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I dated a guy named Michael* once. Then I found out his name was Miguel*. It kind of ticked me off. So I asked him what he liked to be called and after a little himmin’ and hawin’ it came out to be that he liked being called Miguel more. And then I got confrontational. “Miguel, promise me something?”
“Never Americanize yours or anyone else’s name in my presence again.”
The dude was even more enamored with me, for the record.
Anyway, I feel the same way as the famous Tweet by @kirkobainz “If white people know how to say Daenerys Targaryen, they can learn to pronounce your name correctly.”
Now me, a white lady whose ancestors hail from Caucasia, doesn’t have much trouble with my name being mispronounced, often. But I do have people shorten my name to Helen Pugsley, rather than Helen M. Pugsley. (I’ll come back to that one and why it’s a problem.) I’ve been Hellen, I’ve been Helen S. Pugsley, Helen Pierce, and Helen Puglsey. (That last one I do a lot.) The point I’m trying to get across to you is that: There is nothing wrong with correcting people about your name. It’s your friggin’ name! You need to make sure people get it right. Spelling, pronunciation, that weird 3 you added in middle school… That’s basic respect everyone owes you. Even if they have to practice saying your name several times.
So, back to why Helen M. Pugsley, not Helen Pugsley is my friggin’ name: I am Helen M. Pugsley. I have been since I was in high school when I read “Thanks for turning the mousy Steph into Stephanie Meyer” in the back of a Twilight novel. That’s when I decided “I need a cool name for all these short stories I keep posting to Teenink.” My father taught me anonymity is cowardice so I beefed up my own moniker. Helen to Helen M. Pugsley. What a courageous change! (Sarcasm works so well in print.)
I never used to worry much about the M. I used to use it to see if the people or organizations I was working with had an eye for detail. I heard a story once about a band who, in their contract, would ask for a bowl of M&M’s with all the blue ones removed. They got to a venue and had a perfectly normal bowl of M&M’s. Because the M&M’s weren’t done right they knew they’d have to check the sound equipment. When they checked the sound equipment it was done in such a way that something could have come loose during the performance and seriously injured or killed someone. The M. was always my canary until recently.
There is a perfectly lovely Welsh woman named Helen Pugsley whose career as a classical singer is gaining momentum. I am here for it! That is probably my cousin! You remember where I said my ancestors came from? But unfortunately, I’ve let people call me Helen Pugsley rather than Helen M. Pugsley so many times Google can’t tell us apart. Now my Helen M. Pugsley knowledge panel is a picture of her and a link to her Twitter account, and her Helen Pugsley knowledge panel announces that she wrote War and Chess. I’m sure Helen would rather be known for her music. While I love music, I don’t have a desire to try to make a living off of it again. (*Cough* Link drop to previous blog post.)
Helen, if you’re reading this, we have to duet this song. You’re a blonde, I’m a brunette. I’m also an operatic soprano, but I think my status as a brunette is more relevant here. It could happen. It needs to happen. We owe it to the world, Helen.
Anyway, because of Helen, I recently had to grow guts and actually tell people I am Helen M. Pugsley not Helen Pugsley we’re two different people. Desiree Goodtimes and I on the other hand?… I am definitely not the one who’s been churning out mass amounts of pirate smut! Who does that!?
I’ve been on the other side of the name thing too. When I worked for the library I did most if not all of the advertising. I can tell you from experience, as a venue, I get more ticked off when I find out you let me get your name wrong than when you shoot me an email and tell me I got it wrong. Shoot the email. It’s your friggin’ name.
Anyway, here is permission to advocate for yourself no matter your situation. It’s your friggin’ name. People need to get that right. Even if it used to be your name, you need to correct people. (I’m looking at you, trans community!) Don’t settle, make people pronounce it right, spell it right, and remember it right. It’s your friggin’ name.
*Indicates name change