(Yes, I realize how self-involved this post is. I don’t really consider it a “great truth of life” type of post. More like a personal pet peeve.)
Recently, I had a visiting consultant come to my room, armed with some kind of official document as their guide map. And like all official documents bearing my name, this one listed my first name as “Victoria.” Technically, that is correct, but calling me that is a surefire way to indicate:
- You probably don’t know me well enough to be on a first name basis with me.
- You are my mother and I am in “youngladycomehererightNOW” kinds of trouble.
This person did not call me that. Rather, this visitor took it upon themselves to shorten “Victoria” to “Vicky” — a name that, when directed toward me, has always, always pissed me right the fuck off.
Not that I think Vicky (in this or any of its other spellings) is a bad name. It’s a perfectly fine one for someone else. But it is not my name. My name is the one that’s attached to my identity.
I commented about this recently on someone else’s blog post about women taking their husbands’ surnames after marrying, but I think it’s worth repeating. For the first five or six years of my life, I’d grown up being called Tori almost exclusively (aside from, you know, those “youngladycomehererightNOW” moments), to the extent that I didn’t recognize “Victoria” as a name that applied to me — because mostly, it didn’t. So when I switched schools just before second grade and my mom introduced me to the teachers as Victoria, I was surprised and dismayed.
“I’m Tori,” I corrected, maybe only once but at least once. And I continued to refer to myself as “Tori” in my writing for a month or so into the school year, at least until open house.
“Should we be using that nickname?” one teacher asked my mom.
“No,” she responded. “That’s just something we call her at home.”
And so at school, I was Victoria for the next seven or eight years. Being called Victoria in school and Tori outside of it felt really, really weird, like I was in some respects a different person depending on where I was.
That’s with a name that is technically one of my own, one I’ve always used for legal and official purposes. When I’m called Victoria, even though it still doesn’t feel like me, at least I understand the rational basis for using that name.
However, there is no rational basis for someone deciding to call me Vicky, which is why I loathe when it happens. That’s someone feeling entitled to shorten my name to something it is not. My name is a fundamental part of my identity; other people don’t get to change it to suit their own preferences. While choosing to call me by the wrong name does not even make the What Is Wrong With This World List — I get that — it’s nonetheless an issue with a very simple solution.
Which is why, when this visitor called me Vicky, I smiled sweetly and said, “Please don’t call me that again.”