The Name Game

JC* looked lovingly at the photo of the cat. “If I foster Melrose, I think I’ll call her Rosie,” she said. “What?!” I exclaimed, trying hard to suppress my exactness and not get my dander up, “But, Melrose is her name. Won’t she be confused? Can you just do that?”

Then I remembered something. As a teenager, JC decided that she didn’t like her given name Joan; it was too plain and ordinary. She complained so much to her mother that all of sudden she started calling her daughter Joanne. The name seemed to stick and as she got older, JC  attached herself to her new name, driver’s license, passport and all. 

Meanwhile in Michigan around the same time, my mother-in-law wasn’t too keen on her name, Shirley. So just as quickly as JC, she started calling herself by her middle name, Patricia. In those simpler times, changing your name was as easy as saying “Hey, from now on, call me (insert new name here)”; no filing fees, no appearance before a court clerk and no FBI surveillance to worry about. 

My sister and I became curious. “Were there other names you were considering for us before we were born? we asked. Though it had been so many years ago, the stories were still vivid in JC’s mind. Each time, she had excitedly mentioned names to my dad and his family; Lola for me and Carmen for my sister. But, both times, my Latin grandmother shook her head no, gazing at her with those dark, almost black eyes that sparkled when she was happy and put a whole through you when she was not. 

Being young and respectful, JC didn’t question my grandmother’s nonverbal comments and with no command of the Spanish language, she thought it best to acquiesce. After all, maybe it was not in good taste to call a baby girl Lolita (in Spanish, adding “ita” to the end of a name is a form of endearment). 

This made me wonder; what’s in a name? Does a name make you who you are? Or, does who you are define your name? Will a Pointdexter grow up to be a nuclear space scientist? Did rock singer, Frank Zappa do a disservice to his children, Dweezil and Moon Unit, who might have had their hearts set on becoming the first brother/sister supreme court justices?  

“You would have made a great Carmen,” I said to my sister, “You have such a feisty, strong personality. “Likewise,” she said, “I could definitely see you as a Lola, living in Madrid and flamenco dancing your days away.”

It was then that my sister announced that on her 60thbirthday, she just might change her name to Carmen (legally, not the old-fashioned way) and may even dye her hair black. She has invited me to join her, but while the Lola in me throws her head back in abandon and laughingly says “Dale!” (Spanish for “Go for it!”), the Linda lurking inside me is logically considering weighing the pros and cons on an Excel spreadsheet.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page

Author’s Note:
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4 thoughts on “The Name Game

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