As is the case for many of us who had Extremely Common Late 80’s names, a formative experience for me was being one of many Rachels in my school and social circles. It was defined by a constant simmering tension with the other Rachels, silently jockeying to see who could functionally be referred to simply as Rachel in conversation and still be clearly identified and who would have to settle for being a Rachel B. or Rachel K. (Obviously this does not compare to the experience of having a very unique or stigmatized name, which is objectively worse, but bear with me.) Maybe this is part of why I’ve always been so deeply horrified at the prospect of dating someone with the same name as me.
I was shocked in recent years to find out anecdotally that others do not share this aversion! While I’m aware that I think I’m more particular about names than most people (I also can’t date people with the same name as close friends, family members, or people I have strong negative feelings about) I was fascinated to learn that there are those of you out there who are totally fine with the idea of being half of “Leah and Lia” forever.
In an informal survey of Autostraddle staff members with names common enough that this was a shared concern, I was heartened to find I was not alone. Vapid Fluff Editor Stef agreed that “I have a solid no Stephanies policy (this applies to all spellings and nicknames).” Elaborating further, she added “It squicks me out! I think it’s just a symptom of extreme self loathing but also knowing my friends would make fun of me even more than they already do. I hate myself enough, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
Staff Writer Carrie agreed but for more logistical reasons, saying “My current girlfriend’s first AND last names are phonetically similar to mine, and we already get way more than enough cutesy “aww”s from strangers when we introduce ourselves.” It’s an understandable position! Many aspects of navigating the public sphere as a same-sex couple are awkward enough; why add another element that straight people will inevitably make awkward!
Others were more open-minded than me; fellow common-name-haver Molly said that “I haven’t ever done it but I don’t know if I’d mind because I rarely use a person’s first name if I’m dating them,” and noted that nicknames were always an option. Also in the non-dealbreaker camp was Valerie, who agreed that the fact that she might not use her girlfriend’s name in person that often made it kind of a non-issue, noting that “it’s not like I ever call myself by my own name, so it’s not like I’D ever get confused.” She also spoke to Carrie’s earlier point by reframing it as a positive: “One of my favorite things to do is make straight people uncomfortable just by existing (not all straight people; just the ones who think they’re woke but still have trace amounts of homophobia left in their system) so I think the look on people’s faces when I was like, “Hi I’m Valerie and this is my girlfriend Valerie,” would be quite entertaining. Plus have you HEARD that Amy Winehouse song?”
Although I reached out to several advocates of or previous participants in a same-name relationship, as of press time my sources had not been able to respond. In lieu of their feedback, I am left to imagine reasons why one would be okay with this:
- At least one of you primarily uses a nickname or alternate name, meaning that this doubling would only come up in official capacities
- You did not know this person’s given name for some reason when you first met them — maybe you were in a slow-burn internet relationship over South of Nowhere message boards and knew them primarily by their handle, I don’t know your life — and when you found out, it was too late
- It’s “true love” or whatever
I am truly just all out of ideas after that, but I am willing to be convinced. People who have or are fine with dating someone with the same name as them, you have the floor. People who are available to tell me how right I am and that, as Heather Hogan compellingly put it, she has “an intense rivalry with everyone else on earth named Heather, consider all of them my enemies, would never date one,” you also have the floor. I await your input breathlessly.