I used to dislike my name. It was unusual and difficult for others to pronounce and it was embarrassing when I had to correct teachers who mispronounced it. But that changed when I entered high school. Correcting teachers who mispronounced my name gave me a notoriety that allowed me to meet people. Now, I like and appreciate my name. BTW, it’s pronounced may-EE-rah in English and meh-ee-RAH in Hebrew.
As I write this, I’m happily married for almost 19 years. My husband is the best (don’t argue) and I’m proud to be associated with him. While I’m a very casual type, I do accept that some formality is necessary sometimes and in those situations I do expect people to call me Mrs. Atik. However, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to refer to me as “Mrs. Simcha Atik.” If people use “Mrs. Meira Atik,” that’s fine because that is my name. But there is no good reason to refer to me by my husband’s name.
When my husband and I were planning our wedding, we made sure to use all of our parents’ names on the invitations and we used first names for the invitees instead of titles. In my parents’ time, it was common for the Hebrew side to list the husband’s name and to list the wife as “V’Rayaso.” Well, neither my mom nor my mother-in-law have the name “Raya” so I felt that it was more respectful to use their actual names. I had decided that I wanted all of this long before the time actually came but when it did come, I was pleased to find out that my mother-in-law wanted first names as much as I did.
Every now and then, my husband and I receive invitations addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Simcha Atik.” We don’t turn them down just because of the incorrect naming but I don’t find it respectful. Are you inviting me or are you not? If yes, then I have my own name.
Not long ago, I saw an engagement announcement in which the chatan and his father were mentioned by name but his mother was listed as “Mrs. Father.” And the kallah was mentioned only as the granddaughter of a certain Rav and was referred to only as “the kallah.” Huh?! Is this chatan engaged to a real live woman?
This kind of thing is becoming more and more common just when I thought that we had progressed past it. There are people and publications that won’t use the names of women or girls. Is this another tzniut thing? If it is, then oy vey!
Hashem never saw the need to not use women’s names. Our Torah is full of names of Nashim Tzidkoniot. We know the names of the Imahot- Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah- as well as those of Moshe Rabbeinu’s mother and sister — Yocheved and Miriam- and those of the daughters of Tzelophchad — Tirtza, Machlah, Choglah, Milcah, and Noa. What’s not tzniut about them?
When we were slaves in Mitzrayim, one of the things that gave us merit to be redeemed was that we kept our names. Obviously, names are important. It’s been said that when a new baby is born, Hashem gives the parents a measure of Ruach HaKodesh to make sure they choose just the right name for that baby. My husband and I saw this with our children.
Take away a person’s name and you’re taking away a part of that person’s “personhood.” There’s nothing tzniut about that. Tzniut demands that men AND women see each other as real human beings and not as objects.
People, remember this: I’m a real person and I have my own name. Don’t worry if you mispronounce it — I’ll teach you how to say it correctly.