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What’s in a Name?

A lot, as it happens. Matt and I have joked for years that owing to the extreme brevity of our marriage ceremony, we suspect some guests question(ed) its validity. Similarly, we’ve had to clear up confusion when co-coaching Simon’s soccer team that we were paired up because, well, we’re paired up. Like, with papers and everything. The fact that our names don’t match surely is behind much of the confusion.

But wait, there’s more. I rarely wear my wedding or engagement rings. Especially in winter, when I need to lotion my hands a million times; or in summer, when I’m grubby from being outside or when heat makes my fingers swell; or when I’m at KIP, where I need to wash my hands constantly. I worry about scratching the metal, and constant lotion application dims the stones. Plus, having lost my first engagement ring, I’m terrified of losing or harming the rings I have and love now. They get put back on for family and large social functions, at which time I often joke about “needing to look married” today/tonight.

Finally, I rarely say “my husband”. I don’t know why. It felt outrageously strange when I first got married, and it only feels slightly less outrageously strange (almost) 16 years later. After all these years, Matt isĀ  just “Matt”. Or, more often these days, “Simon’s dad”. Maybe my Dinka friends and their prohibition against using a spouse’s fist name in mixed company somehow rubbed off on me. I don’t know.

Honestly, I’ve never given any of this much thought. No single element was part of any master plan to confuse others. It’s just a bunch of preferences and quirks that came together by coincidence. The reason I’m thinking about it now is that Simon’s teacher asked me an odd question today. We were meeting to discuss how to help Simon better assert himself when Mr. Sowder asked me this:

“Is Simon’s dad very involved with him?”

Now, my first reaction was to get defensive on Matt’s behalf. I mean, Matt plays soccer with Simon for hours on end, gives him his baths, reads to him at night, takes him to drum lessons, talks about maps with him, watches soccer games with him, has regular coffee-shop dates with him, introduced him to Tolkien and Lewis, and is teaching him to play chess. He’s about as hands-on and attentive as it gets.

But how would Mr. Sowder know about that? From where he sits, I’m the parent that picks Simon up from school, initials his behavior chart, fills out his permission slips, completes his reading log, volunteers at school, and leaves notes on Simon’s homework. I went to the parent-teacher conference alone, and I’m the one who emails Mr. Sowder with any questions or concerns. And I have done all of this while steadfastly maintaining that I am “Ms. Goldstein” and eschewing wearing a wedding band.

It was Matt who connected the dots about Mr. Sowder’s wording.

“He doesn’t think we’re married. That’s why he called me ‘Simon’s Dad’ and asked if I was involved.”

Now, it’s possible that this isn’t the case. But I wouldn’t bet against it!

At tight-knit KIP, everyone knew us—jointly and severally. I’m sure we seemed a bit odd, but I think that was attributed to our being odd to begin with and then having been a couple since forever. (Seriously, our first date was over 26 years ago.) They all knew Matt at KIP, which was closer to home and facilitated a more regular in-school presence. But at Brandeis? At Brandeis I’m the family ambassador and Matt is an unknown and largely unseen entity.

At this point, we’ve only got six weeks left in the year, and it hardly matters if Simon’s kindergarten teacher thinks his Dad isn’t around much. But I’m thinking maybe Matt should make an appearance before the year ends. Maybe we can co-chaperone the class end-of-year party. And maybe, you know, we can, like, hold hands or kiss while we’re there.

One Response to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Amanda says:

    LOL. In my mind you guys are SUCH an old married couple. Just shows how one’s perspective is affected by events.

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