Day 17 and the power in a name

I’m not sure, exactly, where to begin. I have a lot of thoughts that I kind of want to cram into this blog.

What started out as another entry from one of my pre-selected lists of questions (Favorite names….ooh, exciting!) has snowballed into something much larger.

“Names are unique sounds and cadences of words that are attached to one specific individual – sort of like a kind of theme music” (Jim Butcher, “Storm Front,” the Dresden Files #1). I have kind of a weird thing about names. Maybe it comes from a kidhood of constantly correcting the way people pronounced or spelled my name (or being called Destiny or Danielle…), but I get a little huffy about the subject. I don’t really understand why it is so difficult to respect a person’s name, their theme music, as it were.

Ask how to spell it if you are unsure (especially if there are different, common, ways to spell it). Ask them how to pronounce it if you are unsure – never assume – and for the love of all that is good in the world, when it is written in front of your face, try to copy it directly when addressing them in print. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen someone comment on a Facebook post and misspell the name of the original poster. It’s written correctly, three inches from where you are typing and you still can’t get it right? You’re an awesome friend (or fan, depending on the situation).

On the other side, if you have a name with various spellings, don‘t be offended when someone asks which one you use. If you have an unusual name, don’t be offended when someone asks how to pronounce it. They are being respectful. Let them be respectful. It’s kind of a commodity. And, yes, I have had people give me the side eye when I ask how to spell their name.

But this righteous indignance is not the only reason I am tackling this subject.

I keep seeing the title “I Am Cait” on whatever cable channel holds the rights to said program and in the last couple of weeks, each time I see it I think about her name. When a transgendered person makes the decision to live as the gender with which they identify, part of that is choosing a name. Without getting into a whole big discussion about how to choose your own name when creating a new identity for yourself, I think Caitlyn Jenner made a very bold statement simply with the spelling of her name. While Caitlyn is a fairly standard spelling, she has been, for years, surrounded by a group of fairly domineering women who all spell their names with a K (which is less remarkable for Kim and Kylie but somewhat more remarkable Khloe, which is more commonly spelled with a C). For Caitlyn to not only choose a name with a hard C/K sound but to then say, yeah, no, I’m not perpetuating this K madness any further, seems like quite a step outside the box, to me.

I actually ran this idea past a friend whose filter doesn’t function at 100% – meaning she is not often concerned with whether or not she’ll have to defend something she says – before sharing it with the world. Which is how I got to this point. Collectively, we decided that I could just throw the idea out into the universe and defend it all at once without making a mess of my Facebook feed… So, there you have it. I’m not in any way trying to belittle her struggle up to this point or the struggles of anyone else in her position by saying, hey, this former athlete and man’s man, picture on a Wheaties box has chosen to make the transition to living 100% as a woman a very public affair but I’m going to talk about picking out names that don’t start with the same letter as every other woman in your life.

The fact is maybe “brave” is a strong word to describe one’s choosing of one’s own name, maybe the decision to spell Caitlyn with a C instead of a K was completely subconscious. I don’t know and it’s not that iimportant to me at this point in time. What is important, in this moment, is that whether intentional or not, it puts just that much more individuality into the whole grand journey.

Another chapter in this whole name saga is what we call one another. I abhor my name. I have a serious block against saying it out loud. In my full name, there are 21 letters. Of those 21 letters, only four are soft consonants – g, b, r, and l, making Gabrielle the only part I actually like. The rest are all hard, abrasive, jagged, sharp noises that do not add up to a melodic sounding name. So I tend to skip introductions in most social settings or let other people introduce me where necessary. I don’t like hearing my name but I like saying it less. For lack of a better explanation, it tastes bad to me. And I know there is psychology behind the idea that people like to hear their own name but I find situations where I have to address other people by name, repeatedly, to be rather awkward.

At work, we are encouraged to say our customers’ names as often as possible. I tend to say it about four times between greeting them and bidding them adieu. Any more than that and I feel like I am optimizing our conversation for a keyword search (5% of the words in the content should be your chosen keywords…). Which makes things kind of weird with my Crush (queue broken record…sorry). Most of the time, I call him Crush because I like it. It’s unique and better than “Honey” or “Baby” and it fits the situation. In conversations with friends who know the whole story, I refer to him by his first initial, which I also use to address him from time to time. But with all of that and my strange hang up on saying people’s names too much and wearing out their power, I kind of like his name. It’s dumb, I realize, but compared to my ex-idiot whose name I was not particularly fond of saying …

Tangent topic! He told me at one point that his experience was females preferred to call him Steven while males opted for Steve. Neither of us bothered to work out a theory for why that was, but it kind of fits with the rest of this trainwreck of words.

Back on track… (get it? On track? See what I did there?)

I called him Steven when I used his name but most of the time I called him “Babe” or “Baby” because Steven was no less awkward for me to say out loud than Desiree (now I call him Stupid and that rolls quite nicely off my tongue).

Like I said, today’s entry got a little out of hand. It kind of took on a life of its own (which is also kind of why it’s late… oops). Sorry about that, if you’re still with me and if you’re still with me, thanks for seeing this through to the end.

The end.

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