There are very few names that cannot be shortened. My husband’s is of the two syllable variety and I continually shorten it to his first initial only. The same luck falls on our daughters. I am of the three syllable persuasion. I also grew up in a house with three siblings which has made it quite comfortable for me to respond to any variation of my name or my sisters’ or brother’s names for that matter. Hearing my full name always gives me a little bit of a jolt, signaling for my caution because the person saying it doesn’t know me well, or has to create the space for whatever they need to tell me in some way that using a nickname won’t allow. This is probably the case for Jennifer’s and Jessica’s and Stephanie’s everywhere too. My husband uses my full name only when things have gone wrong – like when he is completely exhausted and impervious to my charms and when a minor tragedy has occurred.
Couple this knowledge with caller identification on phones now and anytime I am called my full name in a questioning tone its panic-inducing. On two of my scariest days, husband was injured and I wasn’t with him, he called and as I said hello his voice came back with pleading my name, as if to ask me if I was ready to hear bad news. It’s a terrible sinking feeling and one that I wanted to outright reject; “No, that name isn’t me, my nickname is me and if you say that I know I will be okay”.
Walking across a stage at graduation and hearing my name wasn’t so bad, but that is a recitation along with hundreds of others. Ditto to it be barked at me at the DMV once my license was printed and I leapt from my seat to snatch it. Hearing an automated version of it leaves me in fits of giggles.
An exquisite hostess, who across the board puts everyone she meets at ease, once told me that when people introduce themselves to her, she repeats their name back as if they were a very dear friend. That is the key. I tend to ask back in question – to be sure that I heard it right, or try it on for size before I continue to use it. which I now see as a social repellent.
It wasn’t until very recently that I made the connection. The formality automatically upgrades a situation to serious mode. When you are being asked of something, the stakes are somehow higher. I wonder if there is some sort of bracelet I could have made to warn people of my condition and how awkward it might be to wear jewelry that states “In case of an Emergency, please refer to this person as Mare Bear, that way she might be of some assistance”. I’m thinking this idea could take off.