#887: “Naming myself.”

Hi Captain,

(Pronouns, Her,She)

I changed my name two years ago. I changed both my first name and last name and removed my middle name. My previous name was fairly innocuous although it more obviously denoted my heritage (Irish). My current name is also fairly innocuous and my first name is also quite similar in many ways to my old first name.

Most of the people in my life have adapted very easily and respectfully to calling me by my new name.

My mom struggled but she mostly tries and sometimes does a mashup of my old and new names. I just remind her of my new name and she takes the reminder well.

I have a problem with my aunt though. She believes that I need to give her a good enough reason for why I changed my name before she will call me by my new name. My reasons are entirely for spiritual growth/soul thrill but most people are going to be weirded out by that so I just say because I feel the name suits me better as a person (which is also true).

She’s not someone who would be respectful of my spiritual beliefs anyway.

I just don’t know how to approach this claim that she needs to validate my reason of my name change! My reply at the time was a swift F you and EXIT SCENE LEFT THROUGH DOOR THAT DID NOT SLAM PROPERLY… but I would really like to wrap my head around it and be able to stand up for myself more calmly.

Thank you so much for your time whether you post or not!

Best,

Someone who loves my new name!

Dear New Name,

I don’t know how much you hang out with this aunt after the Day of The Unsuccessful Door Slam, but when you cross paths again, if your name becomes an issue again, try this:

I don’t know that there is a reason that will satisfy you. It was important to me to do it and it makes me happy to have done it. I don’t want to fight with you or keep having to justify a decision that’s mine to make. Do you want to have a relationship with me, New Name, or not?

If Aunt still refuses to call you by your name, then you know she’s chosen “or not.” It’s your human right to name yourself, and it’s a really hostile & rude thing to purposely and continually call someone by the wrong name.

I hope the next time you see her it all goes better.

 

 

233 comments
  1. I’m with Captain. If “it’s important to me” isn’t good enough for her, then she isn’t good enough for you. Just because she’s related to you doesn’t mean you have to have a relationship, and if she carries on showing that she is happy to do something as fundamentally disrespectful as to steamroller your very identity, then she doesn’t respect you enough to be worth the effort of a relationship. But I hope that she does, once you’ve made it clear that this is very important to you.

    It might be hard to hear people telling you the best thing might be to walk away from a relationship with a family member, I understand that. But it doesn’t have to be permanent. One day she might decide that refusing to call you by your real, chosen name isn’t worth losing her niece. Maybe another family member will have a word with her and set those wheels in motion, but obviously that’s out of your control.

    I had this conversation with my mother a while back. I have a cool name that’s derived from a cute mispronunciation of my original name by my little brother, but it actually sounds nothing like it. All of my family and close friends happily call me by my chosen name except for my mother, who stubbornly refused to call me anything but my birth name because “I chose that name for you as a gift for you because it’s so beautiful! It really hurts my feelings that you won’t use it!” Tried to explain that my identity isn’t about her and her feelings, to no effect whatsoever. Tried a few other things, because like you I can’t tell her the truth: hearing my birth name, especially from her, is immensely triggering for me because she used to scream it just before taking all her anger out on me in horrible traumatising ways. So eventually I just told her it was very important to me and if she thought my identity was more about her than about me then I would find it very hard to continue having a relationship with her. And I didn’t speak to her for several months. She was upset, although I noticed she didn’t bother trying to contact me. I think it worked, though. It’s taken me over 20 years, but a few days ago she sent me an email addressed to my birth name but with “[chosen name], for you X” in brackets next to it. I can’t even explain how huge a breakthrough that is.

    Hope you get one too. Good luck!

    • sam said:

      I was going to suggest, if forced to interact with aunt in the future, and she continues to disrespect LW’s name, that LW just start calling aunt by a name that is not aunt’s name. And if aunt challenges her, simply state that “clearly aunt thinks it’s perfectly appropriate to call people by names that are not their names, so I’m just getting in the spirit of things”

      Obnoxious? Yes. And really only called for if aunt continues to be a jerk.

      • sam said:

        Oops, this was meant to be a reply to jellotheocracy below. Damn iPad.

      • I’ve used this tactic to good effect after trying everything else.

        • YMMV. I tried this on my mother but it just made her angry and “so now do you understand how I feel when you call me a name I don’t want to be called?” just gets “don’t be so stupid, that’s completely different BECAUSE IT’S YOUR NAME.”

          • neverjaunty said:

            Yeah, the ‘how do YOU like it’ only works on people who are actually missing the concept that what they are doing hurts someone else. People who don’t give a shit about hurting others will simply see it as ‘it only counts when you do it to me’.

          • johann7 said:

            Seconding neverjaunty; if one wants a passive strategy, I suggest simply not responding to the wrong name at all.

            I would still suggest a direct strategy (instead of passive) crafted to make Aunt’s intentional misnaming both irritating and boring: instead of not responding at all, respond with, “You need to call me [name], it is my name.” (Back to conversation thread before Aunt used the wrong name.) “But REEEEEEEEEEASONS.” “[Aunt], you need to call me [name], it is my name.” (Back to conversation thread before Aunt used the wrong name.) “But I don’t UNDERSTAAAAAAAAAAAND.” “You don’t need to understand, you need to call me [name], it is my name.” (Back to conversation thread before Aunt used the wrong name.) “Something ELLLLLLLLLLLLLLSE.” “Please call me [name].” etc. Make it as matter-of-fact and boring as possible. If you get fed up with it first, you can say something like, “I can’t keep trying to have a conversation when you keep doing something that you know bothers me and that I’ve asked yo to stop. I’m going for a walk etc.,” and then walk away from the conversation.

          • Thanksforallthefish said:

            Loving @johann7 response

          • thebearpelt said:

            That is super frustrating.

            Altho possibly there is some satisfaction if others see that retort for the bullshit that it is? Being able to stare at the rest of the family with a “you see what I have to deal with?” kind of look could be satisfying if nothing else.

          • Emma said:

            As someone who also changed my name, and who has faced this exact issue with my father, I finally settled on “not anymore” as my response. Sometimes with “not legally” tossed in for variety. I usually toss out one of the two the first time he does it in that current situation, then just don’t respond to my old name. (I, personally, am willing to compromise with letting him get away with not using any name for me, but ymmv.) It’s not a perfect solution – he’s still huffy about it, and ten years on is still unwilling to use my new name (I honestly don’t think he even remembers what it is, although it’s literally just my old middle name), but he no longer tries to persuade me to go back to using my old name or demands my reasons for changing it.

        • manybellsdown said:

          I’ve done this to guys who insist on calling me pet names like “hon” or “darling” after I’ve politely asked them to use my actual name. I just come up with weirder and weirder pet names for them. It usually only takes a couple rounds of “sugarbooger” and “snorklemumpus” before they get the hint.

          • …WhingePartner is hereafter “snorklemumpus” during cuddly moments.
            Okay, maybe not. But that’s still brilliant and hilarious. 😀

        • Witchsistah said:

          MIL misspelled and mispronounced my name no matter how many times her son, my now husband, told her and wrote it down. So on a thank you note, I totally butchered the fuck out of her name. She’s gotten it right ever since.

      • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

        This! My daughter is named after my husband’s beloved and departed grandmother. It’s a lovely name that is not common but fits right in with all of the other female names in her class. It is also very easy to mispronounce and those who aren’t paying attention often miss the “a” at the end of her name so they unknowingly give her a different name (ex: Isabella vs. Isobel). Most people correct the name once it’s pointed out.
        Last year one of the girls in my daughter’s girl scout troop (to which I am one of the leaders) kept referring to my daughter by the wrong name and never made any attempt to correct the pronunciation when my daughter corrected her. (They’re 11, so this was not a case of very young girl too little to know better). Finally I stepped in and asked this girl to stop butchering my daughters name. Her response was “Whatever, it’s just a stupid name!” This same little girl is Turkish and has a lovely name that is also easy to mispronounce so for the next hour or two I purposely did so. She kept correcting me and I gave her the same reply she gave me about my daughters name. She didn’t look all too happy to have her words thrown up at her in that way but she hasn’t mispronounced the name again!

        • My name can be pronounced in about three or four different ways depending on the first vowel sound. I prefer it with a short E sound – like “egg” – but I don’t mind if it comes out as a long A – like “day”. However, I will correct someone if they use a long E sound like “eel”. This usually doesn’t bother people too much, but I once had a positively ridiculous fight with someone who insisted that the spelling of my name meant it *had* to be pronounced with a long E (there are also several ways to spell my name, for added fun). Note that my name is Celtic in origin and if you want to get into how we transliterate Celtic languages into Roman characters, we’re gonna be here for a while. Just shut up and call people what they want to be called, within reason.

          • CJ said:

            Someone once tried to debate me about the pronunciation of my last name. She claimed that everyone else she’s met with the same name pronounced it differently. I managed to keep my cool and flatly informed her that everyone she’s met is hardly representative of everyone with that name. She had no response.

          • Emmers said:

            Time out… “transliterate” Celtic languages? Are they normally written in a non-roman alphabet?

          • whingedrinking said:

            Time out… “transliterate” Celtic languages? Are they normally written in a non-roman alphabet?

            (Out of nesting). Depends how strictly we’re defining “transliterate”. Historically there have been other alphabets for some Celtic languages, like ogham for Irish Gaelic; other languages appear to have been exclusively oral until the Romans showed up, so I’m not sure if that counts. Any of those languages that are still in use, like Welsh, are written in Roman characters now, though. In any event, my name doesn’t follow English spelling rules because it isn’t English; it’d be like someone trying to insist Siobhan is pronounced “sigh ub han”.

      • Mel Reams said:

        I am sincerely tempted to try this if my mother in law keeps addressing letters to Husband and Mel Husband’s Last Name. Not necessarily because I believe it will help, but out of a combination of spite and lack of interest in whether or not my mother in law likes me. My dad’s speech at my wedding went into detail about how stubborn I am, so nobody gets to say they weren’t warned 🙂

    • I’ve been know to use a slightly different tactic. My first name frequently gets reduced down to a very childish diminutive that I *loathe.* I mean hate with a passion hereto forth unknown by mankind. I have *never* gone by that version, even when I was a small child. So when someone starts calling me that, I warn them very strongly that my name is X, not Y, and I will not respond to X. I usually give them 2-3 warnings, and then I do exactly that–ignore anything but the correct version of my name.
      I’ve had people get mad/pissy with me over it, but I just tell them, “I told you my name is X. You did not say X, so obviously you weren’t talking to me.” (On a side note, I used the same tactic with some coworkers on a temp job where we were working with a transgender lady (I believe), but my *charming* coworkers were using the masculine version of her name. I just kept saying, “I don’t know who you’re talking about.” Eventually, they caught on.) Either way, it tends to work…

      • Malia76 said:

        I once had a manager (not mine praise God) call me by a Stupid Diminutive, several times down a public hallway in a chirpy tone of voice that goes with Stupid Diminutive Name. I totally ignored him, like I hadn’t heard. When he finally caught up with me in my office he was like, “Didn’t you hear me?” I gave him a look I learned from my cat, “You were talking to me? That’s not my name.”

  2. I changed my first name about two years before my transition. There were folks like your aunt who went out of their way to demand I somehow give them a good enough reason for them to respect me. Since I wasn’t ready to be out about my transition, and it was an oddball name, I didn’t bother to justify it at all.

    The folks in my life that did this got a range of responses. I’d start by telling them although they didn’t have to get it, they did have to respect my choice. Most did. The sticklers? I told them they were rude, straight up.

    It helps a lot to have friends, family, and significant others correct them constantly. They are not messing up your new name on accident. They are doing it to make a point. Friends etc, can socially pressure them into changing.

    My other tactic was to rename the offender. It works best if you can do it with a laugh and keep it light.

    The reality is your aunt may never come around. Some folks just don’t care about other people’s wishes because they think it s weird, and that gives them a platform to justify their behavior. For me, none of those folks were kept around because I figured if they couldn’t deal with a name change, they were not going to be cool about a gender change.

    • thepaintedlady said:

      I have a name that is uncommon but also similar to several other really common names. Calling people by the wrong name and explaining you were just assuming that person was okay with everyone picking their own names for other people works so so so well. Occasionally it brings forth a (hilarious) huff and/or flounce, but you know what? Worth it to me.

      • Sorry for going off on a tangent, but this reminds me of something. I was so pissed off when I met a woman with a beautiful and unusual name that sounds a lot like a much more common one, who’s severely disabled and can’t speak, and ALL the staff in the care home where she lives refer to her by the wrong, more common name. Imagine everyone in your life calling you by the wrong name but you can’t tell them and you’re totally dependent on them for all your food, shelter and moving around. Ugh.

        • thepaintedlady said:

          Oh FUCK ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE. I’m sorry, I know for some people it’s not a big deal what they’re called, but to me it’s huge. Call people by the right fucking name!!!!!!!!!

          • Oh, don’t be sorry. I’m only sorry I couldn’t say exactly what you said, for professional reasons.

          • Had this happen with my Mom when she was in a nursing home. In fairness, it was an uncommon (in the US) and fairly long German (first) name. Her given name was Anneliese (Ah-nah-lee-suh), but all the staff called her “”Ann-uh-lees”, which makes me cringe. I did correct people when I heard it, but ultimately it didn’t seem to bother Mom so I just let it go.
            Then again, my own simple English/American name gets butchered all the time because it’s spelled slightly differently. It’s also worth nothing this was in a state with “DuBois” (Du-boys) county and the town of Versailles (Ver-sayls). *sigh*…… I’ve pretty much given up on anyone in the US getting my complete name right on the first try.

      • MadDissector said:

        “I have a name that is uncommon but also similar to several other really common names.”

        I just had a “it’s Coraline, not Caroline” moment running through my head.

        • Oh dear. That movie seeped into my brain so much that I accidentally called a friend named Caroline “Coraline”.

        • I almost jumped out of my skin when I saw this post. Because my own post, a few upthread from this, about people in a care home calling someone by the wrong name? Was about someone called Coraline. Guess what everyone called her.

          I love that film by the way, even though the buttons thing freaks me out more than any other film I’ve seen.

      • RSVP said:

        I also have a name that is very similar to another slightly more common name. I’ll email somebody and get a response for the other name. Or something in the mail addressed to that name. I’ve taken to pointing to the envelope and telling my husband “Look, another letter for that hussy Similarname. I thought you’d kicked her out?”

      • I have the opposite problem. Neither my legal first name (HorridName) nor its closest variant (Horridnama, as the most direct approximation of the spelling and pronunciation differences) is terribly common, but Horridnama is probably the most frequently seen variation, and…it sounds way more pleasant and sensible to my ears than HorridName. 😦

        I still correct people who are clearly struggling over the pronunciation of HorridName, what with its excess of double letters and the capital latter sandwiched in the middle and the silent e at the end – they usually try, then give up and revert to Horridnama, but my correction is, “Actually, it’s CurrentName (or Horrid, in keeping with my pseudonymous analogy),” regardless.

    • Andie said:

      I saw a post on Tumblr recently about a WOC who had a very unique name, and one of her underlings basically told her that he couldn’t be bothered to try and pronounce her ‘ghetto’ name… so in retaliation every chance she got she called him by the most generic white-boy names she could come up with.

      “Todd, I need that file”.
      “Billy, Can you come in here.”
      “Travis, how’s that report coming”

      She did that for days until he apologized. I laughed so hard reading that story.

      • JenniferP said:

        I had a boss call me Jenny despite being asked not to, so I started calling him “Tommy” in meetings with his boss. He got it very quickly (and I did not get fired).

        • Eurekas said:

          In college, I had a professor explain to a group of us in a semi-casual setting that when writing a memo, one should use the same level of formality in one’s own name as one did with one’s professor/boss. And preferably, with a memo, a somewhat informal form of address. (He’d received a few memos already that term addressed to Dr. F. Scott Fitzgerald, PhD. from Jane Doe and Bob Smith. He wanted memos to Scott from Jane and Bob or to Dr. Fitzgerald from Ms. Doe and Mr. Smith).

          Classmate of mine asked if it was ok to send him a memo addressed to “Scotty”. He said, warily, that that was acceptable, provided it came from Jenny and Glenny and my Name-y.

    • Geranium said:

      >It helps a lot to have friends, family, and significant others correct them constantly. They are not messing up your new name on accident. They are doing it to make a point. Friends etc, can socially pressure them into changing.

      This is a great idea. Recruit allies!

  3. Pqw said:

    Hi LW, I wrote to the Captain with this kind of issue 3 yrs ago, except it wasn’t my aunt who couldn’t adjust but my brother: instead of calling me NewName, he would only call me a diminutive of OldName that I used for myself *as a toddler*. (I was 47 when this was going on.)

    My reason for changing my name was realizing i’m nonbinary gendered; OldName was problematic because it was a boy’s name + a feminine ending. It never suited me, while reminding me my parents prefer boys to girls. (And to my parents, people like me don’t exist.)

    I had to break ties with my brother. Easier for me because I was already long-estranged from my sister, and my parents. Still not a choice I *wanted* to make.

    I do have an aunt and a cousin who have successfully made the transition with me. Also, my (very conservative) father-in-law.

    • thetigerhasspoken said:

      Huh. I think you just spurred a light bulb moment for me. My immediate family calls me by a nickname (that I do like) but that I “named myself” as a toddler and is still used as evidence of my inherent selfishness. The only person who calls me by my given is one of my sisters and she is the only person I have a good relationship with.

      I will have to think some more on this correlation. My hunch is, as my sister stopped listening to the Family Greek Chorus chanting all of my flaws, she sub-consciously started using my grown up name, since my nickname is a literal and symbolic representation of my selfishness, and this doesn’t jive with her actual experience with me (hopefully, anyway).

      I’ve actually wanted to re-name myself for a long time, but that just feels SO VULNERABLE and terrifying that I can’t imagine. I’m just so worn down from constant teasing that I can’t imagine giving my family even more ammo on my vulnerabilities and more evidence that I am selfish (I do not think it is selfish, but I am certain my family would spin that way.) Much respect to the LW and those in this thread with the guts to do it!

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        grrrrr. I want to send a small yappy dog to bite your family’s ankles.

  4. Dear LW,

    I changed my name in college.

    I would also have blown up at anyone who kept at me to justify a name change. That’s nonsense on your aunt’s part. Just arrant nonsense. So you actually handled it correctly.

    Miss Manners wrote on the subject of changing your name. She pointed out that people who knew you as a child might have difficulties, and that it’s kind to cut them some slack – as you do with your mother.

    Your aunt is a different case though. She’s not struggling to remember, she’s just being nasty. That’s why I don’t fault getting angry and harsh. Your aunt was attempting to control you, and was rude, and looking for some kind of secret (ideally embarrassing). You responded as you did because on some level you knew she was attacking you.

    I hope your aunt chooses more civil behavior in future.

    • crooked bird said:

      Sorry this is so random, but you just made my day: I haven’t seen the word “arrant” in YEARS.

      • Glad to make your day 😀 

    • monologue said:

      Yeah what your mom is doing is the same thing as when my grandma called me my mom’s name by mistake and my mom her much younger sister’s name. Your aunt is being deliberately malicious bc she disagrees with the change and doesn’t understand that it’s not her business what your name is.

    • Having been around a dear friend who turned out to be transgender during her transition, I’ve found it’s pretty easy to tell when someone makes an accidental slip and calls someone by a former name versus someone doing it intentionally.

      Those who simply have a bit of brain fade? Yeah, they usually (genuinely) apologize for the slip immediately afterward.

  5. AliCat said:

    Oh LW, I feel your pain so much. Seven years ago I dropped my (very common) first name and switched to my middle name. I was in a bad mental place when i last used my old name, and changing it really helped me feel like my own person. My friends (save one, but that’s another story) adjusted well and never forget to use my new name. My family, however? They still, to a man, refuse to use newname. I have to remind them that I’m not oldname anymore. Recently, after lots of gentile reminders and a few serious talks (and a couple loud arguments), my mother has begun to introduce me as newname. It’s progress, but not perfect -she still won’t call me newname.

    For some people, it takes time. For others, it may never happen that they use your new name. But that means that their perception of you is more important to them than the real you. And as far as I’m concerned that means they don’t deserve a relationship with the real you.

    I hope things go better with you and your aunt next time. If it helps, you can do what I do when i don’t want to cause an argument and pretend you’re acting/ a spy and oldname is your cover. It helps lessen the anger/ pain at least a little.

    Or, you could do what I’ve always wanted to do, and ask if they would react this way if you changed your name because you got married, and if the answer is no, then ask why this is any different since in the end both are simply choices you make because they make sense to you and make you happy.

    Anyway, best of luck LW, and know we are rooting for you.

  6. Jake said:

    I haven’t tried to get my relatives to call me Jake specifically because I don’t want to deal with this sort of bullshit. So good on you, LW, for being brave and standing up for something that’s important to you.

    FWIW, when I was a kid I was very adamant that I went by the full form of my birth name, and not the shortened form most people use. I just enforced this by failing to respond when people called me the wrong name. Like as if my name was Kathy and they had called me Joan. Just, like, that’s not my name. Not hostile, not sarcastic, just huh? What? Did you mean me? Weird, that’s not my name.

  7. nottakennotavailable said:

    The name I go by isn’t one I’m in love with, but I don’t flinch at the sound of it the way I do at my full first name (“HorridName”). CurrentName is a necessarily shortened version of HorridName, and part of my nonbinary…transition? exploration? has included trying to come up with a name that I think suits my presentation better (I haven’t settled on anything that feels right to me yet).

    In the meantime, I insist on CurrentName because HorridName, in addition to being a prime candidate for STFU, Parents’ Yoonique Names round-ups, also manages to evoke, in my mind, the sort of octogenarian who has managed to alienate everyone in her family but is okay with that because they never approved of her decorating tastes, which run to the Dolores Umbridge end of the spectrum, only with a lot more dust. CurrentName is by far the lesser of two evils.

    Most of my family long ago got on board after a few gentle reminders of, “I prefer CurrentName.” But there was one far-flung extended family member (the sister of my uncle by marriage) who just. Didn’t. Get. It. She and her family visit once a year or so, and every time, my shoulders would go up around my ears as I got to be subjected to something along the lines of, “Ah, HorridName, have you learned how to cook yet?”

    The most recent time I saw her, I’d had enough. I cut off whatever question she’d meant to ask me after she called me HorridName, and said, “My name is CurrentName. That’s what I go by. I do not answer to HorridName.”

    She chewed this over for a second or two. “But HorridName is your name, isn’t it?”

    Alas, legally speaking, it is – I have to continually repeat myself whenever I deal with my insurance company, the DMV, pretty much anything else. For the reasons mentioned above, I gnash my teeth every time. I don’t want to go through the hassle of the legal changeover, however, until I do land on something that strikes the right chord, that speaks to me as being MyName.

    But the far-flung relative didn’t need to know any of that. So in answer to her question, I simply said, “No. HorridName is not my name.” And damned if she didn’t call me CurrentName for the rest of her visit.

    So with that background info given, my main piece of advice for you, LW, besides following the Captain’s and other commenters who had to cut off contact with noncompliant family members, would be to not explain (because it is true that no reason will be good enough as far as your aunt is concerned), and not to answer to Old Name at all, even if she’s standing in your face and shouting it at you (and in that case, I’d probably ignore her no matter she was shouting, because wtf).

    Good luck, and I’m glad you found a name that fits you!

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      “Parents’ Yoonique Names round-ups, also manages to evoke, in my mind, the sort of octogenarian who has managed to alienate everyone in her family but is okay with that because they never approved of her decorating tastes, which run to the Dolores Umbridge end of the spectrum, only with a lot more dust.”
      This is fantastic.

  8. efmather2006 said:

    I’ve never changed my name, but I have a first name that lends itself to tons of nicknames, one of which was handed to me at age 10 without my permission, because hey, people don’t ask kids. Now that I’m an adult, I go by my full first name and it’s an interesting test for my acquaintances when they want to give me a nickname that they prefer, and then tell me why they like it better (this is a great dating test for men, in my opinion). I have taken to always correcting anyone who wants to call me Family Nickname or Nickname, because that’s not my name. (My family and people who knew me as teenagers, as noted above, get a pass from me.) But I’m not going to let a 14-year-old call me Aunt Family Nickname, because that would be inappropriate. So I just correct them politely but endlessly as though they made a mistake. Names are a tough subject, but they sure have meaning. Good luck to you, LW.

    • thepaintedlady said:

      Ohhhhhhhh yes. The dating test. I generally make it fairly clear that my name – as mentioned above, it is uncommon, but similar to two very common names – is the only name I go by. I have spent the overwhelming majority of my life correcting people about it, and while some people just give up, I’m the type that just digs my heels in and makes me instantly dislike anyone who tries to call me by another name. For the sake of argument, we’ll say that it’s Johanna, and I’m consistently having to correct people calling me Jo or JoAnna (it isn’t that but still). I didn’t always instantly dislike anyone who called me Jo or JoAnna, but I once had a boyfriend who asked if he could call me Jo after I’d expressed annoyance with the name. I said no, rather emphatically, and yet, every once in awhile I’d catch him calling me Jo. This guy ended up disregarding or insulting and then disregarding almost every personal boundary I had and ended up being an emotionally abusive prick. Lesson learned.

      LW, I empathize with your desire to make things right with your aunt, but your new name is in some ways a lovely gift: those who won’t use it don’t deserve your company. You get to choose how to react to this, but you’re within your rights to decide she isn’t worth the fight.

  9. B. said:

    LW, the way your aunt acted is really gross and mean, I’m sorry you had to deal with that! As for scripts, here are some extra suggestions:

    Aunt: “I’m not calling you NewName till you give me a worthy reason [read as: a reason *I* deem valid, because respecting you and your decisions is not a good enough reason for me]”
    LW: “I’m sorry, Aunt, but I’m not playing that game. Either call me NewName or don’t contact me at all”. {This way, you call attention to the fact that her reason game is rigged from the start, as she makes it unwinnable to you}

    LW: “Ok, here’s a reason: until you decide to stop calling me OldName, we won’t be seeing or hearing much of each other. Goodbye”. {This way, you’re setting a boundary and then enforcing it by exiting the conversation. Thus the “good bye/later/have a good day” part}

    LW: “Being called NewName is really important to me: this name makes me feel very happy/whole/content/_____. Why would my happiness not be a good enough reason for you, Aunt?”. {Showing a bit of vulnerability + questioning, or making her think about, her behaviour. Hopefully this script would act as a wake-up call, if you wish to focus on “compassionate” instead of “righteously angry”}

    LW: “Aunt, it really hurts my feelings when you choose to call me OldName. I’m NewName. Please respect that”. {This should highlight the fact that she’s counsciously disrespecting your wishes and, in doing so, deciding to hurt you. If “that hurts, please stop” doesn’t make her back off, please disengage, because a person who doesn’t care if she hurts you it’s not a safe person to be around}

    If you were looking for ways to keep your cool rather than script’s, I’d suggest practicing the exchange with a therapist or trusted person till you feel confident in your chosen chanelling for your righteous fury (it’s totally righteous, btw) and/or mentally picturing your anger as a sheathed sword. Steely, strong, and sharp, but also elegant and tempered. Ready to strike, but only when needed. Visualizing things helps me keep my temper in check, but if it doesn’t work for you, I’m sure many commenters will chip in with more and better ideas 🙂

    • Don't Shoot The Messenger said:

      B., thank you for that beautiful and excellently useful visualization of anger! I NEEDED THAT!!!

      • B. said:

        *blushes*
        You’re very welcome, I’m glad it was helpful 🙂

  10. Malia76 said:

    I am very specific about what I am called, and anyone who calls me by a nickname I do not like gets a very frosty face from me. (and my given name has lots of stupid and cutsey nicknames)

    Also – I hate when doors don’t cooperate with dramatic exits.

    • Anne On said:

      Door slamming tangent – there is a heart-breaking scene in Sunset Boulevard when Norma Desmond runs into her room and slams the door behind her…except the door handles had been removed and instead the door just slowly whooshes into place. I have the most sympathy for her character then because I well understand the need for a dramatic exclamation mark to an exit!

  11. CJ said:

    “They are not messing up your new name on accident. They are doing it to make a point.”

    That’s exactly what they are doing. My husband and I hyphenated *both* our last names when we married in 1988. OMG, the degree of personal affront taken by the people in our lives was off the charts. For obvious reasons, he faced more criticism than I did. Society really punished him hard for betraying the patriarchy. He completely lost his social status as a man on the job, as his coworkers (nearly all male) assumed that I had forced him to do it. In their eyes, what man deserving of respect would give up his family name willingly?

    His family and friends were uncomfortable with his decision as well, although they didn’t come right out and say anything rude. With the exception of his male coworkers, most people expressed their disapproval through passive-aggressive stunts like accidentally-on-purpose forgetting to use his new name. They didn’t come right out and refuse, they just ‘forgot’ and made no effort to remember. Instead they demonstrated their disapproval by using his former name whenever they referred to him, wrote his name, addressed holiday cards, etc. THEY JUST WOULD NOT USE THE NEW NAME, no matter how many times my husband asked them to respect his decision.

    With some people, he was able to approach them directly to ask that they respect his choice. With others (such as bosses and clients) he just had to suck it up if they refused to play ball. It was either go with the flow, or change jobs. The friends he ditched.

    The weirdest thing that happened to me was when people tried to use traditional forms of address with a hyphenated name. I actually got referred to as Mrs. Paul HisLastName-MyLastName. I guess you just can’t win.

    After awhile, the constant teasing, passive-aggressive comments, and deliberate unwillingness to honor his name change became such a daily baseline irritation that we made the decision to return to the use of our former names. What started as a unifying symbol made in the spirit of joy simply ended up being painful and frustrating for us both. We decided that it just wasn’t worth the fight. Life is too short, we only have so much energy, so we decided to pick a different battle.

    • Anoneranonan said:

      I had to leave a comment here just to give you my condolences and express some empathetic frustration! I’m really sorry that other people were so awful!

    • ruinousillusion said:

      I know a couple who recently went the hyphenated route, after having been married for decades, because they had never actually thought about it until one of their kids asked. It’s more common now so fewer people would give you guys any grief if you decided to try it again.

    • Mariposa said:

      My husband changed his name for mine in 2012 and most people have been surprisingly fine about it, though the number of times I get letters to Mrs Tom MyLastName is infuriating.

      • WhingePartner has a gender-neutral name, so I imagine that if we got married and I started getting mail addressed to Mrs. Partner’s Fullname, I’d just assume he’d been misgendered.

        • thepaintedlady said:

          Ohhhhh, that might be a funny experiment no matter the seeming gender of the name – if someone addresses something to me as “Mrs. Husband Hislastname” I’m going to patiently explain that Husband prefers male pronouns and titles. Heh. This is going to be hilarious.

      • Emma the Strange said:

        My mom kept her last name when she married (both for professional reasons and because her first name sounds awkward when paired with dad’s last name). She finds it useful for filtering out telemarketers when they ask for Mrs DadsLastName.

    • Damn, I’m sorry you two were bullied out of using the name you chose together. That’s really sad. It’s amazing and ridiculous the lengths people will go to to maintain their stupid traditions and impose them on others. My mother ALWAYS insists on addressing any written correspondence to me and my husband, “Mr and Mrs [His Full Name]. I don’t care if this is “technically correct” because it is not correct for me. I didn’t take his first name when I married him. Your husband, on the other hand, DID take another name and people refuse to use it for the same ridiculous sexist reasons.

      • monologue said:

        I hate this so much that I always write Samantha and Darryl or whatever to any mixed gender couple that I address something to. It’s 2016, fucking enough already

    • MadDissector said:

      I have had several discussion about kids names and family names with my partner already. He’s against my stance, but I want my kids to have both our names, hyphenated, because Spanish kids (I am Spanish) are called Kid’sName Father’sFirstFamilyName Mother’sFirstFamilyName, and I want my kids to have dual citizenship (my partner is British) and it cannot be that they have different names in the British passport (as Kids’Name Partner’sName) and the Spanish one.

      Also, culturally I refuse to change my name! what if I have to travel alone with the kids and the border police don’t let me because my family name and the kids’ aren’t the same? It would “mark” (his word) the kids as his, but I have the feeling that they would be considered less of mine.

      He got outraged, though, when I offered the compromise that we called the kids after the Spanish system, and that in the papers they stand as such, but that it would be up to them how they use their names. I do this when in Germany and UK, where I am MadDissector FirstNameOnly for practical reasons, and they could do the same. And I also suggested that I will always tell my kids that once that they are out of age, they can choose if they want both family names, only one, or a completely new one. Or if they want to change their given name. They can call themselves Voldemort TheOneWhoCan’tBeName if that’s what they want! My partner said he didn’t mind if it was my name they dropped, but to give the option of dropping either? What if they dropped HIS? They would be HIS children, and HIS name. And they had to be Partner’sName FOREVER.

      As I said, for now these are just the discussions we have, and I hope that at some point he understands my perspective and that I also want to respect the right of identity of my future children, but between this, and the fact that he’s assuming that I will stay in Great Britain forever, which I consider less and less as an option (the weather really affects me, and there’s now Brexit)… I love him, but I am getting less and less keen of reproducing with him.

      • Lisa said:

        I think your hesitation to reproduce until he can come around to your way of thinking is probably smart. My kids and I hyphenated the surnames and husband kept his. I am still shitty (10 years later) that he did not want to hyphenate his and be the same as us. We had kids before marriage and I filled out all the forms, so there was no chance they would have only had his surname, and he would not have insisted on that. But still, this macho bullshit really sickens me. And of course his mother addresses all correspondence to Mr and Mrs (HIS FIRST NAME) (HIS SECOND NAME) VOMIT!!!!!

        • MadDissector said:

          I think I have been vocal enough for his family to get the memo that I won’t change my name EVER, and I guess they got the point of never calling me “Mrs” Partner because we live together, but aren’t married. However, it grits me that I get other kind of “gentle” microaggressions from his family. Both partner and I have PhDs. Can you believe that any card that we receive from them is addressed to “Dr Partner & MRS MadDissector”? I confronted his mother once about it because she knows my education degree and she’s the biggest offender, and her answer was “I am so fond of you that I cannot bring myself to write Dr MadDissector”. Apparently having a PhD makes you less endearing… I guess she wonders why I don’t correspond with her as much as I used to.

          Also, she happens to share my first name (differently written, but still…). Once Partner suggested I should take his name because it would stop me complaining about British people misspelling it (German people misspell it consistently, as it were French, but British people are really “creative” in that aspect, which drives me nuts), and I screamed that MadDissector HisName was his mother, not me. Really, gosh, don’t try to modify my identity!

          • Jen said:

            Ooooh. That would totally piss me off, speaking as the “Dr.” in the relationship. I don’t get why Dr. MyFirst MyLast and Mr. HisFirst HisLast is so damn hard. (I believe Miss Manners advises listing people in alphabetical order these days.)

          • Amtep said:

            … is she less fond of her son, then, since she does call him Dr?

          • cruelmistress said:

            What Amtep said. It’s super weird to me that she would use a title for her son at all, honestly– what’s wrong with addressing mail to your son “Tom Jones” or whatever?

            Or is she just SO proud of him that that DR has to be on everything?

            I don’t have the cultural naming tradition you have, not being Spanish, but I can’t imagine getting a PhD and then changing my last name. All my accomplishments are under this name– it is mine and I have done things with it! This is true of all of us to a certain extent (I’m against changing my name just because it’s MY name), but especially in academia, with all that publishing, you want an easily-established through-line.

      • B. said:

        Spanish commenter here, I totally get where you’re coming from. Jedi hugs if you’d like some!
        I think your partner is acting in a really entitled and disrespectful manner towards you and your hypothetical kids. He’s basically saying that his name is more valuable than yours (wtf, MadDissector’s Partner) and that the kids choosing their own names is okay, as long as they don’t have a choice but to keep his (wtf×2, MadDissector’s Partner).
        I agree with Lisa that your reluctance to reproduce with him makes a lot of sense.

        • MadDissector said:

          Thank you for the Jedi hugs!

          • B. said:

            Anytime 🙂

        • neverjaunty said:

          Yes, exactly this. Angry last name entitlement is the tip of the male-privilege iceberg.

          • CJ said:

            Oh, that’s good. Saving this statement.

      • Ainomiaka said:

        Oh wow. Yeah, holding off on reproduction sounds like a good idea. I’m sorry you have to deal with that. My husband and I combined last names, specifically because it was important to both of us to have the same last name as any kids that come. But your partner is not being helpful about this.

      • JenniferP said:

        I love the Spanish system of giving both parents’ family names. I think your instincts to hold off on making kids for now is a sound one. The desire to “mark” kids as his at the expense of things like, their mum, and autonomy, and dual citizenship is a strange one.

        • MadDissector said:

          I am almost convinced that his “marking” attitude is mostly based in the “clan” behaviour of his family. They are a big family that insist to stay together as if they belonged to a club with restrictive access, and therefore any kid born into it must be engulfed immediately and taught about how fortunate they are to be part of the group. There is a high pressure for my Partner’s generation to bring the tradition of “sticking together”, to their own offspring and the family name plays a large part of it. He might fear that following my outlandish ways might generate controversy amongst his family, specially if I teach the kids that they can change their names if they want to.

          In terms on family names, I love the Portuguese system best: it’s like the Spanish one, but matriarchal, so it’s the mother’s family name which passes to the next generation.

          • viva said:

            I have to chime in because I’m Portuguese and that’s not the case; it’s not matrilineal.

            The convention is First Name, Middle Name, Mother’s Name, Father’s name. In daily and professional usage most people use First Name, Father’s Name.

            It’s almost always the father’s name that gets passed. I say almost always because legally one can choose to pass on the mother’s name instead (or one of the grandparent’s surnames) but it’s rarely done. (Portuguese naming laws are extremely rigid, for both first names and last names)

          • MadDissector said:

            @viva, thank you for the clarification! You learn something new everyday!

      • CommanderBanana said:

        I think someone who gets outraged in response to a compromise is not someone I would want to have kids with. Save the outrage for things that are actually outrageous.

        • human said:

          Seriously, that is not someone who is likely to deal well with actual children.

      • Your feelings and desires for this naming convention sound totally reasonable for MANY reasons (logistical and emotional). I hope he comes around and this isn’t indicative of other issues of equality in the relationship. Also, his family is being really disrespectful to you by not acknowledging your PhD accomplishments as well. I’m sorry, that sounds hurtful and infuriating.

        FWIW – I too love the Spanish naming system and agree that it feels much more equal and inclusive. My partner is Latino and our (ideal) naming convention is:

        First name (original name we both like) + middle name (ancestral name) + his last – my last.

        I figure the kid can pick whatever name(s) they want as they get older or throw the whole thing away and call themselves Crap Bag if they so desire. Amusingly, his family is under the misconception that:

        a) we will reproduce until I birth a son. My partner is the last male to carry on their family name. This *VERY* important.
        b) we will name it after my partner or after his father, as all first born males are so named.
        c) all of our children will have my partner’s last name (for whatever reason, they never followed the traditional naming convention for Spanish language cultures).

        LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. No. The patriarchy is pernicious.

        PS – Off to the court house to change my name to “Voldemort TheOneWhoCan’tBeNamed!”

        • MadDissector said:

          Yes, the kids can pick. It’s their right. Also, in his culture, there are the chances that the girls will drop their hyphenated maiden name after marriage, but he’s happy with that, but not with this? “It’s different!” Of course it is.

          Ps – If any son would come to me and tell me he wants to be Voldemort (or any daughter, what the hell?), I would know that I had been doing things right.

      • johann7 said:

        I’m not saying that you *have* to split with your partner, but there are possible abuse red flags all over the place here, and I thought I should point it out in case you’re not noticing. “It would ‘mark’ (his word) the kids as his” – this is an unhealthy degree of possessiveness concerning other human beings (who are not, in fact, anyone’s possessions). “He got outraged, though, when I offered the compromise that we called the kids after the Spanish system” – outrage in response to suggestion of a compromise is not okay, and it suggests that your partner is unwilling to not get his way completely. That’s a very concerning flag. “My partner said he didn’t mind if it was my name they dropped, but to give the option of dropping either? They would be HIS children, and HIS name. What if they dropped HIS? And they had to be Partner’sName FOREVER.” – this again suggests that your partner will not stand for any outcome other than his way, completely, even when people are making decisions about themselves and their own identities. If he only behaves this way with respect to naming hypothetical children, you might be able to stay and just not reproduce (with him), but if he also behaves tis way in other aspects of the relationship, you may want to reassess whether it’s really a relationship in which you wish to stay.

        • Yeah, I was also creeped out by the use of the term “mark” – kids are not cars, you don’t put a serial number on them for identification purposes. I’ll allow that language sometimes means we talk about relationships like possessions, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad, but then there’s also the insinuation that the kids would be more HIS than hers.

          • Yeah, for me it was the “it’s ok if they drop YOUR name but I won’t stand for letting them even have the option of dropping MINE.”

    • TurquoiseDra9on said:

      Neither of us changed our names when we got married. Our parents all retained their own names as well, so the family was completely unfazed by this. The rest of the world, however, is just confused. We get everything from Mrs. HisFirstName + HisLastName, to Mr. HisFirstName + MyLastName, to just first names for each of us, to The MyLastNames or The HisLastNames. We even have seen Mr. MyFirstName + MyLastName, although I think it was a joke.
      We’re expecting our first child, and one of my coworkers asked the best question. Not, ‘what are you going to name it?’, but ‘have you picked a last name yet?’ As it happens, we are thinking about first and middle names, and then will pick the last name that sounds best with the first two!

      • Serin said:

        I didn’t change my surname when I got married, and back in the landline days it wasn’t uncommon for us to get four calls from the same telemarketer — alphabetically — asking for Hisfirstname Mylastname, Myfirstname Mylastname, Hisfirstname Hislastname, and Myfirstname Mylastname.

      • Rorie_Lee said:

        My parents never changed their names when they got married either and also get a bunch of different forms of address, solved mostly through using different last names depending on the situation. My dad’s last name is extremely long and extremely difficult to pronounce for folks where we live, so it’s used when needed and otherwise it’s my mom’s (who has a short easy-to-pronounce last name). If we’re ordering pizza, we’re going with mom’s name. Funnily enough people still often try to address her as Herlastname Dadslastname, even though they can’t actually SAY Dadslastname.

        Us kids have my dad’s last name (with mom’s last as our middle names). I love it dearly, and, if I ever have kids, I’m definitely passing it down. When I say this, I’ve gotten some people telling me that this would disrespect my (assumed male, even though I’m bi) partner. Sigh. If this kids having Partnerslastname wouldn’t disrespect me, why would their having my last name disrespect Partner?

      • Jackalope said:

        I once saw someone whose parents each had 2 syllable names “Watermark” and “Eyelash”, for example, and so the children had the last name “Waterlash”. (Only the real name was much cooler.) I thought that was the best idea. That way everyone gets a new name (if a new name one must have), and both families are still included.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      Jesus weeping, why are other people so invested in someone’s else’s name? They’re not changing it AT you!

      • CJ said:

        People often hit back hard when you choose to do something that violates their concept of social norms. It’s personal to them because by making a different choice you are indirectly challenging their values. It can also be perceived as threatening because change is scary and your choice might even give the people in their lives options that they prefer they did not have or even know were available.

      • I think it’s for the same reason that people push back against visible atheists, or openly LBGTQ people, or even vegetarians. If someone made a choice they’re not completely happy with, it can make them angry to see others take a path they wish they had chosen themselves, like “I had to suffer, why don’t you?” Or it can make them worried that they’ll have to change a key part of themselves, since they can’t lean on “Everybody does this, so it must be right” to shore up their identity.

        • nottakennotavailable said:

          Or the childfree. The parents I know who openly acknowledge that kids aren’t for everyone? I’m cool with them.

          The ones who insist that I’m less of a person because I know as well as anyone could without trying it for myself that I would spend every second after childbirth counting down the minutes until the kid turned 18, that I’ll change my mind (hasn’t happened yet, and I’m 30 – prime time for my biological clock to set the klaxons blaring!), and that my life will be just as much of a barren, desiccated wasteland as my uterus if I don’t fill either one? Yeah, I can’t help but smell a hint of desperation underlying the overpowering eau de bullshit.

          FWIW, I’m also a genderqueer atheist, so the only thing I’m doing “right” is chowing down on bacon cheeseburgers, though don’t tell my Orthodox Jewish relatives that.

          • CommanderBanana said:

            I don’t want children either, although I fortunately manage to project such a dangerously irresponsible aura that really no one has pushed back too hard.

    • CJ said:

      What added insult to injury was the time and money spent to change official records. Twice.

      Because it’s not customary for men to change their names at marriage (especially in 1988) my husband really had no practical choice other than to get a legal name change through the courts. Technically, one can call themselves anything they want, provided they have no intent to defraud. However, if they expect to amend their official documents and identification, they better have paper.

      Women get a ‘free’ name change when they marry. All they need to do is present a marriage certificate. With that, they can amend their birth certificate and request that their bank records, driver’s license, Social Security card, passport, etc. be changed to their new married name.

      It’s not so easy for men. Without a court decree for a legal name change, my husband would not have been able to amend his birth certificate and other forms of identification so that he could change official government and banking records, and be eligible for employment in the US.

      Then, when he made the decision to revert to his birth name, he had to go back through the process all over again in reverse.

  12. kmcdonell said:

    Wow, it just astonishes me that some people are so self absorbed that they can’t understand the reason “because it’s important to me.” If they care about you at all, this should be reason enough. Hope your aunt comes around. If not, I second the advice to just not respond to oldname at all.

  13. Emmers said:

    Even people who DO NOT GET IT AT ALL need to learn to be respectful of other people. It’s unusual to change a name, but it’s certainly far from unheard of; and even concern trolling over “Penelopsky Aaryonna Goldberry” is unhelpful and rude.

    I have a friend who changed her first and middle names slightly, and her last name entirely, two years after she was married. (She took a while deciding what she wanted to do.) Her family was rude about it, but eventually warmed. (I guess the patriarchy of “yessss, take your husband’s name, you’re his property now” outweighed the outrage of “you changed the name WE gave you!”)

    Anyway, I can’t fix your aunt’s behavior, but the Captain’s advice here is good for what *you* can do to deal with *her* bullshit.

    • Yeah, funnily enough the woman who refused to use my chosen first name for over 20 years because it wasn’t the name I was given at birth showed literally zero resistance to me changing my last name to my husband’s when I married him. I think she’d have only said something if I didn’t. Ironically, the change she’s apparently so happy about was something I did not because “that’s what a woman does when she gets married,” it was something I did to cut a tie/association with her since we had the same last name.

  14. CPC said:

    Somewhere around 4th grade, I decided to stop going by my middle name and go by my first name instead. It was a disappointment to my mother as I was ‘the only child she named after herself’ (my middle name being her first name).

    She still brings it up occasionally. I’m in my early FIFTIES.

    • Serin said:

      She needs to get a pet. You can call them whatever you want.

      • johann7 said:

        +one million

    • gryphon said:

      Why didn’t she give you her first name as a first name, instead of giving you her first name as a middle name and expecting you to go by your middle name for the rest of your life?

      • I was going to ask that but then I realised it was probably a really boring reason like “to avoid us opening each other’s mail by mistake while we still live together.”

        • gryphon said:

          That makes sense now. Though of course, it’s still totally unreasonable to be angry with anyone for going by their legal first name…and that goes double when you CHOSE their first name yourself!

  15. thereismorethanoneharriet said:

    LW Just wanted to add my support. I have taught high school for 25 years and it would never occur to me to disrespect a student’s request to be called by their preferred name. The first day of class makes me nervous because I know that I will mispronounce someone’s name and I want my students to feel welcome and safe in my room.
    As always, there is a lot of good advice from CA and the other commentators. Best wishes.

    • Bibliophilian said:

      As someone with a frequently-mispronounced name, I have to say that just being aware of your mistakes will make most kids feel welcomed. I still remember which of my teachers mispronounced, listened to my corrections, made notes on their roster, and then fixed it (quickly if not immediately). The note-taking especially tended to happen with the teachers who became my favorites! Additional bonus points for those who enforced the correct pronunciation with other teachers (weirdly never had that problem with my classmates).

  16. RodeoBob said:

    So I worked the 2010 Census as a field supervisor, and we had a script we used in training, and when it came up in interviews, we encouraged it’s use there too. The questionnaire included gender, race, and ethnicity, and in training, there was some awkwardness among the trainees:

    “Do I really need to ask them if they’re male or female? Won’t they get upset/annoyed/angry at me asking? I mean, if a 6′ 7” bearded man with skin the color of coal answers the door, do I really need to ask if he’s male and if he’s African-American?”

    And the script we used in training, the answer that I continue to use when these subjects come up is this:

    “We do not tell other people who they are. They will tell us who they are.”

    So, when one of my trainees was in the field, interviewing a young woman who pronounced her name “Bree-Anne” and spelled it “B-r-i-a-n”, and they got to the question of “what gender are you”, the young woman asked back “legally?”, and the trainee responded “You tell me who you are. I don’t tell you who you are.”

    It’s a little harder to turn that script around, but the LW might try a version like this:

    “Aunt, I’m trying to talk to you, and tell you about who I am as an adult. Part of who I am is my name. I’d like for us to get to know each other as adults, and that means learning about each other as adults. Do you want to get to know me as an adult? Because if all you want is to deal with the child you remember, then we don’t need to talk to each other at all.”

    • Serin said:

      and the trainee responded “You tell me who you are. I don’t tell you who you are.”

      That’s beautiful.

    • anabeig said:

      “We do not tell other people who they are. They will tell us who they are.”
      That is like poetry. I think I’m going to have to figure out how to convey this to my (all under 5) nieces and nephews and assorted tiny cousins.

      • Leonine said:

        I had that talk with my elder son when he was five and his little brother went through a (sadly brief) princess phase. The elder child started to say, “But he’s boy!!!” I said, “Stop. You don’t get to tell people who they are. He gets to decide who he is, do you understand me?” Gulp. Wide-eyed nod. Was very happy and excited a few days later to help his brother dress up in his Elsa costume. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • “Do you want to get to know me as an adult? Because if all you want is to deal with the child you remember, then we don’t need to talk to each other at all.”

      I love this! I might just use it one day…

  17. Anyanka said:

    Sometimes I find it’s best to adopt a kind of ‘older prim woman’ persona to do certain things. Bluntly telling her, in your most scandalized voice, “You are being inappropriate” or “that is inappropriate” could be useful scripts, but another thing that might help is sheer calm stubbornness.

    • Lisa said:

      SO true, I have found turning on the Mum voice and telling people, “You are being very rude” is waaaaaaay more effective then angry crying and yelling at them, or trying to be reasonable and use logic to explain.

    • Yes. This. My brother in law is oddly concerned about what is (not) growing in my uterus. A few weeks ago at a family dinner, he actually took my beer away and said I couldn’t have it back until my partner (his brother) and I did our “homework” of trying to reproduce. [So gross]

      Somehow, I kept my cool. I put my RBF into overdrive and said: “you are taking a really weird interest in our sex life.”

      He shut up immediately, gave me back my beer, and acted super insulted. No one said anything about our lack of baby making the rest of the day. A record!

      • …you handled that waaaaaaaayyyy better than I would have. I salute you.

      • Socchan said:

        Wait, he took away your beer because you weren’t pregnant, and was only going to give it back after you might be? That’s distressingly backwards, to say the least. You know, in addition to everything else wrong there.

        • thetigerhasspoken said:

          Agreed. I didn’t pick that up immediately because I was too busy trying to unwrap my shoulders from around my ears. But my partner pointed out the same thing when I relayed the story to him (he was in the bathroom for that lovely exchange) and was also disturbed by that notion.

    • Anyanka said:

      Also, more scripts:
      “That is disrespectful.”
      “You are being rude.”
      “Wow, that’s rude.”
      “I call you by the name you say is your name. Why won’t you afford me the same respect?”
      “This is an unacceptable conversation. I’m walking away.”
      “This is not a negotiation.”
      “Calling someone by their name is a basic part of human dignity.”
      “Aunt, I would never call you [OTHER NAME]. I don’t understand why you are doing this.”

      I can perfectly understand someone being confused or even hurt by a name-change, and if the aunt had wanted to know your reasons and asked in a compassionate, respectful way, then that would be one thing. Refusing to respect you by calling you by *your* name is incredibly rude and attacking you on your reasons is flat-out mean.

      I once had a substitute teacher take one look at my name in the roster and say, “Well, I’m not even going to try to call you by that,” and try to address me as ‘Annie’. I have never forgotten that.

      • winter said:

        What a shitty teacher. It’s terrible to do that to a child (obviously also adults, but it stings differently for children).

      • Buni said:

        I’ve worked as a supply teacher in a large capital city, which might mean 5 different classes in as many days with children from 500 different ethnicities, and usually the first thing I have to do every time is take the register. My standard opening line is “If I get your name wrong then a) I apologise in advance, and b) you absolutely may correct me, as many times as it takes.”. I may forget the kids’ names through the day, and ask to be reminded, but the pronunciation is entirely up to them and not up for discussion.

  18. annabel said:

    A co-worker who recently married is changing his name to something entirely different from his current last name, or that of his wife’s. Not doing this for a few months though, because changing names would suck passport-wise for international travel. See if they folliw through

  19. tawg said:

    LW, you mention that you would like to wrap your head around it (I assume that “it” is why your old name is so important to your aunt). I think the fastest way to do that would be to ask her why your old name is so important to her, and why she’s so resistant to you changing your name. Your mother might be an easier person to ask this, if she has insight into your aunt. Understanding her position might mean that you can explain the change to her in a way she understands… but I agree with you that she shouldn’t need to be personally satisfied with your reasons to respect you on this matter.

    I think there are some great comments so far on how to deal with someone misnaming you/refusing your new name, and I hope they can be of some help to you if your aunt continues as she has.

  20. toniprufrock said:

    Names are a hard thing – I can totally see how name changes are interpreted as a disrespect and hurtful to the people who named you. Often they spent a long time choosing that name and in it is a pier of themselves and a projections of their hopes and dreams onto you as young parents, and as expressions of family history. At a fundamental level a name change is disrespectful and hurtful because it’s a deliberate wilful rejection of all this, so that’s why so many people need a reason I think. Gender change is a solid reason for many, but you can see why it’s harder when it’s for a religion thy might not understand or approve of or just out of the blue. Your aunt might be doing this in defence of what she perceives as you walking all over her sister and disrespecting her – and sisterly bonds can be fierce y’know?
    BUT.

    This doesn’t excuse the behaviour. Naming someone their chosen name is the right thing todo as one human to another despite personal feelings and ESPECIALLY when your mum has accepted it. I really don’t know what to do but keep insisting or cut contact – put up your boundaries and she can either respect them or not. Even if her reaction is valid on one level, being will fully cruel an disrespectful in turn to you is not acceptable.

    • B. said:

      “At a fundamental level a name change is disrespectful and hurtful because it’s a deliberate wilful rejection of all this”.
      I disagree with this. Making a choice for yourself does not imply rejecting the people who made a previous choice for you, and people who cannot wrap their heads about that might want to check their entitlement.
      When someone changes their name, they usually do it _for themselves_, not *at* someone else.

      • toniprufrock said:

        It’s absolutely something you don’t do AT people, which is why it’s important that people respect it, but I also don’t think it helpful to put aside how hurtful it can be in the beginning because this is influencing how people react. Changing a name will always come from initially a negative place because it is a wilful rejection. So negotiation of feelings will have to happen and part of that is the changer accepting why the reactions of the people around them might be so strong. Because even if you’re not doing it AT them you’re doing it because of them and they’re gonna feel rejected or judged at first.

        Say you have an old fashioned perceivable ‘prim’ name like Priscilla and you hate it because it’s prim and old fashioned and people tease you. So you change it to something more modern – totally fine. People should totally respect that.
        But if your mum called you Priscilla because it was a grandmother’s name who was a brave lady and he wants to embody that spirit in you. Or because it was from a book that she wanted to embody in you with a blessing. Wen you reject that because it’s not fashionable or because effectively it’s a hard name to live with it IS worth acknowledging that what she is hearing is “my conformity is more important to me than my family history / your blessing”

        Same with changing names when people immigrate, or when you have a new religion/culture. As practical as the reasons are you’re rejecting something. Not AT them, no, but despite them.

        What I’m saying is that people aren’t unreasonable for being upset and acknowledging that might help. But whether you do or don’t the captains scripts are still good ones

        • Anyanka said:

          “Changing a name will always come from initially a negative place because it is a wilful rejection”

          This isn’t actually true. Sometimes people change their names not because they hate or even dislike their old names, but because they don’t fit or aren’t what they have actually gone by. Changing your name can come from a place of self-love and joy. It is not inherently negative.

          I agree that a lot of people can feel hurt or confused or upset by a name-change, and that’s OK for them to feel, but that doesn’t make changing your name bad or negative. (Eg: people changing their names when they get married, people changing their names as part of transitioning.)

        • toniprufrock said:

          But you’re right, this is about the LW, not the mum or auntie

          • B. said:

            Yeah, I think that’s the crux of the matter. People gonna feel whatever they gonna feel, and those feelings are totally valid. What’s not right nor valid is trying to get the name changer to process their feelings for them, specially if that causes hurt or discomfort to the name changer.
            In this case, if the aunt needs to grieve for the loss of the old name, she should by all means do so and take all the time she needs to come to terms with the new name. However, that grieving process should be handled far away from the LW, because she cannot be asked to support her aunt in this matter. Also, the aunt should be calling (or at least making the attempt to call) the LW by her new name even if she’s still processing the change.

          • Emmers said:

            Yes, re: mum/auntie handling their grieving away from LW. It’s like “comfort in, dump out” except LW is not grieving herself.

        • I’m not sure I understand how an adult making a decision about their own identity can be disrespectful and hurtful to someone else – unless that person wilfully decides to interpret it that way.

          I mean, I gave my daughter her name because I’m in love with that name and it means a lot to me for various reasons. But the moment she decides she wants to be called Pollyanna or Frederick or Zippy McTootToot will be the day I start calling her that. I don’t see how I’m being disrespected there. I only chose her name for her because she wasn’t capable of doing so herself and we had to call her something. Whether she wants to keep it when she is old enough to decide for herself is entirely her call.

    • Knayt said:

      I changed the spelling of my first name in about 2nd grade – there were a lot of Nates, and between the Kn- and Gn- beginnings and the fifty billion ways to get the “ate” sound out of english I realized that I could make some small spelling tweaks and help clarify which “Nate” I was – and my parents were entirely on board with it. “Knayt” isn’t actually the spelling I use off the internet, but it’s the same sort of tweak.

      At no point was it interpreted as “disrespectful”, “hurtful”, or “a deliberate willful rejection” by my parents. They were totally on board with it, and if there was any reaction it was of the “our kid has a solid understanding of silent letters, we did a good job here” sort. The vast majority of people have similarly had no issue with the spelling; a fair few had outright positive things to day about it. The handful of exceptions have come in exactly two varieties.

      Variety 1: My name isn’t my name; it belongs to my parents. Therefore I had no right to change it and the new spelling is illegitimate. That my parents were and are totally on board with this doesn’t matter. My grandparents are fond of this one (on one side of the family), and this is the underlying reasoning that can call a name change disrespectful and hurtful. I really have limited sympathy for people being hurt because they claimed ownership of something that wasn’t theirs in the first place.

      Variety 2: My name isn’t a name. There’s a given set of names that are actual names, and anything off of that list just isn’t a name. “Nate” is a name, “Knayt”, “Kneit”, “Gnaight”, and “Gneight” are all not names, even if someone uses them. This reasoning is similarly indicative of a dismissive attitude I don’t have a lot of sympathy with, and while it’s not racist or sexist in my case it absolutely gets used in racist and sexist ways all the time. I’ve never seen “John” claimed as not a real name, but “Shaniqua” is pretty much the go to example for people pushing this.

      I’m not saying that these are the only two attitudes that cause people to need a reason, just that if my experience is at all indicative they are at least the predominant two. Given that, the people with a problem just need to get over themselves.

  21. Traffic_Spiral said:

    I’d take a different tack than what people here are generally advocating, personally, but you’re not me, so take this with a grain of salt. The main problem is that your aunt thinks your reasons for a name change are self-indulgent, flaky, “hippie,” and dumb. But you know what? That shouldn’t matter. Her opinion on your name change shouldn’t trump your wish to be called something, and I’d straight-up say that.

    “I know you don’t approve of my reasons for changing my name, and you never have to. That’s your prerogative. My prerogative is to choose the name that I let people call me, and that I respond to. If you want me to answer, you need to use the name I’ve chosen. You’re free to think whatever you like about my new name – heck, even say what you want about it to people who aren’t me. But as for your interactions with me, I want to be called X, and I’m not interested in trying to justify why to you. Either call me X or don’t call me anything at all.”

    I think that too many people in life believe that they have to like and agree with another person’s choices in order to support that person, and so they end up either fighting things that aren’t their business to fight, or bending over backwards to support choices that they don’t need to support. Take this, for instance. Your aunt feels that since your name-changing reasons are frivolous, she’s being frivolous by calling you by that name. You probably won’t be able to change the former opinion, but if you can get through to her that the former opinion is unrelated to the latter, and that she can call you X regardless of what she personally thinks of the name, you can probably come to an understanding.

  22. I have a friend I’ve known for about 35 years. She has a plain first name and a slightly more ornate second name (say, Mary Cordelia Jones). During a period in our twenties when we didn’t see much of each other for various reasons, she changed her name to Cordelia Mary Jones, mostly, as I thought at the time, for professional reasons. I just carried on calling her Mary or Mary Jones (we’re big on firstname-surname combos for some reason). It wasn’t until last year, when I was staying with her for a few days, that she let me know that she always hated the name Mary and much preferred to be called Cordelia Mary (in full), or a variant like Cordelia (on its own but not shortened) or CMJ, which her other friends, neighbours and professional colleagues had been doing for years.

    SO I DID.

    It is hard, and ‘Mary’ still sometimes slips out. I’m trying with the ‘CMJ’ variation as a sort of entry point. I still struggle – 34 years is a long time. But not only am I doing it, I’m also not asking for any justification! Because it’s important to her and our friendship is important to both of us! She very sweetly doesn’t pick me up on it when I slip up, but I feel she would have every justification to do so.

    In other words, people who don’t respect your wishes in this regard think they’re more important then you. Don’t stand for it.

  23. RSVP said:

    You could remind your aunt that women have had to change their names forever upon getting married. Okay, only the last name, but it effectively wiped out a woman’s identity to become “Mrs. Harry Clark” where before she was “Miss Sheila Wombat”. How many times have I heard “I’d like to track down an old school friend, but I don’t know her married name.”

  24. Sarah said:

    We called my cousin “Mickey” for years, but now that he is in his 20s, he wants to be called by his birth name. For me, as soon as I asked him what he wanted to be called and he said, “I prefer Will”, I have called him Will (with a few slipups, but I always correct myself). But his older brother and sister REFUSE to call him anything but Mickey. Their kids call him “Uncle Mick”. There is literally no reason why he needs to keep this nickname which he chose for himself at the age of 4, except for the fact that it means that other people won’t have to change their behavior. It’s pretty awful.

    • TheAngryGuppy said:

      I have a cousin who changed his WHOLE name (first middle last) upon reaching the age of majority. I have some insights into his reasons – his name given at birth was a really nice unique name that was a callback to his (not very present) father’s heritage, and a reflection of his mother’s pretty free-spirited hippy-dippy lefty nature. Cousin was raised by his pretty traditional maternal grandparents and has become a staunch capital-C conservative and his new name reflects that, as well as the more WASPy heritage of that side of the family.

      I don’t really like the guy, and I far preferred the name his mother gave him…but that’s SO NOT THE POINT. I call him by the name he chose for himself and it drives me absolutely bats that the rest of MY family continues to call him GivenName-ChosenName, as if he’d hyphenated them both. NO. His name is ChosenName, full stop. I disagree with him about pretty much everything, and avoid conversing with him when I can because it’s always about politics and it always raises my blood pressure, but he still deserves to be called by HIS NAME. I don’t know why this is so hard for people.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Oh, god, hahaha – I had a former coworker, an absolutely lovely and sweet woman who was also a huge hippie, and she had a son named Skydance. He was in his late 30s when I met him and worked in IT, wore khakis and a polo shirt every day, and absolutely hated his name, because people looking for someone named Skydance are usually not looking for a middle-aged dude who looks like Jake from the Allstate commercials.

        • B. said:

          … at least he can shorten it to “Dan” if he wishes to?

          There’s an old Spanish naming tradition that says that the first born granddaughter in a family should be named after her paternal grandmother. My grandma (an otherwise very, very traditional lady), who had been a victim of this tradition, adamantly refused to let my eldest cousin get saddled with her name. My cousin is absolutely grateful/relieved about that, since my grandma’s name stopped being common around the ’36 and reminds one to a 80-90 years old lady rather than to a young woman of 25.

  25. dragonlady said:

    I have a somewhat similar issue: I was given fullname (relatively common) at birth, but everyone shortened it as I was growing up. I went by that all through elementary and high school and most of college. I was living on my own for a few years and decided that my full first name suited me better, so I announced that everyone was to call me that. It’s been a challenge. My family was most resistant, especially my middle sister to whom I was closest emotionally. And it took a while to train colleagues. I was really patient with them and when they called me by shortenedname, I would just calmly say, “I go by fullname.” Most everyone got it. Except for my parents. My older sister got it almost immediately, which is a bit of a shock to me, really.

    Whenever I meet someone new, and they shorten my name, I always do a really quick calculus, “Is it worth it to me to correct them?” I’ve also used it as a yellow flag in dating. If I’ve sent a guy an email that I’ve closed by using my fullname, and he responds by shortening it, a yellow flag goes up.

    I really don’t get it. Does people’s hearing just go after the first syllable? I clearly say my name and what comes right back is the shortened version. A therapist I was seeing (for unrelated reasons) would always ask me why I got so irked when someone shortened my name – they were just giving me a nickname (and this was a therapist that I liked!). It was never enough to just say, “I HATE it when people shorten my name. It’s not my NAME!”

    Not much help for you here, LW. Mainly jedi hugs (if you want them) and totally getting your frustration.

    • owenmontbrun said:

      That’s my experience as well. It amazes me how many people will hear my say “My name is Montbrun” and there are those who will IMMEDIATELY come back with “Nice to meet you, Monty.” I mean, seriously? Didn’t I just tell you what my name was? Did you not hear what’s coming out of your mouth isn’t what I told you my name was?

      I wonder to what extent it is an issue in USian culture that we’re all casual, not hung up on formalities, etc. But even if it is meant in some sort of endearing, good-buddy way, it comes off as a boundary violation.

      Listen to what someone tells you their name is. Then use that. Pretty simple.

      • I think some names are more likely than others to be shortened.

        For example, Alexander gets shortened to Al or Alex most of the time, no questions asked. Jennifer to Jen or Jenny.

        But people seem to ask Katherines and Michaels if they go by Kathy and Mike. And they aren’t surprised to hear “Nope, Kate/Mick” or “No nicknames please”.

        Maybe it’s because there are so many short versions?

        • Elizabeth said:

          I don’t know, my name is Elizabeth (actually my middle name that I’m having legally moved to first right now), which is one of the female names with the MOST nickname options, but so frequently people start addressing me as “Liz,” despite me firmly saying/writing “Elizabeth.” Only a couple times have people assumed “Beth” instead. Very few people ask, though I really appreciate those who do. I use it as a flag when dating, too, as others have mentioned. I’ve found it often shows a lot about someone’s level of respect and entitlement.

          • I think you’re right about the respect and entitlement.

            My name is also Elizabeth, and I get asked often about nicknames, which is why I made the blanket statement.

          • Elizabeth said:

            Ah, hello fellow Elizabeth! Perhaps you’ve met more considerate people than I have.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      This is interesting (re: the yellow flag) – I kind of have the same reaction to people who can’t get the pronunciation of my name right (which is not difficult, it’s phonetic and my name only has three different letters).

      You don’t get to decide what my name is, dangnabbit.

    • Just Jen said:

      “I really don’t get it. Does people’s hearing just go after the first syllable? I clearly say my name and what comes right back is the shortened version.”

      I — for real — have the inverse problem. My first name is 3 syllables, and I go by the shortened version of the first syllable (e.g., “Jen” for “Jennifer”). A good 75% of the time I introduce myself (“Jen”), the person will immediately reply “Jennifer”? And I think “DAMN, I said ONE syllable. ONE. How did you hear three? Why are you saying 3 back to me?”

      I used to reply very tersely, “No, ‘Jen’,” but that tended to be off-putting to people (like addressing me by the wrong name when I JUST told you my correct name isn’t off-putting?). I’ve finally settled on “Sure, on legal documents, but you can call me ‘Jen.’ Thanks!” It makes most people chuckle, and we get started on the right foot, although it irks me beyond belief that I have to emotionally nanny people’s feelings about addressing me by the wrong name.

      (There was one incident where I arrived at a party and an acquaintance yelled out “Here’s ‘Jenny’!!!!” And I just snapped. I don’t go by ‘Jenny’ and have NEVER gone by it as an adult. There is literally no time that this acquaintance would have ever interacted with me where I used that diminutive, because I hate it. So I replied, “No, actually, it’s JUST ‘Jen’! It’s ALWAYS just ‘Jen’! It has been since you’ve known me! Everyone calls me ‘Jen’! I am not 3 years old!” That was not the most gracious reply, but for god’s sake, it’s not that hard to say one syllable instead of giving someone a name you think they should have.)

      • Gahhh, I loathe the “is that short for…?” game. I have the same problem with the name I go by, which is in fact short for HorridName…but they never guess correctly anyway.

      • Nancy McClure said:

        If it helps, it sounds like the acquaintance was trying for a play on the introduction to the Tonight Show, back in the day. They’d holler, “Here’s Johnnnnny!” for Johnny Carson. Sounds like something I might thoughtlessly do (especially at a party, where I often put foot in mouth because I was pushed very hard as a child to not display any of that unacceptable “self consciousness,” e.g. social anxiety).

  26. Angiportus said:

    Glad to see so many good ideas on handling this sort of a mess. I have always found it strange that people don’t name themselves. It isn’t just a hippie fad.
    I legally made a change when I was in college. Family was a bit surprised but didn’t hassle me…about that, anyway. A couple keep trying to diagnose me with things I don’t have and I have told them to knock it off but the lesson needs more reinforcements or something.

    • I reeeeeally wish there were some kind of system in place where you had, say, a two-year period after turning 18 in which you could simply go into your county courthouse and get a no-questions-asked name change. I’ve hated my full first name as long as I can remember, but getting it changed in my state is enough of a process that I feel like I had better be damn certain what I want to change it to before I undergo the process.

      • manybellsdown said:

        I half-agree with you, but I also know if I’d had that option at 18 my legal name would now be “Rainsong Stormsinger” sooooooo it’s probably good I didn’t have the chance.

        • I’d say you owe me for the Diet Coke I snorted all over my computer screen, but I was down to the rapidly warming swirl of the uncarbonated badness and melted ice anyway. 😉

          In all sincerity, I myself would likely be staring down another name change even if the one-time-free-pass option had been available, but that was mostly because I turned 18 before I realized that the feelings I’d been harboring since puberty that I felt really disconnected from my biological sex were…well, not common, but that I wasn’t the only one. CurrentName isn’t as feminine as HorridName, but there’s still no question, in the minds of people who hear it, as to what I’m “supposed” to be. But at least I wouldn’t deal with the Pavlovian clenching of jaw and fists whenever I have to deal with agencies who ID me by HorridName while I’m trying to sort through the tangle of my gender identity.

        • CommanderBanana said:

          Oh Gosh, seriously – I love the idea of a child being able to choose their own name, but we’d likely have a lot of Spiderman Awesomesauces running around. And if I could have renamed myself at 18 it would have been something awful and embarrassing now.

          • ….mmmm, actually, if I revised that age to 30, that would solve A LOT of my current issues!

        • Mel Reams said:

          You’re not wrong, there is a delightful human being out there named Loki Skylizard. Dr Skylizard, even. According to this medium article his parents let him and his sister change their names when they were eight. I can’t even say how happy it makes me that he decided hells yes, I’m going to be Dr Skylizard when I grow up.

    • cruelmistress said:

      I always hated my name, growing up– my dad picked it from a short list made by my mom in the twelve hours before I was born– and my dad told me whenever I complained that if I picked out a new name, he would pay for me to change it.

      I still have that name, which I don’t hate anymore (I don’t love it either), because the kind of child I was was one who would not name herself “Audra Starshine” unless she was damn well sure she wanted to make that kind of lifetime commitment.

      I’m also single with no children or tattoos, for similar reasons.

      • Single, child free, tattoo free high-fives! I have similar reasons as to why I haven’t changed HorridName, even though there is no love in that equation – if overthinking every possible outcome were an Olympic sport, I’d be on a plane to Rio with an eye toward breaking my own previously established world record.

  27. msexceptiontotherule said:

    I’ve gotten down to one last holdout in my family with regards to my name and all its possible variants. I’ve never liked the shortened version this relative continues to call me by, might even say I hate it with the fire of 214279647965.5 suns, but then I rarely see this relative so I’ve resigned myself to tolerating the name-shortened-which-I-hate and lots of dramatic sighing each time it’s said by this person. I don’t recommend this route to everyone and all, if the relative who still calls me by a shortened version of my name which I hate was a lot younger than this person is I don’t know if I’d stick with the patterned dramatic sigh punctuation path.

    I probably should be glad it’s only the one relative, given how many of my friends in high school I decided needed to spell their names more creatively and all gothic if possible- instead of the boring names found on the top ten baby names (according to the government) listed that decade. A few of our classmates were ‘uniquely’ named – Star, Micheline, Xochitl (I’m probably spelling it wrong) and said they wish they had our boring ‘normal’ names instead. Now I just ask what someone wants me to call them and go with that, and sometimes how they prefer their name to be spelled if there are multiple options. When in doubt, ask.

    • How true the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” I have a, uh, creative variation on an already uncommon name, and as you can probably ascertain from my other comments on this letter, I loathe it with the fire of 214279647966 suns. But I’m sure I’d have spent my childhood longing for the coolness of a name like Zzyzx Corona if Jessica or Amanda or Kate or the like had appeared on my birth certificate.

      • msexceptiontotherule said:

        At least when someone calls your name, you know it’s pretty much always that they’re calling *you* – to the counter, to the desk where misplaced kids at the store go to wait for security to page their parent(s), etc etc…? When I go to the pharmacy it can get confusing with all the other women with the same name in their computer system, heck I’m actually considering taking the s/o’s last name upon marriage due to how common my first and last names are! I might as well be named “Sara Smith”.

        But I get that others may feel complicated feels about their name. My dad is the one person who I’m ok with giving me a nickname, mostly because the one he has for me is totally nothing connected to my given name and also because he’s my dad. We don’t have a perfect relationship but what family really does have that?! Excluding tv show families, I mean. 😛

        • nottakennotavailable said:

          Oy, dads and nicknames! Mine not only bestowed one on me at an early age, but being a somewhat loud and boisterous sort, was fond of entering whatever room I was in, other people be damned, and bellowing, “HEY YA BEEZ!” (Both HorridName and CurrentName start with a B, so I don’t think the nickname gives that much away, except that my dad is kind of a dork). When I was a teenager, I’d had just about enough, so I asked him to cut it out. He looked a little sad, but he’s called me CurrentName to this day – success! The rest of my family occasionally calls me Beez in jest, but they’re the side of family that I like (though true story about perfect family relationships!) and teasing is how we demonstrate affection for each other, so it’s all good.

          I suppose HorridName does make pharmacy visits slightly easier? Since insurance dictates that my legal name must apparently be used at all times (what that “Preferred Name” box on the signup form is for, in that case, escapes me), all I have to do is wait for one of the pharmacists or techs to start with a B then fall to an apologetic stammering, and I know it’s my turn. :/

          One of my friends from college took her husband’s last name on marriage in no small part because she hated her long, complex, hyphenated last name of birth. While I have personal reservations with the idea of the woman taking the man’s last name due to feminism/patriarchy/fuck-social-expectations, etc., I also have my own obvious set of reasons for understanding why one might jump all over an opportunity to ditch a dreadful name that causes no end of bureaucratic headaches when it invariably gets spelled incorrectly on some important document!

          Though now that I think about it, one of the top contenders for my own future name change is so incredibly unusual that, once it happens, it may well be the only first name of its kind…I’ve given the most serious contemplation to dropping HorridName entirely, making my full name CurrentMiddleName LastName. CurrentMiddleName is my mother’s German Jewish maiden name, and shifting its position would be a way of honoring her memory (even if she did cause me thirty years and counting’s worth of trouble by foisting HorridName on me, haha), maintaining enough consistency that *I* wouldn’t get confused about my new identity, and also acknowledging that I have recently started IDing my gender as “lol” – CurrentMiddleName, being a last name and all, isn’t culturally glued to either side of the binary view on gender.

          • CJ said:

            Speaking of culturally glued, I’ve been considering changing my last name for awhile now. While a short five-character name of two syllables, it is easily mispronounced because it is not intuitive on which syllable the stress should fall. However, when pronounced correctly, it pairs beautifully with my first name, especially when said aloud, almost to the point where it sounds like a crafted stage name.

            There is also the practical matter of wanting to become more anonymous for the purpose of employment screening. While I have managed to limit my digital footprint, I can’t evade those public record search sites that display current and former addresses, along with a person’s age. And it’s the age issue that I don’t want potential employers to see, as I am 40+ and would at least like to have a chance at an interview.

            I’m not particularly attached to my last name, as my family isn’t a close one and very few of them are still alive. Yet with so many options, I could never settle on a preference for a new last name, especially one that paired well with my first name. There is also the matter of cultural appropriation and likely discrimination, as all the names on my short list suggest an ethnicity other than my own, an ethnicity falsely associated with some pretty awful things in these troubled times.

            After watching a particularly engaging documentary about a topic dear to my heart, I finally found my ideal new last name that referenced mythology from that part of the world. Yet it also spelled and sounded ethnically neutral enough not to attract negative attention. Imagine my surprise when I did a search and discovered that the same word is also a name option in my own ethnicity.

            So it looks like I’ve found The One. Now I just need to make it happen and start using my new last name socially. I will deal with the paper work later if it works out well enough to make it legal. Oddly enough, the new name is also a five-character name of two syllables, and is easily mispronounced for the same reason as my current last name. Yet unlike my current last name, any mispronunciation sounds pleasing to the ear. It’s meant to be. 🙂

          • nottakennotavailable said:

            @CJ (nesting limits, grrr!): That is so cool that you found Your Name! I’m in awe of the fact that you found one that honors that ethnicity without being appropriative. May its debut be as eloquent socially and legally as it is phonetically.

            Some of the more first-name-y first names I favor skirt the cultural appropriation issue because they’re historically established in my own culture; specifically, I have a soft spot for old-school, nay, Old Testament Biblical names – Josiah, Mordecai, Zebulon (though the last one dredges up its own set of problematic associations in that my connection with it is less the Lost Tribe of than the 19th-century explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who left his [last] name on one of the most prominent landmarks in my home state, but even though he and his party were relatively benign, it’s an understatement to say that white trappers and mappers were grade-A dicks to the Native Americans they encountered on the whole). But as if those names by themselves aren’t more eye-catching than I can probably handle, any one of them paired with my SuperJewishMiddleName and JustAsJewishLastName could very well attract attention I most definitely do not want in the age of Donald Trump, Viable Presidential Candidate. X(

            The other problem with going after traditional first names is that most are strongly gender-coded. I’ve mentally played with using names of men whose artistic works I admire (men because pretty much all I can say for certain about my gender identity is that it does NOT conform to the “F” checked off on my birth certificate…I want to have my breasts and uterus surgically removed, for goodness’ sake), but in addition to full masculinity not feeling quite right, either, I worry about the message I’d be unwittingly sending if I were to come out as, say, Edgar Allan Poe LastName or Jim Morrison LastName, for example.

            So I think I will be taking a page out of your book and starting to introduce myself to new people as CurrentMiddleName to see how it feels – testing that out on my family would probably require coming out about my trans*ness, and while I know I can’t put that off forever (especially not if I show up to Passover suddenly flat-chested), I can’t think about having that conversation with my nonagenarian grandmother and father right now. The nice thing about minimizing the name change so that it leaves the last two-thirds intact is that I’ll probably still be able to cash birthday and Hanukkah checks even if CurrentName/HorridName are on them. 🙂

            I feel you on the digital footprint, though. In my case, I’m less concerned about potential job interviews than I am about the trail of creepy dudes trailing in my wake like technological dingleberries, though I’m also aware that merely turning 30 has already closed some doors before I even knocked. Fuck discrimination.

          • At this point the s/o’s last name actually seems…well it seems better than mine and I demand a new last name or the machete will come out and body parts will be detaching (not mine, mind you, I have to keep them for the machete wielding and whatnot) and who wants a wedding with all that blood and gore instead of cake and whatever else they have at wedding receptions. I know it’s going to be a courthouse thing and there are times when I really do consider not telling anyone – not even my parents – when it takes place and sort of “surprise! I got married last month on a Wednesday!”…would that be a bad thing? Its not like the living arrangement is going to change, they’ve met him and like him, and most importantly I do not *need* or *want* the big floofy dress in a big fancy church place, that’s not what a marriage is! A marriage is everything *after* the vows are said and you’ve pledged life, love, and loyalty to a person until one or both of you die. Really the wedding process can be simplified to “fill out some forms, have a couple of people to witness this and pay us some money because we’re the government and we like your money.”

            The pharmacy techs can’t even ask for my middle initial without pulling up a few with the same first, last AND middle initial as mine. You’re probably thinking “Why is she spending so much time at the pharmacy?”…the lines are loooooooooooooooooong 😉 and finally having health insurance. You don’t realize how much of you is kind of falling apart until you have insurance again after a good long while and the doctor will mostly give you the ‘look’ and then says things like…”Soooo….you’re definitely going to need to fix a few things so you don’t die next year or something…” And if it’s the ladyparts doctor he speaks with a “Swedish chef” accent (yes the Muppets one). As long as nobody mentions turkey things are ok.

            My parents occasionally mention that there were other names I could have ended up with, if they’d remembered those when I was born and decided to give me one of the others instead of the one I got. My brother has 4 kids and I gave up on trying to fit his name, my SILs name, and all of the kids names on the front of envelopes for Christmas cards and what have you, there are just too many names and space on an envelope is at a premium! I should email the brother to inform him that he should be grateful that he doesn’t have to deal with such things – there’s my name, the s/o’s name and the dog’s. If I take the s/o’s last name that frees up some space for the dog’s middle name to be included! Yes, I gave my dog a first and a middle name because she’s the most super special dog in the whole wide world and I love her to bits! I may not have a kid, but who needs one when there’s a dog who tolerates being put into sweaters and the occasional reindeer costume complete with antlers? (the dog is currently looking at me like she knows I’ve been saying stuff about dressing her in sweaters and reindeer costumes including antlers and little hoof booties. If I didn’t work from home mostly I’d be missing out on ‘the face’ and her derriere on my feet. That would be a tragedy of epic proportions!) I think that the idea of naming a kid at birth isn’t the best way to start out a relationship between child and parent(s)…it’s not like you even need a specific name the first few years, and why not allow a kid to pick their own? Unless it’s Princess Ladygardenruffles Sparkletastic. Gotta be reasonable but at the same time prevent future awfulness that a name like Princess Ladygardenruffles Sparkletastic is definitely going to cause.

          • Ohhhh, msexceptiontotherule, you don’t have to justify the hours spent in pharmacies to a Type I diabetic! I’d have to set aside at least a whole afternoon per month whether I had health insurance or not, but thanks to the ACA, I can at least say that I’m only getting ripped off temporally rather than financially while I play silly iPad games and futilely glance at the counter in despair to see if I can unlock some magical achievement that makes my prescription ready any sooner.

            My dad sent me a text message to let me know he’d gotten married to my stepmom, so I can affirm that it is possible for the immediate family members to get over it if they weren’t invited to your courthouse wedding.

            I definitely understand the need to make a legal change in nomenclature. It’s my own personal reasons that would prevent me from changing my last name, or at least changing it to a partner’s, but I have other reasons for wanting to maintain some connection to the name I’ve used for the first thirty years of my life – it’s on everything I’ve published or produced, and while I can only look back at some of those works, shake my head, and say, “Good gracious, I was so…young,” many appear to have spoken to someone in some capacity, and it’ll be helpful to my future endeavors if I can point to evidence of having already reached out to a wide audience. Such proof will be more readily accepted if the byline contains part of my name.

            My late kitty did not have a middle name, but he had all kinds of awful nicknames. He was, at various points, Fur Potato, Mr. Fur, Fuzzmuffin, Puddybutt, and Squeaky. I’m not sure if those are better or worse than Princess Ladygardenruffles Sparkletastic, though at least they never showed up on any vet paperwork.

            If I’d been allowed to name myself at 5, I am fairly certain my admiration of Garfield the cat would’ve led me to sharing a name with an unremarkable president. So while I do wish the name-changing process required less government paperwork than either getting married or going through the courts, I do agree that children should probably not be the ones to decide what goes on their school forms!

  28. JustClaire said:

    My young daughter changed her nickname to a more simple, less young sounding nickname. It took her while to get everyone to switch. It’s been a great teachable moment. Her close friends who switched in a matter of days, and reminded each other to switch, other friends who struggled with the change and their various “rationalizations” for failing, and adults (including me) who struggled with the change have tested her and shown her the very many shades of relationships. After a year even the most resistant folks have adapted to using her (new) nickname. I’m proud of her (even though I dearly miss her old nickname).

    • Rorie_Lee said:

      Just thought I’d say that I did almost the exactly same thing when I was about 5. Say my given name was ‘Danica’ but everyone called me ‘Dannie’, when I was 5-ish I announced I was ‘changing’ my name back to Danica because I thought Dannie sounded too young. My parents were very supportive and almost everybody started calling me Danica (excepting some relatives who just refused, but they were in the minority), which I’m still called today. But! As I got older and my ‘Danica’ identity was considered solid, I started not minding being called ‘Dannie’ so much and actually rather enjoy it now upon occasion. So you too might not’ve seen the last of your daughter’s old nickname.

      • manybellsdown said:

        This is how I feel about “Jenny”. I spent 20 years insisting on “Jennifer” to no avail (everyone called me “Jenn” anyway) and absolutely refusing to even consider “Jenny”. Now I don’t mind Jenny as long as I’ve said someone can call me that. Still hate people who presume they can use it when I’ve introduced myself as “Jennifer”, though.

        • My cousin’s birth name is Robert. As a young child he was “Robbie.” When he got older and announced he was now “Rob,” he met with no resistance whatsoever. My brother was always Daniel as a child; when he finally admitted he hated it and would prefer “Dan,” everyone switched immediately except my mother, who took 4 or 5 years to get it right. I, however, changed my name to a family nickname almost 25 years ago and she still refuses to use it.

          But then, she has a weird competitiveness thing that only applies to her female relatives.

  29. CommanderBanana said:

    Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh I have a fairly common first name that has several spelling and pronunciation variations, and my parents didn’t know how the name was pronounced when they named me, so as far as I know I’m the only person with this name but with my particular pronunciation.

    That being said, it’s still phonetic, and it’s a short and fairly simple name. I really don’t mind if people call me by the other, “correct” pronunciation, but I have spent my entire life correcting people who butcher it into something longer and more complicated than it is. I don’t even have a middle name I can use because my middle name is my mom’s long, complicated Italian surname (speaking of she never changed her last name through either marriage, which led to some interesting assumptions, including that I was adopted).

    Fortunately my name has a silly but easy to remember mnemonic for how to say it, so I’ve just started using that.

  30. Not Angela said:

    Like several commenters I have a real name that is relatively rare but very similar to a very common name and LOTS of people call me by the wrong name because they assume my name is the common name. A good equivalent would be if my name was Angelina and people kept calling me Angela, these are different names with different spellings and and sounds even though they are quite similar and one is much more common. I have a coworker who continues to call me the equivalent of Angela even though (a) I corrected her at least twice, once in front of others, and (b) we email each other a lot and my name is right there on the email.

    Does anyone have any scripts for how I can politely explain that she is misnaming me? It feels disrespectful though I don’t think she is trying to be so.

    Also, a couple of coworkers abbreviate my name to the equivalent of “Ange” or “Angie” even though I hate this, and no one calls me this. One also does this in email e.g. “I asked Angie to help” or “Angie, can you give me the spreadsheets by 3?” Any way of not sounding rude while correcting them?

    • CommanderBanana said:

      I think it’s perfectly okay to reply to their emails (not reply all, but to the original sender) and just say “My name is Angelina.” The next time to coworker calls you the wrong name, just say “My name is Angelina.” Don’t apologize or explain, just “My name is Angelina” for as many times as it takes.

      My dad mixes up my name and my mom’s name a lot, even though they’re not remotely similar – I think we both just occupy the space marked “small, black-haired woman who is related to me” in his brain. I used to mix up the names of two former coworkers all the time, because their names were sort of similar, they looked a lot alike, and I met them at the same time, so it was like my brain had smashed them together.

      • JustClaire said:

        When my mentally disabled sister comes to visit, I always go thru an adjustment period where I struggled to get the correct name out. I will call her in rapid succession my 1st child’s name, then my 2nd child’s name, then the pet dog’s name! It’s embarrassing but I think it’s because my brain has lumped her into the “dependent/must take care of” category.

        • CommanderBanana said:

          My mom used to call my ex-boyfriend and I by each others names – we’re roughly the same size/shape and have the same coloring, and at the time, we both wore a lot of black and had very short hair. Try explaining that when you’re out and about with your mom and someone comments on her twins. Yech.

          I think sometimes your brain does make shortcuts without you wanting it to when it comes to people’s names and identities, and that’s not done maliciously, but refusing to use someone’s preferred name is really douchey, and I can’t imagine why anyone would dig their heels in over this.*

          *ok, our cat would get really annoyed when we would call him cutesy names and we kept doing it, which was kind of mean, but also funny. I’m sure in his mind he was Magestic McKiller Tigerton O’Deathbolt, not Pookie or Chubsums Wubsums Fuzzmatuzz.

        • Leonine said:

          When my sweet, even-tempered older son is being a pill, I often accidentally call him by his hot-tempered little brother’s name. Yeah. Not proud of that.

          • BarlowGirl said:

            There’s an episode of the Simpsons where Marg automatically yells “Bart!” when one of her kids is doing something wrong. It’s kind of hilarious, honestly.

            My mom occasionally calls me her younger sister’s name.

    • CJ said:

      I once had a female therapist who abbreviated my name (to the first syllable) whenever she referred to me by name in person and in email. It was annoying, yet she didn’t refer to me by name often, so I decided not to make a big thing about it. She’s also no longer my therapist, as there were greater issues in our relationship that made the abbreviated name thing pale in comparison.

    • Jackalope said:

      I have the opposite problem. Let’s say FullFirstName is Elizabeth, and I go by Lizzie. I don’t mind people coming up with other nicknames such as Liz, or Beth, or what have you, but Elizabeth — or Elizabeth Anne — was what I got when I was younger and in trouble, and it still has negative overtones to me even though I like it objectively. I just deal with it when I’m talking to someone about official business (insurance, DMV, etc.), but when I’m around people that I know, they need to call me something that is not Elizabeth. I actually have an exception for people who are very close to me — I have a handful of friends with whom I will exchange full names (“Elizabeth Anne?” “Yes, Cordelia Marie?” “Would you please pass the tea?”) when we are playing — but (with the exception of my dad and one aunt) you have to have been a friend for years and called me Lizzie/Liz/other correct name before you get to use the full name. I had a co-worker recently who refused to call me anything but Elizabeth no matter how many times I corrected him. His excuse was that he was bad at names and my IM at work says “Elizabeth Smith”, but I TOLD him over and over what my correct name was and NO ONE else called me anything but Lizzie or Liz. Finally after several tries I just stopped interacting with him except when absolutely required, because I decided that if he couldn’t bother with Lizzie — seriously? how hard is LIZZIE? — then he was not someone I wanted to spend time with. After several months of me correcting him he would sometimes get it right, which was progress, but still…. Really? (He ended up leaving, which made life happier for everyone [himself most emphatically included, since the job was a bad fit for him].)

      So my idea would be similar to what other people said: correct them a few times, and then don’t respond to the wrong name. This might be harder at work, since you can’t cut off all contact the way you could with someone in your personal life, but if you establish the boundary up front (“I will only respond to Angelina; if you call me anything else I will assume you are talking to someone else,”) and then stick to it, you may have success.

      (Depending on your work environment, you may also choose to make a joke out of it — “Ange? Hey, cool, I didn’t know we had someone knew!” — but only if you feel that will work at your office. Some places I’ve worked would be fine with that, others would not.)

  31. BigdogLittlecat said:

    “Because I want to” is all the reason you need.
    If that’s not “good enough” for your aunt, eff her.

  32. BigdogLittlecat said:

    My mother chose my name because she dearly loved a nickname derived from it. But then my father pointed out that the nickname was similar to my sister’s name and would cause confusion – doubtful because the names rhyme but one starts with a soft sound and the other a hard sound – so I have been called by my full name. Except when my father got flustered and called us by a third name that was a completely valid combination of my full name and my sister’s name!

    • CJ said:

      I’m named after a Dark Ages warlord. Not by intention, as my parents aren’t exactly up on their history. My mother once encountered the name in a song and thought it would be so pretty for her first born daughter.

      I didn’t like my name much as a child, as I grew up in an era of Mary-Janes, Susans, and Lindas. I wanted to blend in, not stand out. My distinctive name also invited nicknames that weren’t particularly kind.

      As an adult, I love my name. Although it does make it very difficult for me to travel incognito. The most tedious aspect are those amateur historian mansplainers who seem to enjoy enlightening me about my warlord namesake. I have retorts to deal with that, many of them involving swords, axes, and a thicket of spears. Such fun. 🙂

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        LOL! Channel your namesake when you encounter the mansplainers.

    • HorridName is an abomination – er, amalgamation – of my mother’s admiration for a prostitute in a movie (“But NTNA, [a well-respected actress] played the prostitute!” I heard frequently as a child; “Then why didn’t you name me [W-RA’s first name], Mom?!?”) and a relative of hers who was widely disliked.

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        Wow, thanks, mom, bastard love child of a prostitute and someone everyone dislikes. Awesome! I can’t wait until I’m in junior high and everyone learns I’m named after a prostitute!

        I have a strange relationship with my first name. I have no particular attachment to it, and sort of don’t like it, and looked into changing it, but never found a name that was *me*.
        My first name is fairly “normal,” if not very common, that happens to be one of several variations on the same name. In junior high I adopted a slight change in the spelling that has no impact on the pronunciation but makes it *look* much better. Just by accident, the spelling highlights which of the many variations it is, which rather amuses me because I actually don’t care if I’m called by any of the variations, but by god, if you use the correct version, don’t spell it wrong!
        My last name is very simple and can be a given name, so when I need to give a name for a reservation or pickup, I use my last name. And in fact, a lot of people call me by a diminutive form of my last name.

        Maybe when I’m 80 my name will occur to me.

        • nottakennotavailable said:

          Heh, except for the part about your first name being “normal,” I’d wonder if we were secretly long-distance conjoined twins! I’m thinking of dropping HorridName entirely (which would, by extension, mean ditching CurrentName as well, legally speaking – CurrentName is the half that came from the sex worker, *and it’s still the better half*) and making my legal name CurrentMiddleName LastName. CurrentMiddleName is also quite obviously a last name, that of my mother, but I like it as a name. Plus, if I elevated its status, I wouldn’t have to worry about an angry 5’4″ ghost with waist-length platinum blonde extensions haunting me for ditching the name she so meticulously selected for me. -_-

          • BigdogLittlecat said:

            Clearly there is some connection here, with all the name rearranging!
            I completely dropped my middle name because I never used it and it made my initials into an actual word that I wasn’t willing to be known as. If it had made me one of the zillion animals that are three letter words, I’d probably have kept it, but no, it had to be a word that was totally not me.
            If my first name could be faked into a last name, I’d probably have just swapped them. But it would cause people’s heads to explode, trying to imagine it as a last name, since it’s so FIRST name.

            I often wonder how my life would have turned out if they’d called me by the nickname my mother wanted to call me instead of my given name. I truly think it would have made a difference because they are so different.
            If I ever run away and start my life all over again, I think I’d go by nickname + mother’s maiden name.

        • I have a strange relationship with my first name. I have no particular attachment to it, and sort of don’t like it, and looked into changing it, but never found a name that was *me*.

          Ooh, this is me too. I used to think my name (Megan) was less common…until I got to middle school and met four other girls with variations on it. Turns out, my parents picked it right as it spiked in popularity! And I just hadn’t had a big enough social circle as a kid to know that. (I did up becoming close friends with another Meg(h)an, and we became The Meg(h)ans at our relatively small school. Good times!)

          Anyway, I could take or leave it, but I haven’t found anything I feel like fits me better. Except, weirdly, I’ve been kinda toying with the idea of using Rey, as in the Star Wars character’s name – but I’m also in my mid-20s and I don’t want to come across as ridiculous or trend-hopping because the movie just came out and it’s unmistakable where it came from. I dunno, it’s just odd.

          • Oh, dammit. I can’t work the HTML, apparently. Sorry!

          • BigdogLittlecat said:

            My entire school career, I knew three other girls with the same name. It’s one of those names that no one raises an eyebrow at, but is rare, while at the same time there are many many variations and nicknames, and has been around forever and in every language.
            Both boring and awkward. Yay.

          • Perlandra said:

            About 3/4 of the ladies in my social circle when I was in my 20’s were named Jennifer. One kept the full name, another went to Genevieve. We had Jen, Jen-Jen, Jenna, Niffy, Little Jenny, Red Jenny, and Soccer Jenny. Back in high school, we had two guys named Mario in several of my classes, who we referred to as the “Super Mario Brothers.”

            I don’t know anyone named just Rey, but I know a few people named Reyna.

          • BarlowGirl said:

            My mom’s middle name is Rae, originally Ray (she changed it when she was twelve or thirteen). And she’s older than the original Star Wars movies!

      • My middle name is a very old fashioned name that suits me not even a tiny bit and which I hate. It’s also my mother’s name. And you know what? She hates it too and has gone by a nickname for decades. She got saddled with it because it was HER mother’s name. Which, surprise surprise, she also hated and went by either her middle name or a nickname based loosely on the hated name.

        So basically, all the women in my family hate this name but keep giving it to their daughters anyway. I’m proud to say I broke that particular chain. My daughter’s name as never appeared in my family before, as far as I know (and I know a lot of my family history)

        • I’m not sure I personally would follow the “misery loves company” strategy of bestowing names, but I also don’t adhere to a lot of traditions, family or otherwise, that I find unpleasant. :p

          Part of the reason my mother took such creative liberties with foisting my legal first name on me is that she found her own name short and boring. At least mine is neither of the above, I suppose. X(

  33. Ooh, I changed my name at 18. My mom had a friend who did it, so I thought it was an awesome idea. I decided to go by my middle name. (Just realized that I’ve been going by my chosen name for longer than given name. Awesome!) I just didn’t care for given name, it was really common growing up.

    Mostly everyone did ok with it. Except abusive jerk dad. I knew he was abusive, but I kept reminding him of my new name. He had all sorts of excuses, like “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and yadda yadda. His mom couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t forgive him about it. It was pretty off and on for him until I stopped talking to him years ago, because he’s an abusive jerk. Clearly, there’s more going on than just a refusal to call me my chosen name, but this is always an option. It’s not so bad to cut people off. Sometimes the stress and toxicity is just not worth as much as the relationship.

  34. AtomicCowgirl said:

    My ex, father of my children, and were both adopted. His birth mom had him baptized before she relinquished, and his adoptive parents wanted to keep the first/middle names she had given him, but the agency said it could not be allowed. Since our divorce he has decided to change his name to the first/middle that his first mother gave him. It has been a challenge for his elderly parents and mine, but they are all coming along. I’ve always felt it was important to call people by the names they have chosen for themselves, especially when they have names that are often shortened (Kimberly, Michael, Stephen, etc). I try to make a point of noticing how people introduce themselves and use that name regardless of what I hear others refer to them. My husband has one of those names, and of all his family and friends I am the only person I know of who calls him by the name he prefers, which really strikes me as odd. Some people are oddly selfish about other peoples’ names.

    • TurquoiseDra9on said:

      Part of the foster parent training in my state includes the note that you cannot change a foster kids name just because you feel like it. That they need to make this so explicit boggles my brain. Happily, the social workers agree with me that if a kid comes into my house and announces they their name is NotLegalName, I am allowed to call the kid whatever the kid tells me their name is.

  35. solecism said:

    All the feels on this one. I’ve used a gender-neutral short form of my full first name my whole life. Now that I identify as NB, all the more do I want that instead of full name. Have contemplated the legal name change but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Really annoying that all businesses everywhere are more and more insistent on my opening accounts with full legal name and change it over when they get access to that info, no matter how I set up the name when I started. Grrr.

    I had a job in a relatively toxic work environment where several people had nicknames bestowed on them by colleagues, usually for embarrassing reasons. Some embraced these with enthusiasm, and others not so much. It was a form of bullying, really. One of these folks once used a feminized diminutive of my name instead of my preferred gender-neutral version, and I objected to it. She replied that she didn’t like the name others were using for her, and I pointed out that *I* had never used those nicknames for her.

    OTOH, I have a real problem parsing Peter/Pete, David/Dave and similar pairs with/without closing consonant as different names. In my brain, the 2 forms go to the same box, and I have a really hard time distinguishing them. But if someone tells me that the full version is preferred, I do my damnedest to flag it in my brain so my sorting error doesn’t result in an unfriendly microaggression toward them.

    LW, you are doing the right thing in insisting on your correct name. And that refusal to hear you is bullying. Your aunt ain’t the judge of you. You keep rocking on.

    • My godawful ability to remember any names, nick- or otherwise, is a(n admittedly small) part of the reason I quit teaching. I call people “Hey you” so much, they probably think I’m a one-person Pink Floyd tribute band.

      • manybellsdown said:

        I’m actually great with kids’ names, but I will promptly forget the name of anyone over 20 three seconds after being introduced.

        • I taught adults, ostensibly. I was an adjunct at a community college for a year, then I was a ski instructor. Even though I worked in the adult section of the ski school, the nature of how the reservations system worked meant that, when a parent called in to schedule s private lesson, the agent would go down the list of all instructors and assign the kid to the first name that came up.

          By what is doubtlessly pure dumb coincidence, the most feminine names usually got saddled with the kids first. I can’t count the number of times I had to go in to my supervisor on seeing the age of a client on an assignment and say, “For the love of fuck, do not stick me with a four-year-old! Everybody will be miserable, including the parents who are paying hundreds of dollars for me to essentially babysit their offspring for a few hours!”

          I did have to work with a five-year-old once. My supervisor was apologetic, but everyone else was booked, and at least this kid had been skiing before, so all I had to do was take him down the beginner slope a few times to wear him out… I dunno about the kid, but *I* was shot after five minutes. Even well-behaved kids try my patience, apparently, making that experience the longest three hours of my life.

          And that’s the larger reason why I don’t teach anymore. Not only do I have a sieve-like memory for names in any age group, but I am simply not a people person, and what are little kids but people in high-speed mode? :p

        • BigdogLittlecat said:

          I ask people their dog’s/cat’s name because I’m more likely to remember that.

    • A dear friend of mine got into a protracted fight with her alma mater regarding her desire to have ShortName rather than LongName on her diploma. She eventually won, though it was against their policy. Similarly, when I was at her wedding, it was like chewing sand every time the officiant said her full name; when I got a chance to ask her, I was like, “Every time you had to say your full name it was for the legal crap, right?” and she went, “Yup. The province of Ontario says I’m not legally married if I don’t say, ‘I, FullLegalName, do take Husband…'”.

      • Oh holy fuck. I will file that away if I wind up needing to grasp frantically onto my maternal grandmother’s Canadian citizenship this November.

  36. Marzipan Dragon said:

    My name has a short nickname that doesn’t bother me normally. But I knew a new job many years ago was going to be a hell-job when in the first moments of the first day my new boss looked at me and said “Your name has too many syllables (three) and I am way too important to spend my time saying all of them. So I am going to call you (short nickname that everyone uses) and you will answer to it.

    Yup, it was a hell-job and he was a mentally abusive ass and within a couple of months I decided being unemployed looked better than ever seeing him again.

  37. I’m sure your new name is splendid, and it gives you a warm glow inside to write it out, say it, or just see it. How’s that for a good reason? It’s something so small that makes you so happy, and it was a good decision.

    I am side eying your aunt way hard for not really caring about your spiritual beliefs. Unless you’re skinning puppies or something really awful, she should respect, if not agree, with your spirituality.

  38. Ach LW, how rude of your aunt. Frankly, she’s being a bit of a toad in refusing to call you by your chosen name.

    I’ve actually gone by a couple forms of name in my life and have just recently changed it completely (not legally, yet; still waiting to hopefully get some transitioning-related stuff out the way first, but I internet it up with the male name as you can see.) I used shortened versions of my first and middle name – let’s say the full versions were, oh, Sandra Elizabeth, and I was using, hm, Sandy Beth – and a totally different last name – we’ll say the real one is Scattercherry and the one I decided to go with was oh, how about we say Tsubomi. Because really, much, much easier. So legally I was still “Sandra Elizabeth Scattercherry” but informally “Sandy Beth Tsubomi”.

    Pretty much everyone was on board with that who needed to be. But the latest…reminds me why I really don’t like my middle sister.

    She’s always veered between hating me with the fury of a thousand suns and trying far, far too hard to be the cool sister, which mostly quit working on me about the time I was thirteen. She was alright with truncating the legal first and middle names and going with a simpler unrelated last name, in fact being quite a large advocate of that by making damn sure to always use my preferred name, but now I’ve announced I’m actually not a woman and am taking steps to rectify this she’s basically taken it as a convenient excuse to give my family the silent treatment. (She and mum were already feuding – well, I should say she’s feuding with mum who hasn’t done a single damn thing to deserve having utterly no access to her youngest grandkid – this was just the straw she needed to quit talking to us for months on end except to complain, bitch, and be generally ungrateful before she pulls the radio silence trick again.) She pretends I don’t exist; by actually wanting to be who I really am I have erased myself completely, in her opinion. When she does speak of me, she refuses to call me by *any name whatsoever* and I’m pretty sure she’s seriously upset our mum by calling me “it” a few times now.

    At this point it just rolls off me, which brings me to the point of this long-winded ramble. It will take time, but if you simply ignore her and just do you, I think it’ll get to that point for you too, where it just rolls right off. Good luck LW.

  39. resili0 said:

    I changed my surname and after enjoying how good it felt to be my own woman (vs carrying the name of a bio father who was abusive) I stopped celebrating my birthday on my birth date and started celebrating it on the date I got my new name.

    Some family members found it odd but care about me and got on board. Others had so much invested in our House Of Denial family make believe that they struggled to accept that I wanted to be a person of my own and that I wasn’t going to keep having birthdays on a day riddled with sexual abuse trauma memories. Those people would never be satisfied because maintaining their plausible deniability matters more to me than I do.

    That was sad but unsurprising. My family will being that way and I went off with my new name, made awesome new birthday memories and feel good in my own skin. It was worth it.

    Not everyone will get the basic truth that if your name is significant to you, and you are significant to them, then you don’t have to explain/justify it. For some, no reason can suffice. It doesn’t negate the choice you made to name yourself.

  40. resili0 said:

    *typo, matters more to them

  41. Clarry said:

    This isn’t an actual suggestion, but I’d love it if you asked your aunt for an example of a good enough reason for a name change. That’s because *I’m* dying to know. In my imagination, you ask her, and she stammers for a reason before coming out with something ridiculous like “Well, if space aliens abducted you onto their space ship and said they’d come back for you and find you because they know your real name …” And then you say, “That’s exactly what happened!”

    • Jackalope said:

      I love it! Foil the aliens! Escape! Remain free! Engage in wanton use of exclamation marks!!

      • Clarry said:

        I was being funny, but I sort of like part of the idea. If there are enough other things that LW likes about her relationship with her aunt to make talking to her worth it, she might ask with an open mind what her aunt thinks would be a good enough reason for a name change. The answer could be enlightening.

  42. Mel Reams said:

    She believes that I need to give her a good enough reason for why I changed my name before she will call me by my new name.

    Wow, that hits all my hulk out and flip a city full of tables buttons. Sometimes assholes gonna ass, LW, and there’s simply nothing you can do to fix them. I personally don’t justify my decisions to anyone who doesn’t sign my paycheques, so I recommend stonewalling shockingly-rude-aunt with “My name is [chosen name], use it if you want to talk to me” and not interacting with people who can’t be bothered to get your name right. I’m kind of a jerk, though, so your mileage may vary and all that.

  43. zaracat said:

    Not much to add. I completely agree that using whatever name you choose to go by is a matter of respect.

    I was part of a hobby group where everyone had a “game name”, and most people only knew me by that name. After I left the group because of bullying, I naturally dropped my gamename and asked those with whom I was still in contact to use my realname instead. It took an annoying long time for some of them to get the message, and a lot of “but whyyyyy? It’s so much easier if I don’t have to remember a different name”. Not surprisingly, those who didn’t get it about my name were the same people who “wouldn’t take sides” with respect to the bullying.

  44. ReallySuperAnonforThis said:

    My brother’s religious conversion included a name change that was directed AT the rest of the family. (Biblical example, think renaming yourself “Joseph” to express how you feel about your brothers.) I have stopped speaking to him, though that’s more because of his insistence that I must follow his rules when I interact with him, but when I speak of him, I grit my teeth and use the chosen name. It’s his choice, and, in the end, I hope it reflects worse on him than it does on me.

  45. kat said:

    i changed my full name when i was 18, and not everyone…. actually, most people didn’t take it well. they just couldn’t understand why i did it, they said, and they were going to call me oldname anyway, they’d add with a smile.

    it wasn’t a battle i was interested in fighting. the only thing i really tried to fight them on was when they introduced me to new people as oldname. in fact, the person who really bugged me the most, was my fathers girlfriend, who didn’t even meet me until after i had been newname for several years. well, your dad always calls you that, so that is how i think of you.

    i’m 27 now, and most people have grasped that my name is not oldname. the problem now? when i was 18 i didn’t even know non binary was a thing. i knew i was …different, but i had no idea ‘neither’ was even an option, so i defaulted to female.

    i love my name, but i would very much like to change firstname to a more gender neutral version. in norway, you can change once every ten years. i want to, so much. but i’m not sure i want to… tell my family. what my name is. fml.

    tldr sometimes people just give up and stop fighting, if you are immovable as stone. …that does work both ways, however. if your aunt is weighing you down, leave her behind. if you can tolerate it? i don’t know that it’s something i would recommend. even for me, where it just wasn’t worth fighting, it was ….hurful, i guess. little jabs, every time they speak.

    anyway, don’t count on getting her to change her ways. whatever you do, take into account that she may always do this. …i mean, maybe she will change! but that’s not guaranteed. or even likely. ….or it could take literal years. years and years. worth it? probably not.

  46. RapidlyDashing said:

    No advice to add, just sympathy. I’m over five years in on a name change and it’s only within the past year or so that my extended family have consistently been calling me by my chosen name. But! I had been fairly sure that some of them would NEVER come around, so, progress!

    What really drives me nuts is when people learn my partner’s last name (or when people my partner knows learn my first name)…imagine that my chosen name is Snow, and his last name is Snowden. I swear, everyone immediately says, “so you’d be Snow Snowden if you got married!?” Still working on coming up with a good comeback– my favorite so far is something my partner actually said, that he would never marry anyone named Snow Snowden 🙂

    • AnnaStheticOnThe WrongComputer said:

      Hello! You may like to try ‘Goodness! That is honestly 100% totally completely the first time anyone has ever made that joke!’

      I have a last name that is part of several common catchphrases, and that’s what I tend to go with when people yell one of them at me.

  47. Knayt said:

    I’m sorry to hear about your aunt. I’ve had a few different instances of misnaming, between grandparents refusing to use the right spelling because they have some issue with me changing the name my parents gave me (which said parents were totally on board with, which turns out not to actually matter for some reason), people who refuse to use the right spelling because “that’s not how Nate is spelled”, and a good two years in middle school where one of the older kids just decided to rename me to something completely unrelated and I pretty much had to roll with it. Generally people have been neutral to positive, but none of the exceptions are exactly great.

    So I’ve had time to work out a few strategies. With the grandparents, it’s generally just reminding them that the name is different when it crops up in writing, along with having to disavow “Nathan” with some frequency. With the middle school BS, it was a matter of just putting up with it for two years then claiming my name again the instant I came to highschool. With others who don’t have disproportionate power due to being family elders, I generally remind them once or twice then start deliberately using alternate spellings or pronunciations back until they get the point.

    I don’t know how much clout your aunt has in the family, but I generally prefer to avoid conflict where possible, so I’d avoid something too overt if she has any real clout. One option would just be to avoid her name entirely – she is now “Aunt”, or “The Aunt”, and if she complains about how you’re not using her name, you can point out that she’s not using yours either and can thus deal with it.

  48. I’m not sure when my family got the hint that children and I are not good together, but I do seem to recall that they let up shortly after I dogs at for my cousin for a month – the best that could be said of that experience was that both the dog and I survived, but most of the time, I was pulling my hair out and thinking, “Holy hell, I fed and walked you! What the fuck else do you need?!” because cats, wary creatures that they are, are what I’m used to. Happily, I doubt I’ll be asked to babysit.

    These days, I evade assumptions about any unconscious but unavoidable desire for a popped belly and decorated nursery from those who don’t know me because most can’t figure out whether I’m a guy or a girl, and everybody knows that babies are things that guys never want and so must be tricked into; ergo, if I say I don’t want or even particularly like children, it’s strictly because I’m a guy with a high voice. -_-

    • JenniferP said:

      Hey nice person! Your decisions about your reproductive future are all your own! However, that is not the topic of this thread, so please consider starting a focused discussion in the forums or in your own site. Thank you.

  49. Angel said:

    Another self-namer here.

    At about fourteen I decided I wanted to go by a shortened name because my full given name was a 4-syllable, 9-letter monstrosity (in my teenage opinion) that was way too common. I was sick of answering to people who were talking to someone else (I still have this problem, but it bothers me less), and a lot of the computer games I played had 5- or 8-letter limits for usernames. I tried out a couple nicknames for a couple of weeks each, nothing really fit. I think it was seeing my dentist appointment reminder with my name misspelled that triggered my accidentally assembling something I honestly really liked. I thought I’d made it up for several years, but I’ve since discovered it’s an accepted nickname for my given name.

    I don’t remember how I “came out” about it. I think I just said “I want to be called this for a while to see if I like it. I’ll let you know if I decide to switch back.” Everyone put in a solid effort, and I didn’t really have any problems. My boyfriend took the longest, and until last year if he was introducing me to someone it would look something like, “This is my girlfriend GivenName” … “*Glare* Hi, nice to meet you! I actually go by ChosenName!” But he’s finally caught on.

    It’s a gigantic stupid hassle introducing myself to people, or being at university, or getting a job. I still have to remember to answer to GivenName, then kindly correct that I go by ChosenName. People usually mis-hear my name, AChosenName or TheChosenName or what have you, so I always have to very carefully pronounce and spell it the first time or two. Inevitably they will ask “Is that short for something?” and I used to say “Yes, it’s short for GivenName” but now it’s just “Yep, but I haven’t used it since I was fourteen”. I’m just going to go ahead and legally change my name when I get married. GivenName Middle MaidenName –> ChosenName Middle MarriedName. My middle name is a kind of family tradition, and I am fond of it. The rest, though, that’s outta here.

    Seconding this “yellow flag” thing I saw above. I always know when emails or phone calls are “personalized” because they’ll say GivenName, and I can generally ignore them.

    • Emma said:

      As another self-namer (I love that way of putting it!) can I just say I don’t see why you’re introducing yourself as GivenName at all? Like, with jobs, there’s no reason you have to put GivenName on your resume or professional email address – you only need it for things like your HR paperwork. It’s entirely legal to have ChosenName as your only name on a resume.

      Also, I do want to say, while it’s often easier to change your name legally when you’re getting married, it’s not, in my experience, hard to change it legally even without getting married. Different states do have different requirements (and I can only speak to the US, so if you’re elsewhere, there might be other restrictions), but as far as I’m aware all they really care about is that you’re not trying to impersonate anyone, be offensive, or dodge debts. Hell, in my case, they didn’t even ask if my last name was a real name or not – and in fact it was a random collection of letters I completely made up.

  50. Nancy McClure said:

    I’m kind of going off on a tangent here, but it’s interesting to hear about reactions to name changes.

    Now that I’m sixty, I’m thinking more about changing my first name away from Nancy. I was always fine with it (except maybe the built-in diminutive), but it’s going to become an “old lady” name. Very few babies have been given Nancy since about 1970, so it’s a clue to my age-group — moreso as time goes on. (I remember how we used to react to names like Bertha, Ethel or Myrtle.)

    I work in interface design for web and apps, and I assure you that most tech people picture hiring a 30-something male for this work. I was even “laid off” from a job at 53 and immediately replaced by one.

  51. Perlandra said:

    About 3/4 of the ladies in my social circle when I was in my 20’s were named Jennifer. One kept the full name, another went to Genevieve. We had Jen, Jen-Jen, Jenna, Niffy, Little Jenny, Red Jenny, and Soccer Jenny. Back in high school, we had two guys named Mario in several of my classes, who we referred to as the “Super Mario Brothers.”

    I don’t know anyone named just Rey, but I know a few people named Reyna.

    I have a very unusual first name, but one that is associated with a popular character from around the time I was born, let’s say Beatrice. My parents insisted that the correct pronunciation was the equivalent of “B-Trice” like tricycle. I got sick of correcting people, and so I officially go by the “normal” way of saying it. I have a nickname that is cutesy and probably not really appropriate now that I’m in my 40’s, but I encourage people who struggle with my name to use it, and lots of my friends prefer it. I avoid using it at work though, since it seems unprofessional.

    I have been engaged twice before, and both guys wanted to switch their name to match mine. They thought my last name was cool, and both had some issues with their dad and wanted to get away from his name.

  52. I once had a job where a lady who already worked there really disliked her first name and had asked to be called by my own first name. So when I started they asked me my middle name and used that.

    I didn’t mind; I was mildly surprised at how quickly I adapted to it, and I had always liked both my names.

    I have encountered my people who really dislike their names (“Agnes” sticks out for somewhat obvious reasons, being as she was a young Asian woman) and yet they don’t change them, when I think people should be in charge of their own identity, and I would be glad to call anyone what they liked best, legal or no.

    And regarding cats: the more nicknames, the more they are loved. 🙂

  53. IrishEm said:

    I used to work in a shop. We all wore clear, legible nametags. Six other colleagues (including managers) had my same first name, and it became a running joke that you just yell out “My Name” and *someone* will come running. All that being said, I had one colleague. Her nickname was 28 for the number of years she was in the company. She refused to call me by my name, and instead insisted on calling me by Other, shorter, vaguely similar name, which a couple of other girls were called (Think Emma and Amy). In seven years I had never so much as worn Other Name on my nametag to let her think it was acceptable to call me anything other than my name. So one day when she asked me “Amy” to do something I didn’t repsond. She said Amy a second time, louder. Again nothing from me, and possibly I addressed a comment to another colleague (with the right name) and magically this woman who could read and had worked with me for years got my name right.

    Stick to your guns, OP. Your aunt is being mean and rude. You don’t owe her anything.

  54. Medusa in the Mirror said:

    No real advice, just the story of my name change. I began experimenting with new names in my teens and found the one I now use in a dream when I was 17. I used it just with friends for a few years, then at 20 went to using it exclusively. i never felt like birthname fit me, and wanted a name that I chose. It’s been 31 years now. For a while I used a chosen surname as well, but gave up on getting American English speakers to pronounce Irish Gaelic, so i reverted to my patronym. I haven’t changed my name legally, though it’s on my driver’s license and it’s the name I vote under, and when I had a passport it was on there as a legal alias. I keep meaning to get around to it, but the publishing requirement means a dangerous ex might take notice.
    For the most part people were really good about the name change. My divorced parents each called me by my chosen name, as did my brothers and my friends. I think one aunt and my paternal grandmother took a while to come around, but I explained each time they slipped that I didn’t use that name anymore. That grandmother had a daughter who’d been going by her middle name since the 50s, but Grandma still called her by first name, and consequently so did everyone else in the family. Except me. To this day I refer to her by her chosen name, and when I get quizzical looks I point out which name she preferred. One of my dad’s girlfriends taught a Catholic youth group class and used the topic for class, asking her students if they’d change their names if they could, and if so, to what? Apparently it led to to some interesting discussions. One of Dad’s field study students, after hearing my story, changed her name from a terribly sweet feminine name changed her name to something stronger and defied her father.
    As other commenters have pointed out, people who respect you will respect your name choice. It’s a good litmus test. I wish you joy in your new name.

    • Leonine said:

      “I think one aunt and my paternal grandmother took a while to come around, but I explained each time they slipped that I didn’t use that name anymore.”

      I really like the way you’re framing this. It seems like there’s a really valuable nuance between “my name is X now” and “I don’t use the name Y anymore.” People who are encountering pushback from the first assertion might test out the second. It makes the name Y seem out of date or used up. It makes it part of the past. I don’t know whether this framing would actually make a difference, but it might be worth a shot.

    • Elizabeth said:

      I keep meaning to get around to it, but the publishing requirement means a dangerous ex might take notice. If you’re in the US, there should be a section on the court form that asks if there’s any reason you should be exempt from the publishing requirement. Sounds like this would fall under that! I believe it’s up to the judge, but FYI.

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