Now that we’re solidly in to the 21st Century, you would think that it wouldn’t throw people for as big of a loop when they discover I have a hyphenated name. I know several friends who hyphenate their last name as well, too, so it’s not as though I’m the only one sporting some unusual punctuation on my driver’s license or Facebook profile. And yet, on a regular basis I feel the need to explain myself, or correct an innocent bystander who has apparently never come across such an oddity before. Thus, here are 5 things you should know about my hyphenated last name.
1. It’s not just Mendez, or just Valdez.
This is probably my biggest pet peeve on the topic. I am literally switching dry cleaners because every time I tell the lady behind the counter my last name (Mendez-Valdez), she says, “Oh, so Mendez?” When I respond, no, it’s Mendez-Valdez, she retorts, “Oh, so Valdez?” Uhhhhhh no, I’m not sure you’re hearing me correctly. My last name is BOTH Mendez and Valdez, and it’s irksome to have someone try to shorten it one way or the other. If that was my last name, I wouldn’t waste the extra breath to tell you Mendez-Valdez. Sometimes I can tell people aren’t sure which name to pick or how to say it if they say both, so I’m writing this now to be clear: just say Mendez-Valdez. Not that difficult, right?
2. It doesn’t fit when filling out online forms.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been filling out my billing information for something online and it tells me I have an invalid last name. Pardon me? That tiny little hyphen throws the giant Amazon.com computers somewhere into that big of a tiff that I have to list my name as MendezValdez or MendezV or something equally incorrect. So dear computer programmers everywhere, please think of people with hyphenated last names (and very long last names at that) when you’re putting your little codes together. Muchas gracias.
3. It’s not my maiden name and married name.
This one is where I’m a bit of an anomaly, but I still think people need to be aware that it can happen, and assuming you know something is the worst move you can make. My maiden name wasn’t Mendez or Valdez. I got both from my husband when we got married, because he used to be just Mendez and legally added on Valdez in honor of his adoptive father who took him under his wing when he was in middle school. That’s a (wonderful) story for another day, but the point for today’s post is this is why it’s such a big deal to me to be referred to as Mendez-Valdez, not just one or the other. There are two families being represented here that both mean a great deal to me, and I would hate for either of them to feel they’re being ignored or swept under the rug if I choose just one. Since being married and from living in Mexico for quite some time I’ve seen that it’s much more common there to have a hyphenated last name, so perhaps the United States just needs to do a little bit of catching up.
4. It’s not because I’m a feminist, but if it was that’s ok.
I’ve had people ask me if I have a hyphenated last name because I wanted to keep my identity before I got married. That seems to be more common with doctors, or women who have already established their professional careers before getting married. If the idea seems far-fetched to you, think about what it would mean to one day just start going by a completely different name. If someone didn’t attend the wedding or just knew you in a professional sense, it could get a little foggy for awhile. Or what about any accomplishments, awards, or records that bear your maiden name? It can begin to feel like that was a separate life, with a separate person. And in some ways it is, but if there’s a part of a woman who wants to hold on to that by keeping her maiden name, society should applaud her, not make life more difficult.
5. I haven’t decided what I would want my children to do if they get married some day, and that should be ok too.
When Orlando and I were engaged, people asked me all the time if I was going to squeeze my middle name in between Mendez and Valdez after we got married. My maiden name just so happened to be Orr, so it would have been Mendez-Orr-Valdez. Which, in addition to being obnoxiously long, would always make people chuckle. It didn’t bother me to leave my maiden name behind, but I haven’t yet thought about how Cora will approach this when she gets married. Of course, if she keeps one name, I’ll expect her to keep both, but in the end it will be up to her.
And what if we have a boy someday and HIS future wife decides she only wants to take Mendez or Valdez? What if fifteen generations from now nobody can remember why the family name is hyphenated and they just drop one or the other? Of course, Orlando and I will be long gone by then, so I’ll have to come visit them in a dream or something to relay the message, but we’ll cross that supernatural bridge when we come to it. 🙂 Until then, I’d really like to just live my life with a hyphenated name and not feel like I’m confusing or frustrating the rest of the world. Bottom line: my name is hyphenated for a reason, and while I shouldn’t have to explain why, I would appreciate it if you respect that little dash in the middle. It means a great deal to me, and to my family.