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A Name By Any Other Name

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nametag“You have a boy’s name.”
“Did your parents want a boy?”
“Your last name is spelled wrong.”

I have a unique name. I love it now, but I didn’t always.

“Michael-Anne Rubenstien, get in here this instant!”

For starters, I think we’re negatively conditioned as children to fear our full names. I don’t know about you, but getting called by my full name meant Significant Trouble. The kind with Consequences.

My name has a couple of other interesting complexities. First, it’s hyphenated. You have no idea how difficult this concept is for people to grasp.

“How do you spell that?”
“Michael hyphen Anne.”
“I’m sorry?”
“M-i-c-h-a-e-l hyphen A-n-n-e”
I occasionally toy with the idea of throwing in an umlaut, just for laughs.

My nickname – Mickey – brings another layer of hilarity to the mix.

“Like the mouse?”
“Like the mouse.”
<muffled giggle>

“Oh Mickey, you’re so fine!”
“Yes, thank you. You’re very clever.”
“You’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey!”
“Please stop.”

I’ve gotten mail for Michael A., Michaelan, Michaela, Michelle and Nikki Riverstein, Rubenstein and Rubinstein. The best spelling ever still goes to Hallmark, who once sent me a xochiGold Crown card in the name of Xochiquetzal Rubenstitn. It’s like the person entering the information just gave up and started typing with their face.

I was accepted to one of my top college choices as a male. I appreciated their willingness to welcome me as a student even though they lacked confidence in my ability to specify my own gender on the intake forms. Whenever I call to get information about my accounts – banks, phone, insurance – I’m invariably told that my husband will need to call back himself. This happened long before I was married.

I had a language professor in college who insisted I was spelling and pronouncing my own name wrong. Both the first AND last name. Wrong wrong wrong.

“You are not a boy, therefore your first name is Michelle.”
“Okay. In French, it sounds like Michelle.”
“No, I mean it should be Michelle.”
“Well, I’m not sure what to tell you.”
“And you are either spelling or pronouncing your last name wrong.”
“My parents will be delighted to hear this.”
“You do not amuse me.”

When I married and changed my name to Gomez, I thought things would be easier. Forms with little boxes for first and last name would no longer run out of spaces. I wouldn’t have to debate people on the spelling of my last name.

“Mickey Gomez.”
“You do not look like a Gomez.”
“What does a Gomez look like?”

Now I receive mail written in Spanish, especially during election season. I’ve been invited to serve on a variety of boards seeking my cultural perspective. I’ve received mail for Mickey Goomes, Micket Gomer and M. Gonzalez.

I’ve been forced to the realization that I will never be free of name explanations, but such is life. In this age of babies named Hashtag and Apple, my name doesn’t seem quite as complicated anymore. But it is still unique. And you know what? I love it.


Michael-Anne “Mickey” “Mickety” “Xochi” “Hey You” Rubenstien Gomez


I firmly believe that every one of us has something to offer, and that each of us can make a difference in this world. I also believe that it’s vitally important that we not take ourselves too seriously, enjoy life, and have fun.

This Post Has 24 Comments

    1. mickeygomez

      Danny Brown Don’t make me throw an umlaut at you, Mr. Brooooon.

  1. SoccerDad

    Named my youngest daughter “Miki” (a fact which surely delights you, Michael-Anne). It isn’t an uncommon name in Japan and we picked it because we assumed it would be easily pronounced in the US too. Wrong-o. “Mike..y?” “Nicki” “Nikki”, etc. NOTE: this isn’t helped by the fact that “Mickey” (as in the mouse) and “Miki” are slightly different in Japan, leading my lovely wife to correct those who call Miki “Mickey”….

    1. Mickey

      It did delight me, although I know it was a happy coincidence. I’ve learned to NEVER assume that something is easy to pronounce, including Smith, Jones, etc. There is ALWAYS someone who will find that one way to say it that leaves you scratching your head and saying, “Huh, really?”

  2. JustOneBoomer (Suzanne)

    I married a guy whose last name is Albelda. His parents came from Bulgaria. The family was kicked out of Spain in 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition. He doesn’t speak Spanish—too many intervening centuries or something. My last name is not Hispanic, but I happen to speak Spanish. I work at home and have received no fewer than 7 calls in Spanish, asking to speak to the person who pays our household’s electric bill. #1 Why are you speaking to me in Spanish which I only just happen to understand? and #2 We haven’t had an electric bill for over two years because we live in an apartment and utilities are included in the rent. Adios- hasta la proxima vez.

    I also receive a lot of calls asking to speak to Mrs. uh, ah, uh Albedabeda. —Never heard of that person and even if you pronounce it correctly, I never changed my name when I married my beloved over 30 years ago. Mrs. Albelda is deceased.
    -Oh, sorry.

    1. Mickey

      I can’t even imagine having to guess at pronunciations for a living. Yikes! I will admit, though – I like it when I can automatically tell by whether or not someone can pronounce my name (or uses a nickname) if they know me or not. Makes answering marketing calls far, far easier and often much shorter (no offense to George who commented earlier!).

  3. Rusti-Ann Blanke

    Enjoyed this immensely. Naturally, you had me at the hyphen – a conversational exchange I’ve had too many times to count, just like this one: Is that your real name?
    – No, I just made it up on the spur of the moment. Do you like it?
    – No, it’s an alias. I’m an undercover shopper.
    – No, but I need to use it cuz that’s what on this credit card.
    Really? I had a dog/cat/gerbil named Rusty.
    – Yeah, that’s pretty funny Tom. I once had a pot-bellied pig named Tom.

    Thanks for the laugh today Mickey.

    1. Mickey

      Oh, Rusti-Ann, I feel like we are name sisters. It feels nice to know that there are others out there who have experienced pretty much the same thing. Also, I may “borrow” the pot-bellied pig line – love it.

  4. taracoomans

    Although my first name isn’t all that uncommon, it does have a couple of pronunciations. As to my last name, its phonetically correct, but no one can seem to get that one right either, I’ve started telling people to call me “Hey You.” Because I respond to that also and it puts everyone at ease about pronunciations.

    1. Mickey

      Tara, that’s probably the best advice EVER when it comes to names. I’ve known people that get outright rabid about the pronunciation of their name. Part of me gets it – really – but another part is like, “Hey, if you’re not graduating or getting married or receiving a Nobel prize or something, relax! It’s all good.”

  5. lisabgerber

    My husband called me by my first name the other day and I was instantly transported back to the days of being called by my first name. I did indeed get scolded.
    Good story for sure – we love to judge by the cover!!
    Lisa (no relation to Gerber baby food) Gerber.

    1. Mickey

      Ha! Thanks so much, Lisa. The full name thing NEVER fails to give me goosebumps. I instantly feel guilty for no apparent reason. It’s like dark magic or something. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, and from here on out there will be NO MENTION of the baby food, deal?

  6. Corinne Rodrigues

    Perhaps you’ll feel better if you knew there’s a woman in India who is 100% Indian with a name like Corinne (French) and surname like Campos (now Rodrigues – couldn’t do better!). Perfectly ‘normal’ names you say? Not when I’ve been called Chlorine Calmpose! 😉

    1. Mickey

      Chlorine Calmpose is an EXCELLENT alias, though, isn’t it? Thanks so much for sharing, it really does help to hear from others with, er, name challenges, too. 😉

  7. I work in a call center (mostly outbound calls) and I am relieved to know that hearing my often awkward spur-of-the-moment attempts to pronounce complex names is a common experience for folks with such monikers.

    1. Mickey

      George, I can’t even IMAGINE what that must be like. I’ve always been fairly relaxed about the pronunciation. To be otherwise would lead to untold amounts of easily avoidable stress. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Julie Pippert

    I hear you, says the person with an utterly unpronounceable maiden and married name. “Yes, I am 100% sure it is PIEpert and has two Ps.” On the upside, at least you don’t turn around every very frequent time someone calls Julie and you have never been in a conversation that went like this, “Julie, Julie and I are here talking and we know that Julie said she’d do the TCM training, so the other Julie and I wondered if you and Julie would do this, and if so, could you let Julie know.” Very meta. And awkward.

    1. Mickey

      HA! That’s true, there aren’t a lot of Mickeys wandering around (especially here in the US). It is amusing when people challenge you on the pronunciation, though, isn’t it? I’m fine if you pronounce it wrong, but don’t debate me if I decide I need to correct you. Just go with it, m’kay?

  9. Fay Mauro

    Mickey Michael-Anne Rubenstien Gomez you are the best!

    1. Mickey

      Thanks, Fay!

  10. Doug Haslam

    Girl Mickey! Great story

    1. Mickey

      Bahahaha – thanks, Boy Doug!

  11. Clayton Randall

    as the man with 2 first names (or 2 last names) I sympathize with you.

    1. Mickey

      Hahahaha – I’ll bet!

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