on long names: the struggle is real.

Today is the wrong day to cross me. I woke up a whole 15 minutes before my alarm went off (what a waste of much needed sleep), and then I checked my phone to find that it was -18 degrees outside (Celsius, because ain’t nobody got time for Fahrenheit when you’re from Europe). Trying to remain positive, I stopped to get some coffee which I then proceeded to spill not on my bag, but in it (thank god I was carrying my iPad in my hand). At this point I am a pissed off, cold and grumpy little Portuguese individual, ready to smite anyone who so much as looks as me the wrong way.

And then the real problems start. A few weeks ago I lost my insurance card somewhere, and so after multiple unanswered emails to the insurance company, I decided to give them an angry call. Insurance company proceeds to tell me that my ID number does not exist in their system. Swell. They refer me to another number which I call, only to be put on hold for a grand total of 22 minutes, to finally be told my name is nowhere to be found in their records. Again, swell. They then kindly remind me that my name is much too long, and why didn’t I consider shortening it to make everyone’s lives easier, since I mean, it is just sooo complicated to read an extra three names.

Which leads me to my first point. Why is it that people here find it so hard to understand that where I’m from, we honor both the mother and the father when we give children their names? It so happens that both my parents had two last names…is this really so hard to understand? A few months ago I had to get a Social Security Number so I could get a job on campus, and I kid you not, they cut off the last part of my name. They weren’t even smart enough to cut it off after a whole name, they just chopped one in half. Which then led to a series of problems, one of them being that it did not match my passport, and therefore it could not be the same person. “It simply does not fit on the card. They had to chop it off” I tried telling them a million times. “Well, how do we know that this is the same person on your passport, that you’re not stealing anyone’s identity?”. And deep inside I’m thinking…. I wish I knew how to steal someone’s identity, because I’d steal yours and buy myself a nice relaxing trip to a fancy spa somewhere to unwind after all the stress you put me through.


My thoughts precisely.

I went to the Office of International Programs to request a verification letter from them today, and it took them a whole 10 minutes to find my folder. Because “oh I’m not sure what name we filed you under. Why do you have so many names? I would be so mad at your parents if I was you” they said, assumingly as a joke. Well, the joke gets old real quick. In fact it got old almost five years ago when I got here.

It’s always been incredibly difficult for me to get anything document related done in the US. One time at the Social Security office, the lady stared at me for 5 minutes and said “Well, we can’t fit your name. I don’t know how to put it in the system”, then proceeded to call her supervisor who stared at the screen, then back at me, then back at the screen. “Foreigners can have such long names. Just cut the end off” she said. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of how I went from being Leonor Maria de Sa Machado Ribeiro Gomes to Leonor Maria de Sa Machado Rib. No really, feel free to chop off half of my identity.

I’m almost tempted to marry someone with a last name like Smith so I can have a kid and name them something like John Smith. But of course that would be boring, plus I plan on giving my children my last name as well as their father’s. So if you’re reading this kids, I apologize in advance. Your life may be hell, but at least you’ll be interesting. And culturally diverse. And all that fun stuff.

So, to the people who roll their eyes at my long name…. Keep rolling. Maybe someday you’ll find a brain back there.


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