow a buffer of time for students who have incoming transfer work from other universities to be able to send those transcripts to us and get those processed. Once graduation is certified, at my university, the graduated students are then reported to the office that actually prepares and sends diplomas, so those typically come 2-3 months after the end of their last semester. While students are waiting for graduation to be finalized, the ones who have to provide proof to their prospective employers/graduate programs/etc. can get a letter from their school’s records office verifying degree completion. Ex.: “Ms. Cersei Lannister has completed all requirements for the Bachelor of Arts in Chocolate Teapot Design, with minors in Chocolate Teapot Marketing and Political Science. She will graduate with High Distinction. Her graduation will be finalized on June 25, 2019.”

            I imagine the turn-around time is shorter for smaller schools, but ours is…not small, so it’s a huge volume of graduated students every time. So yeah, I can absolutely imagine not noticing if my diploma arrived or not, since the diploma itself doesn’t arrive until well after the stress and excitement of your last semester has ended!

            1. Ella Vader*

              After receiving a couple of degrees from a medium-sized Canadian university, I completed graduate school at a large state university in the USA. I was really puzzled by the way they made a big deal out of “and we give everyone their REAL DIPLOMAS at Commencement” because that seemed obvious to me. Then I discovered that the typical Canadian universities had about a four- or five-week turnaround between the students writing their last exams/submitting their last assignments and the convocation ceremony, whereas the one I was attending in the USA had seven or eight DAYS, and that only because of a rule that students in their final quarter would have one-hour tests during the last week of classes instead of having longer exams during exam week. I believe they pulled this off by printing and signing diplomas for everyone who was on track to graduate that quarter, and then shredding or incinerating any that weren’t completed on time. And now that I read your post, I realize that to make it happen must also have involved a huge amount of time-critical work by all the university staff involved in tracking academic progress – one of those jobs that’s completely invisible when it works, and subject to inordinate rage when it doesn’t. Thank you.

          3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Same thing with my older son. He graduated with honors, walked in the graduation and all that jazz. The diploma came in the mail a few months later.

          4. Yay commenting on AAM!*

            It also depends on the address you use.

            If you live in the dorms and have your dorm address as your address of record with the University, obviously that will pose a problem for receiving mail sent after graduation, because you do not live in dorms after graduation. If you live in the dorms and use your parents’ address as your address of record with the university, but do not move home after graduation or are only home for a few weeks before you move back out again, you also might not get mail the university sends you after graduation- my mom tended to pile mail on my dresser until Thanksgiving, starting each January.

            And you might think you’ve updated your mailing address with the university because they barraged you with a dozen “Welcome to the Alumni Club, update your contact info with the University so we can reach you!” solicitations before graduation, but in most universities the registrar’s office, the alumni office, and the HR offices don’t compare databases.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, my first reaction to #4 was “I’d love to know what that company’s name is, so I don’t accidentally apply to work there.

    3. tink*

      Honestly I feel like the step-daughter in #4 dodged a stinky one by that company deciding a hold means she knowingly lied and blacklisting her. They really don’t sound like the sort of people I’d want to work for.

  17. Persephone Mulberry*

    While I never had to deal with someone who straight up didn’t technically graduate, I did have a job where I was in charge of collecting my coworkers’ graduation dates for Licensure Reasons and a surprising percentage of them didn’t know that their degree was technically conferred in August, not May or June (and got their paperwork returned because of it).

      1. Genny*

        Some schools allow people to walk in their graduation ceremony even if they aren’t technically graduating. My school’s policy was you could walk if you had completed all graduation requirements, had completed everything but language, or had less than six credits outstanding. It’s possible, when filling out paperwork, people select the month they walked, not realizing that the degree wasn’t technically conferred until August when they completed the outstanding requirements.

  18. KimberlyR*

    #1: If you need a script for what to say to your coworkers the next day when they inquire about your health, you can say, “I woke up and didn’t feel well (true) but after a day of rest, I felt better (equally true.) Your coworkers now know you are doing well with no actual detail needed.

    1. Rose Burkhardt*

      It’s incredibly kind when a coworker is interested, but you don’t have to acknowledge it. “Feeling better?” “Oh, good coffee and an easy drive today; all well!” Take the days you need without shame. Best work happens with a rested and clear attitude.

      1. KimberlyR*

        I agree. But OP specifically mentioned them asking, which sounds like OP wanted a way to answer without saying the absolute truth. Maybe it’s their culture to do so. (I know it is in our office.) However, the OP should absolutely feel ok with not answering their queries at all if they want.

  19. Free Meerkats*

    The shorthand in our office for #1 is “vision problem.” As in, “I can’t see myself going to work today.” Unfortunately, since we’re government, we have a form that has to be filled out after, and that’s not a choice for some reason. :) So something generic gets checked on it.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      When my son was tardy to school when he was younger, I called it “ear problems” because he wasn’t listening to me say, we have to go now!
      My mom also used to call it “eye problems” if we slept in as in “my eyes won’t open up”….

  20. Rose Burkhardt*

    #1– I’m perpetually sick because of an autoimmune condition. I feel so much self loathing calling off. I’m in manufacturing and we’re incredibly short of skilled help, so there’s no coverage for an absence. There is no sick time, just 6 call ins a rolling year, per occurrence. Your circumstance is kind, so take care of yourself. “I can’t be in today,” is enough. Sometimes you must, and that’s fine.

    1. LawBee*

      That sounds really hard for you. :/ I hope one day you can forgive yourself for calling in when you need to – I don’t think there’s any forgiveness needed (you take care of you!) but if you’re feeling self-loathing, that’s really rough. ::ghosthug::

  21. angeldrac*

    Op #3: I work with families of newborn babies so there is a lot of discussion about names and where they came from, in my job. Nothing shuts the conversation down faster than the borning old answer if “oh, my parents just heard it somewhere and liked it…”. Keeping it totally vague and focused on the “oh, they liked it” doesn’t really leave anywhere else to go.
    Alternatively, have you researched the actual origins and meanings of the name to find your own story in it? “Yeah, i’ve researched it a bit and apparently it was the name of a queen who was reknowned for her oversized, elaborate, extravagant wardrobe – which is totally funny because i’m more of a Kmart person, ha ha ha”, or whatever. You have a story, then, to entertain your clients without it being about the details of the name being bestowed on you.

    1. Sh’Dynasty*

      Your second work-around is so unique, it sounds like a great idea! I think that’s the biggest gist of people asking- they want to be entertained a bit. Since OP works in such a customer-centric field, I understand not wanting to be “abrupt” and shutting down the conversation awkwardly with “Not sure, they must’ve liked it”. Tone of voice can help here, though!

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I was thinking that myself. People (and especially older people) just like the idea of there being some type of enticing story behind the name, whether it’s an adventure, travel, romance, or loopy hippy shit. LOL!

        Think Indiana Jones.
        Dr. Jones: “Henry!”
        IJ: “I prefer Indiana dad.”
        Dr. Jones: “We named the dog Indiana”
        IJ: “I loved that dog!”

        Of course, Henry Jr. adopted the name he felt fit his life/personality while you didn’t. But if you don’t feel like being entertaining about your name, just shut it down with I don’t know, my parents just liked it / were hippies or whatever shuts it down quickly.
        Personally, I kind of wish I had an unusual name I could make up a fiction about.

    2. minuteye*

      Even if there’s no funny story, you could just research and share a little bit of information about the name itself, rather than about your personal life/history.

      Them: “Interesting name, where does it come from?”
      You: “It is, isn’t it? It’s Nigerian.”
      You: “It is, isn’t it? It’s the name of a flower that grows in Morocco.”
      You: “It is, isn’t it? It means ‘Sunlight’.”

      While the racial part probably increases curiosity, there’s an element of ‘just making conversation’ to a question like that, and just giving an answer (any answer) acceptably fulfills the requirement. You could then deflect by asking them about their own name, which they might well have a nice story about.

    3. Jess*


      OP, it sounds like you want to avoid your own discomfort/memories, speak with integrity, and maintain/build good connection with your clients. angeldrac suggests two different approaches, and I think you could build off of either of them by following up with “but I love to hear stories about *other* people’s names… do you have one you’d like to share?” It shifts the focus of the conversation to the client, maintains the warmth by mirroring the topic they brought up, and gives them an opening to tell a story or switch to a different topic.

  22. Cathie from Canada*

    Regarding the name question, since it is going to be a topic of conversation for your clients, maybe you should do some research on the name itself (rather than why your parents chose it) and use this as a conversation piece. For example, “yes, it is an unusual name, I’m not sure why my parents chose it, but I did look into the history of this name once and I found out it has been used in Egypt for centuries and was actually a name used by one of the pharaohs. Now, I don’t actually think I’m related to a king but wouldn’t it be fun if somehow I was…” etc etc etc.

    1. Cathie from Canada*

      Oops — after I posted. I read Angelrac’s comments and she said what I did, only better. Sorry for the duplication!

  23. Susan K*

    #3 – I think Alison is totally right that your answers are just making people more curious. All you have to say is that there is no story, and your parents just picked the name because they liked it. My siblings and I all have names with no meaning other than that my parents thought they sounded good with our last name (of course, nobody ever really asks me about my name because it’s very common and boring).

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I would love to say that you’re right and that’s all you have to say, but people really don’t know when to quit. I’ve become abrupt and impolite with people who won’t stop asking about my name/ethnicity because nothing else makes them stop. But it’s really hard in a professional setting when you just want to do your job, and the other person keeps saying “But what does your name mean????? Where are you really from?????” and so forth.

      1. Nita*

        Yep. Some people aren’t happy until they’ve got you pigeon-holed. I think they may not even realize they’re doing it, but it’s pretty obvious and annoying when you’re on the receiving end. I’ve also gotten rude with people who would keep pushing these questions after I made it clear I’m not interested in answering.

      2. Susan K*

        Wow, they keep asking even after you tell them there’s no story and your parents just liked the name? I don’t know what else you could say to shut them up at that point. I guess I would just keep repeating that there is nothing more to tell. “Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s really no deeper meaning. My parents just liked the name.”

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      Concur with the advice and I also picked my daughter’s name because I liked it. Her name is Jade, like the gemstone. I’ve been asked more than once why I chose Jade. If I’m in a good mood, I’ll say that I just liked the way it sounded. If I’m in a snarky mood, I’ll tell them that it’s because I didn’t think it through when giving her a stripper name. Yes, I can say that, I’m her mom, and many a stripper have used Jade as a stage name. It has mostly just astonished me that people are so interested in names to begin with. No matter how interesting or unusual your name is, I really don’t care how you got it. Just tell me how to pronounce it and we’re good.

  24. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

    I feel so sorry for OP4’s stepdaughter. I know places that don’t hire people without college education or professional certifications, and at most they would ask for a transcript or an official certificate, but would’ve never ever blacklist someone who didn’t comply.

    1. ISuckAtUserNames*

      I feel sorry for her, too, but think she maybe dodged a bullet. If they’re that rigid and inflexible about something like that, what else do employees have to deal with?

      This is the kind of thing Glassdoor is made for.

  25. College Grad*

    #4 I wouldn’t hold the diploma mishap against the candidate at all. These things happen. I’m on top of my studies and was an A+ student. I graduated college in June and received the placeholder diploma when I walked the stage. Due to weird scheduling with my program, the final coursework was finished days before graduation and so my classmates and I wouldn’t know if we’d “officially” graduated for a while, but we were allowed to walk anyways because the college knows about our programs scheduling. In early October I still had no diploma. I finally contacted the college and they couldn’t tell me if I’d officially graduated or not, but they requested that I make sure my current address is on file with them. The diploma finally arrived a few weeks ago. Colleges are weird about giving out info and can be ridiculously slow in processing diplomas.

    1. Consuela Schlepkiss*

      I’ll just say that as a professor, I have seen some incredible bureaucratic SNAFUs, and some that are less dramatic, some that are the student’s fault, and some that are not. There are a lot of ways students can fall into a bureaucratic trap, even through no real fault of their own. Bursar problems, especially over petty-seeming sums of money, can be relatively common. When I finished my PhD, I was haunted by the thought I might have an overdue fee to the library that I didn’t see in my account that might hold up awarding my degree.

      I gotta say, the company in letter 4 is massively over-reacting, and so is step-mom. I understand this seems like part of a series of behavior by step-daughter, but really, this is not high on the list of errors students can make to them from graduating. Assuming she has the knowledge and skills the major promised her, this is not a thing to get worked up about absent some regulatory issue.

      1. epi*

        Yes, all of this. I realize this can look like a young person lack of responsibility, but many universities are huge, complex organizations that are not good at clearly communicating with students or even internally, between units. This stuff trips up full adults. Also– the fact that this problem is so common strongly suggest the issue is on the schools’ end. You need to meet your clients where they’re at to have effective programs, whether you agree with it or not– and most of universities’ graduating “clients” are 22 year olds still making the transition to full independence.

        I am a PhD student who worked for four years as a research coordinator first– a job that requires you to be highly organised, proactive, and good at following directions to the letter. I haven’t had to apply for any of my RA jobs since I came here, because people just recruit me and I say yes if I have time. So I feel pretty confident in saying I have no problems being responsible and on top of stuff. And last month I had to pay two months of payment plan money, because I never rebalanced the payments. They put a hold on my account! Every other time they’ve sent me a similar message, I spent an hour deciphering the account page to learn it was a minor error on the university’s part that they had fixed themselves by the time I logged in. So yeah, this stuff happens to everyone amd doesn’t necessarily reflect on how responsible you are.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      And I graduated years before my college computerized their records. I was in the process of a job offer, and the employer was checking references. They called my university about my degree and the response was “Who? We have no records of a Thursdaysgeek.” They have students answering the phones, and if they don’t find something in their computer, it doesn’t exist.

      Instead of pulling the offer and blacklisting me, they called me and asked what was up? I took in my diploma, some old report cards, and filled out a request for official transcripts, because the university WILL find me when someone pays some money. And now I warn a potential employer and provide the request for transcripts.

  26. Sam Sepiol*

    #1: my UK peeps, are you all jealous that in the US you don’t need to give a reason when calling in sick?

    1. Law*

      I only have to give a vague reason, and fill out my own leave system. Details only needed if signed off (i.e. More than a week).

    2. Ruth (UK)*

      I was for like a second (thinking of the return to work form or whatever it’s called) but then I remembered how little leave and sick time most emoyees there get compared to us because there’s no legal minimum and I’d rather have what I’ve got and just do the form.

    3. Rose Burkhardt*

      I could emigrate to UK in the next couple years, so I’m curious- there are defined reasons to call in? I’m only now getting familiar with employment laws.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        I’m actually maybe not the best person to answer as I call in sick at a rate of about once every other year so I can’t picture it too clearly… But as far as I can think, it asks you to say why you’re ill and states you need to be specific (ie. You can’t just say ‘unwell’ or ‘cold’. It’s not a long answer though. I’ve always written something like “various cold symptoms including congestion, aches, cough”

        1. Asperger Hare*

          Yeah, I tend to go with “flu symptoms (dizziness, lethargy, inability to drive)” or “stomach bug” (which tends to need no further information…) but just saying “I’m not well” isn’t usually considered enough information.

          I’ve put a link in my name to the UK guidance about sick leave. There is a self-certification form that most companies will require you to use if you have been out sick for more than four days, which has a textbox requiring “brief details” of your illness and dates/times. If it’s less than three days then you don’t usually need a form, but most places I’ve ever worked have always expected me to provide context for sickness.

          1. misspiggy*

            The detail required in the form can actually be very minimal if your company is relaxed about these things, and as has been said, one day doesn’t require a form.

            Having said that, as annual leave is more generous, IME many people sense burnout coming and just book a day of holiday the following week when they start getting that pajama feeling.

      2. TechWorker*

        This is company dependent, I’ve never filled in such a form and didn’t have to provide a sick note when I was off for a whole week due to a bug that meant I couldn’t sleep (though I was logging in to work for a couple of hours each day when I felt ok, so it wasn’t actually a whole week of sick leave).

    4. Pnuf*

      No, I’ll take my six months’ sick leave at full pay (over and above my 25 days’ annual leave and 8 national holidays) and carry on filling in those return to work forms, thanks.

      1. Sam Sepiol*

        … I would prefer all that and not having to give a category for my sick leave. My line manager knows too much about my mental health.

        UK arm’s length body fwiw.

    5. SageMercurius*

      ‘I’m not well enough to work’ has always been enough for those occasions I’ve needed to call in sick.

      1. SageMercurius*

        Which looking at above comments leads me to the conclusion that ‘It depends on your company’.

    6. londonedit*

      Where I work it’s totally fine to say ‘I’m not feeling well, I won’t be in today’. You definitely don’t have to go into detail. You also don’t need to give full details on any self-certification forms, it can all be very vague.

      So no, you definitely don’t have to give specific details of what’s wrong with you if you call in sick in the UK! I’m sure there are bosses in both countries who are nosy and who will insist on people giving a ‘proper reason’, but in my experience in the UK it’s not the norm and no one is going to force you to describe your diarrhoea and vomiting on a sick leave form. You absolutely can just say ‘stomach upset’ or ‘cold’ or whatever.

      1. Sam Sepiol*

        Yeah I wouldn’t give details of the stomach upset but in my UK public sector jobs I’ve always need to say what the category is: flu, stomach bug, headache, m migraine (separate categories), depression…..
        Even for a single day.

        1. londonedit*

          Hmm, maybe it’s a public sector thing. In every job I’ve worked in (private sector) it’s been absolutely fine to leave it as ‘Not well, won’t be in’, self-certify for up to a certain number of days (4 or 5 I think), and fill in a very vague reason on the self-cert form.

    7. Anna Vine*

      Er, no? I’ve worked for four different organisations in the UK in my adult life so far – not one have I needed to give a reason for calling in sick. I’m curious, is this a big company thing? I’ve only worked for small organisations (less than thirty people).

    8. Huddled over tea*

      No? I just text my manager with ‘I’m not feeling well today and won’t be in, sorry :(‘

      (Having said that, I’ve definitely also been in jobs where I’ve been sneezing, coughing, the whole works, and my manager has tried to get me to come in anyway, so it really depends on the company.)

    9. Ruth (UK)*

      I also replied above, but now having read these comments I guess I agree it varies by company in terms of what’s an acceptable reason though the form itself seems to have been the same one at my last few job.

      In my current job and last job (both office jobs) I have/had to give a specific reason but not go into much detail eg. ‘unwell’ or ‘under the weather’ isn’t ok but saying ‘cough and cold’ or ‘achey with headache’ is fine.

      At another previous job, my manager believed that unless you were actively throwing up then you were not actually ill (she stated this many times) and you’d get the Spanish inquisition if you wanted a sick day (plus many many more problems, issues, and so on).

  27. Amy*

    My father is white but has a name that tends to read as black – a name like Jamal, DeShawn etc. I gave my toddler the name as a middle name.

    And it really has been surprising to me how many people have said things like “you know that’s a black name, right?”

    I’ve alternated between responding factually with “yes.” Or snarkily with “and why is that a problem?” Or “it’s my father’s name” either in a normal voice or, if I’m annoyed, with a flat tone that suggests they are the stupidest person in the world.

    I find it quite strange how often people feel the need to comment! And it’s just a middle name.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      This would be pretty funny if it weren’t so strange and annoying!

      Have you tried an innocent “Why do you ask?”. I’d love to hear them come up with an answer…

    2. Ms Cappuccino*

      What is a “black” or “white” name anyway !? These are human names that’s all that matters.

      1. Cat wrangler*

        Seeing as everyone on the planet descended from a black person originally, what on earth is a “black name”?

      2. Natalie*

        Eh, that’s a little oversimplistic – there are naming trends within communities, and that stuff can actually come in handy in research. (See, for example, research on implicit bias in hiring by using different names on the same resumes.)

        But as in all things with baby names, when someone tells you the name they *already gave* their kid, it’s best to assume they considered it long and hard and weren’t looking for pointers! Just say “cute” and move on.

      3. Anononon*

        Unfortunately, it can matter. For example, there have been studies where people apply for jobs with the same resume, but one has a “white” name and one a “black” name, and the “white” names get many more replies.

        Pretending that names don’t imply race to most people is disingenuous and not helpful.

        1. MLB*

          I worked with a black man who’s name was Biff (middle name was Charles). When he would apply for jobs, and come in for an interview, he would get strange looks as a black man named Biff. So he started going by Charles and stopped getting weird looks.

      4. SignalLost*

        Well, when your mother and grandmother cut all contact with you and cut you out of the will and keep you from visiting family members because you married a white guy with the middle name Zebadiah, which EVERYONE knows is a name only and solely reserved for black people, and only find out he was white 7 years later, after the divorce, at which time they joyfully reinstate you in the bosom of the family and are surprised that your child doesn’t look “black, like her dad”, it’s a bit simplistic to assert that names aren’t, to a lot of people, racially coded. When white, upper-class families are naming their kids DeRay and Tashanika, I’ll agree with you.

        (The above scenario did not happen to me. It happened to my best friend. And yes, her mother and grandmother are as racist as it gets.)

        1. Moonlight Elantra*

          Uh, they are crazy, because Zebadiah is CLEARLY a name reserved for grizzled 1840s gold prospectors, come on!

          1. Cat wrangler*

            I’m not pretending that race or ethnicity isn’t ascribed to certain names – sadly it is all too often – but trying to point out the absurdity of that assumption when any one can choose a name (subject to the laws in the country in which the child is born).

      5. LawBee*

        When companies hire Shaniqua or Hasan as readily as they hire Susan, then names won’t matter. Until then, ignoring that there are real-world impacts to names is actually pretty harmful.

    3. ThatGirl*

      My name sounds vaguely Spanish – it has an -ita on the end. My dad was being creative and playing with languages. Some people also think it might be black (there are actually semi-well-known black women with my name). I am white, white, white. But my husband’s boss, who was a black woman, was very surprised to meet me and see that I was white. To me, it’s both kind of funny and also telling.

    4. Michaela Westen*

      Some years after leaving Kansas I realized the names people think of as “black” names are southern names.

  28. Florence*

    Scenario 4: “How could you not have your act together enough to know whether you’ve graduated or not? The fact that your diploma never arrived in the mail didn’t cause you concern? Huge read flags there.”

    This writer sounds like she either has never graduated college or has graduated so long ago that she’s completely forgotten how bureaucratic academic institutions can be. She sure sounds cynical about this too; graduating college is a huge accomplishment.

    Universities may not always do their best to inform students of all the requirements to secure a diploma. If this graduate is the first in her family to attend college, then that knowledge gap could be especially wide when many of the resources that universities provide to students, like graduation/major counselors, are not advertised. I know many people at my university (including myself) who assumed that as soon as they passed their last class, they were considered graduated and their diploma was somewhere in the mail.

    I learned from my grad counselor that I needed to pay the university to conduct a “graduation check” to confirm that all of my courses were indeed complete with satisfactory grades and that I didn’t have any administrative hold-ups to keep me from receiving my degree: anything from an overdue library book to parking fines to an incomplete aerobics class from three years prior. While the grad check is not an absolute requirement, it is highly recommended specifically because of issues like these.

    The grad check takes time to process, and isn’t filed until the very last course is complete, so I waited two months just to receive my graduation notification. My diploma arrived in the mail five months after that. I interviewed at several employers without documentation of having recently graduated. The employer that hired me was willing to accept my unofficial transcript as proof that I completed all my courses, so long as it was sent to them directly from the university in an untampered, sealed envelope. I didn’t get my diploma until nearly a month after beginning my new job.

    I shudder to think that an employer would blacklist me over something so minor (and, quite frankly, petty) when all my coursework is completed satisfactorily and I’m just waiting for the paper. I do also think that this particular employer is being very naïve with respect to hiring recent graduates. These issues are very common and don’t signal at all that a person is lying about their education. Does this employer have employees who were ever recent graduates?

  29. Blarg*

    I have a similar situation. My name has potential ethnic/religious meanings and people love to think they get to know. I have no relationship with my parents and the true story of my name is that they came up with it while drinking when my mom was pregnant with me. When people ask, “where’d you get your name?” I say, “from my parents.” And I change the subject.

    You don’t owe people an explanation and in a clinical setting, not giving one is just setting good boundaries.

  30. t*

    #3 ” Every. Single. Client. Multiple times.” yeah, maybe because they’re trying to find a way to connect with you and start a conversation? Don’t hate on people for trying to find things to discuss.

    In answer; put a sign on your desk saying “please don’t ask about my name!”

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      It’s exhausting to be asked the same thing over and over, and have people absolutely refuse to take the hint and, you know, be respectful and stop asking. There are plenty of topics for discussion and when people like OP offer them, other people refuse and insist on pushing.

    2. Just Employed Here*

      I assume since OP works as a clinician, telling the clients about her personal stuff is not quite part of her actual job. Warm and friendly interaction doesn’t have to include private matters.

      If I go to a doctor with an unusual name, I might be curious and wonder about it, but I’m not there to treat my curiosity!

      1. BethRA*

        I think t is being overly harsh, but it’s certainly a common enough conversation to have with a stranger you are trying to connect with. I get why the OP might find it exhausting, particularly given her background, but this is really not such a strange thing to ask about.

        1. MrsCHX*

          But it is!
          People often comment to me that my name is “unique” or they “like it”. I say, “Thanks!” and move on. They are likely expecting me to give them some kind of background but I don’t want to satisfy your (usually white) curiosity about my name.

          If people meeting “Johns” and “Katherines” and asked, “Why do you have such a common name?”, what would you think?

        2. Working Mom Having It All*

          Ehhhhh, my doctor has a long and difficult to pronounce last name that I think is probably Eastern European. It would be rude for me to ask “why do you have such a weird name?” or “Are you Polish?” etc. Her background and family are none of my business. If I want to make personal life small talk I’ll ask how her Thanksgiving was or complain about L.A. traffic or something.

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      Asking about names — especially if it’s a name that in reality DOES have racial, ethnic, or religious baggage associated with it — can veer dangerously close to things that are really not small talk and possibly shouldn’t be brought up around people you don’t know well, ever.

      This is really close to the “where are you really from, though?” question, or asking people nosy verging on rude questions about religion.

      Also, yeah, even my friends who just had hippie parents or are named after their grandpa Thorwald are very tired of answering the same question about their name multiple times per day.

      1. mrs__peel*

        Yep. I get a ton of comments about my unusual and weirdly spelled name, but (because I’m pretty obviously white and it’s an Irish name) I don’t get the gross racial undertones in questions that many other people do. It’s fairly obvious when people are actually making pleasant small talk, and when they’re trying to ferret out if somebody shares their ethnicity or not.

    4. mrs__peel*

      This is not about people innocently trying to “find out things to discuss”, this is (typically) about people trying to winnow out information about the other person’s race/ethnicity. And being aggrieved that the other person isn’t playing ball and telling them what they want to know.

  31. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP #3 – Uggghhhhhh the name question! People really cannot take a hint. And even saying something like “I don’t know, they just liked it” leads to, “Yes, but haven’t you been curious to research it/Don’t you care about your heritage????” My friends and I have heard it all. You have my complete sympathy. People do not understand how exhausting it is to be asked the same thing over and over, and seriously, just take a freaking hint.

    I don’t know how to get people to stop asking, but have a suggestion for when they starting pushing in a professional setting: immediately refocus on work. So for example, when you say, “Don’t know, my parents just liked it” and they start with the “Yes, but…”, you can say something like, “We really only have an hour and we need to focus on you.” Or smile and continue talking about work: “We’re here to talk about you. Now, back to what we were saying…” Or, “You can look it up on the internet after our session, we need to focus on your health.”

    Another idea: I don’t know exactly what you do, but can you say something like, “That’s a secret I only tell people after ten sessions” or something like that? Make it into a ‘game’ where you reveal it after a big milestone. My guess is most people will forget. But if they remember, you can say “My parents chose the name because they liked it, but I did my own research and found out it means [this] in [this language.” Maybe if you tie it in to healing, you can turn something hurtful into something beautiful?

    Another option for very pushy people, and this is a bit extreme but I’ve known people who’ve done it, is to say your parents have passed on. This probably isn’t great for building rapport if it means you have to lie. But I’ll admit I’ve always got that one in my pocket for the person who won’t shut up about my name.

    Hope you can find something that works for you. Good luck and you have all the sympathy from me.

    1. Lynn Marie*

      Well, you have to learn the art of changing the subject. It’s a burden we all have to bear in one way or another. Almost everybody has something in their life like this.

      “No idea where it came from. Guess my parents just heard it and liked it. I like it too. Your name is lovely – is there a story behind yours?”

  32. Nonny*

    I read #2 slightly differently– isn’t she saying that she’d -like- to work in an office, but it’s an industry where the bulk of what used to be entry-level roles have been made freelance jobs, presumably to save costs? If I’m reading correctly, I think there’s a much bigger question here that I’d love to hear Allison answer, about what I think is a common problem in my/the LW’s age group: making the jump between freelance and an office job in an industry that underwent changes meaning that freelancing became the only way to get experience and a foot in the door. I’ve also had an unusual work history with lots of freelancing for similar reasons, so I’d be curious about the answer!

    1. OP#2*

      Hi, yep, that’s really more what I meant! I was going to be more candid about my industry but I think it’ll be easier to be straightforward since maybe the details matter a bit. I work in the field of journalism (not only writing though) and I live in an area where in-house office positions are rarer than gold dust, and the vast majority of entry-level positions are for students or unpaid internships. I’ve done a couple of unpaid internships and it helped me make the connections to get me this work, but I’m not at a point where it would be useful to do that anymore.

      Not working in an office right now isn’t exactly a choice, it’s just all that is available for me right now because of the state of the industry. I suspect, as Allison said, that this is leaving me at a disadvantage for the future, when I might have enough experience and general cred that an in-house position might be a possibility. (I will also be moving to a different area in 5 years or so, and expect there to be a few more in-office opportunities available in my new location). Another poster recommended I get any old office job, which I’ve certainly considered! But doing that would mean taking a job related to my industry but not really the same at all, like copywriting. Things are just going so well, I don’t want to abandon everything for a different job that I don’t want to do, especially when it will take all my energy and time from the work I’m doing now. But part of the reason that I want to be able to make it to an industry-related in-office position is to get access to the things Allison mentioned: mentorship, networking, the security of a compensation package. I just can’t right now, and I’m worried that’s locking me out of certain opportunities in the future — it feels a little like a Catch 22.

      1. Nonny*

        I was this close to using journalism as an example in my first comment! I work in an arts-related field with similar problems, and turn over these questions all the time. I did end up doing just some random office work for both stability and office experience, and continued some freelancing on the side, but I don’t feel like that was necessarily the right choice.

      2. Liz*

        I would argue contrary to some of the advice to get any old job, then; it’s so easy, especially in writing fields, to get pigeon-holed into only getting work doing the exact same work you’ve been doing all along. If you were to get an office gig just for the experience, I’d say to do it far away from journalism. Or better yet! Embed with some company as an office drone for the purpose of writing about it!

      3. Millie*

        I’m a freelancer in an industry where nearly everyone is a freelancer. I once participated in a client presentation where the company highlighted that they had fewer than 15 employees– the hundreds of other people who did the work were all freelancers. It was a surprising number to hear: I’d assumed that the managers, account leads, etc. above me were all employees, but no. They were all freelancers.

        Here are some thoughts and questions to consider:
        1. Are you certain that working in a conventional office, not a from-home office, is considered necessary in your part of journalism? It really wouldn’t in my field. If the norm for your field isn’t office-based, you may not need office-based experience.
        2. If the places giving you work have brick-and-mortar offices, could you ask to work from their office for the duration of a project/assignment? About a third of the companies for which I work don’t have brick-and-mortar offices at all, but the others do. And I know that the managers and coordinators have worked from those offices, at least some of the time. For my role, it would probably be considered too odd for me to ask, but things could be different for you.
        3. For the things you say you want to get from a standard job… maybe look for ways to get some of those things as a freelancer even if you aren’t working out of a regular office. I don’t have formal mentoring relationships with anyone, but there are people who I’ve called on for advice or have given it to me spontaneously. And there are people who’ve asked me for advice, too. Networking is the same– I meet people over the course of projects and develop relationships with them over time. Compensation/benefits… you do have to set up your own as a freelancer, but you can make sure you have health insurance and retirement savings without having a conventional job.

        (One other thought: if you do get a regular job offer after freelancing, be sure you factor in everything when you weigh accepting it. I know someone who went from freelance to regular who did all the math– salary+benefits = roughly what he earned as a freelancer. What he forgot was that he was used to taking a lot more vacation on his own than what he was offered in PTO. The math worked out to about the same, but there was about a month more of actually working in there.)

      4. Working Mom Having It All*

        I think working in a field where this is the norm might change things a bit, though I agree that if the office based jobs are like hen’s teeth, and it’s a competitive field, that can make things really complicated.

        I’m in entertainment, where freelancing is very common, and to an extent more in-house type jobs (for example working full time for a studio or network) are considered a slightly different track. It took being recommended by a friend at the company and being lucky to replace someone who was a really bad fit in all the right ways (she was computer illiterate, I’m a digital native, she was slow, I come off as a go-getter, etc) to finally make the leap for me.

        I would be curious about best practices in cases like this, and whether it really does just come down to luck.

        I definitely don’t find that “any old office job” would help. The problem isn’t that looking at my resume they’re afraid I don’t know how to use a copier. It’s that a lot of people want these jobs, and Allison’s advice is pretty much dead on that most hiring managers are going to be more excited about someone who already is an in-house production manager or managing editor or whatever somewhere else, as opposed to taking a chance on a freelancer.

  33. only acting normal*

    Re #1
    Can we get over the “not really sick” thing of needing sick leave for mental health/illness?
    If you are so stressed you can’t think straight or so anxious you can’t function properly or so depressed you struggle to get out of bed… *you are sick* like *really*!

    Or if you just need an day off work because ‘ugh’ (which is how I sometimes hear “mental health day” being used), then maybe it should be a day’s leave vs sick leave (if those are separate categories where you work), because that’s kinda what not-sick leave is for – to recharge body and mind. (Caveat: if your employer has a ludicrous leave policy, like the many horrific types we are familiar with from letters and comments here, then they deserve all the “abuse” of sick-leave that results.)

    Rant over (apologies)
    TLDR – mental sickness *is* “real” sickness, and a legit use of sick leave.

    1. only acting normal*

      PS Addressing the OP’s actually question: as Alison says “under the weather” etc are perfectly good reasons if you don’t want to give details of any illness. And if you think your boss will be an arse about mental ill health then by all means have “flu” or “stomach upset” – the stigma is real and pernicious and you’re not obliged to risk your job to try and break it.

    2. Lilian*

      I thought exactly the same thing. I get both issues and I use sick leave for when I can’t function (in which case I say “I’m not feeling well”), and vacation if I just need to recharge.

    3. doreen*

      Mental illness is absolutely a real illness and a legitimate use of sick days- however, I wouldn’t say “mental health day” is sometimes used for a day off because “ugh”. In my experience, the phrase exclusively refers to “ugh” days. The people I know who are taking the day ( or days) off because they’re too depressed to get out of bed or too anxious to function properly or because they’re still adjusting to their medication do not call those days “mental health days”. They call them “sick days” just the same as days they take off for a stomach virus.

      1. Dragoning*

        I don’t have any sick leave, and thus no mental health days, but as someone with mental health issues, if I did, my mental health days would be, not the days where I physically can’t function, but the days where I feel small and quiet and don’t want to uncurl. The days that I, in practice, usually wind up bringing a comfort object to work to get me through/

    4. Amber Rose*

      I agree wholeheartedly, but most of my bosses have not. I got an hour long lecture from my current one about how he didn’t want people using sick days because they don’t feel like working, and that he only provides them so that contagious people don’t come to work and spread germs, and if people are using them for other things maybe he shouldn’t offer them anymore. All because I’d taken two more sick days than my six day allotment.

      I tried using Alison’s script but he went into a passive aggressive loop and I gave up. He’s otherwise fairly nice and amiable, so I wouldn’t have seen that rant coming if I’d just assumed he’d be cool with a mental health day. Better to assume your boss isn’t, unless you really really know better.

      1. only acting normal*

        This is why I dislike the trend of using “mental health day” for “day I need off work to recharge”. It conflates serious (sometimes fatal) conditions with normal variations of mood or energy, at least in the minds of asshats like your boss, so they think someone calling in sick with a mental illness is somehow faking or not really sick.

        1. Amber Rose*

          Yeah. I can work if it’s just a normal variation of mood/energy. But a bad mental health day means I actually can’t move. It’s as crippling as a broken leg.

    5. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I didn’t get the impression that OP has a mental health issue or is even very stressed out. She used the phrase “mental health day”, then wrote about just wanting to stay in pajamas and watch Netflix. So OP wants a day off to relax. It’s hard to read anything further into it.

  34. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    My best friend is in her early 30s but has an ‘old lady name’ that would have been common in the UK before WW1 (think Phyllis or Ethel). She’s constantly harangued about it but she just says ‘my dad liked the name’. Ironically, ‘old person names’ are becoming really popular again in the UK!

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        I think that’s a lovely name :)

        My friend has a little boy called Arthur, and a little girl called Beatrice. My great grandparents were Arthur and Beattie, about a 100 years ago!

      2. Moonlight Elantra*

        I wonder if it’s because of the popularity of Downton Abbey? My cousin and his gf had a baby girl a few years ago and named her Cora.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          I think Edith, specifically, is because of the Downton Abbey character. I think the “old timey names” phenomenon significantly predates that show. In fact, I remember in college 15+ years ago when I was babysitting a lot, noticing that “old fashioned” names like Emma and Sophie were oddly popular. Now those names are so common they don’t even seem old fashioned anymore.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Princess Beatrice of England has repopularized the name. Many people kind of fell in love with her when she wire that crazy “toilet seat” fascinators to William & Kate’s wedding.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think it’s normal for names to be cyclical like that where “old” names become common again, because a lot of people name their children after their parents or grandparents so then you get a new generation named after the old generation bringing those names back into common use.

    2. Jan*

      Yeah, I’m noticing that trend. I’m 32 and loads of my friends from high school are naming their babies names we would have considered old-fashioned when we were teens.

  35. londonedit*

    OP2 – I started my career in office-based roles, worked my way up, got fed up and went freelance for four years, and am currently now back in an office-based job. So my situation is a little different because I have always had office experience, but even so I went to a few interviews for in-house jobs when I was freelancing and the interviewers would always make a point of asking me whether I felt I could make the transition back to being office-based, whether I’d miss the freedom of freelancing, why I wanted to come back into an office, etc etc. So in my experience it is something that potential employers will have concerns about.

    It depends on your industry, of course, but are there opportunities for you to do some in-house freelance work for clients? I did a fair bit of that while I was freelancing – I’d sometimes go in to a company’s office and work there on whatever project I was doing. That meant I could answer the interview questions by explaining that I’d enjoyed a mix of working from home and doing these short in-house stints, and spending time working in different offices meant I was confident I could adapt to a new working environment. It would also give you a bit of relevant experience of actually working in an office, so you’d have a bit of knowledge of how things work in general.

  36. Lily*

    I admit, I do not understand the college. Is this usual in the US? Not the “we’re holding your diploma until you’ve payed us” stuff, this I get more or less.
    I don’t get why they won’t track her down/write a lot of letters or similar if she indeed owes them money. Instead, they just kind of blocked her diploma, informed her maybe once and then… waited? I think it’s strange.

    1. Nephron*

      If she was living on campus her permanent address with them might have changed and notifications got lost in the change of address. Her student email was likely deactivated when she finished, or she assumed it was, so it can be quite easy to not get such a notification. Given how common it is for undergraduates to have their parents as their permanent address the stepmother might be the one that missed the notice from the school. Or, everyone assumed it was a barrage of donation requests from your alma mater and been trashed.

    2. doreen*

      It’s less than $100 – it might not be worth tracking her down rather than just waiting until she realized that she didn’t have the diploma/needed proof she graduated. There are businesses that will try to track you down for a small amount of money – but educational institutions ares somewhat unusual in that they have something to hold over those who owe them money.

    3. Sh'Dynasty*

      Its not uncommon for colleges to reach out to students thru their student email (which, after graduation, she may have just not looked at) OR thru their online web portal (which, also, she may have not looked at since she no longer attending classes).

      Physical letters to her updated address may have been thrown out unopened for various reasons, so this I understand

    4. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      She’d have gotten a bill through her student account, maybe one or if generous two reminders that they could hold her diploma, and then the bill will indeed sit there until it goes to collections. I know from experience.

        1. epi*

          You’ve said this a couple of times but I really don’t think it shows much.

          The volume of mail and email many students get from their universities is unreal, much of it (yes even regarding accounts) not relevant to the individual. Someone who thinks they are always paid up won’t look up the university policy on non-payment. There are many possible units a student could owe money to and they will not all update your account in a timely manner– either to confirm you’ve paid or to let you know that you owe. So someone could check their account and still not see anything wrong. It is normal for diplomas to take forever even when things are going well. Checklists about everything to confirm for graduation are incomplete out out of date. Etc…

          This is a really, really common problem for people to have on graduation. It could happen to anyone and doesn’t say much about how responsible a person is, even if your step daughter has some growing up to do in other areas.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Ok. This seems like you’re trying to find ways to prove to commenters that your stepdaughter really is irresponsible and really does deserve your frustration and annoyance. But your feelings about her actions are pretty immaterial to you helping and supporting her.

          Your job is to say, “Hey, it doesn’t seem like this would be a huge deal for a lot of other workplaces from what I’ve found doing some reading online, and anyway, you’ve taken care of the fee now, so there shouldn’t be any future issue. Let us know if you need your next resume proofread!” Right?

          1. MissNomer*

            I’m not getting that read at all from the letter writer. Frankly, while we’re on the topic of whose job is what, I don’t believe it is our job to tell letter writers how to parent when they came asking whether it was normal to blacklist someone over a diploma snafu.

            1. Parenthetically*

              And they got the answer to that question — it’s not normal to be blacklisted for an admin error. So what I’m saying is that their task now (not necessarily their “job as a parent” but the next step) is to communicate that answer to stepdaughter.

              Zillah made an excellent comment above about how it seems that OP4 is conflating the “Should she have been more on top of things/I’m frustrated with her general irresponsbility” question with the “Should the company have rescinded her offer and blacklisted her” question, which is why they’re getting advice on both.

          2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

            Yeah, my reason for talking about the process is that if you *are* a little scattered (not necessary a lot scattered, or irresponsible, or what have you) you may miss those first notifications, and then you won’t get any more. And I cannot think of a student that goes and voluntarily reads the school’s policies on the website unprompted.

            I was super vigilant about getting all my graduation ducks in a row because that piece of paper was Very Important to me (all three times), but others may not be. And one reason I got to return to college at all, after failing out the first time, was because the bill on my account kept the student number/ID active, even after they sent it to collections. Hence, I know from experience how easy it is to miss bills from the school.

      1. Zillah*

        I think it’s worth acknowledging that the policy and how it’s actually executed can vary from school to school.

    5. Colette*

      I suspect it’s usual everywhere. Let’s say a student has a $4 fine at the library. The library isn’t probably going to send a letter – that would cost more than they’d get from the fine. So they add it to the student’s library account which, since this is a university, is the student’s university account. They assume that the next time the student accesses her account, she will see it.

      But she doesn’t access her account, or she does and intends to pay it but doesn’t get there, or she sees it and decides she doesn’t care because she doesn’t need to go back to the library.

      And then the university, which has a policy of not graduating students who haven’t paid in full, holds her diploma.

      But in this case, we don’t know whether she was notified or not.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        When I was in uni I literally couldn’t see my grades for one semester due to a small library fine. And for Bureaucratic Reasons, I couldn’t just go in and pay the damn $8 – by that point, they needed me to send a cheque. Since I was like, 20 years old, I didn’t have a chequebook and had to get (pay for) a money order. And then thanks to Canada’s terrible postal system, it somehow took a month for that money order to travel the 2.5 kilometres between where I lived and the university office and get processed, so that I could actually finally view my grades. This stuff gets ridiculous.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Absolutely. University fines can rapidly become a bureaucratic nightmare. I’ve stood in front of the correct desk in the correct office with the correct $40 or whatever in my hand and been told no, I had to print out Form 163 from universitywebsite dot com slash students slash finance slash forms slash thisisnowanimpossiblylongurlareyoukiddingme dot html and mail it in together with a check or money order for $40 plus a separate check or money order to cover the mail-in processing fee of $7.82… and then it STILL wasn’t paid because by the time I left and got the form and printed it and got two money orders and mailed them in, they’d added another blasted late fee. Or similar.

        2. Becky*

          Since I was like, 20 years old, I didn’t have a chequebook and had to get (pay for) a money order.

          This actually surprised me? I got a checkbook with my first bank account when I got my first job at 18.

          1. Parenthetically*

            My husband, age 35, has never had a checkbook! It just wasn’t a thing where he grew up. I got my first checkbook at 16, as part of my mother’s efforts to teach me how to budget, but he’s literally never written a check.

          2. nonegiven*

            I got a checkbook when I was 16 but a lot of people never need to use checks at that age or even older, these days. You can instruct bank bill pay to send your rent check or pay it online with your debit card in a lot of places. I’m in my 60s and average one check per month and most of that is the kind of thing the kids use venmo or similar for, now.

      2. Miss Sloane*

        And either way, who among us has not forgotten a bill? And around a busy life event like graduation?

  37. triplehiccup*

    #5: I would follow them to serve the fact-finding purpose of the hiring process, especially because the work is social media. Deeper familiarity with how they operate is valuable information in deciding whether you’d want to work for them and (if you like what you learn) may be useful in persuading them to hire you. I work in applied research, and I was selected over someone with a higher degree in part because I made my hiring assignment look and feel like the org’s publications.

  38. BeALucilleBall*

    OP #3- Im am in a similar situation. I am African American and have an unusal first name. Its one of those “old school” names that are rarely even heard of today. Quite literally, when I googled the name, I can only find it associated with elder Caucasian women so that is exactly how its interpreted by other people. The kick here is I actually am addressed by my middle name so my first name only comes up in certain situations (my work email, government official documents, and…ugh dont get me started on my flashbacks of school roll call on the first day). I usually joke with people when they call me by my first name as my “government name”. While my middle name is unique, its more common so it doesn’t draw inquiries (like Charity or Hope).
    With that being said, Ive asked my mother about this and she just says my grandmother liked the name so she named me that.
    I say something along the lines of “I have no idea where my grandmother got this name from. Who knows?” I then change the subject. That has usually ended that portion of the conversation.

    The script that Allison gave is exactly on point for your situation. Try being flippant about it (on the outside) and state that you have no clue, or reassure thats it not a family name (people ask that too). People usually follow your cues so they may think its okay to ask follow up questions if the immediate response may hint to something more.

  39. Wild Bluebell*

    #3: I agree, that it’s probably best to say something like “My parents just liked it.” If they say: “But it’s unusual”, you can say: “Hmm, it sounds pretty normal to me”. And then switch the topic to something else.

    I’ve recently receive a _rejection_ email with the similar last paragraph – suggesting I should read their articles, follow them on social media, become part of their community, etc.
    Maybe this is just a template these companies are using without giving it much thought.
    I definitely won’t try to become a part of your community after you’ve rejected me!

  40. Delta Delta*

    #3 – From the OP’s description, it sounds like the patients asking questions don’t really mean any harm. And this is probably all without realizing that there’s more behind it than they realize. So, since it’s probably conversation they crave, perhaps deflect it back and say something kind like, “my mom just thought it was a pretty name so she picked it. Can you tell me the origin of your name?” Then you’ll get an earful. Or, you’ll get the same answer along the lines of, “I don’t know, my mom just liked the name Lucinda when I was born.” and then you and the patient can have a laugh and say you’ve got something in common, and you can proceed with whatever you’re doing.

    Related: one of my college roommates was one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever known. She somehow knows how to ask questions in just the right way so that the other person in the conversation feels important. I observed her for years (we lived together fore 3 years), and watched that she sometimes talked about herself, but was always able to weave in the other participants. It’s a real talent, and one that I wish I was better at. I often try to do what she would do in a conversation that feels invasive to flip it (like the name conversation here), and when it works, it’s gold.

  41. ssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I had a coworker that was fired because he didn’t have his degree. He was hired because he said he had it; HR got around to checking his resume carefully months after he had been hired and found that he was short a credit or two. He was sure he had it and was going to follow up.

    A year later, dude had not yet followed up. He was scrambling during his last month to confirm he had his diploma (turns out he didn’t). His director felt badly about it but had no choice: we need the diploma to keep you and you haven’t taken the steps to demonstrate you have the diploma, so he was fired. The company was quite large which is why I figure it took so long to fact check him and then follow up with him.

    This person’s lack of a diploma was so easily fixed and a very common problem, I bet. The company that blacklisted her is being harsh – a bullet dodged.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Absolutely agree that it was a bullet dodged. A larger corporation is more likely to have “zero tolerance” policies about this kind of stuff (which, don’t even get me started about the stupidity of 99% of zero tolerance policies), but the blacklisting was freaking petty and demonstrates a kind of vindictiveness and short-term thinking that can only spell bad news for employees.

  42. SigneL*

    #3 – I wrote a story where I named the main female character “Amethyst.” Her explanation? “My parents were hippies.” Whether you say, “I don’t know; it’s just my name,” or “my parents liked the name,” you don’t owe anyone an answer. Personally, I’d probably go with “it’s just my name.”

  43. Argh!*

    Re #3: Just say “My mom made it up because she wanted me to have an interesting name. Does your name have a special meaning?” (say it like you want to know!)

    Since you deal with strangers every day, it’s something you’ll have to live with. Since it’s all they know about you, it’s all they have to talk to you about in the beginning. It’s much better than “How did you get that ugly scar?”

    1. SigneL*

      Oh, my, yes….or even, “where are you from? No, really, WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” if you look the slightest bit ethnic. Or if you’re in Iowa and look Teutonic, the elderly ladies will want to know what part of Germany you’re from, because they have family there.

    2. DaffyDuck*

      Good way to answer, especially asking them about their name. You might meet a “John Smith” who has a story they don’t mind sharing.
      I have a comment down below as I have the same situation. I just figure most people are trying to come up with a non-offensive conversation starter and don’t realize you hear it all.day.long.

  44. Sh'Dynasty*

    OP #4: Working in Recruiting here. I’ve heard of offers being pulled for this reason, although I haven’t personally pulled an offer for this reason. I think the overarching comment from a company that pulls an offer is “Well if Candidate was truthful about presenting the upcoming graduation date, Company would have felt better and proceeded.” OR “If Candidate did not know about the graduation mix-up, can we trust them to fully bring to fruition critical x,y,z?”

    Larger companies have more of a reason to pull offers- if the candidate may be seen as untruthful, then there are others in the pipeline who are just as qualified. Especially true in most entry-level instances.

    Also, I’ve had someone in my personal life who, at 40+, had an offer pulled because they said they graduated college at 21 when in fact they did NOT. Something like they never paid the graduation fee all those years ago, and so the school never graduated them. When they switched companies, New Company ran a background check , found that they never graduated and pulled the offer. Maybe because I knew them as a person, but their tone about the whole ordeal left more to be desired and I think it was the ultimate deciding factor of Company keeping the offer or not (AKA “I have the qualifications, how can SOBs care after 20+ years in the workforce, they’re all jerks and I made sure to tell them so, etc”).

    1. Sh'Dynasty*

      Also, to clarify- the personal life person 100% was aware they did not graduate, but played it off for 20+ years like they did since all the classes were complete. They just did not want to pay the fee at the time, and fought the system on principle.

    2. CM*

      The blacklisting suggests that it’s an honesty issue, which really isn’t fair. These kind of mixups can happen really easily. I think OP#4’s perception of his stepdaughter as being flighty is affecting how he sees this situation. I don’t think she really did anything wrong and the company’s reaction was out of proportion to what happened. Either they are very rigid with their practices and won’t take individual circumstances into account, or they don’t understand what happened. The SD is a recent graduate, so it’s not like she’s been going around for years saying that she graduated when she didn’t.

      1. Not the Boss*

        Absolutely agree. I’ve never gotten my official diploma from my university, because I moved soon after graduation, and I’m sure it got lost in the shuffle somewhere (I also did not attend my graduation, because it’s a huge stadium thing with many thousands of people sitting in the sun in May, who wants that?). Transcripts after the fact show that I have successfully matriculated, but I don’t have a diploma and wouldn’t have known for a few years if it had been held up for administrative reasons.

  45. T*

    LW#4-by no means trying to sound critical, you should give your step-daughter some more credit. These things happen, it happened to a good friend of mine in college who very much had their crap together. A job that would not be understanding of this, well sounds like a bad job and she may be better off at another employer. Things happen, now is the time to be supportive when she is starting her career.

  46. irene adler*

    For #3: why not just say that “It’s a family name”?
    I’ve seen this work for folks who are asked about their unusual name. Didn’t cause any follow-up comments.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Plus that’s technically always true. It is a name used in your family since you are a part of your family and you are using it!

  47. Flash Bristow*

    OP1, when I was depressed and couldn’t get myself out of bed one day, I actually did ring in and tell manager “I’m really sorry but I’m struggling with depression today. I just can’t cope with getting on the train, and being in the office.”

    Manager was a bit surprised but said he’d square it with Big Boss, and to be fair he did. No problem.

    I guess it depends on your reputation there, because another person took *weeks* off, claiming depression, but was seen out clubbing every week. Which he claimed was “part of me getting better”. Hmm. (he was let go, after an exhausting process to ensure they were fair to him…)

    Anyway, one or two days, as long as it isn’t a pattern and you’re generally in good standing, should be fine. Unless you know your work will have a problem with it, I’d be honest. But add “but I expect to be back tomorrow or the next day” so that it’s clear you aren’t slacking or using excuses to be lazy.

    Good luck, I feel for you.

    1. Indie*

      You’ve given me a cool idea because your approach is to insist ‘just a name’ and that is because you are stressing it is ‘not odd’ thankyewverymuch.

      I’d be tempted to ask anyone who persists with asking “What makes you think it is unusual/from somewhere?” which would put people in the awkward position of having to say something like “It sounds weird/It sounds African” which you could legitimately cock an eyebrow at. If they lamely just say they have never heard it before you can come back with “Well now you have!”

      My Asian friend used to get asked what her name meant and she would always say she didnt know and ask what Jane/John meant in return which is another good one.

  48. Labradoodle Daddy*

    OP2- Be willing to learn, and do the Peggy Olson “observe before acting.” I’m on the young side too and that’s helped me a lot. Best of luck!

  49. Flash Bristow*

    OP3, speaking as someone with an unusual name… when I get asked about my name being Flash, I normally just say “oh, it’s just a name, like Sarah – when you’ve said it a few times you’ll be used to it”.

    If they ask a more specific question relating to my parents (like “wow, your parents must’ve been out there!”) I say either “oh, my parents were hippies in the 70s. Anyway [subject change]…” or “heh, if I’d been a boy they were going to call me Hunter!”

    Now, both of those are true. I would have been Hunter Marshall Sterling [Surname] – after James Hunt and Sterling Moss, my family loves motorsport! – and they *were* hippies – I’ve seen the photos of my dad in an Afghan coat with flappy hair, and my mother looking like Twiggy with doe eyes. But they didn’t actually name me Flash (long story which I’m not going into, suffice to say I didn’t choose it either, but it stuck and eventually I just changed it legally as it was easier).

    So I avoid the question by making light, dismissive but true statements. Which may, or may not, be relevant to my name.

    So I’d recommend you try “oh, it’s just a name! Like Sarah or Jane! You’ll get used to it after you’ve said it a few times” then breezily change the subject, and see how that works out. If they persist: “as I said, it’s just a name! Now then, about [thing]…” If you’re light and easy enough, it won’t be rude but it’ll be clear you really don’t want to discuss it. Ask a third time and maybe say a little more firmly “honestly, there’s nothing to tell” – but I doubt it’ll come to that.

    Good luck! Please update and let us know how you get on, and what you find works for you. I’d be really interested!

  50. Sunshine Brite*

    If you’re a clinician of some sort, then consider use of self in this situation. It’s a term used a lot in mental health type roles that looks at self disclosure and the way that it can be rapport building or relationship hurting in some way. I would just use some version of ‘I’m not actually sure. I think my parents were drawn to it for some reason.”

  51. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    Just say you’re feeling under the weather and won’t be in. That’s what my team members tell me, whether they’re sick or not, and I’m fine with it as long as it’s not often and not at a time when we’re super busy or other people are out. I know that they take a mental health day here and there. I do it, too. Now when someone texts me with this giant novel full of symptoms, that’s what makes me wonder (but I still don’t really care because they don’t abuse their PTO).

  52. Bigintodogs*

    #2 my sister did freelance photography for a long time, then made the switch to a branding agency at 35 because she wanted the benefits. I don’t know if they asked her anything about working in an office (though this is more of a studio, but she does have coworkers and her own station, which is kind of like a desk), but I think the most important thing is how you come across and the quality of your work, just like any other job. My sister does really good work and she’s very friendly. Being freelance might even help you in unexpected ways! Since my sister was so used to dealing with clients, it probably helped her in the interview since her job now is to deal with an “account” (one company client).

  53. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#3: Sometimes, you’ve gotta pay the little never-ending price for something unusual about yourself, in this case, your name. Practice acceptance on this matter, otherwise you will be annoyed for the rest of your life by it. People are naturally curious, naturally chatty or genuinely interested, so you will continue to get the question. I think the best answer is something like: “My parents just liked the name. There is no story behind it.”

  54. AnonNurse*

    For #1 – I feel like a simple “I’m having a health issue today” or “I’m dealing with a health issue but will hopefully be in tomorrow” would be fine with me. I don’t need details and assume adults can manage their sick time appropriately (of course it would be different if there were some on going issue with a particular employee and their use of sick time or abuse of days off or whatever). But I also work in the healthcare industry and fully believe in people taking care of their physical AND mental health. :-)

    1. AnonNurse*

      Also, if it helps, you can frame it in your mind that you are sick. Our bodies tell us we’re ill when we have a runny nose, fever, aches, whatever. Well, your mind is telling you it needs a break and that it’s “sick”. So I see no reason at all saying “I’m sick and won’t be in today”. Taking that day off to give your mind a chance to “recover” is a good thing and I wouldn’t even consider it a lie.

  55. Bacon Pancakes*

    LW 4: When I graduated with my MS I waited the required 8 weeks for my diploma to arrive in the mail. Then I waited the extra 4 weeks they requested in case it was “late”.
    When I called again, they had mailed it to my address where I lived during school… that I had moved away from. I had filled out the online Change of Address form, printed and turned it in when I was there to defend my thesis. But “walk-in Change of address Forms” (why would that be a thing?!?) have a box to check that says “do you want your diploma mailed to this address” (why would THAT BE A THING????!!!!!?????). It was a full four months after I graduated before recieving my diploma because of this clerical error that was no fault of my own.
    Every time I checked online to make sure everything was okay, my address listed was my current address that I had changed it to when I was there to defend.

  56. DaffyDuck*

    Name – Ooooh, I wonder if we have the same name, definitely possible. I am another very Caucasian woman with a slightly unusual name that many assume is black. No biggie growing up in CA, but once I moved to the south many people were startled when I walked into the room also (I hear you about the interesting perspective, I’m not giving examples here as to not hijack the discussion – but white privilege really is a thing in some parts of the USA). Of the 5 other women in my life I have met with the same name, 4 of them were also blond/blue eyed which kind of gives a strange twist on expectations around names.
    Just say your mother thought the name was pretty.

  57. Dr. Pepper*

    #3: From the tone of your letter, I would bet you’re also giving non verbal cues that your name actually *does* have an interesting story behind it that you’re not willing to share. That only goads people to pry further, especially elderly people with lots of time on their hands and a natural interest in connecting with their healthcare provider. They really would love nothing more than to hear your “long and boring” story and would likely reciprocate with one if their own. Right now you’re probably acting like there’s a mouse in this hole, and thus the cat is not going to go away.

    The trick here is to be completely bland and boring, both in your tone of voice and body language. “My parents just liked it, I guess” with a shrug and then an immediate subject change. Act like this is the most boring subject in the world. They’re just trying to connect with you, and they’re displaying normal human curiosity, it’s not an inquisition. Ask them the origins of their own name because there’s nothing people like talking about more than themselves, and I’ve found elderly people often really enjoy talking about family history.

  58. boop the first*

    5. Am I too cynical into thinking that maybe the job doesn’t exist? Since it sounds like their content/marketing is specifically targeting jobseekers or people who are otherwise looking outside of their jobs, it would make sense that they would advertise right where their targets are looking.

  59. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #2 It may be difficult to get your got into the office work if you’re letting them know you’ve done service/retail on top of all the freelancing. I’ve been there from a hiring prospective and I know many of my bosses didn’t touch on anyone who read as “server while freelancing on the side”.

    I once hired a person out of desperation who never had office experience but his freelancing gig rang like he’d be just fine. It was a nightmare and I can’t forget it, no matter how much I want to, so it taints my ability to accept being any one else’s first ride in office life.

    I hate being negative and sharing this story but don’t want to fart rainbows at you.

    So it may be hard. You may end up being tossed into utter toxicity because that’s the one who takes the chance. Which in turn may stink up your feelings towards offices in general. I would just keep trying for jobs, someone should give you a try but keep in mind the adaption you’ll need to do.

    You’re on AAM so I’m hoping you’re aware of the signs of toxicity so if that happens, you can find relief in knowing not all offices work that way so you don’t just run back for the hills.

    The job market is pretty employee friendly right now, so it’s a good time to be the one someone will take a chance on!

    1. OP#2*

      Oh, I’m not doing that! I’ve had more than enough freelance work to fill out a work history, for where I’m at right now. I don’t have my retail/cleaning stuff on my CV, it was work that I did during university to support myself.

      I appreciate your feedback, thanks! I want to get an understanding of just how people in the ‘real world’ see freelance-only experience, since I suspected it’s seen as less significant than in-house work.

      I think I wasn’t clear enough in my letter though — it’s not only my choice to go freelance only, it’s also because the entry-level positions that someone of my age and experience level would have had 5-10 years ago have all been cut in-house and are largely freelance contract positions, which is why I am where I am. I’m not applying to office jobs now because there aren’t any, but there might be in 5 years or so, when I’ll be more experienced/will be moving to a different area. When I get to that point, do you think that it will be more beneficial to have had an office job of some kind, even if it’s not in the field I actually want to work in? Because those are the only office jobs that would be available to me at the moment.

      1. Leslie*

        Surely if everyone in entry-level roles is freelance, the people hiring for those transition-to-office roles are going to expect to see people with a lot of freelance experience and not a lot of office experience? Wouldn’t they expect that most of their applicants are going to have job histories similar to your own?

        1. OP#2*

          It’s hard to tell because there’s been a lot of change in the industry and the number of jobs available has gone down in general very quickly, freelance or not. There are still some office jobs at entry level but they’ve drastically reduced. It’s hard to tell what to expect in the future because people only five or so years older than me have had quite a different experience.

  60. Hiring Mgr*

    Question for #3–is there something wrong in general with asking someone about a unique name? Or is it the racial component? If I meet someone with a name I’ve never heard before, I don’t quite see the harm in asking about it in just a “oh I like that name” kind of way. Obviously if I got the sense that the person didn’t want to talk about it I would stop, but just mentioning it doesn’t seem incorrect?

    1. Amber Rose*

      It’s better to not ask questions that put people on the spot. But you can still make conversation. I have told people, “I like your name, I’ve never heard it before.” Then if they have a story about it, I have shown interest and they can share if they choose. If they don’t or don’t want to share, then they don’t have to say anything except maybe “thanks.” I got a mix, back when I used to help people get birth certificates and name changes and stuff.

      The problem is a lot of the time the subtext behind “where is your name from?” is “why is your name a different ethnicity from you?” which is gross and none of anyone’s business.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I hear you and mostly agree. I do think there’s a natural curiosity about some of these things that isn’t gross. For example, I’m Jewish yet have a very Irish sounding name, both first and last (think “Kevin Sullivan”) So people will sometimes say, “oh is that typically a Jewish name?” or something like that.. Doesn’t bother me at all when people ask, though I do get that others would feel differently

  61. CaribouInIgloo*

    OP #3, I empathize and understand your frustration.
    I was born and raised in Mainland China, and kept the English phonetic translation of my Chinese name as my legal name when I came to Canada. Everyone asked me what my name meant.
    But the reality is, my name doesn’t mean anything. It just sounds nice phonetically and has a nice ring to it. My uncle, who gave me the name, even told me as much. I reason that since my parents’ generation grew up during the Cultural Revolution, when most kids’ names meant something “revolutionary,” they were trying to get away from that when naming their own kid.
    Some people just wouldn’t believe me when I tell them my name has no meaning and just sounds pretty. So I have to give them the long story above. Sigh.

    Anyway, I completely agree with Alison’s advice. Just tell them “my parents like the sound of it” and leave it at that.
    Good luck!

  62. Dankar*

    I, too, had my graduate diploma held. I received it in the mail (and didn’t walk in commencement), but months later I got an email stating that I was still enrolled and owed tuition. It turned out that the graduate office had a) lost my thesis paperwork and b) had failed to send me the edit I needed to make in order to get my thesis officially submitted.

    Now, I had paid to have the thesis shelved in the library, had successfully defended, and had filed all of the necessary paperwork. The “edit” they were demanding was to add a blank page between the abstract and title in the PDF submission. I was FURIOUS. I had already moved out of state and taken a job for which my degree was required. My thesis director was out on medical leave, but another professor in the department chased around administration for three days to collect everything they had lost, misfiled or failed to send.

    I came to find out a few months later, that I was the latest in a long string of graduates who’d been treated this way. They pulled all the bills on my account, thank god, and last I heard, my department was gathering evidence to have the admin in charge of filing submissions fired. This is absolutely something that can happen to anyone, and I definitely had my sh*t together. I think this company is ridiculous for pulling her offer alone, never mind blacklisting her!

  63. Jenny P*

    I actually agree with the hiring manager in #4. You know when you have graduated from college and have a diploma. Saying you have graduated when you have not would be a HUGE red flag, not only because she lied about having a degree, but because of her attention to detail. I wouldn’t want to hire someone who couldn’t tell me decisively and honestly if they had graduated from college or not. Incidentally, something similar to this happened in my former workplace. Someone “thought” they had graduated when it turned out she had not even finished her coursework. She did not get fired but she certainly lost a lot of respect.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Whoa. She did not lie. It was an admin mixup that she addressed immediately. And in fact she HAD completed her coursework and had every reason to put down in good faith that she had graduated. And she was blacklisted. Over a good-faith mistake. That’s… awful.

      Seriously, please scroll up and read the threads about letter 4. This is so, so common, even for people who have their ducks in a row and are responsible adults. Stuff happens with university fees. You’re only hurting yourself if you have a policy like this.

  64. Long Time Lurker*

    #3: I have a first name that many people assume is male, and in many cases, Chinese. (It’s not actually a Chinese first name, it’s a last name, but because Chinese naming conventions where people say their last name first, many people who are unfamiliar with Chinese culture think it’s a first name). I also love my name, and I also don’t have a “good story” about where it came from (though my parents are not racist — it’s more that they picked a name they liked and didn’t realize this would be a problem, and my father is from a European country where he didn’t think of the name as being Asian, even though my name is not common in that country either. He just liked it). My general view is that if someone who is actually Asian asks about my name, I talk about it, including the fact that I recognize it’s unusual. But if a white person asks —especially in a skeptical way or a “Huh, wow, I thought you were Chinese” kind of way — I just blow them off and say “my parents picked it out of a book” or something similar. The more we normalize names as not being this or that, the better it is for everyone.

    1. Long Time Lurker*

      I should also add we gave our oldest daughter a name that comes from my husband’s family, but also is a common name in Arabic (with a lovely meaning). I live in an area with a reasonably large Middle Eastern population, and I found when she was a baby it was a great conversation starter in the park. There was a lady who had limited English language skills, but she always remembered us and came over to say hi, because she loved my daughter’s name, and thought of it as an Arabic name, and our babies would play together. So there’s always benefits to being cross-cultural, even if there are also drawbacks.

  65. TotesMaGoats*

    OP#4-Most colleges should have and would have notified your daughter multiple times about the financial hold. Unless this was over a decade ago, pre-computerized college then she would have gotten an email, probably a letter, probably a text. I hear “but I didn’t know” so much and it’s usually because students didn’t read any of the 3 or 4 ways we contacted them about an issue. So, I don’t have a ton of sympathy on that. However, yanking the job and blacklisting over $100? That’s so overboard. I would say your daughter dodged a bullet there.

    1. Dankar*

      Hard disagree. I got one email to the closed student account that I no longer had access to. The only reason I ended up finding out that I was “still enrolled” due to a bureaucratic snafu, was because I had forwarded all my emails to a personal account. And I was a graduate student–I never would have thought to do that as a newly-minted BA.

      I work at a university, too, and notifications/warnings/invoices get lost or mixed up more often than a lot of people realize. Sure, I get frustrated with students who blow deadlines, too. But sometimes “I didn’t know” is legitimate, especially after they assume they’ve graduated.

  66. Shoop*

    In reference to letter #3-many commenters have already given good scripts that can be used to quickly move on from the name topic, but I personally have a very unique name that people ask about constantly. I am a young white woman in America, but my last name can be literally translated to mean the name of a particularly discrimated-against ethnic group. It also sounds almost identical to the name of a local crime family when pronounced in the local accent, but is spelled differently. When asked about my name by a near stranger, I say that my mom liked the way it sounds, and then–this is the crucial part–I repeat my name and then say “nice, isn’t it?” Most of the time, this is enough. Sometimes particularly aggressive people follow up with “What does it mean?” I ask if they speak the language that my last name comes from–they obviously don’t, otherwise they would quickly have grasped the meaning of my name. Then I say I don’t either, but *my name* sure does sound nice.
    So, yeah, repeat your name a few times, and your clients will connect it with you personally, rather than any preconceived notions they previously held.

  67. LawLady*

    OP#3 I empathize! I am a white woman with a very unique name that reads to most people as a male, African American name. I have had some really awkward experiences. For example, on my first day at my first job out of college, I was introduced to a coworker and she inadvertently blurted out “I thought you’d be black!”

    1. Long Time Lurker*

      A someone with a similar situation (though with a name that to people reads as male and Chinese) I find a good answer to that is “why?”

    2. nora*

      My name is Middle Eastern and I once had someone tell me they didn’t expect I’d be fluent in English the first time they spoke to me.

  68. BirthdayWeek*

    #5 has happened to me too. I had two interviews and did an assignment that took a few hours for a job opportunity. The rejection email was very boiler plate and ended with “To cheer you up, how about checking out our Instagram?” with a link. Yeah, really cheered me up.

  69. Alldogsarepuppies*

    I feel super blessed that I have a boss that is very open about mental health days counting as much as any other sick day.

  70. Independent George*

    #2 – I disagree a little with Alison’s advice, though I think it’s worth taking note. It sounds like freelancing is common in your industry, in which case employers may not give as much pause about your lack of in-office experience than Alison suggests. It may be perfectly normal and appropriate with someone at your professional level and with your background to have little experience working in-house. But that’s something you will have to gauge knowing your industry.

    I have worked a mix of in-office and full time remote. I, too, work directly with clients and regularly am required to meet clients onsite at their office. So I do get enough in-office time to prevent me from going fully feral (as another commenter mentioned). I also feel that building relationships with clients and remotely is a more difficult skill to master than doing the same face to face. That’s one thing I miss about being in-office full time is the face time with colleagues and management.

    Are there any professional memberships you could join or meetups that could help you gauge more realistically if this would hinder your career prospects? You might hear some different answers if you pose this question to your network.

    1. OP#2*

      Thank you for your insight! Freelancing is very common in my industry, I’m definitely not alone in having this kind of background at the moment. But I just don’t know if I’m on the right path. I’ve recently learned about a freelancer’s social/networking group that does semi-regular meet-ups in my area, so I could definitely go and try and learn from their experiences.

  71. wickedtongue*

    Another white woman with an unusual sounding name here, one that is technically Spanish. I didn’t realize it until my 20s, but most other people with my name are either Latinx or African-American, and I’ve gotten a lot of “where does your name come from.” I go with the truth, which is that I think my parents just liked it! Honestly, it’s probably the best answer because it ends the conversation.

  72. AdvertisingAce*

    #3: my mom has a Swahili name and we are also a very white family. When I mention my mom by name, people who don’t know her ask if I was adopted!
    She just tells people that my grandma read the name in a novel and liked it. That’s not the truth but it’s a boring enough story that there are never follow up questions.

  73. Phoenix Programmer*

    Alison didn’t address but I wonder if it worth the step daughter reaching out to the hiring manager to explain the descrepancy. Maybe the offer will still be in the table!

  74. This one here*

    I’m a white woman with an unusual first name, and people aren’t always expecting me to white. I’m named for my aunt, and her daughter’s name rhymes with our, and, well, there’s a famous black woman with *that* name.

    In my case, I know my grandmother got it from a radio soap opera (my aunt was born in 1942), and she made up the spelling since it was radio. I was born in 1963, my cousin in 1967, the famous woman with the same name as my cousin was born in 1973 (I just looked that up).

  75. S*

    I have a very unusual spelling of a very normal name, and yes, there’s a long and weird story behind it, but over the years, I’ve literally shortened it to “Creative dad *shrug*” and no one has yet asked a follow-up to that.

  76. Beth*

    LW 3: can you Google the name and find out anything about it? Any nugget of information can then be used to deflect plesantly, along the lines of “I don’t know why my parents chose it, but it’s an old name from Gondwanaland” or “there was a famous Gondwanese diplomat with that name” or something similar. You say your client encounters include the need to build rapport — name trivia can be a means to that end, without getting too intimate or mysterious.

  77. Employment Lawyer*

    “1. What do I say when I’m calling in sick for a mental health day?
    I am a firm believer in (occasionally) using a sick day as a mental health day, when I know I’m not leaving my coworkers hanging.”

    You don’t.

    If you’re feeling overloaded and need a break, you’re not sick. If you are feeling like you are stressed and need a day, you are not sick. If you’re one of those folks who never gets sick and just feels generally overloaded, and you have 25 unused sick days, you’re still not sick.

    You can certainly ask your manager for a personal day and a good manager will say yes. a good manager may also instruct you to take a sick day. If you’re a good employee they may not even notice.

    But the “firm believer” language screams a sense of entitlement: it sounds like you know full well that you’re not really sick, and you are trying to justify lying about it because of your “firm belief.” Ethically this is wrong. Also, this type of attitude is why companies don’t give more sick days.

    1. bonkerballs*

      Disagree on all counts. Stress is a part of mental health. Mental health is no different than physical health. It all needs to be cared for. A firm belief in these facts has nothing to do with entitlement or lying and all to do with understanding how bodies work. And lastly, don’t kid yourself. Companies don’t give out more sick days because of greed.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      For this particular letter, I am inclined to agree with Employment Lawyer on one level, which is that wanting a day off to relax (in your pajamas and watch Netflix, per the OP), should technically be a vacation day, not a sick day. The OP wrote about a “mental health day” and the pajamas/Netflix thing, but doesn’t say anything about burn-out, stress or a particular mental health issue. In the absence of other information, I conclude that OP doesn’t feel like going to work and wants to relax because the phrase “mental health day” is used very loosely today. Personally, I would not call in sick under these circumstances. Instead, I would use a vacation day. When I need a vacation from work, either physically or mentally or both, I use a vacation day. That being said, many people in the US get minimal vacation days, so I would not begrudge a person using one sick day per year because they need a spontaneous day off to relax, but I don’t think it should be a pattern. I DO believe that people have mental health issues for which sick days should be used.

    3. Lucille2*

      This sounds awful harsh to me, but I am accustomed to workplaces that offer PTO rather than sick and vacation days. PTO is for personal use and the reason for its use isn’t required. It’s up to manager discretion to approve or not. For this reason, I’m squarely in the camp of taking the day without providing specific reasons. People in PTO organizations often use the same language to request days off as they would when taking a sick day, even if it’s not necessary. So I wonder which is the case for OP. If they’re using PTO, this advice doesn’t apply.

    4. Alldogsarepuppies*

      Calling it ethically wrong is harsh, and seems like you maybe the privileged one if you do not have any mental health issues exasperated by work. I’ve had mangers (after asking permission) change PTO/vacation days into sick days when they knew I had mental health reasons to take the day off. This is clearly an exaple of “knowing your office”. But overridingly saying you aren’t sick unless its physical sickness is wrong, dismissive, and belittling of people with mental health concerns.

    5. only acting normal*

      I agree it should be a vacation day. I have both mental ill health that requires actual sick days, and days I just need a break for which I use vacation. They are very much NOT the same type of day.
      However, in the UK sick days and vacation days are clearly defined, whereas in the US I understand the two are sometimes lumped together as PTO (which muddies things somewhat). In the UK we also get a minimum of 20 days vacation plus 8 public holidays, so there’s not as much excuse for “pulling a sickie” (calling in sick because you want a day off), rather than simply taking a vacation day when you need some R&R.

  78. C Average*

    I have an unusual name that attracts a lot of questions, and if I don’t feel like talking about it, I laugh and say, “My parents are the ones who came up with this. I can give you their contact information, if you feel like taking it up with them.” Most people happily drop the subject there.

    1. Not Today*

      There was a segment on GMA this morning where a little girl was ridiculed in an online post because her name is ABCDE (ab-see-dee), and she was hurt about it. I felt sorry for her. Why do parents do this to their children? Why is being different so important? Unique is actually OK, but bizarre is another thing altogether. A Southwest employee posted the ticket stub without the last name blocked out (that was stupid and in poor taste, this is a child). Apparently, there are a few hundred people with this name in the US. The mother was on the program and said she had planned to name her daughter this. She couldn’t understand why her daughter was made fun of. Poor child, she’s about five now and this is just the beginning. It’s unfortunate, but people judge. Your response here would be perfect for this little girl.

  79. WonderWoman*

    #3 – While I agree that Alison’s suggested responses will deflect some of the questioning, my own experience as a racially ambiguous person lead me to suspect this will continue to be an issue to some extent.

    I get a lot of rude questions about my race, and the reality is that 1.) people who can’t go through the world without knowing the race of everyone they’re interacting with are racist, and 2.) if you call them out on it, they will say they’re “just curious,” and you’re making a big deal of things, and why won’t you just be a good girl and avail yourself to their inquisition? (To which I have to say: Your comfort is more important than anyone’s curiosity. And also: If we all succumbed to our curiosity all the time, there are ALL KINDS OF QUESTIONS we’d be asking each other, but we don’t.) Here are a few mitigating strategies for when they just won’t let up:

    – Turn the question back around on the other person. (“So, where is your name from?”) I always do this in a friendly, conversational tone. It’s a gentle nudge towards self-awareness, but even if the other person doesn’t pick up on the hint, you may hear some cool stories!

    – Pretend you’ve never heard this question before, look baffled and say, “It’s just my name. Why do you ask?” Because it’s fun to make people explain their own racism.

    – Just nod along to their assumptions. After all, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. (To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you pretend to be black, but that you not feel the burden of putting forth the effort to correct people who assume you are. This isn’t the right option for every circumstance, but it can be really freeing to just decide that you’re not responsible for people’s assumptions.)

    The reality, however, is that some of your patients won’t let go of this, and they may even escalate things far beyond the boundaries of polite conversation. I don’t have answers for what to do in these circumstances.

  80. n*

    LW #4– Others have responded, but I’ll still throw my two cents in. This same exact situation happened to me. I applied for graduation, found out I still owed some money for fees, it was a bit of money so it took me a couple of months to save up to pay that off. I paid the school and figured that since I’d previously applied for graduation, that it would automatically go through once I paid the fees. However, it did not. So, I didn’t find out about this until I applied for a job, and they told me they couldn’t verify my degree. Fortunately, the company was pretty understanding once I explained the situation, and they gave me a week to sort it out and get a verification letter from the school. So, it happens and I think a reasonable company should be understanding about it.

  81. VX34*

    RE: Name – “Your guess is as good as mine!” “That’s where the dart landed” /Joke about alcohol being involved.

    After that “I really don’t know, let’s move on with (thing they’re there for)

    If persist, just ignore ’em. That type of nosiness does not require rewarding. Best of luck getting clients to get over it!

  82. Moose*

    #4: A lot of schools don’t send diplomas for a long time after you graduate anyway. When I graduated in May a few years ago, the university didn’t send out any diplomas until November/December. So it’s not so absurd that she didn’t realize, especially for something as small as a $100 hold. That employer was overreacting.

  83. Silicon Valley Girl*

    LW #2 – I’ve been in companies where we hired ppl who had been freelancing for a number of years, & they had a very hard time adjusting to an office situation (this was in marketing, & the freelancers were designers). That made the companies less likely to look at mostly-freelance candidates. In creative fields, it’s common for ppl to mix freelance with office jobs, but when someone does, say, 70% freelance, it can feel like they don’t prioritize the collaborative & soft office skills as much, unfortunately.

  84. Echo*

    OP #5 – I’m pretty sure my company also does this, and the reason is to encourage applicants to research the company before coming in for an interview. We’re a very large employer in my city and we hire for a lot of entry level roles, so it’s not unusual for applicants to come to an interview who have no idea what the position or the company does. I would be shocked if anyone in our very busy HR team is actually looking at the names of who followed the accounts and cross-referencing candidate names.

  85. Anon and on and on*

    I once called off sick and my supervisor asked me if I had the cold that was going around. I replied that no, it was a stomach thing.

    The thing was, I couldn’t stomach going in to work that day.

  86. JSPA*

    OP#3: “I’ve wondered that myself! My parents don’t remember what inspired it, but I do love it.”

    If you want to turn it back to the asker (which can be a nice thing for them, to have information, in a circumstance where they’re otherwise the one being helped): “Do you have any ideas where they could have encountered it?”

    Could be a book, a song lyric, a famous person.

    Alternatively, do some googling, and turn it into:

    “I think maybe my parents were inspired by [a song that was a hit in YearBeforeBirthYear / the character in Book Name / Movie Star’s girlfriend who was in the news YearOfBirth / whatever you find].

    Presume that your clients are probably making conversation and looking to connect (or wanting to scratch a “make sense of this” itch) not write a definitive history of your life. If you have a guess, and present it as a guess, it’s no a lie, and the itch will be scratched.

    No, we don’t have the right to know this about each other; but the world is a slightly kinder place when we find little random connections. When it’s done with kind intent, searching out connections is a constructive thing, not something to penalize. After all, you COULD have a story about your parents having been Peace Corps volunteers in the country where their mom was helped by the Peace Corps. Or your parents COULD have loved a musician who used that name in a minor hit song, and they once saw him play live.

    These sorts of connections used to be the main building blocks for human society. People still crave them. Even if we now prioritize a certain anonymity and interchangeability. It’s a way of saying, “I see and respect your personhood. Do you see mine?” You may want them to focus on the white coat and stethoscope, or the insurance forms you’re working on with them, or the birth control information, or whatever it is that you’re doing with them professionally. But going through this exercise is a way to establish mutual respect for each other as “people first.”

    Unless they’re being weird and it’s really a “but what ARE you / I can’t feel comfortable with you if I don’t know your detailed racial background / I can’t get comfortable in the world if anyone’s name doesn’t match my cultural expectations” inquiry. Which are frankly their issue, to process internally.

    1. DaffyDuck*

      Not the OP, but I am another white woman with a black-sounding name. When I lived in the south it definitely WAS “I can’t feel comfortable with you if I don’t know your detailed racial background” for some people. While that was definitely their issue, not mine, it did greatly impact how those folks would relate (or not) information to me. I was very, very, glad to leave the south.

      1. LawBee*

        I would just point out that there is racial discrimination in EVERY PART of the United States, not just the south. The social narrative that only the south has problems is one that needs to be erased immediately because it hides the very real problems that other areas have. Did you know, for example, that it used to be flat-out illegal to be non-white in earthy crunchy Oregon? Remember Rodney King? That was California.

        I’ve lived in the south, the northeast, and the midwest. Trust me when I say that every single city and town had major issues. If you’re not seeing any where you live, I suggest you open your eyes.

  87. nora*

    OP #3, I feel you. I’m a white-appearing person of Middle Eastern extraction. My first name is one language (not English) and my last name is another (also not English). I get a lot of questions about my name/family origin and probably 75% are not kind. I’ve long since mastered the art of “I’m from New Jersey” accompanied by a flat tone of voice and a thousand-yard stare. HOWEVER, I’m also in a client-centered clinical field, so now I use a line I heard many years ago: “My parents gave it to me for my birthday.” Shuts down the conversation gracefully without getting anyone’s hackles up.

  88. From That Guy*

    #2 Greetings, what a pleasant dilemma! I am tempted to respond is “Have you not been reading this site??” However that would be snarky and perhaps counterproductive. So let me start over:
    Have you not been reading this site??????? Capeche? You have established yourself as a reliable, dependable, productive and enterprising provider of a service, by all means build on that! Working for yourself , in my humble opinion, is much more rewarding that being an employee, both financially and otherwise.

    I am impressed that right out of college you are able to do this, good for you! Jump on that success. Mine it for all it is worth! A business author I recommend is Dan Kennedy, he is blunt and clear. You can get his books used on Amazon for cheap, invest in yourself, very few employers will to that for you.

    Now, for everyone who is offended by my comments/suggestion, I apologize in advance. However, for someone who has the gumption and wherewithal to make it on their own at such a young age, I say go get’em!

    Peace and good luck.

    1. OP#2*

      Haha, thank you! I do read a ton of AAM and it’s where basically my entire office/corporate world knowledge comes from. I am generally proud of myself for being able to hustle better than I thought I would (my personal life circumstances meant that I started freelancing out of necessity, but continued out of enjoyment/satisfaction). Maybe I’m just fixating on this unnecessarily. I appreciate all the feedback :)

  89. TKJ*

    OP#3 – as another owner of an unusual name … my standard response is, “Thanks for noticing! I got it for my birthday!” People pause, get it, smile, and move on. :)

  90. MyCatsBreathSmellsLikeCatFood*

    #3: “My mom thought it was pretty” is a perfectly acceptable answer. One assumes the vast majority of mothers select names they think sound nice.

  91. LilySparrow*

    LW #3, I think the added dimensions of the issues with your family and the very real underlying discomfort with racial nonconformity are amping up the situation, but it could also exist without either one.

    Lots of people have names just because their parents arbitrarily liked the sound of it. And lots of people with unusual names get sick to death of people asking about it, even when there’s no racial aspect. Some of my family members have very old-fashioned European names that match our ethnicity but are just extremely uncommon today, and Every.Single.New.Person they meet feels compelled to say something about it.

    Maybe if you can reframe it a bit for yourself as a very common annoyance that a lot of people deal with, it might help de-escalate your tension around it.

    You could also just say, “I don’t know, I’ve always had it.” or “It’s a family name.” (Which is true because your family gave it to you). Or “My parents just liked the sound of it, I guess”

    Or you could do a non-sequitur answer and say, “Thanks, I’ve always loved it!”

  92. Ramblin' Ma'am*

    LW #1: A former coworker used to say, “I told the boss I couldn’t come in because of a problem with my eyes. Just couldn’t see myself working today.”

  93. Justin*


    I’m not sure that a recent grad would know why their diploma hadn’t arrived in the mail, or even notice, even after several months. I probably wouldn’t make that mistake but I can see how someone might.

  94. Sarah*

    For the name thing– don’t make it into a bigger deal than it is. Seriously. I get asked about my name all the time. As Alison suggested, I just say something vague/brief like, “I don’t know” or “they liked the sound of it” when I get asked about the origins of my name or the meaning. I just laugh/smile and sometimes ask about their name, too. It is small talk. Sometimes I throw in that after having a unique name, my kids will all having more regular/common names.

    1. Sarah*

      And that’s why my name here is one of the most common names lol. I once counted the number of Sarahs I have known or know now and I lost track after like 10.

  95. LawBee*

    #4 – I don’t see those as red flags at all. A lot of students don’t go to the graduation ceremony, people move after graduation and don’t always update their school with an address, schools don’t always send the “you owe us $100” letter to the right address or on time, it happens. She did complete the degree requirements, and the only reason she didn’t “graduate” was for a minor fine? Whatever – if she’s otherwise a good candidate, I would definitely NOT have pulled the offer.

    On the up side, at least now it’s taken care of. (And – she’s your stepdaughter, so presumably your husband’s daughter. How did he not know she hadn’t paid this fee? Same thing.)

  96. LawBee*

    LW#1 – my friend’s husband has worked for himself for decades. His business finally dried up and he’s been job hunting for a few years now. The thing is, he is a terrible employee! He hates “being told what to do” (as in, being assigned tasks by a supervisor), chafes at having to follow rules that he didn’t lay down, and really does not work well with others.

    If your freelance is really going well, but you are concerned about not having any office experience, why not do both? Get an office job for a while, see if you like it. If not, you still have the freelance, and bonus – when people nag you about “getting a real job”, you can say that you did, and you were doing better on your own.

  97. Reidun Saxerud*

    Alright #3. I’ve come out of lurkdom/various anon names to talk to you!

    I am a white woman with an extremely unusual name. I am literally the only person in the U.S. with my first and last name together, and I’m pretty sure I’m related to anyone in the States with my surname, as far as I know. Most of my ancestry is Norwegian, and as far as I know my first name is common-ish there (still waiting for someone to send me a Coke can with my name on it though, grrr). My name sticks out to most people, in other words.

    I cannot tell you how often I have answered the phone or greeted employers for interviews and they are shocked that I am white, female, and a native English speaker. And American.

    I used to think it gave me a “unique perspective” on race relations, too, and that I somehow had an “in” that most other white people didn’t have. It took a stern “WTF, no, you idiot!” from someone to illustrate how it doesn’t. In fact I was contributing to racism by being bothered by the fact that people assumed I wasn’t white when my name clearly was “white” (I was born and raised in Minnesota…full of white Scandinavian families), and worse, not correcting people or questioning them when they made comments like my name being “exotic” or me not being “what they expected” (which is a whole other thing about employers not doing their homework; I’m easy to find!). And the thing is they never once expected me to be Nordic-looking. I don’t know what they expected; I never asked…but now I wonder if I should have and asked them why.

    I learned a lot in that exchange and know better now. In and of itself, yes, introducing myself to people does provide a unique experience every time, but there really is no way for us white people with unusual names to have any other perspective than white, because we’re still white, and we’re given that “pass” once the person we’re introduced to also knows we’re white. I think that really what I used to think was “unique perspective” on race was just another way of learning how ingrained racism is to us and how we are taught that we have more value because of our skin color.

    I’ve seen a few comments asking about “is it really not okay to ask about names?” and my personal answer is yes. It’s just rude, and potentially racist or classist (such as commenting on spelling of a more common name). Remember that the person with the unusual name has probably had it for their whole life. It’s just like any other sensitive identifying information: ask if it’s okay to ask first, and don’t offer unsolicited comments on it. That’s just my personal take. I love my name too and I would never want to have another one, but I always get congratulated or praised for it…when I didn’t name myself.

  98. JB*

    OP #3 –

    Allison has it right. You don’t have to invent some kind of reason or explanation. You aren’t obligated to tell them anything. If you just say, “There’s no reason” (or something to that effect) it kind of shuts down their ability to ask follow-up questions. Answers like “It’s a long story” are intended to deflect, but it suggests that there is, in fact, a story. As you’ve observed, it opens to door to follow up questions.

    As for being asked about it every single time… There’s not much you can do about that. If it really bugs you, try introducing yourself with a pseudonym or your initials. It isn’t fair that you should have to do this, but many people do it for professional reasons because adopting a pseudonym is just easier than dealing with an awkward name.

    I’m an exceedingly tall person, so everywhere I go I am invariably asked the same questions: “How tall are you?” followed by, “Do you play basketball?” I can’t make myself shorter, even if I wanted to, so I just have to accept that everybody I encounter will ask me these questions.

  99. MJ*

    #4., I don’t think I even noticed if I got my diploma in the mail. I finished college a little later in my 20s and was already working, so the piece of paper wasn’t actually on my radar. It was lumped in with the graduation ceremony in my mind as something I didn’t feel was very important to me personally, so I can see how someone else might not really have it on their radar, either.

  100. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo*


    I realize I’m super late here, but as another white woman with a name that is distinctly African in origin (Nigerian in my case) I just want to knuckle bump in camaraderie.

    There actually *is* a story behind my name – my mother’s parents were missionaries in Nigeria, she was born there, and I was named after her best friend since childhood – but I don’t really want to explain to literally everyone I meet. Over the years I’ve settled on “Dad let Mom name me and she had a baby name book, soooooo” or “Mom just liked it” depending on my mood and the vibe of the conversation.

  101. Kit*

    #3 I used to work with a white woman with an unusual African name. I actually didn’t know it was African until I looked it up out of curiosity. I never asked her about it, but a while after she left the company I met her brother and sister at a party and their names were like Jenna and Charlie, so I couldn’t help but ask Jenna if she knew the story behind her sister’s name. Her parents saw it in a baby name book! That’s it! You should 100% tell people that, it’s quick and there is literally no follow up conversation to be had.

  102. Aaron*

    #4, my prior company was a Fortune 500. This sounds like exactly the kind of thing their rigid, unflexible HR department and policies would do. As the hiring manager, I would argue for reason in a situation like this (never this exact situation, but other ones where the policy was silly and deserved an exception) and would get a hard “no, that’s the policy.”

  103. Lydia*

    I remember a colleague telling me about how she sometimes called in “well.” As in: “I’m too well to come to work today.” And off she’d go to have a delightful, recharging mental-health day. Happily, her boss (an avid angler) totally got it. He decided to start calling in well when the fish were jumping.

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