Somedays, it feels like no one ever calls me by name anymore. I think my in-laws are the only people who call me Leslie. Most people refer to me as "La Güerra" or "la gringa". Others just call me "Señora" or "Doña" (Ma'am). And occasionally a few people still call me "Maestra" or "Teacher".
My given name at birth was Leslie Ann Harris. When I married Hubby in the States, I took his last name, so I became Leslie Ann Limon. But when we moved to Mexico, and I introduced myself as Leslie Limon, people commented on the remarkable coincidence that Hubby and I had the same last name. (In Mexico, spouses don't have the same last name(s), unless they're actually related.) I kept having to explain that I took Hubby's last name when we married.
This lead to a barrage of questions like:
- Why would you want to take your husband's last name?
- Isn't your last name good enough?
- Don't you love your family?
- Are you ashamed of your family? Is that why you changed your last name?
Once I finished explaining the "Name Change" custom, the person asking would proceed to ask me about my apellido de soltera (maiden name), to which I'd respond "Harris". But what they really wanted to know was my second last name. What?!
You see, everyone (and I do mean everyone) in Mexico has two last names. The first last name is the father's last name and the second is your mother's maiden name. For example, my kiddies' last names are Limon Harris. Limón for Hubby's last name, and Harris as my maiden name. (UPDATE: As per a new law in Mexico, my US born children only have one last name to match the name on their US birth certificates. Read more...)
The first couple of times people inquired about my mother's maiden name, I had to take a few moments to think about it. In all the years I knew my mother, she never used her maiden name. Not even when she was growing up. She took her step-dad's name when she was little, then took my dad's last name when they got married. Then years later she changed it again when she took my step-father's last name. For the sake of safety I'm not going to reveal my mother's maiden name, but for the purpose of this blog post we'll just say it's Salisbury.
So a few weeks after we moved to Mexico I started to introduce myself as Leslie Harris Salisbury, to avoid any confusion and personal questions. But I hated the fact that I no longer had Hubby's last name. People have enough of a hard time as it is pronouncing both Leslie and Harris. But when it comes to Salisbury, I'm usually met with a big QUE? It's just too hard to even try to pronounce and even harder to attempt to spell.
I remember when I applied for a job as an interpreter at La Presidencia (City Hall). The hardest part of the application process was deciding what last name(s) to put on the application. Do I go with just Leslie Limon? Do I go the hyphenated route like Hilary and use Harris-Limon? Or do I just follow Mexican custom and use Leslie Harris Salisbury? It was all so confusing! Finally, the person conducting the interview went to ask the Secretario General (Deputy Mayor), who just happened to be my brother-in-law, what we should do. He said the easiest way would be to go by Leslie Harris de Limon. I couldn't use Harris Salisbury, because I didn't have any documents, US or Mexican, with the name Salisbury on them. I also couldn't use Harris-Limon, because Limon wasn't my mother or father's last name. If I wanted to use Hubby's last name I'd have to add "de" to signify that the last name belongs to my husband. I told you it was confusing.
But the tale continues....
Leslie Harris de Limon was the perfect solution to my name problems. That is until Jack was born. When the doctor was filling out the birth information, I told him my name was "Leslie Harris de Limon". To which the doctor responded, "No, I don't want your husband's last name, I want both of your last names." So I said "Harris Salisbury", which only lead to the doctor going on and on about what a strange last name it was and how difficult it is to spell in English. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah....
After filling out all the forms, the doctor had me look over them to make sure all of the names were spelled correctly. He then asked me to verify that Leslie Harris Salisbury was my full name. That moment seemed as good a time as any to mention my middle name: Ann. Bad idea! Okay, not really, because you do want to make sure all documents are accurate and legal.
The doctor then berated me for not using my full first name - Leslie Ann, even though I counter-argued that Leslie was my first name and Ann was my middle name. But the doctor wouldn't hear any of it. "If a woman's name is Maria Guadalupe, that's her name. Not Maria. Not Lupe or Maria G. It's Maria Guadalupe!" (He was a really nice doctor, but extremely passionate about this name business.) He then suggested that whenever I introduce myself I should do it as "Leslie Ann" not just "Leslie". My apologies to the doctor, but my mother was the only person to call me "Leslie Ann" and that was only when she was angry or I was in trouble.
Now whenever someone asks me my name, I just respond "Leslie" because that is my name. But if they want my full name, I say "Hi! My name is Leslie Harris de Limon." (No mention of Salisbury or Ann, even though I do add Ann on all my legal paperwork.)
Men, you have no idea how lucky you are!
For more Name Game fun, be sure to read The Name Game: Back to School Edition