I was so embarrassed. When we ran into each other in the grocery store one afternoon, I started to introduce her to my husband Harold, but I couldn’t come up with the woman’s name.
Actually, I’m not sure that I ever knew it. That happens to me a lot. It may be that when I’m first introduced to people, my mind is busy taking in their smile, their voice, the cute way they’ve configured their hair, and somehow, the name shoots right on past me, and after we’ve been talking for five or six hours it seems rude to stop and say, “Excuse me, what was your name again?”
I need to do better. Names are important. Both of my daughters had babies this past year and choosing a name for them was critical. My only suggestion was that they try the name with the title “senator.” Senator Bambi June Bug Wasserman doesn’t work. The other senators would giggle at congressional roll call. Still, the baby’s name was their choice. I had my turn when I named them.
Both of my daughters took their husband’s last name when they got married even though it’s no longer socially required. It is kind of a weird custom, changing names like you’re being traded to another team, but sharing a name does simplify things on the kids’ school entrance forms. There are couples out there who choose to operate under both last names in a hyphenated fashion, which always sounds like they have somehow become part of the British aristocracy even if the combination is Lopez-Brogoyavich, which has a nice ring to it, but it would mean an additional $5 upgrade on monogrammed bath towels.
No matter how many times you do it, changing last names simply involves a lot of social security/driver’s license paperwork, but if you want to change your first name, you have to go to court. You have to stand in front of a judge and say, “I no longer feel like a Rhonda. I feel like a Glenda.” People do it all the time. Still, you can have yourself legally labeled “Ocho Cinco” or “7 of 9” or “Big Bad Leroy Brown,” but you can be sure that’s not what your mama is going to call you. To her, you will always be Billy or Betty or Bobby, her precious little butterbean.
I know how that goes. Depending on who you talk to, my name is Sue or Susie or Susan. At my college graduation, they congratulated me as Sharon Murphy, but the dean just misread my index card. At one of Harold’s business cocktail parties, a guy repeatedly called me Vickie, but that was just because he wasn’t paying attention.
The funny thing is I didn’t correct him. I figured I’d probably never see him again, and I was right. Other people aren’t that lucky. My brother-in-law whose name is John has picked up a cup of coffee in the same gas station every morning for 25 years, and every morning the guy behind the counter says, “How’s it going today, Scott?” My brother-in-law doesn’t correct him because it would just be embarrassing for them both.
You’ve heard the old adage, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner,” and that may be true, but this year I’m determined to do a better job of remembering the names of those I meet. Maybe I could use some mnemonic device, like “Harold…Har Har…Funny old guy.” Don’t tell poor Harold I said that. He’s my precious little butterbean.