Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What's In a Name?


I can't get used to my friend Nicole's new married name. I have known the girl for over 20 years as Oldewurtel. (Pronounce it however you like, you still probably won't pronounce it right.) Now, suddenly, with a few words from a priest, the Social Security Administration, and the State of Arizona, she is a Carpenter.

As a person who has lived with a very strange last name her whole life also, I feel really more jealous that she doesn't have to struggle anymore with helping people understand. This is how the conversation usually goes for me:

ME: My last name is Stringfield.

THEM: Oh, yes. Springfield.

ME: No, STringfield. With a "T."

THEM: Oh, we don't have a Strongfield on the list.

ME: No. STRING, Like string cheese. FIELD, like a field of grass.

THEM: (sounding even more confused than ever and speaking hesitantly) Is that right? Stringfield?

ME: Yep. String and field, put together. Compound word.

THEM: Is it F-I-E-L-D or F-E-I-L-D?

ME: (silently)How do you think you spell "field"? (aloud) F-I-E-L-D.

THEM: Okay, you are on the list!

Nicole was always the friend who understood the struggles of having a difficult name. I could always count on someone understanding the annoyance. Now, she goes to the bank or a restaurant and says "Carpenter." That's it. Carpenter.

I don't have the heart to change her name yet. My phone still rings Nicole Oldewurtel when she calls. I don't think I have accepted that adulthood comes with many changes -- friends get married, and change their names. I need to reconcile myself with the fact that it is not identity theft.

I asked Nicole today how she felt about her new name. "I love it. I like the name and I like that it represents our family -- and so in that way it does really feel like my name. Oh, and it is easier."

I remember as a younger girl, I would practice my new signature over and over (as many younger girls do). I would write and rewrite the last name of the boy I liked in different styles. I would try to perfect it because, in my fantasy, the boy I liked and I would end up getting married and I would have to sign all my letters with the new last name.

Then, I ask, why do I feel so startled by Nicole's lucky new name?

Nicole's answer today made me realize that changing your name is not identity theft. That both her and I, the quirky girls with the strange names, would be just as unique whether our names be Carpenter or anything else.

And I had to just practice thinking about it this way. So, I literally did practice -- just like the younger-girl-Mara would have. Just to see what it would feel like when signing a new name was less fantasy and more probability. And my boyfriend's last name is Jones, and writing it as my signature suuurreee is easier -- and so much shorter at 5 letters!
I guess it wouldn't be half bad to change my name after all.

Cheers to friends who change their names and help you grow, my little Fickle Nickle.

Until then, this is Mara Stringfield, signing off.

P.S. Dearest BF, though I know you don't read my blog, just in case on this rare occasion you do, please don't be wierded out with the fact that I may or may not have been practicing writing your surname (and may or may not have published my practice on my blog). Trust me, girls do this. I think at all ages, girls do this. It just means I have a crush on you. :)


  1. I literally "LOL'd" during this post. Yes, being a Carpenter is much easier than my maiden name. AND the fabulous thing is that I can still throw myself into awkward 'last name' conversations if I desire too. My favorite thing to say lately is..."Yes, that's correct. I'm a Carpenter, just like JESUS. Except for the fact that I don't know a hammer from a work bench."

    People respond very oddly to this remark.

  2. I'm not sure if I should mention this, but for awhile I thought your name was A-mara! Anyhow... Two friends of mine did something a little different when they got married. His last name was Bull, her's was Ying, so they ended up changing their last names to Yingbull. Luckily they both had short, monosyllabic surnames. You might start thinking of Jonestringfield, or Jonesfiled or Stringjones.

    I've always had trouble with my first name. No one spells it Lukus, and I was seriously tempted to just change it. At one point, my own medical insurance didn't believe me and I have a series of medical charts under the name Lucas. At least its better than when I was "Lukas (Luke-ass?)" on the roll sheet in middle-school.

    Oh, and if I saw a girl doing this with my name, I'd totally freak out and run. Just saying! Still a fun read though!

  3. AMARA!!! LOL!! That is too funny. That is so the story of my life. I'm not sure how I would feel about Yingbull as a name. That is pretty awkward too, but I guess the sentiment is nice.

    You know, I think Lukus is a very different spelling of the name. In fact, not sure if I should mention this, but for awhile I thought you were spelling your name wrong in emails! Like a quick typo where you meant to put "A" and you put a "U" instead!

    Thanks for your comments friends. As always, much appreciated. P.S. Luke, when are you going to join us in the blogosphere?

  4. The spelling totally sucks, but I've grown to like it. A badge of honor, or something. It was awkward in all my French classes, and I'd have to be quick to remind my professors to call me "Luk/Luc" which essentially sounds the same as Luke. Lukus... is not pronounced Lucas, in French. I have a hard time remembering to reply when someone says "Liuu-Kiuuus," which sounds more like couscous.

    As for joining you, I already have! Click on my name and it should take you to: http://readme.lukusnotlucas.com/. And I just finished a second entry and waiting for my wordpress software to finish updating. The site is totally work in progress-esque, though.