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Topless teen to ruin family hols

Q I've booked a family sun holiday and have agreed that our 20-year-old son can bring his girlfriend along. I feel this will be our last family holiday, as I know my son is only coming because he's a student and broke, and our girls are aged 16 and 12. Then the other night my son announced that his girlfriend will be sunbathing topless on holiday.

She is 19. I'm against this, as our 16-year-old has struggled with body image issues and is a little overweight, and our 12-year-old is very timid and while we're trying to bring her out of herself, we don't think this will help. There's also the embarrassment factor and not knowing where to look.

It's extremely important to my son that he feels he's a sophisticated man of the world, so how do I put my foot down without being accused of treating him like a child?

A I appreciate that this is an awkward position to find yourself in because you want to keep everyone happy and not let any tension ruin your final family holiday. However, it's understandable that you want to shield your younger girls. It's not particularly appropriate for your son's girlfriend to announce her plans to sunbathe topless whilst on holiday with you, but she sounds like she's going through a rebellious phase.

My advice is to say nothing until you're away and see what happens as she may decide to scrap the idea altogether. If she does sunbathe topless in front of the whole family, then I strongly advise for you to discreetly suggest she sunbathes somewhere private and separate from everyone else. Your son may be an adult now but you have the right and responsibility to protect the others.

QMy boyfriend's nickname for me is Chubby Chops as I've a bit of a round face. I didn't mind when we first got together, as I was so mad about him he could have called me Fat Cheeks and gotten away with it. Now I'm fed up with being called something which you buy in a butcher's. I've told him this but he only laughed and then started calling me it more just to annoy me. I don't want to be cross with him as he's doing the Junior Cert and I'm trying to be supportive but he is really beginning to do my head in.

AIt sounds like it's more of an affectionate name than anything overly offensive, but he must realise that you're beginning to feel self-conscious and would rather he stopped. It's about time he learned to take you seriously when you request for him to quit with the name calling.

My advice is to ask him to stop once again and make sure he knows that you're being serious this time. However, don't show that you're annoyed in any way. Just remain cool and calm so that he does not use it as ammunition to annoy you with. If this doesn't work, I suggest you simply ignore his behaviour until he realises that it's time to stop and that his immaturity is failing to impress you.

QMy boyfriend proposed two weeks ago and I was delighted to say "yes". We've been together five years so I was sort of expecting it. But already differences of opinion are cropping up. He wants me to take his surname when we marry.

This has come out of nowhere as we've never discussed it and I simply assumed that this was a really old-fashioned thing to do and I would maintain my own name.

Secondly, he wants us to have a joint account. I am opposed to this as I have been financially independent since shortly after leaving college. I feel strongly about keeping my own account in spite of the fact that my boyfriend earns marginally more than me so, technically, I would benefit from having access to his money. But I don't want to have this automatic right. Any thoughts on how we can resolve these disagreements?

AWhile a marriage is all about teamwork and supporting each other, I do believe that it's important to agree on certain ground rules before embarking on married life. The issue of possibly changing your surname is absolutely personal and I don't believe that you should feel under pressure by him or anyone else to change it. I also feel that it's old-fashioned and also a lot of work to change your passport, credit cards etc. If you have built a career on your name, then the professional repercussions are also something to consider.

You must reach a compromise and don't let him bully you into it.

You may want to consider taking on a double-barrelled name at some stage in the future to please both of you. As for the joint bank account, that's another thing that requires plenty of consideration and there's no rush to do it immediately.

I would always encourage women to maintain their independence as much as possible. Stand your ground and strive to reach an agreement with him that works for you both.