Sunday, June 10, 2001

Names names names!

It's remarkable how important our names and monicker are to others.

I have used many names over the years. Most have been made up by me, some have been made for me by others, some I borrowed. I used them because of lifestyle or politics or mental illness. Whatever the reason, process or result, I have had to suffer the ramifications of those many names: using the wrong name at the wrong time, having different groups of people who call me different names collide in a social situation, forgetting what name you know me by, etc. These days, I am Dick Mac or Richard Mac. The repertoire has narrowed and the collision of names has pretty much ceased. Face it, there isn't a terribly wide variety in my current catalogue of monickers.

I remember a young woman attorney with whom I had become friends, we will call her Ms. Jones. She and I got to know each other a bit as she went from law school, through the bar exam, to being an associate in the firm at which I worked. We were not good friends, per se, just friendly in the office. We'd gossip and share bits of info about our lives outside the office. Though I do not recall what she looked like, I remember her as attractive, which would be criteria for being friendly with a young woman attorney in a law firm environment.

A few years into her legal career Ms. Jones and her fiancee, Mr. Smith, fast approached their wedding date. She was gone for a while on a honeymoon, and the first time I saw her in the office, it was with big smiles and warm wishes that we greeted one another.

"Welcome back, Mrs. Smith!" I exclaimed. Since I was being sincere and was genuinely excited about her marriage, I thought this was a friendly, giggly, almost girlish way to greet her.

She stiffened! Her face dropped, and she became rather stern. "I am a successful, independent, professional woman," she scolded. "I would never take a man's name after marriage."

I was a bit put-off. Many Miss Joneses keep their maiden names, but that doesn't make them any less Missus Smiths after the nuptials. I apologized and stammered that I knew she kept her maiden name, I was just referring to her by her formal married name. No offense was intended. She turned redder, became more frustrated and gave me a lecture about independence and equality and (what she passed off as) feminism. I was furious, but somehow kept my composure.

"I understand," I said quietly. "You are your own woman and refuse to take your husband's name; you've decided to keep your father's name. How progressive!" And I turned and walked away.

She never spoke to me again. She seems never to have told anyone about it; but, I leap at the chance to tell the story!

When I got married, I became Mr. & Mrs. Richard Mac, which has taken some getting used to. I am also one half of Anne & Dick Mac. Anne's maiden name has never been any difficulty for us; professionally she is Ms. D, and socially she is Mrs. Mac. It's all been rather simple.

With my history of 'name that name' I had my fears about how this marriage/names thing would work. I am totally comfortable with Anne using any name she chooses. Face it, when you've had as many names as me, it is futile to criticize another's choice of names.

Upon my return to The King's Wardrobe, last weekend, the staff was all smiles and
greeted me warmly: "Welcome back, Mr. D!"

The first time it happened, last Autumn, I wasted some of my life explaining to the
friendly and rather perplexed young man that although my wife's name was D, my name was Mac. He smiled, asked forgiveness, we laughed about it, he apologized again, I went on my way. Next time I saw him, he was all smiles: "Good morning, Mr. D!" I smiled, thought about how to politely correct him, and realized it was futile! Face it, I am Mr. D.

I have become Mr. D. Here in England, outside of my office and tiny social circle, I am known as Anne D's husband. Mr. Mac xists only as paperwork at Her Majesty's Immigration and my employer. Everywhere else, I am Mr. D! Our doormen call me Mr. D, the moving company calls me Mr. D, today the housing consultant called my office and asked for Richard D, the London company to receive our possessions calls me Mr. D, I assume this will continue!

I will keep you posted.