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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When You’ve Got a Name Like Lick


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Having a last name like Lick can be a problem. Try looking up “Lick” on the Internet, and you’ll see what I mean. When I tried it the other morning, I was glad nobody else was looking. I hope my friends and relatives don’t look up “Aunt Sue” and get an eyeful of words that will send them to confession. I’m talking about words that would make my mild-mannered mother, may she rest in peace, throw my computer in the trash. If you’re going to search for me, just use Fagalde. It’s Basque for “little beech tree.”

When I married Fred, my stepdaughter Gretchen warned me. She had been teased her whole life for her last name and couldn’t wait to adopt her husband’s perfectly ordinary name, but I figured I was an adult and could handle it. After all, back in San Jose, where I grew up, the most common reaction to our name is to ask if we’re related to James Lick, the guy who build Lick Observatory. We’re not, but it’s an honorable connection.

Lick is a good name for a guitar player. My fellow musicians often tell me I have a perfect name, since a “lick” is a riff, a musical phrase. You can have hot licks, cool licks, groovy licks, country licks, jazz licks, etc. Plus if you put my first initial and last name together, you’ve got “slick.”

Of course, you have your basic salt licks, too, of which horses are fond.

And yes, licking is what we do to envelopes and ice cream cones—never at the same time.

It’s a very versatile word. Did you know a “lick” is a small body of water between the size of a rill and a stream? There’s a line of liquid supplements for dogs called “Licks.” You can slap on a lick of paint, get it done with a lick and a promise, be the guy who can “lick” everybody in the room, give the kid a few licks for misbehaving, or lick the frosting off the mixer blades (turned off, of course). The urban dictionary talks about a lick as a hustle where you come upon easy money.

What a word, eh?

But an alarming percentage of the population associates the word lick with one particular sexual act. For years, people got their giggles by finding our name in the phone book and making obscene calls, usually in the middle of the night. I haven’t gotten any of those calls lately. Maybe word has gotten around that I’m overweight and old. Or maybe I scared them by responding, “Sure, bring it on. Can you come over right now?”

One of the worst experiences of my life happened at an art and wine festival years ago. I was on stage singing my folk songs behind a red and white banner proclaiming my name. A group of young people waiting for the rock band due on after me apparently didn’t like my music. Fine. They didn’t have to listen. But gradually I heard a chant that grew in volume until I couldn’t ignore it. The teens had reversed my first and last names and were shouting “Lick Sue! Lick Sue!”

Trained that the show must go on, I finished my act, then left the stage in tears, never to return to that festival. I don’t why someone didn’t shut those guys up. What was the person in charge doing while I was dying on stage? Now every time I fill out a form that calls for last name first, I wonder if the person who reads that form will think . . . well, you know.

I’m not the only one with a problematic name. God knows this world is full of them. A friend named Gay has received harassing calls all her life. For the record, she isn’t. The Asian person whose name is Phuc gets no end of grief in the U.S. I’ve known men named Dick who switched to Richard because they were tired of the jokes. The jokes aren’t funny when it’s your name.

And it’s not just my name. Spokeo lists 24 women named Susan Lick. Average age 59, average income $59,000, 100 percent white, 60 percent married. Oh, and they list five arrests, including the traffic ticket I got 10 years ago for an “unlawful stop.” Another reason to add the Fagalde (And to stay away from Google while you’re working).

A name is just a collection of letters, but it is also a symbol of a family, a tribe, of roots that go back farther than we can trace. I’m proud of my family. That’s why I use my maiden name along with my married name. I have no intention of dropping either one. But it’s a shame some people have to turn it into something dirty. That ain’t worth a lick.

Do you have a troublesome name or know someone who has? Please share in the comments.

L stands for . . . Lick

Lick is an interesting last name. I can think of worse ones, and honestly I was delighted to marry into a surname that people could pronounce and spell. Folks have always had trouble with my maiden name, and my first husband’s last name wasn’t much better. But Lick. Now there’s an easy name. Or so you would think. It’s amazing how many people ask me how to spell it.

So, Lick. The word lick has lots of meanings, some of them not so savory. Over the years, we’ve had our share of obscene phone calls from people making suggestions related to our name. But there are nice connections, too. You can lick an ice cream cone. Horses are drawn to salt licks. A good fighter can lick a bully. One can lick one’s wounds or lick something into shape. And my dog licks my face and my hands, especially when I’ve just eaten something good and greasy.

My musician friends think I have the greatest last name ever for a person who plays guitar and piano. In music, a lick is a catchy collection of notes that light up your song.

Now that Fred is gone, some folks might wonder whether I’ll go back to my original name or re-marry into another surname. Not a chance. This one’s going on my gravestone.

L stands for Lick. I welcome your suggestions for other ways this word can used. I know there are more.

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge, and L is for Lick. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:
 
A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon–F is for Fur
G Unleashed in Oregon–G is for Gunk
H Childless by Marriage–H is for Harley
I Unleashed in Oregon–I is for I-5
J Writer Aid–J is for Job
K Unleashed in Oregon–Key is for Keys
L Unleashed in Oregon
M Unleashed in Oregon
N Childless by Marriage
O Unleashed in Oregon
P Writer Aid
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
W Writer Aid
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Unleashed in Oregon

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Come back tomorrow to find out what M stands for.