The problem: I’ve been married for 20 years, and have been with my husband for 22 years. I did not take his name. Every year on my birthday, my mother-in-law sends me a card with a $25 check. Every year, she inscribes it to me, using my husband’s last name. This is getting old, but at this point is there anything I can do?

Low road: Return the check to sender, stamped with “No one by that name at this address.”

High road: I do imagine that this is getting old — two decades old! But, we’re all getting old, so I’m going to base my answer on that inevitability. I don’t know your MIL, but I am guessing (using my impeccable math skills) that she comes from a generation where most women did take their husbands’ names in holy matrimony. I am certain that, 20 years in, she is fully aware that you use your own family name in personal and professional endeavors — from your checkbook to your mailing labels to your tax returns.

You could ask her to please address you by your correct name, and even be a little playful: “If you change it, I promise not to change husbands!” But … don’t. Consider this: She remembers you every year on your birthday.

Ask your friends how many of their MILs send them checks on their annual milestones. Heck, I wouldn’t care if someone addressed a check to Whatshername, as long as I could cash it. Requiring her to shift at this point could cause an unnecessary rift. So create a new birthday ritual: Open your cards, have a good laugh and go spend that money on personalized stationery.


Send questions about life’s little quandaries to Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at