How silly I was. I thought that once I’d gotten my new name all sorted out in my head, it’d be smooth sailing. I hadn’t realized that Rodolfo’s name would continue to provide plenty of opportunity for mistakes nor that those mistakes would bother me so much.
My name is phonetic. Em. I. Ly. And yet it’s still provided plenty of difficulties for native speakers of Spanish, a phonetic language. I’ve chalked that up in many cases to Chile’s lack of diversity. Growing up in California, I heard names from all different ethnic backgrounds as well as some that I’m sure were made up. I’ve seen Katherine, Catherine and Kathryn shortened to Katie, Katy and even Kaydi. And that’s just the tip of a Titanic-sinking iceberg. So while I have definitely made my share of name-related spelling errors – Ashley? Ashleigh? – I’d say that I’m familiar with a wide range of names and how to spell them. More importantly, when I have a question, I ask. And I listen to the answer.
I long ago learned that most Chileans don’t do either as evidenced by the people who respond to e-mails I have signed “Emily” with “Hola Emili” or who can’t help by add an N after I’ve finished E-M-I-L-Y. I will admit, however, that I thought that this was a Chilean problem. Call me unfair, but Chileans do sort of have a penchant for not listening – and that’s something Rodolfo told me on one of our first dates, so take it up with MY Chilean if you’ve got a problem with it. Lately, however, I have discovered that lack of listening is a worldwide epidemic.
When we had our US wedding reception, we sent out invitations calling ourselves Emily MaidenName Rodolfo’sLastName and Rodolfo PaternalLastName for him. I figured this would be a convenient way to let people know what I would like to be called, plus it would help clear up some of the confusion gringo friends and family have had over Rodolfo’s last name situation what with both a paternal and maternal last name (reminder: paternal comes first, and if you’re only using one, you use that one). I have had plenty of people ask about Rodolfo’s last name over the years, and I’ve had multiple conversations about my own last name since getting married.
Well you can perhaps understand then why I have been surprised to receive cards addressed to Emily MaidenName, Rodolfo MaternalLastName and just about everything in between – in one case just “Emily and Rodolfo” because our last names were too complicated. On the one hand, who cares – thought that counts and all that. On the other hand, I don’t go around calling people John because I think it suits them better than Dave, and I ask my recently married female friends how they would like to be addressed and then address them that way. It’s just polite. And while I realize that in the grand scheme of things we’re still newlyweds, and we have the rest of our lives to gently remind people what to call us, my initial reaction was to be annoyed and a little hurt that people – some of whom I know I’ve had this conversation with before – wouldn’t care enough to take our preferences into account.
And another thing: don’t even get me started on Rudolfo and Rudolpho. Look, I get that my husband has a name your average English-speaker doesn’t write on a daily basis. But for the love of god, is it really that hard to ask how it’s spelled? AND, when you have received a written communication from me in which it is written R-O – O for crying out loud, O! – dolfo, might you not use that handy little reference when writing it yourself so as to avoid your mistake? It makes my head spin because now instead of it being my name being butchered by strangers from another culture, it’s my husband’s name (cue: protective urges) being ruined by my family and friends (cue: general disappointment in people I thought were better than that). All of this is on Facebook, people, and in the year 2011 we know that what Facebook says goes, so please get with the program. Because I will never tell you to your face that you’re doing it wrong, I will just passive aggressively write about it on the internet and hope you get the message.
Apparently what we really need here is another name change to something people can understand in both languages. I will be Maria, Rodolfo will be Diego, and our last name will be…oh god, I’m too integrated into both English and Spanish and can’t tell what name would work for someone with no knowledge of the other. Lopez? Fernandez? Soto? Ok, last names are too hard. I guess we will just resign ourselves to life as Emely and Rudolfo.