What’s in a name?
November 3, 2010 § 1 Comment
As many of you know, about five years ago I changed my name. For the first 18 years of my life my family and friends, teachers and coaches, coworkers and classmates called me Becca (or during first grade when I wanted to sound grown up, Rebecca).
The year before I made the switch, my childhood friend Amy was living with me. As a sort of joke we called ourselves by our middle names – Liz (for Elizabeth) and Jane. We documented our adventures of the year (and what adventures we had!) in a journal, always referring to ourselves as Liz and Jane. But our fun only went so far –though we schemed that we would go by these names at our community college, both of us chickened out and did not ‘correct’ the teacher when she called our name during role the first day of class.
But then, going off to college, I had another chance — a chance to do something utterly random, a chance to change my name and get away with it because there were few people at the school who knew me as “Becca”. I asked my brother if he thought I should do it, if I should go by my middle name, and he said “why not?” That became my new mantra when asked why I changed my name. There was no other intention behind it, nothing that made me want to stop being called Becca and start being called Jane (although my grandma’s name was Jane and I think it is a lovely name).
The initial days were a little rocky. My first attempt to introduce myself with my new name I said, “Hi, I’m…….Jane.” I’m sure it must have seemed odd for someone to hesitate to try to remember their name. Later, just seconds after I had introduced myself to my now dear friend Kat, my Dad came around the corner and said, “Oh, so you’ve met Becca?” I believe Kat just looked back and forth between me and my Dad until I explained myself.
Gradually, I became comfortable telling teachers and employers that “I go by my middle name,” and my response time to my new name shortened until it seemed almost normal. My brother and sister obstinately refused to call me Jane, and many non-college friends remained confused, despite my assuring them that they could still call me Becca. Other friends, upon discovering my recent change, decided to combine the two names and call me “Becca Jane.” One friend decided that she would call me Jane when she wanted advice, and Becca when she wanted to have fun.
Now I have trouble responding when friends call me “Becca.” I momentarily think to myself “who’s that?” I feel oddly disconnected from the name that was close to me for some years, the name my parents gave me and that will still grace all my official transcripts and records since I made no legal change. When my dance teacher neglected to hang on to her initial role sheet (with revisions from me), I did not correct her again. Every time she calls me “Rebecca”, I treasure it (after a 2 second lapse of trying to identify to whom she is referring).