I’m Keeping Mine, but Here’s One For Your Cat

December 23 – Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? (Author: Becca Wilcott)

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It is super ironic that the person who wrote this prompt has a name so similar to my own–the first ten letters of our first and last names are the same. (I’m assuming she’s properly a Rebecca also.) What makes this ironic, rather than coincidental, is that I cannot possibly answer the question that she has posed.

Mine is a relatively bland name, and yet I’ve always felt extremely attached to it. It’s not that I like it, particularly. I don’t feel as if it fits me better than another name (say, Rachel, which is what most people who’ve met me once call me the second time). And there are literally thousands of Rebecca Wilsons in the world (1,941 of us in the United States alone, according to this site), so I hardly feel that it represents me as an individual.

Nevertheless, it’s mine, it always has been, it will never change.

This was the earliest important decision that I ever made. I was around 4 or 5 when I learned that girls often change their last names when they get married. I freaked out. The idea seemed so completely wrong, as if my parents had told me that I would be getting a new mom and dad soon, or that we would be moving to Prineville.

Within a few seconds, my identity had become temporary.

I am pretty sure I sobbed and vowed to never marry, unless I could marry somebody whose last name was also Wilson. This was not outside the realm of possibility; there are a lot of Wilsons; my uncle Larry had even married one. But then my mom told me not to worry, I could keep my last name forever if I felt like it. Or hyphenate.

BIG RELIEF. I never looked back. Never for a second did I ever begin to rethink that decision.

The weirdest thing about this, as an adult, is when people assume that my husband’s last name is Wilson, which always makes me crack up because it so isn’t! It’s also strange when other married women feel as if they have to justify their choice to change their last names to me. I am always quick to explain that mine was in no way a political or feminist choice, but the result of an instinctual reaction I had before I  knew how to tie my shoes.

Naming is so personal, especially when it’s your own name. I would never cast judgment on somebody who decided to change her last name or hyphenate it or call herself Gladiola Nightingale, for that matter. Though I seriously doubt the rationality of the parents of any person named Madison or Chance.

This goes for my first name too.

Most of my close friends and family members call me Becca, which I identify with just as much, but I rarely introduce myself this way. In high school German class, when we had to pick fake German names, I was super relieved to find that Rebecca was on the list of choices. Our (really weird) teacher thought I was being a killjoy, but I just couldn’t resign myself to being called Iris, Ingrid or Inge for the next two years. Though I think they are lovely names.

Male teachers and coach types always tried calling me Becky. Ha! Becky Wilson?! I don’t know who that is, but she sure isn’t me. I suspect she may be a cute cheerleader who steals her mom’s cigarettes. I, on the other hand, am laughably uncoordinated and my mom has never smoked. The male teachers and coaches usually gave up after a few weeks, when they noticed that I consistently ignored them. This was not to prove a point; I just never realized they were talking to me.

I do love the act of naming. We have always put a lot of thought into each of our cats’ names…as well as their middle names. This is apparently more than Becca Wilcott can be bothered to do, because, according to her Amazon page, she refuses to name her feline companion. Isn’t that weird?

So, sorry Becca Wilcott, I’m keeping my own name. As a compromise, I will name your cat. From this day forward, he or she shall be known as Volcano Bandersnatch.

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