Recently, I have come across several instances where people have gotten my name wrong. Sometimes it’s the first name. One c, or k-a-h, or two b’s and one c. This last error is made even by my own father. He just wants the double consonant to come first, I s’pose. I’ve been confused with other -ca names like Jessica and Erica and Monica. I have been called Rachel so many times, it’s a running joke between me and some friends. (This is made all the more confusing when I am with my friend Rachel. Two ‘R’ names? Heads EXPLODE.)
But more often than that, people (incorrectly) assume I took my husband’s last name after we were married. Most times, I can shrug it off; they are strangers who don’t know me, and who I will likely never see again.
But there are people in my life – who have known me my whole life – who either don’t realize I did not change my name after marriage (over eleven years ago…), or they knowingly ignore that fact and use an incorrect name for me anyway.
I don’t want to assume people are being purposefully rude. On the contrary, I practice living in such a way in which I assume everyone is doing the best they can. It’s better for them, and it’s better for me. If you’re doing the best you can, I can extend more compassion and empathy toward you than if you are being willfully malicious. Win-win.
So with that generosity in mind, I am going to make the assumption that people who continually put my husband’s last name behind my first name are doing the best they can. Even though all of my correspondence is signed, “Rebecca Vega”; even though all of my social media names are “Vega”; even though all of my legal documents are “Vega”.
Maybe it’s because my email address is a combination of my last name and my husband’s. I created it originally as a joint email address for each of us to access, but we didn’t use it that way, so now it’s just my email address. Maybe it’s because we refer to ourselves as the Vega/Massaros. But I always put that slash in there; a clear separation. I am the Vega; they are the Massaros.
There are a handful of reasons why I didn’t change my name. First, it is a huge pain in the ass. I listened as my friends talked about the months and months it took to change every single thing over to the new name. I’m just lazy enough to not want to deal with that. Second, it was not a deal breaker for my husband. Third, and most importantly, I didn’t want to.
I didn’t pull a celebrity thing where I changed it legally, but still publicly go by my maiden name. I have no maiden name. I have only had one name.
I never changed my name. I will never change my name.
Asked by old boyfriends, they scoffed at my insistence of maintaining my name, stating emphatically if we were to ever get married, I would absolutely change my name. They demanded it. And I laughed in their faces. One of them said it was a deal breaker, to which I said, if you feel that strongly about it, then so be it. To no one’s surprise, we broke up a few months later.
In the months leading up to our wedding, my husband and I spoke freely and often about this. I told him if changing my name was important to him, I would openly listen to his reasons why and consider them. He may correct me, but I don’t remember him ever bringing such assertions to the table.
I recall us attending a wedding six or so months before ours and looking at our name cards at the table. I ripped the “Vega” off of mine and set the torn card over his so it said, “Rebecca Massaro”. I stared at it for a long while, candlelight flickering over the embossed lettering. Then I looked into his eyes and said, “That’s not my name.”
And he got it. No questions, no prodding, no cajoling, no begging, and definitely no demanding. He didn’t need nor want me to change anything I didn’t already want for myself. He respected me and my desires. He wanted me to marry him. He didn’t need me to change my name to become his wife.
I want to be clear so this doesn’t get twisted around into a thing where I’m dissing anyone who did or does change their name after marriage. Like religion and veganism, it’s a personal decision. Which makes it up to each person. Everyone can do whatever they want. I wholeheartedly accept and respect what others have done in their own lives with their own names.
Which is why it is so hurtful when people continuously get my name wrong. When I catch a glimpse of my name in someone’s contacts, and they have my husband’s last name there, my first thought is always, “Who is Rebecca Massaro?” and then the realization rolls in, and I feel like I’ve been punched. How do you not know my name? Why do you not respect me?
My name is a huge part of who I am. It is part of my identity, my personality, my character. I define myself by it, and I love it. I love my name.
I love my husband with all my heart, but his name is his. If you have my last name wrong in your contacts, please do me the courtesy of correcting it. I would do the same for you.