When your real name is not your REAL name

When people call you by the name on your birth certificate, you know you’re in trouble. By that standard, I have been in mucho trouble lately.

Maybe you’re one of those lucky people for whom your legal name, the one on your birth certificate and driver’s license, and the name your friends and family call you are the same. You’re George or Mary everywhere in every situation. But most of us go by an altered version of our original name. And everyone who knows you knows that’s what you prefer to be called.

James is Jim or Jamie, William is Bill, Billy, Will, or Willie, Catherine is Cathy, Samuel or Samantha become Sam, etc. Or maybe you’ve chosen something completely different like . . . Spike.

My name, Susan, becomes Sue or Susie or Suz. Despite whatever your parents named you, the name you use every day is the person you have made yourself, and you want to be recognized as that person.

Good luck.

That original name keeps coming back.

When your parents started calling you by your full legal name, you were about to be spanked or grounded.

When phone salespeople call asking for your formal name, you know they got your number off a list somewhere and don’t know you. And they keep using that name because in some training class they learned that it’s good to repeat the customer’s name.

When the cops come to your door calling your legal name, you are IN TROUBLE.

And when a nurse comes to the doctor’s office waiting room and calls that name you never use–even though you wrote your preferred name on every form–you know this is not going to be fun. Susan? Who? Oh. Me. And they keep calling you that as you lie on the examining table in your skimpy gown staring at the holes in the acoustic tile ceiling and pretending they are not touching you where you’d rather not be touched.

I have been called Susan a lot lately by the people calling from my father’s nursing home. At all hours, I see a 408 area code on the caller ID, then hear, “Is this Susan?” I want to say no, but I sigh and say yes. I want to add “What now?” in an annoyed tone, but I’m too busy holding my breath as they describe the latest disaster.

The most recent disaster is an amazing story, but I can’t tell you about it yet because there may be legal action. Dad is fine now. We’re all fine. I will tell you that everyone in the hospital-nursing home system calls my father Clarence even though he has spent his 97 years going by his middle name, Ed. “Clarence” was his father.

A couple weeks ago, a nursing home kerfuffle arose because the staff got confused between me, “Susan,” and my aunt, “Suzanne.” They telephoned her instead of me, barraging her with questions she couldn’t answer while I was waiting all day for a call that never came. If they had just called us Mrs. Lick and Mrs. Avina, there would have been no confusion. If you’re going to go formal, go all the way, right?

Gosh, I suppose they’ll call me “Susan” at my funeral and put it on my gravestone. I wonder what name God calls me. Maybe it has nothing to do with my earthly name. After all, there are a million Susans in this world and only one me. I guess He’ll tell me when I get to Heaven.

If you ever decide to do a Google search for information about me, use my middle name, Fagalde. Don’t bother with “Susan.” “Sue” will get you millions of hits, with many of them referring to lawsuits, and “Lick” will get you porn. Or you could just go to my website at suelick.com.

Whatever people call you, thanks for reading this. Keep sticking up for the name you want to be called. I’d love to hear your stories of misguided name-calling. I look forward to your comments.

 

 

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Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I teach writing workshops and offer individual editing and mentoring. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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