07 February 2009

Who Am I?

Earlier today I went to the bank to make a deposit into my account. It's a joint account, in the names of Ryan J. and Johanna V. N. Johanna V. N. does not exist. The bank knows this. But our checks and my debit card say so anyway.

All my life I have been Hanneke van H. I was never that crazy about Hanneke but it has been a part of me since birth. My mom loves the name. I was named after my paternal grandmother and things could have been much worse. I could have been called Annie.

The Dutch tradition of giving a child a so-called 'calling name' is unknown here. I find that most Americans do not see how Hanneke has its roots in Johanna, my official name. I am not sure why. It seems obvious to me. And if you have no trouble saying Jack to someone named John, or Dick to Richard, why is Hanneke instead of Johanna so strange?

Another problem is the fact that I have two middle names. The second name rarely makes it because most automated systems only allow for one middle name. Sometimes I can squeeze an M in there, mostly I am Johanna A. Americans don't do initials only like the Dutch. They always write your first name in full. I like that.

Of course, I had to go and make things extra complicated when I got married. I hyphenated my name. I opted for Van H. - N. I should have gone for straight up N. Even remaining Van H. would have been easier than adding N. to my name. And not in front of, like the old days. No, I had to be all emancipated and attach it behind Van H. Johanna A.M. Van H. hyphen N. doesn't fit in ANY computer system.

But the greatest difficulty concerning my name is its pronunciation. Whenever I use my supermarket club card, for example, my name is printed on the receipt. The cashiers have been instructed to thank you for your business using your name.

"Thank you, Mrs..." and then it goes quiet. "How do I pronounce your name? Would you like carry-out service?"

I even changed my name on my resume to Johanna N. - Van H. Just to ensure fear of mispronouncing my name does not scare potential employers off. A thoughtful albeit unsuccessful strategy.

Mostly I go by Hanneke N. these days. And that works fine although quite a few people believe my name is Monica. I tried Johanna N. on for size once, but it didn't fit. I answered the phone with it, hoping it was an invitation for a job interview, and my sister burst out laughing on the other end. Haven't done it since. It just doesn't roll off the tongue right.

I did attempt to change my name. I went to the Social Security Office to request an official change of name. They cannot help me. Because I am a resident, not a citizen, Homeland Security has to okay it first. And since Homeland Security is not even convinced I entered my marriage in good faith - evidently having a child does not count as proof - I am not going to bother with a name change. I am too busy gathering evidence of my legitimacy.

Maybe that's the reason they are requiring additional documentation. I didn't lose Van H. and that caused suspicion. Or perhaps just confusion.

No comments:

Post a Comment