Two of my best friends are getting married within the next year. I am overwhelmingly excited to be their respective bridesmaids and I am incredibly thrilled for them.

But this is not about them. This is not about the fact that, finally, the things we’ve pondered together over 2am phone calls and frenetic text messaging sessions are coming true.

They’re both knee-deep in planning, and I’m polishing up on my bouquet holding techniques. I am deeply excited to watch them both walk down the aisle and I will probably cry big happy tears that smudge my mascara when they do so.

This is about the fact that I am considered strange or have my name ignored because I’m not married. I’ve been in a wonderful, settled, long-term relationship for almost half a decade now. We have a life together, we have routines together and we are a family unit.

Why the hell then, do service providers, like our security company, banks and other institutions annoy me so deeply, when they refer to me by his surname?

It’s an almost instant assumption when we do something together that we’re married and – moreover – that I’ve taken his surname. When he – sweetly and surprisingly – whisked me off to Cape Town for a weekend to celebrate our anniversary a few years ago, it was immediately assumed by the hotel we stayed in that it was, in fact, our wedding anniversary.

Sweet, wonderful gesture but it made me gulp a little to be called Mrs X, when I clearly did not have any sparkly hardware on display on my left hand.

When we were scouting around for security solutions for our home, it got to me the most. Whenever a company representative would call, they’d always call me Mrs X, and – once – I attempted to kindly correct them.

I said: “Oh, we’re not actually married, so my name is not Mrs X, it’s Ms Jenkin”. To which, the effervescent call centre agent replied: “Oh, why not?”

I had to swallow the first words that came to mind, which were: “How is THAT your business?” and swiftly move along in the conversation.

Whenever we’re in a store or restaurant together, shop assistants or waiters will instantly refer to me as Mrs X. It’s got to the point now, where I just ignore it but it annoys me still.

I’m proud of my surname and it is a symbol of the heritage my beloved parents imbued into my life. If my boyfriend and I were to ever marry, I might take his surname but I’d continue to work under my maiden name.

It’s not like we’re not going to get married, it’s not like we don’t discuss but, we’re also very aware that that decision would have nothing to do with anyone else except us.

But because we’re not married, and our life is surrounded by people and friends who are, there’s always that little, underlying and sometimes pitiful look of “there must be something wrong with her because he hasn’t married her. Poor Cath”.

I see it in social settings, meetings I attend and other places. Once, I even had a fellow boardroom-sharer stare at my bare left hand an say: “Oh, you’re not married. Does he not love you? Is there something wrong with you?”

I’m done with explaining our situation to other people, and I’m quite tired of justifying the fact that my name is not Mrs X. I’m done with being judged by the hardware I do or do not bear on my left hand. 

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