Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why "Daughter"? I Don't Have a Name

I cannot recall my mother ever calling me by my name. She calls me "Daughter" in a very New York accent, "Dawtah". She even writes "Dear Daughter" on all my cards. Lately, I've been wondering about it. She comes from a large family so I know it is not the way she was raised.

When I was five I was standing in my grandmother's kitchen when she and my mother said that I should learn to write my real name because I was going to school. "My real name?", I asked, "What's my real name?" Well, I went ballistic when they told me I had a different name than what they had been calling me. "HOW CAN YOU NOT TELL A PERSON THEIR OWN NAME." I didn't know my own name. The rug was pulled right out from under me.

Well, my dad wanted my official name to be formal for when I was a big businesswoman so the birth certificate read "Cynthia" but I was "Cindy". On the first day of kindergarten the teacher asked me what I wanted to be called. I looked up at my parents who turned to look down at me with obvious trepidation, and I said, "Cynthia, my name is Cynthia." I was always Cynthia throughout school and in most of my workplaces.

In high school a fellow student found out that my family called me Cindy and he couldn't believe it. Why would they call you that? You are the least likely Cindy I know. My seriousness and hard work to get a scholarship really showed. Everyone must have thought I was no nonsense hanging out with all the honor students.

My name problems only deepened as my wedding date grew near. I was a few months short of 30 and had real estate and stocks in my name. I didn't want to change my name. Truthfully though, I could not imagine having a different last name. My soon-to-be-husband was devasted. It was as if I was rejecting everything he stood for and after a few weeks I compromised. As long as I didn't have to legally use a hyphen, I would add his name on the end. As this didn't seem to appease him, I agreed to go by Cindy and his last name when we had kids.

So now no one knows my real name and I pause for a split second everytime someone calls me. Takes me a bit of time to realize they mean me. When I see it written by someone else, I think "Oh yeah, her." After ten years of not working, the name actually represents a certain frustration with not getting on with my life.

It didn't help when about a month ago, my husband made the comment that I had not taken his name. I wanted to defy him to name one person who actually knew my real name, but in a very uncharacteristic way, I kept my mouth shut. I'm beginning to really feel like I don't even want a name. The whole idea just irritates me and means absolutely nothing, which is probably why I started to use my initials.

I spoke with two friends and they said the same thing. They didn't want to change their names. They felt no affinity to their husbands' names and lately they had been thinking about their real names. Perhaps when the kids are older and you want to get on with your life, you want your real name back. It reminds you of what you once thought you could be.

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