I’ve spent my life with a sense of immense pride over my last name. In fact, up until recently, I had never met another Bruno (family excluded, of course). And that’s saying A LOT, since I grew up in South Florida surrounded by Italians, specifically New York Italians. If there were a large herd of Bruno’s out there, I would’ve found them by now. The closest thing that came close was a Beanie Baby named “Bruno.” He sits upon my bookshelf to this day, only now his reign of name superiority is over. It was a peaceful existence, up until this last month. You have single handedly caused my life to be thrown into chaos, and I need you to hear me out. You owe me, Mr. Hamilton. So, listen up!
I was never bullied over my last name. In fact, up until college, when my name was called out for roll call by a teacher, I’d get an occasional “UNO!” and a few giggles. Definitely a lame stretch, but it was the best that they could do when roasting an uncommon last name. I also knew those kids weren’t the brightest bulbs in the box, so I let it slide.
Then, Bruno Mars took over the world with hit song after hit song. I knew my time of name-safety was in danger as I watched a group of middle-aged white women descend upon an Applebee’s Jukebox. Seconds later, not only were they singing along to “Just the Way You Are,” but as I glanced around the restaurant, recognition of that song appeared on too many faces to count. It had begun. Slowly, awareness creeped in that my last name was no longer safe from teasing. Thus, started the downward spiral toward your involvement.
Imagine this if you will:
Cashier: “I need to see an ID”
Bethany Bruno: Hands over ID
Cashier: “Oh wow! Like Bruno Mars. Are you related?”
Bethany Bruno: “…. No, Bruno is his first name. Bruno is my last name….”
Cashier: Gears in head collapse. Brain functions cease.
Bethany Bruno: “Sigh …Or, maybe we are. Who knows, right? Ha!”
Just so you know, Mr. Musical Genius, I could deal with the Bruno Mars connection. Really, I was fine with it. Granted, I was annoyed, but I figured that was the worst of it. Then guess what happened? You were writing the lyrics to the Disney movie Encanto and needed inspiration. You needed a bopping song to sell the movie. Word on the street is that you originally named the banished brother in the movie “Oscar.” But Oscar doesn’t rhyme well with many words, does it Mr. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, three Grammys, two Emmys, two Olivier Awards, and Academy Award nominee? So rather than accept a challenge, you change the name to something simpler and make the ear-worm chorus of “we don’t talk about Bruno, no, no, no!”
It’s catchy, I’ll admit. If I can push my annoyance aside for a sec, I’ll admit something: the song is fantastic. But, why for the love of GOD did you have to choose my last name? You have kids, sir, you know how much they love to bully each other over names. Didn’t you think about the repercussions for any kid with that first or last name? Or, in my case, adults that are surrounded by other adults with the mentality of children? In the last week alone, I’ve received professional emails from clients that end with some variation of “I just realized your last name. Guess we can’t talk about Bruno! lol joking” Now, when I have to show my ID or introduce myself, guess what will pop into people’s minds the second they hear my name?
“Oh My God! We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no, no! Oh, I love that song!”
Couldn’t you have made up a name? People do it all the time. Just look at the list of popular names for 2021. You could’ve easily taken two different names and smashed them together. Like Liam and Noah can mold into Lianoh or Noaliam. In doing so, think of how many countless kids (and adults) could’ve been spared from teasing. With great power comes great responsibility, Mr. Tick-Tick-BOOM my last name to bits.
Let me ask you this, Mr. Miranda (oh! Like the lady from Sex and the City lol… doesn’t feel so great, does it?). Where do I go from here? The damage is done. You can’t magically erase your thoughtless actions like in the movie. Now, at thirty-three years old and onward, I will forever be associated with your song about an outcasted Columbian who cans sees visions of the future. Do you realize how weird that sounds?
Bethany Bruno is a born and raised South Florida author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She holds a BA in English from Flagler College and an MA from The University of North Florida. Her work has been previously published in numerous publications, such as The MacGuffin, Ruminate, Lunch Ticket Magazine, Litro Magazine, and DASH. She’s working on her first novel and recently earned a 2021 Best of the Net nomination.