Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The "O'Reilly" factor

So I might have mentioned that I got married a couple months back. This has brought me much joy and happiness, but also much paperwork and administrative scrambling. For me, 2008 has been the year of the split personality. Witness these ticket stubs from my recent trip to Boston and back:

The first one I bought from a machine, with the credit card that still bears my maiden name (although a new one is supposedly in the mail!). The second I bought at a ticket window, with my new driver's license -- the teller entered the name herself. Perhaps it's appropriate that I traveled to Boston to visit my brother and his family (and reconnect with a grade-school friend) as "Mollie Wilson," and I returned to my home and husband as "Mollie O'Reilly." But neither label seems completely accurate anymore. I'm still working on making all the paperwork agree, as far as possible -- as I said, my credit card is on the way, and I'm about to send in the application for my new passport. I have yet to go to my bank and change the name on my personal account, but I think that will happen this week, because I really need checks that show my current name and address. When all that is over, I will still have to change my name in my insurance and hospital records, and get new cards for both. It's exhausting -- but so is trying to remember who calls me what. (By the way, I got two catalogues yesterday, both addressed to my maiden name, both delivered to the correct box. If the mail carrier has to misplace something, I'd really rather get my hospital bills and not the Land's End catalogue.)

Before the wedding, a number of people who'd known me by my maiden name laughed when they heard what my new surname would be. "That's so Irish!" they squealed. My response to this is always something like, "...Indeed." It doesn't seem funny to me to have a super-Irish name, because Irish I am and I always have been. (Name that musical comedy paraphrase!) I never realized that this wasn't obvious until people started joking about my "new" identity. From an ethnic perspective, my new name actually fits me better than the deceptively neutral, probably English last name I've always had. But I suppose, if I weren't already Irish, it might not fit so comfortably. And if I'd married a man whose surname reflected an ethnic background that is not part of my personal makeup -- Ramirez, Gatelli, Nguyen -- adding it to my own might have been a more difficult adjustment. I look like a "Mollie O'Reilly," and I burn in the sun like a "Mollie O'Reilly," so I'm happy to be called that, as long as I can get used to answering to it!

On the other hand, I'm already beginning to understand why my own Irish ancestors dropped the "O" prefix from one of our family names many generations ago. That apostrophe is a troublemaker. And they didn't even have computers to deal with! Some printouts simply drop it ("OREILLY") and some turn it into an initial ("MOLLIE WILSON O REILLY"). Some machines choke on it -- the husband says he's never been able to use a self-check-in kiosk at an airport -- and some add a bunch of weird characters where the apostrophe should be ("O/&%REILLY"). All you people with "de" and "van" and "L' " in your names: I think I feel your pain.

Does your name represent you accurately? If not, do you wish it did, or are you glad it doesn't? Did you have to make a big adjustment to your married name? Sure I'd love to hear about it.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I guess I've always had a strong identity to my last name, which is one of the reasons I kept it when I married (other reason being the paper-pushing administrative hassles you seem to be dealing with).

I like my husband's last name, and I am frequently adressed by it, especially now that we have school-age kids. I don't mind being Mrs. Husband's Last Name, and he doesn't mind being Mr. Wife's Last Name. And more than anything, the kids get a kick out of being addressed by Mom's Last Name. Both names are pretty uncommon and unique, and I like that the family can share both of them.

Sarah said...

Mollie,
After 26 years of being last - or close to it - in every situation that involved alphabetization (ooh, did I just rap a little bit?) I've grown to love my last name. Even though a friend recently began using it as a nose-wrinkle-worthy sentence fragment, as in, "If I had a milkshake machine, I'd make YUSAVITZ ability to make milkshakes." Har har.

I'll never completely give up the name, but I've entertained the idea of being one of those women with a hyphen if and when I get married. Now I just need to find someone with a surname that doesn't sound offensive after mine. Remember my last boyfriend? His last name was Quattlebaum. Sarah Yusavitz-Quattlebaum. Could you imagine?

Mollie said...

I shouldn't make it sound like I'm not at all attached to my "maiden" name -- I guess I'm trying to have it both ways by using it as my middle name, professionally. (Of course, right now "professionally" basically means "in my Blogger profile.")

It's funny how many factors go into this decision -- there's also the whole "carrying on the family name" issue to take into account. I don't think of myself as terribly sentimental in that regard -- but then, in our case it was already taken care of on my side, and not so much on his. So if the situation had been reversed, who knows. The one thing I'm pretty sure of is that I'd never go the hyphen route. Sarah, you've got enough syllables already!

Mary Pat said...

Ahhh yes, as much as I adore my O'Reilly maiden name, it is nice not to have to deal with the apostrophe situation. The trouble all started for me when we had to take those standardized state tests in early grammar school...the ones where and you have to put each letter of your last name in an individual box?? Do I give the apostrophe its own box? Do I cram it in with the O? Do I just leave it out completely? I never knew! It is still a great mystery.

OH! And I love how when I would order something from a website and receive an error message saying my name contained "invalid characters." THAT made me mad. Apostrophes aren't invalid!!!! GRRRRR....

The husband said...

You were close - I've never been able to check in for a flight with my American Express, which is the one credit card I have that actually *includes* the apostrophe. The machine thinks it's looking for "Reilly" and tells me it has no reservation under my name.

Other apostrophe trivia:

-On our mailbox, our name is, "O,Reilly"

-The local cleaners entered our name into the computer with the apostrophe, but most of the employees have trouble locating the apostrophe on the keyboard. I usually have to reach across the counter and point to it. I wish they would just ask for our phone number...

-I recently made a return to Bed Bath and Beyond, and the lady who was helping me, after taking what seemed like way too much time, came back and asked me for your maiden name because my name "wasn't in there." Who knew that Bed Bath & Beyond deletes the groom's name after 2 months and only accepts returns under the bride's maiden name?

Mollie said...

MP: I had the same problem when I filled out my new passport application! I gave the apostrophe its own box. There was plenty of room, and I don't want to hear any of this "invalid character" nonsense. :-)

I forgot about our mailbox! I kind of like "O,Reilly." It's sort of poetic.

Michelle said...

Flee from the hyphen. Computers hate it too, or rather lazy programmers do; people can't find it on the keyboard for reasons I do not understand; doctor's offices and cable companies will flip a coin to pick which "half" of your last name they're going to alphabetize your record under; and at some point some self-involved little weenie is going to chop your last name in half on the credits page of his web art project because the hyphen ruins his typography. True story. The only cure: divorce.

Mollie said...

I grew to hate the hyphenated name when I worked in my college's library -- one of my jobs was checking out books that had been placed on reserve, which were filed alphabetically by the student's last name. Except the alphabetizers weren't so conscientious, and hyphenated last names completely threw them off. I got so I would automatically look under both names, and sometimes even the first name, anytime a student with a hyphen came along. (In my downtime I used to realphabetize all the books. Good times!)

I felt bad for the students because, in most cases, they didn't choose the hyphen -- it was thrust upon them by well-meaning parents. And I always wondered what would happen if two hyphens met and married. I guess the people working at that library in 20 years will be able to tell me...

Amy said...

Well leaving out the hyphen doesn't solve your problems, either. I go by my maiden name professionally, but legally, my maiden name is now my middle name. No hyphen. My name is three words. Like Mary Tyler Moore, I tell people. I thought that would be acceptable to the world. But it doesn't stop people from choosing to hyphenate my last name anyhow, or from choosing to file me under my middle name instead of my last, and so I have to keep a running tab on the computer of all my account numbers, and what they have chosen as my last name, since it could be three different things. It's a puzzlement. To paraphrase another musical.

Erin said...

The name-change game seems like a never-ending ordeal doesn't it? I kept my maiden name as my middle name which makes it a lot easier to prove my identity in situations where I haven't remembered or bothered to change to the new name yet. For example, I also have plenty of hospital bills and doctor's appointments (ahh the life of a cancer survivor!) and I just haven't gotten around to switching the name with my insurance company or multiple doctors. When I have to show ID to pick up the contrast I drink before my every 6-month CT scans, I have to point out that the prescription is under my maiden name, which conveniently is still displayed on my ID as my middle name...luckily they tend to believe that I'm not trying to scam some barium for good times. Pretty soon I'll have had the new name for a full 525,600 minutes (couldn't resist the musical theme) and I'm hoping to have finally taken care of changing everything over.

Mollie said...

Hi Erin! Right there with you on the insurance madness -- and I'm glad to hear keeping the maiden name as a middle name is helpful once in a while! I have yet to switch any of my medical records. Can I do it in time for my next visit to the oncologist (in less than 3 weeks)? Stay tuned to find out! (Congratulations, by the way. I toast to your survival with this delicious barium suspension!)