Thursday, December 28, 2006

A rose by any other name...

For those who haven't figured out yet, I haven't changed my last name. And why should I be the only one to fill out numerous extra documents (and I mean numerous -- entire books have been written about this subject and many name-change kits have been marketed), get used to signing a new name, correct everyone who knows that I recently got married whether or not I've changed my name (I made a cursory reference to this in an earlier post)? And why do I even have to make this decision in the first place?! The husband just has to plop down on the proverbial couch after the wedding and not even consider how to be identified after this life-changing event.

And for me, while I've never exactly been thrilled about my last name (rhymes with too many unflattering words), I'm not psyched about people mispronouncing Dear's last name because I would just be too tempted to correct them and eventually get too frustrated because it is not exactly easy for non-Chinese people to pronounce. It would be one thing if there weren't many other Asian names that sounded very similar but instead everyone thinks it's really "Choy" or "Choo" (completely different surnames) when it's not!

Side rant: why do people assume that I've changed my name already? People have already addressed us as Mr. and Mrs. C___. Now, I'm not exactly a feminist (just extremely lazy to do more paperwork than I have to) and I probably will change my name eventually (if not legally, at least use Dear's name in social settings) but I also don't appreciate people making assumptions. Let me enjoy my birthname at least for a little while more -- I'll use my "new name" when I'm ready.

On the flip side, it is just a little bit thrilling to be able to have double identities. And if you think about it, it's so easy to pass yourself off as someone else.

What else is in a name? Ever since the wedding I have no idea what to call the out-laws. It got so uncomfortable that at one point I just straight out asked what they wanted to be called. My passive-aggressive MIL couldn't commit to a name but did express her disdain for the one thing I would not have a problem calling her -- the Chinese MIL title of "nai-nai" (or whatever it is, I don't really know Cantonese). I refuse to call anyone but the woman who bore me for 9 months and then raised me for 20+ years "mom" or "mother" (which is what I think my MIL wants me to do). (Oddly enough my mother, in her traditional mindset urged me to call my MIL something closer to "mother" -- I hope my one and only mother understands that my impetuousness in bucking tradition, especially throughout the wedding, was not just to be difficult but because I believe that the traditional is not always better.) And I'm sure my MIL would be super-insulted if I called her by her first name as many non-Asians have suggested to me. So she gave up her chance and now I just refer to her without ever really calling her anything (just turn to face her when I'm speaking to her). But at least there is some comedic relief:
MIL (when calling me on the phone): Hello? This is [she begins to give her first name before she realizes that I shouldn't call her by her first name]... uh wife of [then she realizes I shouldn't call my FIL by his first name]... uh, I mean, J__'s mother....

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear's last name is definitely a challenge for the non-native Chinese tongue. "Choy" and "Choo" aren't nearly as bad as "Chewy", a mispronunciation I remember hearing often in our Buffalo years. Perhaps a hyphenated combination of both last names or creative merging of your surnames is in order.

Tomas

just r said...

Ah, I forgot about that one! But no thanks on the hyphenated name -- that just sounds like a kung fu video game move. :(

katy said...

your MIL is so funny.. oh boy. why not just call her Ch__-ma? (her last name & ma)

Anonymous said...

Hiya, in Hakka, MILs are sometimes referred to as Ga Por....probs just as orrible as lai lai!

Anna, Came across your blog trying to find how to write wedding thank you notes in Chinese.