My name is Samantha. Three syllables. I like all of them.
I can handle shortening of my name by people who've known me since childhood or knew me during a time in my life when I more willingly allowed the nickname. I don't like it, even from them, but I can handle it. But complete strangers, meeting me for the first time? That's a grit-my-teeth and try-not-to-slap situation.
For example, I made a hair appointment yesterday. The salon called today to confirm my appointment and asked for "Sam." I signed up as Samantha. The salon clerk person has never met me. What made her think she could call me Sam? If it weren't that the stylist is fabulous and an old friend, I'd cancel the appointment.
Obviously, I am really rankled by having my name shortened. But even I don't really know why that is. I didn't have a traumatic experience with someone who called me Sam. It's not PTSD from reading Dr. Seuss as a child. It's not that the nickname is non-specifically gendered.
I'm starting to think that it's about boundaries, about the license people take, the assumptions they make.
If you ask me, "Do you go by Sam?" I'll politely say, "No, I'm a three-syllable girl." I won't be upset with you for asking. Because, after all, you asked.
If you call me Sam without asking, I'll correct you: "Samantha, please." Then I'll go on with the conversation as if it didn't happen. I won't hold a grudge. Most people are briefly taken aback by my directness, but then they remember.
Names are very personal. You don't choose your name initially. Your parents get the credit or blame for that one. But, by adulthood, we've all chosen what we preferred to be called: our full first name, a shortened version, initials, our middle name, a nickname that doesn't draw from our name at all. We've chosen. It's part of who we are. If you change my name, you are trying to tell me who I am. That's not up to you.
So, a poem about my name:
Someone Called me Sam Today
Women like us are not Pat or Jenn or Sam,
Kat or Jess or Liz.
We’re not Izzy or Mandy,
Cathie or Chrissi (with an i) or Tina.
We won’t be shortened,
made cute, easy, or palatable to the lazy tongue.
We are not here for your convenience.
We are who we are.
Call me by the full length of my name,
each syllable lovingly pronounced
as it was by my mother
when she named me.
You don’t know me that well—
few do. And if you did,
you would know to love me
fully, in all my syllables,
and not try to change who I am.