Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Try fitting this on a nametag

Hello my name is buttonstore.com Sometimes it takes me an embarrassingly long time to answer the simple question “What’s your name?” Because there are two possible answers--three if the conversation is taking place in writing, since you then have to throw an alternate spelling in the mix as well.

During the moments of gape-mouthed silence before I respond, I have to consider the context, tracing back my relationship with the person I’m meeting to its original source. How do I know her? What other people do we know in common, and how do I know them? Because if you are a member of my family or met me in grade school, high school, or college, then you think my name is Cathie (I know…dopey “ie” spelling adopted in 6th grade, sorely regretted later after I’d made too big a stink to go back). If you are a member of my husband’s family, or you met both him and me at the same time, or you met me during my first post-college job, then you think my name is Cathy. If you met me during any subsequent job, then you think my name is Catherine.

Add in all the degrees of separation among my acquaintances and it just gets way too complicated. Even though I met him while at my second job, I’m Cathy to my husband (and therefore his family, his friends, and half our neighbors here in Mayberry) because I met him through people who knew me during my first job. I’m Catherine to the other half of our neighbors and friends here because I met them when my husband wasn’t around (at yoga class or playgroup) and that’s what I’d really rather be called. People say “Wait, do you go by Cathy or Catherine?” and I mumble some gibberish about answering to both.

Then, if it’s a child asking the question, I face another round of fumbling. Around here most adults are “Mrs. Mayberry” or at the very least “Miss Catherine.” So now I’m second-guessing, trying to figure out how the kid’s parents want me to answer the question—what their standards of etiquette are for their offspring.

It might be simpler in the end to clear the decks and have everyone call me Mayberry Mom, no? I’ll get it tattooed on my right breast, since that’s where everyone’s looking (so says Mom-101, and she knows from boobs). I might have to abbreviate, though.

11 comments:

lildb said...

har! the sixth-grade spelling revamp. oh, yeah. I fell into that barrel o' fun, too. I was Debbie, but then I became alternately Debi/Deby/Debbi/Debbe/Debe/Debby - I eventually lost track. And went back to Debbie, w/out too much ensuing confusion.

And now, with all the world a Deborah (b/c who in their right mind would go by a name that connotes a cheerleader from Dallas who does verrrrry naughty things?), I stick to my guns. I am Debbie. because I thumb my nose at pretense. and I like post-modernism. (or, at least, I tell myself that in order to feel better about the whole stupid thing.)

Elizabeth said...

I have the same problem! To most of my family I am Betsy, the nickname I had until the day I went to college and insisted on Elizabeth. But my Dad, who doesn't care what name I use, now calls me Elizabeth. So we will be at a family reunion, and my Aunts and Uncles and cousins are calling me Betsy, and my Dad and husband are calling me Elizabeth.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I'd go with Mayberry Mom.

Would people in your town be amused or insulted to know you call it that?

By the way in this town the kids all call the adults by their first names, except at school or in doctor's offices. I wish I was a Mrs. I _feel_ like a Mrs., these days. I feel like I have finally earned adulthood!

Mom101 said...

I've always been Liz. Of course the grandmother does say Elizabeth from time to time but I made it perfectly clear as a kid that I was NOT an Elizabeth!

There was that Lizi phase for a while - circles over the i's and all. But we dont' talk about that.

I'm still giggling over the idea of Miss Catherine. So formal!

bubandpie said...

I have a shorten-able name as well. Almost everybody I know in a non-work-related context calls me by my nickname, which feels comfortable and right to me even though I actually never use that name myself, either in speech or writing (I always go with the full name).

Then there's the issue of my last name. When I got married to now-husband, I changed my last name to his everywhere except at work, where I continued to use the ex-husband's last name, which just felt natural to me because that's the name I had used for all my adult life. Except that now I'm feeling less and less like that's my name, and more and more like it's a strange pseudonym that just happens to be just like my ex-husband's name (and why would I want my pseudonym to remind me of him???).

I have a friend who insists on the "Miss Catherine" thing, which I find absolutely bizarre for a married woman. My former day-care provider insisted that her children call me "Mrs. Last Name," which I found equally problematic because (a) they couldn't pronounce it properly, and (b) the implication seemed to be that my son should call her Mrs. Last Name as well, which seems somehow odd for a home-care provider. Personally, I prefer the first-name basis, but you're right about not wanting to step on another parent's toes.

mothergoosemouse said...

I did not know that. And here I've been calling you Cathy. I can easily change over to Catherine though, since that's what they like to call CJ at school.

I've never really messed with my name. It's hard to change "Julie".

Debbie - I knew a girl in college named Debra who went by "Debz". No shit.

Elizabeth - I love the nickname Betsy!

TB said...

I changed the spelling of my name from Tammy to Tammie in the 4th grade because I thought it needed more flair. Now I'm stuck with it. I feel your pain Mrs. Mayberry, I mean Cathie, I mean...

Binkytown said...

I can completely relate. I'm one of three names at any particular time and also mumble when people ask me what I prefer. I usually say whatever.. I've got enough to think about, I really don't care.

jennster said...

i COULD have 3rd graders everywhere calling me jennster- now THAT would be good times, good times. lol

mamatulip said...

I hate it when people just go ahead and assume it's okay to call me Kathy (my name is Katherine). I *LOVE* my name and prefer to be called by my full name and while most people ask which I'd like to be called, it really bugs me when people just up and call me Kathy.

Okay. Rant over...

Kat said...

I actually found your blog after yet another person arbitrarily abbreviated my name. It's Kathleen. I don't mumble when I pronounce it, in fact I stress the "leen" and 9 times out of 10 I get a "Thanks, Kathy" in response. My boss, Mort, thinks I'm over-reacting, to which I start calling him Mortie and he leaves me alone.

As for the distinction in name based on the area of your life, I had the same thing. Kathy for all people who knew me until I was 18, then college nicknames (Shaqleen being the most popular), then Kathleen (or Kat) when I had control over my name.

I know realize this is why blogs wer invented... so you can politely and passively explain what you'd really like to be called. Good luck!