Friday, February 21, 2014

I Have a Name

On the way home from Fort Worth last week Matt and I had a conversation about identity. Specifically, my aversion to being referred to as "my girl" or "my woman" to his friends. It came up when talking about something one of his guy pals said about "his girl" led me to ask her name. Matt had no idea. Literally none. This poor woman suddenly had no identity to me beyond being some guys "girl." Though knowing her name wouldn't have allowed me to know much more about her, she would have at the very least been her own person who happened to share a relation to the guy she's dating, rather than belonging to him.

That seriously bothered me and, as it turns out, he refers to me in the exact same terms when talking to them. When I'm not around I'm not Kristyn, I'm his "girl," his "wife," or his "woman." I belong to him. Bear in mind, these are people who don't know me, so I don't actually have an identity to them beyond being Matt's wife. Still, it upset me to know that I'm being labeled that way, even to strangers, and I told him so. He thinks that's silly and he told me so.

From his perspective, calling me by my name to them would cause unnecessary confusion. They would have to wonder who "Kristyn" is and then he'd have to explain. From my perspective, they're not idiots and can contextualize who I am from what he's saying. No explanation necessary. And, for those who might require explanation, he'd only have to explain once. It should be worth the few seconds it would take him to explain to allow me to have an identity, so that to them I'm more than just his posession. And I think, for me, this issue is compounded by the fact that we live in the south, where women are often treated like possessions. A problem compounded by women who are content to act like possessions.

I am not a possession, though, and don't want to be seen that way by anyone Matt knows who might not share in the idea that women don't belong to men. I don't want them to believe that I'm content to be understood that way, either. I want him to call me by my name, but he's pretty insistent that it doesn't deprive me of my right to an identity because these men, and occasionally women, don't know me anyway. To me, though, saying "my wife" is the same as saying "my dog," "my gun," or "my truck." It relegates me to the realm of thing, rather than elevating me to the position of person. People have names for a reason and if we weren't meant to use them to differentiate us from those things that are possessions, then why not just give up my name when I got married and become "Matt's wife," rather than continue to be called Kristyn?

I'm sure he's continued to call me "my wife" or "my girl"to his friends--doubly offensive because I'm a woman, not a girl--but it's not something I can control except to lodge my complaint and leave it at that. It's something I've always had a problem with, though, since he's always been content to introduce me to people he knows as "my wife" and leave it at that. Though he's not trying to insult me, it is insulting to be introduced as his possession when he's so good about acknowledging my agency in all other regards.

I wonder, am I the only person who feels like this is insulting? Who feels a loss of identity in being labeled this way? Maybe so, and so far the responses I've had to this issue have been to defend Matt's position, but that won't change that it makes me uncomfortable. I have a name. My name is Kristyn. Though I happen to be his wife, I am also much more than that. I'm an individual who deserves an identity.