Vexations and Conundrums
By Katina Pontikes
A Different Name
I was born with a name my mother found in a Greek mythology book, or so I was told. Katina is a common nickname for Katherine in Greece. I know because when I was in Greece, everyone thought I was Greek. Many boats had my name painted in bold letters on their backs.
When I was in fourth grade I moved to a new school and the teacher asked me to introduce myself. I said my name clearly. A smart aleck boy in the back of the class pretended he heard my name wrong and clarified loudly, “CHIQUITA?!” The class roared with laughter. I calmly clarified, “No, my name is Tina.” I went by Tina until I started my life anew in college many years later and reverted to Katina.
My family name was the English surname Cox. I was happy with my last name until a group of guys at a bar in college called me over and had fun asking me to spell my last name. I tilted my head in incomprehension that they couldn’t spell a three-letter name, until it occurred to me there was another phonetic spelling which was a male sex organ. I was mortified!
Years passed and I was going to get married. I informed my fiancé that I’d prefer to keep my birth name and gave many reasons why this was my desire. I had a career and had established what one would now call my “brand,” establishing my work reputation. Plus I was feminist in my thinking. The traditional assumption of the husband’s name made me feel like chattel. He was so dismayed and carried on in such tragic grief that I relented and changed my name to his.
Greek last name. It actually sounded pretty with my Greek first name, so I moved on. I had a son and gave him a traditional Greek first name, so he sounded like he was a real Greek too.
Life went on, I divorced, and several years later I was preparing to remarry my present husband. The name issue came up again. I was adamant I wasn’t going to do the whole name thing again. My then fiancé held traditional views. I stressed that I didn’t want to have to send out name change correspondence at work, and that my son and I shared last names. He wasn’t swayed.
One day while driving with my son, he informed my fiancé he had only one request if we were to become a family. My husband thought this sounded simple and asked what it was. “There are two of us with our last name, and only one of you. Will you take our last name, and we will all have the same last name?”
My husband stammered with the logic from this young boy’s mind. He reluctantly agreed that I would keep my last name. I was really proud of my son’s argument, and he saved me a boatload of administrative tasks required when one changes their name.
I kept my name and I remain myself. Names hold meaning.
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