At the end of December, one of my university roommates and I were out for Middle Eastern food downtown. She had a birthday to stop by later and she asked me to come. After dinner, we headed south from the restaurant to King and, once parked, ran in pursuit of the club. Walking would have taken ten minutes, our most recent time-check had shown 11:50 pm, and we were dead set on avoiding cover in effect at midnight.
As we raced Toronto in free-clubbing solidarity, I heard her yell to me from behind, “I’m not introducing you!”
I felt my stiletto boots that had been pounding the white-stained pavement lose some momentum as I began to laugh. “What?” I turned my head back toward her as my feet continued forward, apparently unafraid of falling.
“I don’t know what name to give!” she explained.
“Give Theresa!” I yelled back, laughing harder but determinedly still running. “You know me as Theresa. Give Theresa!”
I was in a near-sprint in the middle of Toronto with the pressure of midnight approaching on a Tuesday night in fucking frigid weather, and the immediate thought that came to my mind when my friend didn’t know what to call me was not further confirmation that I have an identity complex, but rather: How have I not thought to write an Awkward Club Occurrences post about this yet?
I’m a quirky girl, friends. I take more pictures of food than people. I prefer night walks to day walks because pigeons scare me more than prospective murderers. I asked Santa for a boyfriend and I plan on asking the Easter Bunny next. Really, it’s only fitting that I would have two names.
To clarify, you can call me Maria – unless you already personally know me as Theresa. In that case, the rule is no switching. Ah, finally, an explanation for why some friends have called me “Tree” or “T” within dialogue featured in past posts! I apologize for the confusion. You can blame my mother and my best friend. I do.
To explain, my mom named me after her godmother, giving me the first name Maria and the middle name Theresa. My mom doesn’t like the name Maria, so I was called Theresa from the get go, but knew growing up to write Maria first on anything legal. (I can’t say the same for my mother, who put my names in the wrong order on my health card, resulting in the loss of my classic red and white one around the time I was 20, when a doctor noticed the error. Now I have one of those stupid health cards with a photo that I have to renew every five years. Thanks Mom.) This was a fairly smooth system until Grade 11, the year I met my best friend. In ongoing competition over who was more Italian (yeah, I’m serious), she made a comment that my name is spelt the non-Italian way, i.e. with an h. Did I mention my mother has no Italian pride, so she purposely spelt Theresa with an h because she didn’t want people to assume I’m Italian? The flaw in her logic: Theresa is surrounded by Maria and Bellissimo. I’m pretty sure names don’t come much more Italian than those two, which was the exact argument I used against my best friend as proof that my name was more Italian than her name. (I would like to reiterate that we were in Grade 11.) My need to prove that point forever changed my name. Shocked that she had been calling me Theresa when I was really Maria, she decided she was going to call me Maria from then on. I told her I wouldn’t respond if she did. It’s over nine years later. (Oh my God, why do I talk about time? #old) We’re still best friends. She still calls me Maria.
Maria spread to anyone I met through her, but otherwise I defaulted to Theresa when meeting new people because Theresa was the name I had been called since birth. In high school, this only caused minor confusion, like my mom hanging up the phone on anyone who called asking to speak to Maria. In university, I went by Maria in class, because I obviously enrolled with my legal name, so Maria was what profs had on their class lists. Outside of class, I went by Theresa unless I met someone through someone who called me Maria. However, at the onset of The Happiness Experiment, at which point I actually had to sit myself down to make a decision about who I wanted to be to my readers and Maria won out, I started defaulting to Maria with new people. It’s the better name. End of story.
Or so I thought.
With both names now very well engrained within my social circles, people have gotten so confused that I’ve been introduced as – hold up while I vomit – “Maria Theresa,” two names never intended to be used in combination; I’ve had my names mixed up due to drunkenness; and I’ve had people avoid use of my name altogether. It’s actually hilarious to watch discomfort unfold in that last scenario.
How does all of this relate to clubbing? Do you realize how often you are asked your name at a club? You’ve probably never thought about it, because “What’s your name?” probably isn’t your number one anxiety-inducing question. You answer automatically, whereas I can state the number of guys I’ve slept with faster than I can state my name – not that it’s a hard number to track; but still, my name should come first. As a girl whose heart rate quickens due to stress every time she’s asked her name, I can attest that “What’s your name?” is the most common question asked in a club, making every club I enter feel like a fucking Maria/Theresa funhouse. This isn’t one awkward club occurrence story, friends. This is my life by night.
You’d think I’d have my names figured out after over nine years of working with two of them. Until recently, I thought I did. In fact, I had gotten so confident with my system for handling my names (which is far more detailed than I’ve laid out here) that, in November, I actually decided against going out with a guy who was Robert, until he was Paul, on the grounds that someone who really has two active names knows how to use them. My name may differ from person to person, but I stay consistent to each individual. I know exactly who calls me what, even if I haven’t seen somebody in years, because my body reacts when someone switches names. My insides squirm when someone calls me the wrong one. Do I go with it? Do I pretend I didn’t hear it? Do I correct it? How close am I to this person? How detrimental is this?
Anyway, I didn’t go out with Paul/Robert, because how off was it that he didn’t have his names straight? (And why was he so eager to meet me? And why did he suggest a musical for a first date? I’m just a Tinder picture for fuck’s sake! Oh, whoa. I think I just answered my own question via unintentional pun.) Then, mere weeks later – because I’m a hypocrite who apparently doesn’t have my own names straight – I approached a guy at a lounge, to whom I accidentally gave the name Theresa instead of Maria. Because everyone at that lounge calls me Theresa. Because I hadn’t gone up to a guy in a really long time, but felt that I should be forcing myself to move on from the one I cried about at the Eiffel Tower. Because you try recalling the name the bartenders call you, remembering which friends you’re with, and determining whether the guy you’re shaking hands with (who had no problem telling you his name, by the way) is a total newbie to your life or knows someone you know who calls you either Maria or Theresa, all without pausing long enough for him to notice! (Wow. My friend’s husband is right; I am a spaz.)
Oh, okay, so “What’s your name?” is pretty much always going to be a matter of concern for me, I assessed after talking to him. Cool. I thought the days of guys saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. What’s you name?” before I could even answer the first time were over, but no. No, they’ve just morphed into me answering too quickly with the wrong name in avoidance of being asked my nemesis question twice. No problem! I just did exactly what Paul/Robert did. I changed my name later.
Opportunely, the guy to whom I called myself Theresa in error added me to Facebook, which states my full name, Maria first. I took this as my chance to text him, “Now is the perfect time to explain that I have two names. I totally gave you the wrong one.” I followed with an “lol” and a message almost as long as this post relaying the backstory.
“I like them both. It’s all good,” he laughed via text. (Cue pang of guilt about Paul/Robert.)
“In that case,” I said (and I quote directly from my phone), “I’d like to revoke Theresa, and permanently change my name to Maria, haha.”
Regardless of how nonchalant he was about it (and the fact that I write a candid blog and the fact that I included a post about getting his number in that candid blog), I’ve been extra stressed about my name since, causing me to hesitate longer than usual lately. For example, while walking back to my car with my university roommate following our Middle Eastern foodie adventure turned club drop-in a few weeks later, a couple guys approached us on the street.
“Hi, I’m Neal,” the guy nearest me introduced himself.
“Hi Neal,” I said, stretching out my hand toward him to buy myself some time. I’m . . . what? What is my name? My friend calls me Theresa, but this guy doesn’t know that. It’s been Maria by default for a long-ass time now, but maybe I should just go with Theresa, since I’m with someone who calls me Theresa and I’ll probably never see this guy again after we go our separate ways at the lights. Unless he’s my future husband, in which case I think – I haven’t quite settled on what I want my future husband to call me yet, but I think – I want him to call me Maria? I’m getting heart palpitations. What if I meet my future husband before I decide on what name I want my future husband to call me? This guy does not seem like my future anything, but unexpected things have come of people I’ve met on the street. Okay, seriously, it’s fucking cold. Whatever. It’s Maria. I’m going with Maria. “I’m Maria,” I said after what felt to me like an eternity.
“Maria, where – Theresa, where is your car?” my friend interrupted.
“Straight ahead, past Bathurst – and don’t ever call me Maria again!” I warned, probably confusing the hell out of Neal.
“You can’t do that!” she said. “You can’t introduce yourself as Maria when I call you Theresa. I get confused.”
“I get confused!” I laughed.
About the Author
Maria Bellissimo was the protagonist of a sad, boring life until she turned her story into a happiness experiment. She chronicles her search for happiness on her supremely awesome and appropriately named blog, The Happiness Experiment, which she hopes will inspire others to launch their own happiness experiments. Follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.