That’s not my name

DSC_0288I didn’t expect to post again so soon. My plan is to write and schedule. But I have a rant and nobody but the internet to talk to at the witching hour.


My name, my full name, is Jessie Bishop Powell.  But I get a lot of mail for the following people who don’t exist:


Mrs. Scott Merriman.

Mr. And Mrs. Scott Merriman

Dr. and Mrs. Scott Merriman

Well, Dr. Merriman exists. That’s Scott. But that other person is a figment. My first name is not Mrs. My last name is not Merriman. And no, it is not acceptable to hold onto a titular formula from an earlier era  when women’s identities were subsumed beneath their husbands’.

That's not my name

I also get mail for the following people who, while they exist, piss me off:

Mrs. Jessie Powell

Mrs. Powell

Again. My first name is not Mrs. And as a title? Scott didn’t have to change his title to get married. Why the fuck do I have to? If you must reduce me to a title, then make it Ms. But frankly, I’d be happier if you called me Jessie. This has been an issue since six minutes after we said our vows.

My students struggle with this. I’ve given up and let them call me Professor, though I emphasize my preference for my first name. I haven’t got a Ph.D. The title is only sort of accurate. But they otherwise heap millions of other titles on my head, and that’s worse.

Scott only faces a little bit of this problem. He does have a Ph.D. and prefers to be called Dr. Merriman, but every semester has a few students who can’t seem to do it. But he is surrounded by people who validate his identity as Dr. Merriman. People can’t seem to pronounce Merriman and turn it into the same thing as the dictionary. But if you correct them they fucking apologize and at least try to get it right. They don’t think it’s okay to keep screwing it up.

He always got it about my name. There was never a dumbass machismo moment when he decided it was something of a sacrifice for him to surrender me to my own name. And I never had a problem with using only his when we named the kids. For the record, if I could have chosen my name, Merriman would have been very fucking cool. But I have a tremendous amount emotionally invested in my identity. I’m Jessie Bishop Powell. Besides Merriman, the only name I would ever want is Bradshaw, my mother’s maiden name, because my grandfather meant a tremendous amount to me. And if I ever did change my name, it would be to tack Merriman on as a title. Not a hyphenation.

You want to give me a title I’ll answer to? Make me Jessie Bishop Powell, Merriman.

I don’t do it because it would immediately be hyphenated, few would get the point, some of those who did get it would trivialize it (just like they do my very real heartbreak at being reduced to Mrs. Anything), and fewer still would realize that it was me reminding the world that the court jester was not just funny. Typically, the court jester also was the only one who could speak the truth when nobody was listening.

I got yet another piece of mail today for Mrs. Scott Merriman. I attended yet another class for Mrs. Powell. And it’s midnight, and I’m crying, and I can’t sleep, because I feel so damned alone in this town.

The mail was from someone who interacted only with me. Never Scott. Who has e-mailed several times with me and seen my signature every one.

The class was at a place where my first name is completely rejected, where children’s names are learned carefully and with precision, but where I have been told I must use a title and my last name because I’m an adult, as if adults should have less not more invested in what they want to be called. They haven’t figured out that Scott is a Dr., or I’m sure they’d be all over tacking it right on there, because they equate titles with respect.

If you know me at all, you know that I hate formality, and I hate being reduced to a title. I find them dehumanizing. Why is it okay to want a title but not okay to not want one? Why do I have to explain my motives? My college didn’t have professors who stood on ceremony. They were on a first name basis with their students, and that fucking mattered. It increased my respect for them, not the other way around.

A lot of people think it’s a joke. They think I’m kidding. And when they figure out I’m deadly serious, they tell me to chill out. They think it doesn’t matter. They think that it’s a small thing, and they don’t understand why I get so upset.

People who ought to know better can’t see that I’m being dehumanized. They hear my hurt but focus on other things instead, completely invalidating my emotions. They hurt my feelings unintentionally and still don’t understand why I’m so upset. The only other people who understand this are other women in exactly the same position, but many of them like to use their correct last name with a title. I do not.

There are lots of Mrs. And Ms. Powells out there. There are fucktons of Mrs. Merrimans. There is only one Jessie Bishop Powell, and that’s the best thing about my name. The best thing in the world is that it’s completely unique. I’m like fucking Tigger over here, people. Google it in quotation marks and you’ll only get me. And that’s not conceit, it’s a claim to identity.

Do I want those around me to address me by my full name? Shit, no. Too formal.

But I like Jessie. There’s nothing wrong with calling me Jessie. And I wish people would start respecting it.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


That’s not my name — 19 Comments

  1. Jessie, yes, I do call you Jessie, though I think I have also referred to you as Jester Queen. I sure hope I have never written to you as Mrs. Merriman (thinks really hard) well okay, if I have, it was the last time, and if not, then I never will. I get what you are frustrated with and respect your right to be addressed the way in which you see fit.
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  2. Sorry my sister, my kids will call you Miss/Ms. Jessie. And you will be my spirit animal. I love you though and I do understand your thoughts and reasoning. And do not think you should chill out over it. We have nothing if we don’t have who we are.

    • Yeah, I know. That “make the children append a title” is a southern thing. I hate it. I put up with it. Because at least they can call me Jessie.

  3. When I got married, I dropped my maiden name and chose not to use it as my new middle name. It hurt my mother’s feelings. The same woman who, when she divorced my dad, reverted back to her maiden name. It’s a preference, it’s who we decide to be. Our name is the only thing we truly own, and it should be exactly what we decide it should be.

    Jessie you are, and Jessie you will always be.
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    • You understand me precisely. Identity is such a complicated issue. My doctor’s office asks how I want to be referred to, they put it in my chart, and then use it. Never have they gotten it wrong. It’s not hard. You call somebody what they want to be called. Period.

  4. Bless your heart. When I got married, I chose to take hubs’ last name, but I dropped my maiden name. The reason? My middle name, Anne, was after my dear grandmother, and I always loved that and felt honored by that. I didn’t want to lose that part of my identity. Again, people don’t understand; but at least I don’t get mail addressed incorrectly because of it…

    • And your name is so fun. It also means two of my best friends are named Jennifer Anne, which proves my friends have excellent taste in identity!! And yes, the whole point IS identity.

  5. I get it now! After all these years I guess I never understood, although I tried to understand. I had no idea it had anything to do with titles. I know plenty of people who have chosen to just keep their maiden name instead of changing it. Some of them do it because they anticipate divorce and do not want the hassle of having to change it back. Others do it because of tradition. However, your reasoning is your very own. Just like your name…you own it!

    • I think for me some of it goes back to being bullied in school. There were days when I got through telling myself “They can’t take my name. They can’t take my name. Whatever else, I’m always ME.” Another part is that I had multiple degrees in my name by the time we got married, and I wasn’t going through the hassle of getting those altered. And I hate to be expected to do things just because I’m a woman.

  6. You know I can relate to this one. I’ve gotten the same thing all my life, not just as Ms. Andra Watkins, wife of Mr. MTM, but with the name Andra. One of the reasons I’m glad to be out of Rotary is that more than half the club mispronounced my name, EVEN AFTER SOMEONE STOOD UP IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE THING AND TOLD THEM THEY WERE SAYING IT WRONG. FOR YEARS. She said it right THREE FUCKING TIMES, and people STILL called me Ondra. I get it. I know. People are assholes.

    • Oh GOD yes. I also get Jessica-d. Because Jessie is just too masculine for some to take. And I sincerely enjoy the shock of people who have to see me to figure out that I’m not a man, since my middle name is Bishop. (Named for my maternal great grandfathers.)

      Funny story. Mom had to deflect MULTIPLE calls from military recruiters when I turned 18. They were pissed I hadn’t registered for the draft. She had to send them my birth certificate to prove I didn’t have to. The whole men-only have to register thing is as sexist as hell, too, mind you, but I wasn’t going to sign up when I’m pretty much a pacifist who is opposed to physical exertion.

  7. See, I always thought Scott’s last name was Powell. Goes to show how much attention I ever paid to things 😛

    I ditched my maiden name when I got married. A last name didn’t mean that much to me and I was giving up one 10 letter, hard to pronounce last name for another. Whatever.

    My husband’s goal is to be known simply as “Mike”. He’d like people to talk about him as if “Oh, are you working with Mike?” “Yes, THE Mike.” No last name needed 😉

  8. I’m a woman of many names. As long as you don’t call me with ill intent, I generally answer. I only care for correctness as it relates to legal documents.

    • That’s true – and it’s kind of cool to have a fluid identity like that. I’m ferociously protective of who I am and completely incapable of being anyone else.

  9. I think like most (all) things in this world, if it’s your choice to be Jessie Bishop Powell then it’s only right for me to respect that and address you that way. While I became Mrs. Piccini and dropped my maiden name for a lot of hurtful, awful reasons my sister holds tight to Kovaleski like it’s her identity. Her choice and I respect it and use it for her.

    I will always do that for you and Andra and anyone else who chooses it.

    It would be lovely if people would start saying my name correctly too. It’s not “Ker” like hurt, “Kir” like ear. Dozens of times I hear…”The Ker Corner” and you’re “Ker”! Not even close.

    I’m Kirsten. Have been for 45 years and I’d love it if you could please call me that.

    Love ya Jessie Bishop Powell.
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    • Yes! Pronunciation is so key. Ker is also cur, which is fucking wrong. Third grade pronunciation rules should have covered this one (but of course didn’t, because school sucks). And many women do consider a married title a sign of an important life change, and they want to display that so it’s one of the first things people see. It shows how much you take pride in and love your family, IMHO. Which isn’t to say I don’t feel the same things, just that I express them different ways, and that I express my identity separately. (Which I’m sure you knew ;)) Thank you so much for sharing this!!! You’re da bomb.