Sunday, July 1, 2012

Subtly Controlling

In case you've been living under a rock, Katie Holmes has filed for divorce from Tom Cruise.  I doubt many people are surprised, and I further question whether anyone really cares all that much.

Personally, I think she signed a five-year "I'll-stay-married-to-you-no-matter-how-crazy-you-are-because-I-don't-want-people-to-be-able-to-say-"I told you so!" clause and went just a little bit longer than that just so nobody would think that ... well, that there was such a clause in place.

But honestly, I don't care all that much about Tom Cruise or Katie Holmes.

What stood out to me is Cruise's constant need, since the early days of their courtship, to refer to Ms. Holmes as "Kate".  

This might seem silly and unimportant--it's entirely possible that it's both of those things--yet it got me thinking about the subtly controlling aspect of calling your significant other by a different name publicly, constantly, and frequently.

It reminded me of the times that many of my friends used to comment on how strange it was that my ex-husband (back before he was my ex-husband, way back to the days when he preferred me and the girls to Merlot or Chardonnay) called me "Katherine" (in fact, he still does).  Several of them inferred pretty strongly that it was subliminally controlling, and I can remember defending him (again, pre-alcoholism, he was a pretty good guy).

"He knows a lot of people named Katie, and he wants me to be special," I'd say.  (But it occurs to me now that he knew a lot of people named Katherine, too)

"It's an affectionate nickname," I'd say.  (But, really, what is affectionate about calling someone by a name that is otherwise only used in an official capacity--the DMV, say--or by my mother when she is mad at me?)

And so on.

With hindsight being what it is, I suspect that my friends were probably right.  

I don't think my ex-husband has called me "Katie" (which is what EVERYBODY calls me) since before we started dating.  Even when talking about me to friends and family, who always call me "Katie", he would say, "Katherine and I will bring the dessert" or "I'll see if Katherine wants to go to the lake this weekend" or whatever.  He didn't use it as a joke, either ... it was ALWAYS "Katherine".

And it's not like I'm famous or anything, either ;-)

So I wonder if Katie Holmes feels the same way about being called "Kate" by her soon-to-be-ex-husband, if she will feel relief when people are calling her by the name she chooses to use.

To be fair, I might be way off base here and everyone in her personal life calls her Kate, but it got me thinking ...

And when I get thinking, I try to share it with you, so you can weigh in and bring my thinking to a higher plateau.