Monday, December 31, 2012

The Name Dilemma

Let's say my name is Margaret for the sake of this discussion. It's not, but Margaret, like my name, has a lot of nicknames associated with it - Maggie, Marge, Meg, Peg, Peggy, and the like.

As a child, I went by Peggy.  My family called me Peggy, my teachers and schoolmates called me Peggy, and I was happy enough to go by Peggy and occasionally folks would shorten it to Peg and I'd be all right with that, too.

But when I changed schools in fifth grade, I was too shy to tell anyone that I went by Peggy on that first day of school, so everyone started calling me Margaret. And I liked it.  I felt like that name really represented me. So from that point out, I introduced myself as Margaret and I thought of myself as Margaret. Sure, my family still calls me Peggy for the most part and there are a few friends who I've known since elementary school who call me Peggy, but anyone I have met as an adult calls me Margaret.*

Just to stress this, even my husband calls me Margaret 95% of the time.

My sister has recently gotten engaged. I have met the guy once and he seems nice enough. He's not really my kind of people, but he's perfectly pleasant and respectable.  And since my sister is one of the folks who calls me Peggy, he calls me Peggy.  When I introduced myself at our one meeting, I introduced myself as Margaret.  When I sent out an engagement card to him (very proper, I know), I signed it Margaret. I signed the holiday card I sent him Margaret.  I did everything I could to steer him away from calling me Peggy, but the holiday card he sent us was addressed to Peggy.

So, my question is:  do I have to just suck it up and let him call me Peggy?  After all, my sister calls me Peggy and my mom calls me Peggy and he sees them all the time and, let's be honest, I'm probably not going to see this guy more than five or six days out of the year.  Or, should I tell him the next time I see him that, "oh, please call me Margaret - I haven't gone by Peggy in years" and kind of joke it off?

The truth is that it feels kind of personal and strangely intimate for someone to use this nickname. Fine, if you've known me since I was born (family) or before I was ten (elementary school) and I still talk to you, you've earned the right to the nickname.  But I don't really know this guy and it makes me kind of squirmy that he assumes he has the right to the name.  But, I also know that he probably doesn't know that I am uncomfortable with it.

So, internet, tell me what to do.  Let it go, make it a joke, tell my sister to tell him, or just keep passively aggressively trying to tell him that I would like him to call me by my full name? 

*A bit of a fib. My Bestest Friend calls me a variant of my name absolutely no one else can get away with and my husband has a diminutive of my name that he occasionally uses that absolutely no one else uses, but these are very special cases. 


  1. Maybe you can even joke it off as kind of, "Oh, they still call me Peggy like they did when I was little. They'll never think of me as anything other than little ole' Peggy. But I like Margaret now." I don't know if that will just egg him on, if he's the kind of person who would find it funny to embarrass you by continuing to use the nickname. Maybe even, the next time your sister or mom calls you Peggy, look at him and roll your eyes a little or just get a smirk, make it a joke between you.

  2. I like your idea of telling him to call you Margaret, that Peggy is something you haven't gone by in years. Hopefully he'll get the hint.

    I made the mistake of calling a friend of my husband's Mike. My husband gently kicked me under the table and whispered, "He only goes by Michael." And now I know. :)

  3. I have this same situation with my name, although for me it changed in 7th grade when I changed schools. And I imagine conversations among people that call me different names:
    "Oh, Margaret's coming in town"
    "You know, the sister you call Peggy"

    I'm now called a combination of things. When close family calls me my full name (a couple of them worked with me as an adult, and changed how they addressed me as a result), it still sounds weird to me. I've given up trying to get specific people to call me specific things.

  4. I do think you can try to mention that you don't want to be referred to as Peggy by your soon-to-be BIL, but my guess is that when your sister talks about you, she will only call you Peggy and so to him you are also Peggy. (Can't stop thinking of Mad Men's Peggy here! I never knew Peggy was short for Margaret before.) Good luck!

  5. I deal with something similar - my close friends call me by a nickname, and sometimes if I meet someone through one of those friends, the someone automatically calls me by the nickname. I usually just go with it, but it is always jarring at first.

    I think your idea of telling the boyfriend that it's something you were called as a child and you prefer Margaret is totally fine. I would so much rather call a person by the name s/he preferred than go on calling her something that might grate on her - and I bet the boyfriend would feel the same way!

  6. Ugh, what a lousy situation. But then, I feel strongly about names, so I would struggle with this!

  7. I think you should try the joke and see how that works out. But it's likely that if your sister and mom both refer to you the same way, he will too. My brother in law has the same kind of thing. With family and close friends he goes by his childhood nickname, but to new people, introduces himself as his real name (his nickname is not a derivative, rather an entirely different label). For a long time I wasn't sure what to call him, since he told me one name, and everyone else calls him something else. I finally just up and asked him which he preferred. That seemed the easiest way.


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