Hi Duana,

I have an odd dilemma for you, it may be more of an etiquette thing but totally name based. 

I am 50 and single, I am on a dating site that I am not invested in and received an introductory message from a man yesterday. On the site I go by a false name, because if you looked up my first name, city and profession you would find me. I have had men contact me and show up in the past as if they were entitled to do so. I go by Kimberly on the site, not a favorite for me but a name option my mom had for me while pregnant. Today I had a messaged introduction from a 60 year old surgeon (who is probably 63-65) who greeted me as Kim. This was an immediate turn off to me, this unasked nickname. A friend of mine that I mentioned it to was horrified that I would balk at a such a small slight (in her opinion). To me it showed great disrespect to not call me by my very fake first name or not request if he could call me Kim or ask if I went by Kim.


I want to know what you think of this from a manners perspective (or any perspective) and from what Lainey has described about your taste in men (which sounds good to me!) I would like to know how you would see this situation. This name thing is very important to me, I love to read what you say about names and meanings. This person who couldn’t address me, straight out of the gate, by the only moniker he knows seems disrespectful and/or arrogant.




Hey L, 

I love love love this question, and I love you for helping expand the breadth of what this column can be – this is absolutely a names question, as well as being a totally different kind of question, so I’m delighted. 

I have to say, first of all, that I understand where this question comes from. My name, and its rarity, means that I’m always aware of no anonymity if I decided to kick up a fuss on Nextdoor or start a Grindr profile or something. Not that I’m so famous, just that my name plus a city kind of equals… me. 


Where shortening Kimberly to Kim is concerned, I immediately thought a few things. First, that since this is a surgeon, he might be very used to trying to put people at ease – not necessarily by using or assuming a nickname, but by being familiar in order to counteract the drama of the situation about to unfold, which I can also see playing out in terms of someone trying to take away the inherent awkwardness of online dating, you know? 

On top of that, I immediately thought of all the people who, when they’re referred to by their legal names on forms or whatever, immediately go incredulous. They are JEN, Jennifer is almost a swear word, or they’ve been Bobby so long that it wouldn’t even occur to them to answer to Robert. Especially since you include this guy’s age, it may be that he’s just operating from the perspective of someone who grew up in an era where a nickname was a default, and a full name was essentially fighting words. Maybe he even is one of these people? You don’t tell us his name (correctly, I might add) but someone who sees the world from the perspective of a Chuck or a Billy is going to be much more inclined to think that obviously you’re a Kim, you know?

All that said, there was something else playing at the edges of this note, something in the respect-and-etiquette of the whole thing that kind of made me wonder if there’s something else at play here – so I asked everyone’s best Tell-It-Like-It-Is friend Sasha to see if she could enlighten us a little, and here’s what she said: 

“Look, I am all for respect and all for feeling heard but to write-off someone or deem them disrespectful for shortening your name is a bit over the top. You didn't ask for my advice but here I am: slow your roll and give this guy a chance. If it bothers you that much, which it clearly does, you can easily write the dude back and politely correct him "oh actually I go by Kimberly. So nice to be connected with you blah blah blah". It's really an easy problem to solve.


Sasha also pointed to your friend’s reaction as an indication that … you're throwing up barriers even before things can even remotely heat up. Is this a pattern of yours? I mean, you're even lining him up to be a liar about his age.”

You know, I kind of have to agree with her – it’s not that you don’t deserve to be called exactly and only what you want to be, and it makes sense that when you’re meeting someone new, and in this limited capacity, you only have so much to go on. But …is it possible there’s something else about this person that is giving you discomfort, and you’re channeling it into the name thing? It’s fine if so – all we have is our gut – but you might ask yourself whether something else tipped you off, or if this has more to do with past patterns than with his message, especially since you mention you’re ‘not invested in’ this site. 

The other thing I’d point out is that respect, and taking things at face value, cuts both ways – you don’t say whether you eventually intend to reveal your real name to people, or whether you would be Kimberly through the dating process, in which case, I have to tell you, there might be people who would be writing equal-and-opposite letters going, “she lied about her name! It was totally different!”, and feeling like they had trust issues as a result. 

I’m very curious about how you feel about this after a few days to sit on it (and maybe more interactions on the site) and also whether you’d consider using a name that doesn’t have shortening potential to see whether that gives you different feelings about the whole thing. On the whole, nicknames are a real black and white thing – you’re either in or you’re out – but I’m not sure an unauthorized use of one is a red flag all on its own.

Let us know!