Thursday, November 10, 2011

My name kicks ass: July 13, 2003

I was only four years married when I wrote this column, and I was still downright giddy about my new name. You'll understand why if you read this and see my old name.

The Fortune in my future was not what I expected

    When I got married I never considered, even for a second, hyphenating. I didn’t even keep my maiden name as a middle name. I am Mary Katherine Fortune, that’s it and that’s all.

    I have absolutely no quarrel with those who marry and keep their names, hyphenate their names, use their unmarried names as middle names, even invent brand new names for their union.

    My mom uses her maiden name as her middle name, and publishes under it as a tribute to her father. Lots of my married friends figured they already had perfectly good names and saw no reason to change them. Some have family history they want to preserve, a sense of identity connected to their names that they don’t want to lose. I think that’s great. It’s just not me.

    Until I married, I spent large chunks of my time explaining, pronouncing and spelling my last name. People would ask me "What kind of a name is that?" And I would say "Eastern European" or "Hungarian," which was my best guess.     

    I would write it down, and people would say, "How do you pronounce that?"

    I would say it, and people would say, "How do you spell that? And what kind of a name is that, anyway?"

    Truth is, no one is 100 percent sure where my old name came from. I am a mongrel, descended from mongrels and the former bearer of a name that was at least partly invented by my immigrant great-grandfather who came, we think, from Hungary. No one is really sure.

    My younger brother, Tom, has a wife and 4-year-old son, and I can’t help but cringe when I imagine what it will be like for little Evan Rehyansky, explaining, spelling and pronouncing his name for the rest of his life.

    I remember every school year on the first day of class, I always knew when the teacher had reached my name on the roll.



    "Yes, thank you."

    Handing out my business card as a reporter: "Mary....uh..."


    "OK. What kind of name is that?"

    Leaving phone messages: "Can I have him call you back?"

    "Yes, please. This is Mary Rehyansky."

    "Mary...uh...what? Can you spell that for me?"

    On one memorable day several years ago, the name appeared twice on a page of this newspaper — once in my byline (spelled correctly) and once in a story in which my father was quoted (spelled incorrectly, as is the custom when your name is Rehyansky.)     

    When I met my husband I liked him a lot right away. The fact that his last name was Fortune really didn’t have much do with it at the time. But as our relationship became more serious, I began to daydream like a seventh-grader about becoming Mary Fortune.

    "It sounds like advice," my mother quipped. "Marry fortune."     

    I decided it was even better than Jones or Smith, names I had long used when making restaurant reservations. Fortune was an unusual name, but an easy word. Some people stumble over it a little bit, but it’s easy enough to clear up.

    "Fortune," I explain. "Like ‘Wheel of.’ Like the cookie."

    It even has sort of a fictional sound to it; it’s kind of a comic book name.

    Mary Fortune, super-literate superhero: Mommy by day/ corruption-fighting journalist by night, Mary Fortune roots out injustice wherever she finds it using her powerful English major skills.


    My name has the added attraction of confirming what a phony psychic on the boardwalk at Daytona Beach told me the summer I was 12. She took my $5, waved her purple Lee Press-On Nails at me and said "I see a fortune in your future, child."

    Maybe she wasn’t a phony — I just misunderstood and assumed she meant money. I’ve never been very interested in money. I’d rather have the name.

    Fortune fits so much better on a cape than Rehyansky.

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