I was in a meeting in an office and the subject of names came up. I needed my legal name and all of the names that had been used by me. It is odd with me, because I have a lot of names for someone who 1) has only been married once, 2) has no aliases or criminal record, and 3) never wrote nor published under an actual pen name.
At birth I was named Tonette Marta Joyce. When I first wrote and filed for copyrights, I used “T. Joyce”. (There is a nice, shiny award in a frame with that name on it hanging in my hallway.) I wrote some from a male perspective and hoped that “T.” would blur the gender lines to keep the judges in the right mindset, and it worked, since the award came in addressed to “MR. T. Joyce” . (Not to be confused with “Mr.T” !) I was also still pretty shy and let’s face it, “Tonette” sticks out. How many “Tonettes” do you know, and combined how few last names are “Joyce” in America, then the likelihood of the combination? If anyone wants to find me, they can!
When I got married, I went to the Social Security office to have my husband’s last name, “Skube” added.
When my card came in, they had changed “Marta” to “Maria”, (one letter off). So back it went, only to have the newer version come back as “Tonette Marie Joyce Skube”, (now, TWO letters off). Back it went again. The last one came in “Tonette M. Joyce Skube” and after checking to make sure that my middle name was actually “Marta” in their records, so I remained.
I used M. as my middle name in signatures. I kept “Joyce” for writing for several reasons: 1) I already had copyrights under that name,2) I wished to keep my writing separate from my family, my in-laws, and my husband’s jobs and 3) let’s face it, you hear “Joyce” you may think “writer”, but you hear “Skube” and you WILL think “cartoon dog”. (And believe me when I tell you that we have heard every possible joke many times over, thank you very much.)
When we signed up for Social Security a year and a half ago, I found out that legally, Social Security had changed my name to Tonette M. Joyce-Skube. There was no hyphen on the card when they sent it back to me 36 years before. They never questioned my driver’s license, employment records nor my taxes, not medical records nor insurance payments, not bank accounts nor business records/ licenses; they never told me anything was amiss. I found that, according to the government, I had been known at different times as: Tonette Marta Joyce, Tonette M.Joyce, Tonette Joyce, T. Joyce, Tonette Marta Joyce Skube, Tonette MARIE Joyce Skube, Tonette M. Joyce Skube and Tonette M. Joyce-Skube. When I pointed out that never had I claimed to be known as “Tonette Marie”, they told me that I had. I said only to them, and only as long as I had rushed to straighten them out. (Strangely, they had not listed their first mistake of “Tonette Maria”.) Since I was going to be late with my benefits and knowing their track record of messing up my name, I switched my driver’s license, my bank accounts, my medical records, my voter registration, everything else to “Joyce-Skube”, rather than risk heaven knows how many versions of all the names Social Security could mess up.
[I know that I probably told much of the story of my names before, but here are the details and I will be getting to a point.]
I still go under “Tonette Skube” for most purposes; I’m “Mrs. Skube” to kids and strangers. I have to use “Tonette Joyce-Skube” more often anymore, but not unless it’s medical or legal.
(And, more often than not, people have gone back to addressing me as “Joyce”, which they did so often before I married because they were unfamiliar with “Tonette” and in America “Joyce” is a common first name for women, so they turned my name around, but tell me about now? Why would they pull a name out of the middle and address me by it, especially if there is a hyphen? But I digress.)
So, back to the original office at the beginning of this post, where among the others there was a very professional and competent woman going through my names for a while seemingly without much interest until she stopped dead and said, “You are a writer?”
To which at that point I had to admit that I have not having published even an article recently, ‘only’ blog posts. However, she got all excited. I asked, “Do you write?”, expecting to hear her own story of her own stories when she gushed, “No, but I am a READER!” She stopped in the middle of all that was going on and wanted to know about the blogs, what I had/have written, what I had published, what I am writing and what was I planning on writing. It was so encouraging. This is not the first time that something like this happened when the subject of writing comes up,(which it doesn’t very often for me).
The business that was transpiring had been good for me anyway, but this was more than uplifting. With all of the writers that I know, I think perhaps I lose track of the fact that there are a lot of people who DON’T write, and are hungry for stories and information put down for them in an entertaining manner.
I am hitting the keyboard harder.
Other writers, have you experienced something like this?