Ask Amy: My sister’s name is Karen, and she gets ridiculed by strangers

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Dear Amy: My sister was christened “Karen.” She works in a public service job that requires wearing a name tag.

Since the “Karen” meme became a thing, the abuse she has to take from customers about it is pretty bad, especially from teenagers, 20-somethings and men, who snicker at her name and make jokes about it, even to her face.

It puzzles me how in this supposedly culturally enlightened age, a person’s name can generally be used to define a type of bad behavior, especially when using the term is essentially name-calling in itself.

Not every Karen is a “Karen,” and it has become humiliating for her to wear her name badge or even introduce herself to new people in social situations.

I’ve suggested she use her middle name or another form of Karen, but she is reluctant to change her name. After all, it’s the name our late parents gave to her.

How would you recommend she respond to people who react this way?

Sister: Until this meme-scape passes, your sister might reconsider altering her name tag at work, either to display her middle name, or perhaps to “K,” “Kay” or some such. If her workplace is amenable and her name tag is large enough, she could use three names: “(Not THAT) Karen.”

The reason for any alteration is not to repudiate her beautiful and respectable birth name, but to waylay the “humor” of overgrown babies and jerks who should know better than to degrade her — while she is serving them, no less!

Of course, your dedicated sister should always treat all customers well. Right now, she might be required to bear the burden of customer ridicule with grace. The way to do so is to maintain a neutral facial expression and quietly wait until a customer’s “comedy” has run out of steam.

It’s the facial version of a slow clap.

Here’s my suggested fantasy “comeback,” for when she is frustrated: “Careful, pal. I might demand to see the manager.”

Fantasizing about — but not delivering — this line might help her to get through these moments.

Dear Amy: My brother died suddenly during a major coronavirus surge. His family and mine live on opposite coasts.

Some of them are anti-vaccine and think covid is “not that bad,” including my brother’s daughter, who is an ER nurse.

I worried that if I attended the funeral, they would not follow covid safety guidelines, so I made the difficult decision to stay home. When I called my brother’s daughter to extend my condolences and tell her I would not be coming, she flipped out.

She used the f-word in telling me I am pathetic and said that if my parents were alive, they would be ashamed of me. She hung up. I assumed this was her grief talking and that she would eventually come around and apologize. She hasn’t.

She is now engaged. My entire family, including my grown daughters, will be invited to the wedding, except for me. My daughters decided on their own to decline the invitation.

Here’s my dilemma: My youngest sister told me that none of this would have happened if I had gone to the funeral. She wants me to explain my reasoning to our niece.

I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for prioritizing my health. I already explained my reasons, and she didn’t accept them.

I think the only way she will come around is if she sees how her actions are going to affect her. There will be future family events, such as my daughters’ weddings, that she will be invited to. What is she going to do? Not come?

Excluded: The only thing I notice is that you don’t report ever actually asking whether the funeral would be conducted according to coronavirus-safe guidelines. You made some assumptions and made your decision based on these assumptions.

Aside from that, I don’t see any justification for apologizing to someone who has behaved as your niece has.

I hope you will find ways to stay connected with other family members. This sort of drama is sometimes the trigger for extended estrangements.

Dear Readers: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255, has recently changed its name and made it easier for people to make contact.

The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is now a simple three-digit contact: 988. The website is

I urge parents and teachers to do their best to spread the word.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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