One woman shared an volitile family fight she shared with her beloved cousin that ended up becoming a very emotionally intense few years.
The OP was so excited for her cousin to give birth to her first baby girl. She had been the Maid of Honor in her cousin's wedding. They were very close.
At her cousin's baby shower, she revealed that she planned to name her daughter Karen. This mother-to-be was not very active on the internet and the OP felt she should tell her that the name Karen had taken on and unfortunate, but well-known, new meaning in the online community. The discussion became a huge family rift that the OP shared on Reddit over three years.
My cousin Stephanie and I are really more friends than relatives. An important note is that she's not really online much, so can be out of the loop on certain memes and jokes in internet culture, and tbh, doesn't really understand the concept of viral internet references or how they work.
Stephanie is pregnant and just found out it's going to be a girl. About a week ago, she told a gathering of her best girlfriends that she's going to name her daughter Karen. The room instantly went cold, but after an awkward silence, everyone else politely said it was lovely. I couldn't bring myself to respond at all.
Later in the evening, when Stephanie was out of the room, everyone was immediately like, 'OMG, that poor kid,' and 'why would she pick Karen of all names?!' I was uncomfortable with this conversation, given that everyone had been so positive about the name to her face.
I thought more about it over the next couple of days, and just felt really weird about the whole thing. The name is really loaded, to the point it could be detrimental to the baby, and Stephanie had no idea of the connotations to make an informed decision.
So a couple of days later, I tentatively brought it up. I told her I was so excited for the baby, and just wanted her to have all available information when picking a name. I then started to explain that Karen has some negative connotations and has become sort of an internet joke to describe a specific kind of entitled middle aged woman.
Stephanie instantly was furious and started talking over me, saying, 'why are you saying this?! This is so mean!!' I was really surprised by her reaction (it felt very, very out of character), so I immediately stopped and said, 'I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I just wanted to tell you something I thought you might not know.'
She replied, 'That's the name I picked for my daughter. And you think I picked it as some kind of joke?! I don't understand why you'd say something so hurtful.'
When she said that, I felt like it signaled that she didn't really understand what I was trying to tell her, so after agonizing for a second about whether to press the issue even though she was so angry, I felt like in for a penny, in for a pound, and since she was already mad, I wanted her to at least understand what I was trying to explain to her.
I googled 'Karen know your meme' on my phone and tried to show her the screen of results while saying, 'look, I'm just saying that there's more meaning to the name than you may realize.'
She stood up, pushed my phone away, and shouted, 'Wow!!' She then stormed out of my home and drove away. My aunt and mom have been berating me all week, because Stephanie told them that I made fun of her baby name. Stephanie has not spoken to me or responded to my texts since.
I can take a hint, and I'm not going to broach a topic again that caused so much distress, but I keep going back and forth on whether I was TA here by bringing it up in the first place.
One more thing: I definitely was not trying to tell Stephanie to not name her daughter Karen. I just wanted her to make the decision either way knowing the connotations, since I'd want someone to do the same for me if I picked a baby name with cultural baggage I wasn't aware of.
I realize now I handled it poorly and was hurtful to Stephanie in the process, but I just wanted to be clear that I wasn't actively trying to talk her out of the name. I just didn't want her to be blindsided if it came up later.
YTA. You really think it's going to matter when this kid's older? It's a meme. Oh and for anyone pregnant or planning to have kids, this is why you don't reveal the name until they're born. Someone's always got something stupid to say, no matter what.
It's actually a really pretty name, which is why so many girls were given it in the 1960s. It's like Kara, or Karly. Names are in fashion, then go out of fashion. Max and Sadie were laughable old-folks names, until that generation was gone, and then suddenly they became new and fresh and cool. The same is happening with Karen. Linda is probably on the way back, too.
YTA I am aware of the Karen meme but come on, it's a totally normal name. I can't believe so many of you would take a meme so seriously.
NAH. You were just informing her of the connotations surrounding the name.
NTA - I would want to know! It’s a hard situation you’re in because if she found out later she’d be angry that you didn’t tell her. People get very sensitive over things like this because, of course, it’s a big deal. I think telling her was right.
YTA. Karen is a completely normal name. You're acting as if your cousin has comitted a faux pas on par with naming her baby Adolf when in reality, the name Karen really carries very little connotation at all and certainly nothing that will be remembered by the time Stephanie's kid is a middle aged woman.
Nobody with half a brain is marching around with the assumption that all Karen's are rude and entitled, the same way as nobody with half a brain is marching around thinking all boys called Harry are wizards or anyone with the surname Bond is a womaniser.
So yes, YTA because your comments were completely uncalled for considering you are supposed to be a friend. Perhaps you should take a leaf out of your cousin's book and spend less time online in order to get some perspective.
Thanks, everyone! I have been properly schooled, and I accept my judgment that I was TA here. Stephanie and I have a history of being extremely open and honest with each other (I was the maid of honor in her wedding, which we planned on being the case from a young age, and we always joked as teenagers that part of my duties would include talking her out of the marriage if the groom she picked sucked.)
So maybe I was too flippant with approaching this topic due to our history, and was not empathetic and underestimated how much she was already invested in the name she chose for her future daughter.
I admit I'm a bit frustrated that Stephanie still doesn't understand what I was trying to tell her (she still thinks I was making some kind of weird, cruel joke accusing her of picking the name as a joke), but I have messaged her a sincere apology that she accepted, and I will never speak of this again, to Stephanie or Baby Karen.
I'll also stand up for Stephanie if her other friends sh*t talk the name around me again. If they're not willing to voice their thoughts to Stephanie directly, they need to not say the kinds of things they were saying behind her back.
My post last summer wasn't the most exciting or dramatic on AITA, but I wanted to provide an update if anyone is interested.
Baby Karen was born healthy and happy back in October. She's an absolute sweetheart of a baby, and I'm totally in love with her. Between March and May, I didn't get to see her at all in person, but I was doing regular FaceTime/House Party calls with Stephanie and Karen
Over the last few weeks, I've been going over to Stephanie's house to sit in her backyard and chat with Stephanie/coo at Karen from a lengthy distance.
I have two reasons for updating. First, I've realized since Karen's birth that her name has taken on new meaning to me. When I'm with her, Karen just means her, and I don't think about the other connotations. In other words, you guys were right!
That said, though, my second reason for updating is that Stephanie got back into her years-unused Facebook at the beginning of the pandemic to keep in touch with people. She's been on it pretty regularly lately for the first time in years (historically, she's not really been into social media).
Most people in our area/social circle have been posting really heavily about BLM and the protests happening right now, as well as justice issues more generally. As a result, Stephanie has now come into contact with a deluge of Karen memes for the first time, and found them confusing and horrifying, especially the use of 'Karen' as shorthand for a nightmare judgmental person.
I've basically just declined to talk about it with Stephanie, because it went so poorly last time, but both my mother and her mother have hounded me about it because it's upsetting to Stephanie, and said things like, 'Is this what you were talking about before? Why didn't you say so? Why didn't you explain it better?! You should have told Stephanie!!'
And Jesus wept!! You really can't win. Thanks again for all your feedback on my last post! It was very helpful in giving me some Zen about the situation.
Wow, I've been super overwhelmed by the flood of very kind, heartfelt PMs (and just one or two not so kind ones) as well as the comments on my other post. Thank you, everyone! It continually amazes me how many nice and empathetic people frequent a sub devoted to a**holes.
Hi all, I've gotten a few PMs over the last couple years asking for updates, and since we just celebrated Karen's third birthday, I wanted to circle back to anyone following this story.
First of all, Baby Karen (not so much a baby anymore!) is doing amazingly on her developmental milestones! She's a very bright child, sharp as the sharpest tack, and extremely tuned into her environment.
Some of what she says is already fully in complete sentences, which just makes me want to cry when I hear it, because it seems like Stephanie was giving birth just yesterday.
Karen loves books already, and will intently study the pictures in them for huge stretches of time and claim to be 'reading.' And you would not believe the uncomfortably incisive questions she's already asking. I am fully convinced this child is going to grow up to be an actual genius.
Regarding the name: unfortunately, when Karen started daycare earlier this year, she started getting grief for her name pretty quickly from the older kids.
The daycare she attends mixes the ages together at a couple of different points throughout the day, and while there fortunately wasn't much direct bullying, two of the age-5s must have heard and internalized the derogatory connotations of the name Karen at home.
As a result, they found her name absolutely hysterical, and they kind of spread the idea to the other kids that there was something funny/wrong about her name. Karen was too little to understand what was happening, but found the other kids' behavior toward her generally upsetting.
The daycare staff made every effort to shut it down, and let Stephanie and her husband know right away. After about a month of this, where the daycare wasn't having much success putting the kibosh on this behavior, and the kids weren't dropping it, Stephanie and her husband made the decision.
Karen would be going by 'Karrie' from now on, which was already an established nickname that a lot of family and friends were already using, and that Karen already recognized as referring to herself. Stephanie and I never really fully revisited what happened during her pregnancy, but when she was telling me about what was happening in daycare, she apologized to me.
I immediately felt terrible and reassured her there was no reason to apologize, emotions are complicated when you're pregnant, and that I thought having Karen go by Karrie was a great solution. (Though changing what you're used to calling someone is f*cking hard, I've found, and I'm still directly addressing her on manual mode, every single time.)
A lot of the responses I got to my last post were gleeful and leaned into the schadenfreude of the situation, and I have to say those responses really bummed me out. I would much, much rather live in a world where I was wrong about the impact Karen's name would have on her. I cannot emphasize enough what a sweet-dispositioned, smart, curious, loving little girl Karrie is, and how much she deserves every good thing in life.
Also: a lot of people didn't like Stephanie in my last post, but I need you to understand that this is a tiny snapshot of a very emotionally high-strung time in her life, and overall, Stephanie is a wonderful lifelong friend. She has gotten me through so many personal crises over the years, and she will never fail to show up for the people she cares about.
Being pregnant and having a strong emotional attachment to the name you've picked out for your daughter is completely understandable, and her pregnancy was pretty rough on her moods. (She once wept uncontrollably at a cat food commercial when she was about seven months pregnant.)
I also think my approach for trying to explain the name issue those years ago was very clumsy, and I could have done a better job of bringing it up. That said, with the distance of time, I am really glad I did broach the topic.
I feel like I owed Stephanie that information, and I can feel good about giving it to her. If I'd chosen not to bring it up at the time, I think I'd have a lot of regrets now. The only thing I'd change now, looking back, is that I would try to bring it up more gently somehow with Stephanie so I could have had the chance to explain.
In summary: all is well! We've run into a little bump in the road with other kids' reactions to Karrie's name, but in some ways, it's better to get this out of the way now, when Karrie doesn't really understand what's happening, than have this happen in kindergarten or elementary school down the road, when full-on bullying could be a risk.
She's adjusting really well to going by her nickname full-time, and Stephanie and her husband are planning on enrolling her with 'Karrie' as her preferred name in all future schooling.
And since schools around here go by preferred name rather than legal name in things like classroom roll-calls, it's possible she can get through K-12 without it ever really being widely known among her peers that her legal name is Karen. (And I really hope this common usage of the name Karen dies down in the next few years!)
Point of clarification: the boys at daycare apparently didn't know that Karen was a name. The way they'd heard it used at home made them think it was just a term used to insult people, and that it might be a 'bad word.' That's why they found it so funny, because, in their worldview, it was like meeting someone named 'fart face.'
The daycare staff explained to them that Karen is a real name, and that lots of people are named Karen, and of course they tried their best to curtail the mockery, but nothing really helped until the name change and a little bit of time had passed. Things at the daycare are now back to normal, the other kids are calling her Karrie, and everyone has (fortunately) moved on.
Please don't harass Redditors who gave a YTA judgment on my first post. They gave their honest judgment at the time in an online space specifically set up for that purpose. I didn't post on an advice sub, I posted on a judgment sub, and there's no reason to call people to the mat for judgments I asked for, made in good faith, from three years ago.
I would like to make one comment about you. You are an incredibly refreshingly person. I'm honestly stunned by the empathetic understanding and caring approach that you have toward the personalities and idiosyncrasies of your friends and loved ones.
For example, understanding that your aunt and mother have sort of reactive personalities and not taking what they critically say in the moment too much to heart, being kind to your dear cousin by simply falling on your sword (so to speak) when she was upset with your attempt to help her understand current connotations to a name.
AND your ability to reflect on your own words and behaviors from the perspectives of others and make adaptations accordingly all speak to your incredible perceptive and kind nature. I have no doubt you are an awesome friend, coworker, relative, and so on. BRAVA to you! I'm so pleased to know you're 'out there'! (p.s., before you 'go there', I know you are human...you're just an exceptionally stunning one!)
So Stephanie can only dish out… what a great friendship you have. LMAO. I’m sorry, but y’alls “friends” suck. Your mom and aunt who blamed you, as well. Gosh I’m glad I have 2 friends and low contact with crazy people.
Thanks for the update! I hope little Karrie never has to deal with ridicule because of her name ever again.
I remember your original post but somehow missed your updates. I never thought you were an AH, and this really validates that imo unfortunately. You’re a really kind and caring friend. Sending strength and good vibes to you and Karrie.
My childhood best friend had a a very silly family surname as her middle name- she tried to keep it under wraps, but a middle school Spanish teacher who wanted everyone to “translate” their full names outed her.
It led to a lot of jokes, but learning to laugh about it with the people trying to tease her really helped disarm them. Now she regularly uses it/related puns in her usernames online. So that’s my advice for when she’s a bit older: find ways to lean in to it.
Maybe Karrie can make some light-hearted jokes at Stephanie’s expense about “having the worst timing ever” to give birth to a Karen before the meme really blew up, or “being terminally offline.”
For those of you who have contacted me asking for an update, I wanted to circle back and close the book on the Baby Karen/Karrie chapter.
As of last month, Karrie is now legally Caroline [Lastname], and she has even been issued a new birth certificate with her new legal name. The daycare bullying issues had already died down since Stephanie and her husband switched to calling her Karrie, but this legal name change now means that the 'Karen' issue won't crop up again when she starts school.
There were also some other minor incidents that pushed Stephanie and her husband to make that decision around a legal name change. They were getting to the point where, almost any time they were having to provide Karen's legal name to get a service, they were getting an immediate reaction, even from adults. It was usually just a meaningful look, but barbed comments were not unusual.
The final straw was when they were at the airport getting ready to fly to visit Stephanie's in-laws with Karrie.
The TSA agent at security made a snarky comment, and then later when they needed to ask the gate agent about their seats, the gate agent rudely laughed at seeing Karrie's ticket, then showed the gate agent standing next to her, who just shook her head and said, 'poor kid' to her co-worker while fully ignoring Stephanie and her husband. (And they had this interaction in front of Karrie.)
Something about that day in the airport was a turning point for Stephanie and her husband, and they started the name change process as soon as they got home. It was much easier than they were expecting, and cost a grand total of $30!
Karrie is a joyful, sociable little girl, and while it's impossible to know right now if these negative experiences caused any lasting damage (and I sincerely hope they did not!), I'm happy to see that she continues to be a very outgoing, confident child.
The conversation with Stephanie I mentioned in my October update was awkward and brief, but we've actually gotten back into it a few times since. Stephanie has apologized profusely for her initial reaction when we first talked, I've apologized for approaching things so poorly, and not telling her right away about what our friends were saying behind her back.
In those conversations, we mainly ended up focusing on the resulting spiraling of my mom and aunt and what a mess that turned into. Together we've started to unpack some of the intergenerational shit around our family issues.
To provide some of that context, our maternal grandparents were a nightmare. Our grandfather was an authoritarian revivalist preacher who was physically abusive and referred to himself as the 'spiritual leader' and ultimate authority of the family. Our grandmother was a manipulative narcissist who psychologically tormented my mom and aunt for their entire childhoods.
As a result, my mom and aunt trauma bonded considerably during their childhood, and grew into extremely anxious and reactive adults. Any whiff of conflict sends them into panic mode, and in our family, we have these well-worn grooves of behavioral habits with my mom and aunt overreacting to anything that feels like discord, and scrambling to clumsily 'smooth' things over.
As a result, Stephanie and I have both been working hard to build better boundaries with our moms' generation, and have agreed to be really cautious about what information we give them, especially anything that is highly emotional. I've been in therapy for a couple of years now, and Stephanie also started therapy late last year.
We've been talking about the ways that my grandparents traumatizing our moms caused intergenerational issues that impacted us, and Stephanie is determined that the cycle ends with her, and that these issues will not go on to touch Karrie.
Thank you, everyone, for your kind words, both here on my profile posts and on the best-of-updates reposts, which I've also been reading. I've gotten some incredibly thoughtful and kind messages, which have meant a lot to me, even if I haven't had the chance to respond to all of them.
For those who may still want to be critical of Stephanie, I again want to emphasize how out of character her initial reaction was, and how much physical, hormonal, and emotional upheaval she was in at the time. These posts are a teeny-tiny window into just one aspect of the dynamic, funny, kind, caring full human being that is my cousin and best friend.
Stephanie has been my most loyal and trusted friend for pretty much my entire life, and she has fully earned some grace for reacting less than perfectly to my [extremely clumsy] approach when she was sleep deprived, hormonally wrecked, and brain fogged.
Stephanie has read these posts now as well, along with most of your comments, and (after I explained to her what Reddit is) they were helpful to both of us in our talks about our weird family dynamic.
I can't imagine I'll have any more updates down the line, but thanks for following along the last few years.
One final reminder as this is being posted in the updates sub: please don't tag or send harassing messages or comments to anyone who gave me a YTA judgment three years ago. People gave me an honest judgment based on the information available at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20.
Why do you apologize for your approach again and again? You did nothing wrong... You keep trying to meet her halfway all the time, just stop. Stephanie botched it, so did your mom and aunt, end of story. Own this power that you were 100% right and they 100% wrong.
'poor kid' to her co-worker while fully ignoring Stephanie and her husband. - What a beautiful karmic slap. Sure Stephanie must have wished she saw your screen for 2 seconds that day huh?
So in summary, what you feared came to pass and somehow a lot of people called you an AH on Reddit? Even though this is what you thought could happen with the name! I’m surprised people called you an AH when all you did was broach the sink awkwardly. And how can your dear friend think you were making fun of her baby s name?? Aren’t you guys actually close?
I remember you initial YTA vote OP, and then each year after watch the association with the name get worse and worse. I’m just glad it never truly affected Karrie. Thank for the update.
Vindication for OP.
And I just gotta say OP you’re pretty gracious. You were always correct and your cousin was always wrong for not only not heeding your warning but for not even considering it and shutting you down. She should have at least done a little research once you brought it up. I know you will never type this or tell her directly I told you so, but I’m glad the situation turned out great for all in the end.
Thanks for updating! I think we’ve all been in a situation where you had to deliver unwelcome news to the benefit of someone you care about, and I’m glad it has turned out well. You and Stephanie seem to have great communication and trust, and I think we’ve all done nutty things when pregnant. I hate that people were so horrible about a child’s name that they had to change it.