What’s In a Name? Does It Matter?

When your name is your identity.

Marie A Bailey
Jul 6 · 4 min read
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

hen I renewed my driver’s license a few years ago, I was told that my legal name is “Marie A Bailey.” That is how I am identified on my birth certificate and that’s how I should identify myself on all legal documents. Although my birth registration form has Marie Ann Bailey, somehow only the “A” wound up on my birth certificate. I’ve thought about asking my mother why the slip-up, but she’s in her 90s now. I doubt she would remember and less likely would she care.

Fine.

Except for the last several years I’ve insisted on using “Marie Ann Bailey” as part of my brand (I’m a writer … su), assuming that it was in fact my legal name. Ironically, up until I started using Marie Ann Bailey, I had been identifying myself as Marie A Bailey. That’s the name on my bank accounts, my tax records, my credit cards. Only when a form demanded my full middle name, did I put Ann instead of A.

So why did I switch?

In 2005, after having lived in three states over almost fifty years, I finally crossed paths with another Marie A Bailey.

We had the same employer and nearly identical email addresses. She worked in Purchasing, I did not. She rarely got my emails by mistake but I got almost all of hers. I got her business mail too.

We talked once on the phone, trying to brainstorm a way for customers and colleagues to tell us apart in ether space. Tech Support had shrugged and said all they could do was give me an “X” for a middle initial. Since she had started employment before me, she got to keep her middle initial.

Her full middle name was Ann, as of course was mine. The only difference in our names was invisible: Bailey was her married name, Bailey is my maiden name. Except that I was (and am) married. If I had taken my husband’s name, then I would have been Marie A Brown and, believe me, there are more Marie A Brown’s out there than Marie A Bailey’s.

[A quick aside: I didn’t change my name when I married for many reasons, including:

(1) Brown is more common than Bailey;

(2) We weren’t going to have kids;

(3) I didn’t want to go through the bureaucratic hassle;

(4) My husband cared less about whether I changed my name than I did.]

when I started a blog in 2007 and began buying domain names for the freelance editing business that only existed in my dreams, I decided to distinguish myself by using Marie Ann Bailey. I bought the domain www.marieannbailey.com, opened various email accounts with marieannbailey, and printed business cards with Marie Ann Bailey.

It was like buying a new dress designed for a hour-glass figure but your figure only matches the bottom half of the hour glass.

It never felt quite right and now I know why. Because I am Marie A Bailey.

very since that morning at the Department of Motor Vehicles, I feel like I’ve been lying about my identity, especially when my online friends refer to me as “Marie Ann” and not just “Marie.” No one in my family or from school has ever called me Marie Ann.

I was once called Mary Ann by my elementary school principal who had been tasked with reprimanding me for skipping school. I had been scared to go to his office, not knowing what punishment he would mete out. I felt shame up until he said, “Now, Mary Ann, … .”

Well, if he couldn’t get my name right, who was I to worry?

In college, one of my male friends used to call me Manuel. I don’t know why, but I always answered him.

Often I am called Maria, even after I introduce myself as Marie. I’m a bit smug about that since I had wanted to be called Maria in my high school Spanish class but got stuck with Ana because there was another girl in class named Marie and her dad owned a grocery store . . . where my mom worked as a cashier. So, yeah, I definitely answer to Maria.

And if you say “Marie A Bailey” fast enough, it sounds like “Maria Bailey.”

But professionally, I need to get on board with Marie A Bailey. I’m not about to legally change my name to suit whatever mood I happen to be in at the moment (am I feeling like Maria today or Manuel?).

want to simplify my life. Marie A Bailey has fewer letters, and when I Google “Marie A Bailey,” guess who shows up? Just me and one or two doctors.


Marie A Bailey has been published online in The Disappointed Housewife and 50-Word Stories. In 2018, a flash fiction piece was published in two anthologies by Z Publishing House: Florida’s Emerging Writers, An Anthology, and America’s Emerging Writers, An Anthology of Fiction, Volume I. Z Publishing House most recently published two of her short stories, one for America’s Emerging Literary Fiction Writers: Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and the other for America’s Emerging Suspense Writers: The Deep South. When not at her day job, Marie blogs about writing, travel, knitting and cats at www.1writeway.com.

Marie A Bailey

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Writer. Knitter. Stray cat magnet. Agnostic because Nature is enough for me. Empathetic introvert.