You think you know your friends. And then you try to address them.
Last summer, I addressed 100 wedding invitations to my family and friends. Making the list was difficult. It was hard to whittle down family and friends to a group which would fit under a tent. But it was even more difficult addressing the envelopes. Believe it or not, I had no idea what my friends’ actual names were.
I have some friends I have known since elementary school. And as far as I am concerned, I’ll always refer to them by their childhood names. But childhood friends sometimes get married, move away, and reinvent themselves.
When it was time to address wedding invitations, I started writing their names as I remembered. I began with Ms. Heather Jones. Yet, as soon as the ink dried, I remembered that Heather has a husband, David Smith and probably went by Mrs. Heather Smith. Yet, she was still using Heather Jones Smith on facebook. Was Jones Smith her full last name? Or just Smith? It was all so confusing. I ripped up the two-dollar envelope and wrote “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” I wasn’t sure if it was correct, but I hoped that Heather would be forgiving.
It got worse. Did my bridesmaid prefer to be a Dr. after receiving her PHD in biochemistry? What about the friend who may or may not have hyphenated her maiden name with her new surname? What about the gay couple who might have taken one of their surnames, but not the other? What do I do with the recently divorced woman who just changed back to her maiden name on twitter, but not at the office? What about the couple who created a hybrid of both of their names? I didn’t even know the correct name of the clergyman marrying us. (Father or Reverend?)
As I toiled with hyphens or no hyphens, Ms. or Mrs., Fr. or Rev., I realized that the only thing to do was to make my best guess. If Mrs. Jolie Pitt was offended because I called her Ms., I still hoped that she would still stick around for a piece of wedding cake. (I felt like it would be more offensive to call her and admit I had no idea what her name was.)
And as I pondered MY new married name, I thought about all of my options. I could be Mrs. Sabky. Or I could be Ms. Munsterer. I could combine surnames with my husband to be Sabsterer, or I could hyphenate to take up as much space as possible Munsterer-Sabky. Or I could be a Madonna-esque diva (like Adele and Twiggy), and simply use my first name, Rebecca.
I realized that people can call me anything they like, as long as they call me. After the exercise in addressing wedding envelopes, I was more sympathetic to all of our changing names. Call me a friend, and I’ll still come to eat your wedding cake.