I’ve got a problem. Actually, I have many, but today let’s consider the Hyphenate’s dilemma. When I got married many years ago, I chose to hyphenate my name for a number of reasons that are irrelevant to today’s problem. The result is a lengthy last name, but one that gives me an incredible amount of information about the speaker. Telemarketers never say it fully or correctly, for example.
I never considered being a hyphenate much of a problem. The children share part of my last name so at school functions and so on, I am easily identified as being part of the same family unit. Unless I introduce myself to the faculty first, there is a tendency among teachers and administrators to direct their initial comments to me as “Mrs. Naylor.” When I hear this, I always look around to see if my Mother-in-Law is in the room. Within minutes, we are on first name basis and the issue doesn’t pop up again.
Living in the South for the last nine years has made being a hyphenate easy, even with children. Growing up in the Midwest, adults were always “Mr. Lastname” or “Mrs. Lastname” unless they were family. A few beloved adult earned the nickname “Mom Lastname” or “Dad Lastname,” but the last name was present. In the South, I avoided this awkward hyphenate convention through the charm of Southern Gentility. Adults call me Lyra and children me either as “child’s name’s mom” or “Miss Lyra.”
Frankly, I love being “Miss Lyra.” It took me less than a month of living in Georgia to fall for the dual layers of familiarity and respect bestowed in this naming convention. When my children’s friends call me “Miss Lyra,” I become as connected to them as I am with my own family.
I’m on the verge of returning to the Upper Midwest. I fear I’m returning to the form of address I grew up with, one that makes me uncomfortable as a hyphenate and as a person.
So Yankee and Midwestern friends, what do your children’s friends call you? Am I worrying for naught? Or am I about to start a Southern Rebellion?