It's Mr. DiFranco to you*

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So it's a small thing. Or is it? One's name is both a meaningless marker and an encapsulated identity. Both a small thing and not a small thing at all.

I just got off the phone with the vet's office. I love my vet. Love. But I don't love the reception staff, who just can't seem to get the name thing straight. All of the pets' intake forms list their last names as Mitchell Harnett. My name on everything there, from consent forms to credit cards receipts, is Grace Mitchell. And when I called just now, I said, verbatim, "This is Grace Mitchell. I'm calling to schedule an ultra sound for my dog Leo. You may have him listed under Harnett."

So when the receptionist got back on the phone and said, "Mrs. Harnett..." should I have been surprised?

How about when we received a very nice card from Mark's grandmother this weekend, addressed to Mark and Grace Harnett? Mark's grandmother is not senile. She knows Mark and I aren't married (leaving aside, for the moment, that my name would not change even if we were). So who is Grace Harnett?

I'd prefer people not assume Mark and I are married. But I know they will, and that, given our genders and our obvious relationship, it's a statistically probable assumption. And, if you assume we're married, that we'd have the same last name (his) is also a statistically probable assumption, for someone who doesn't know us. So I understand how a stranger would come to the conclusion that my last name is Harnett. However, if I have told you MULTIPLE TIMES what my freaking name is, it just feels disrespectful for you to continue calling me by something else. It's not just that I'm irritated, as a feminist, at the insistence that even if I haven't taken Mark's name, I should. It's that I feel a little piece of my identity, the one I've had my entire life, chosen by my mother, being negated when my name is misrepresented. And this is particularly exhausting when it is at the hand (or lips) of someone who knows me, either personally or professionally. So get with it.

*Ani, "In Or Out"

2 Comments

yeah if you have asked people to call you one thing (for whatever reason) and they call you another repeatedly, they are an asshole and not worth your time/money/patronage, in my opinion. My ex-boss, though I worked for him for almost three years, and despite the fact that he often had to introduce me, never learned how to pronounce my name even though I corrected him MANY times. It was the tip of the iceberg of realizing he did not really respect me.

Yuck. I hate that. The presumptuousness and entitlement of the whole thing just unspeakably annoy me. You'd think some folks could get the hang of it that not all couples are married and not all couples have the same names, but apparently not. Grrr.

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