Recently, an accountant was telling me about a client he had. She was an actress with a legal name as well as her “stage” name. She had bank accounts in both names, but she neglected to make reference to the stage name in her will. After her death, her family was unable to recover the money in that account because they couldn’t prove her identity.
Let that be a lesson to all ye who have fooled around with the names thy parents gave thee.
I got to thinking about my own situation. Talk about an identity crisis. In my lifetime, I have been known variously as Gwenie, Tee-tee, Gwendolyn Patricia Gorman, Patricia Gorman, Patty, Patti, and Paddy Gorman. And then there was Mrs. Gene Ford, Patricia Ford, Patty Ford, Patti Ford and Pat Ford. Also G. Patricia Ford and Patricia G. Ford. Whenever I have to fill out a form indicating if I have ever been known by any other name, there’s never room on the page.
It wasn’t easy but I actually knuckled down and rectified most of the mess. At least the IRS, Social Security, the State of Washington, my bank, Group Health Cooperative, and even St. Peter now know me officially as Gwendolyn Patricia Ford.
But I worry about the rest of you. Especially those in my family. Take my sister for instance. Her “real” name is Joan but the rest us of think it’s “Jo-ann”. It’s no wonder the people in my family are confused about who they are. Our Norwegian grandfather who lived with us called my father and brother Yim and Yimmy. He called my mother Yosie, and my sister Yo-ann. He called me Glennie and he never even attempted to pronounce my brother Richard’s name. The only name he could pronounce correctly was that of our brother Leo.
Just because Grandpa called our little brother “Leo” didn’t mean that Joan and I had to. We called him “Booger” or “Poop-head”. This was because we were always mad at him because our mother liked him best.
So did the neighbors. When Leo was little, he used to drag a chair down to the parking strip, climb up on it, and sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful”. People going by used to give him nickels for his inspired performance. My sister and I had grudging respect for his enterprise, but I don’t think we let him keep any of the nickels.
After Gene (aka Jingles) and I got married and started having children, we did nicely with their names until we got to Lisa, the third one. I explained in an earlier post about how we had to change her name from Luke to Lisa but our problems didn’t end there. Part of the difficulty was that as the babies kept arriving, we were too wrung out to be creative so we started naming them all the same name. All five girls got the middle name of Marie. If you can’t be inventive at least you can’t go wrong naming them after the Blessed Mother.
When our seventh, Judy, was born, my husband, in what must have been a preoccupied moment, told Lisa that SHE could name the new baby. Lisa earnestly researched the names in the first and second grade primers. The Dick and Jane and Sally and Judy books. Finally, she decided to name the baby “Judy”. I’m still haunted by what a close call that was. Judy doesn’t know how lucky she is and how close she came to being named “Dick”.
Our sixth child was a little girl legally named Teresa Marie Ford, but everybody called her “Terry”. I’ll never forget how she changed her name back to “Teresa”, and what a lesson it taught us all.
When she was about 15 years old, she announced that she didn’t want to be called Terry anymore. She would henceforth be known only by her given name “Teresa”. I don’t know why this struck everybody as funny but it did. We thought it was hilarious. When anybody did call her Teresa, it was delivered with an eyeroll and a smirk The other kids poked fun unmercifully at her persona makeover, and she’d end up in a rage or in tears.
Gradually though a very strange and powerful thing happened. When anybody would call her Terry, she stopped getting angry or tearful. She just didn’t answer. If someone was being called, it certainly wasn’t her. Pretty soon the inflamed tempers were those of her impatient tormentors. They didn’t like being ignored.
And one day, we had an incident that clinched the deal in her favor once and for all. We were in the kitchen finishing a conversation about something or other, when I said with an evil grin, “Well, okay then, Ta-reesa.” At that, Teresa drew herself up with all the dignity she could muster and said gently, “Mom, thank you for calling me Teresa”. Gulp! It still chokes me up. After that, trust me, nobody EVER called her Terry again.
And let that be a lesson to you.. Keep the same name as on your birth certificate, even if it’s Dudley Bumpass. It’s not worth all the later hell that’s in store for you.
But, hold on. Speaking of the Blessed Mother, what was it she named her baby? Oh, yes, Jesus Christ. Also known as Jesus, Baby Jesus, Jesu, Christ, Agnus Dei, Emmanuel, Yahweh, Jehovah, Christ, Son of God, Lord, Redeemer, Savior, Messiah, etc.
Well, there goes another of my theories shot to shreds. Ignore everything I just said.