I find myself coming out all the time. Just when I thought there was no one left, there they are. A parent at the bus stop. A new neighbor. A parent of my kid’s friend. A member of whatever organization or committee I just joined. There is always someone I have to tell. Someone who mistakes me for someone I am not. Someone who means well but makes assumptions nonetheless. Someone who takes it upon themselves to impose an identity upon me.
I’m weary from the correcting. Tired of being that person who disrupts conversation to make a correction, call attention to a mistake, amplify an error.
It’s all very preventable, of course. I shouldn’t feel bad for making the adjustment, but I do. I don’t like to make people feel bad. But I must if I am to remain true to myself.
You see, my name is Deborah. I am not Deb or Debbie or Debi or even D. Deborah is my name. I am Deborah when I introduce myself and Deborah when I sign my email messages and even Deborah in text messages. I am always Deborah and never anything else.
I take that back.
My name at overnight camp was Shakey, and all those who knew me then have a special place in my heart for the person I chose to be during those adolescent years.
Also, my Starbucks name is Veronica. I use Veronica when I want to slip into my classy yet sassy alter ego whenever I need to make reservations. But a Starbucks name falls in the same category as your stripper or drag queen name – the name of your first pet followed by the name of the street where you grew up, in my case Mitzie Rosemary. Hardly a name for every day use. And it’s Veronica – never Ronnie.
But my present day friends, my inner circle, and even those on the periphery–my friendship areola if you will, cringe when they hear me addressed as anything other than Deborah. They know that the hypocoristic abuse of my name causes reactions that vary from throwing up a little in my mouth to wanting to punch someone in the pie hole.
I get it. There are those who use nicknames as defaults. They figure everyone reserves first names solely for passports and bank accounts and such. They come from a world where people call each other a version of their first name or sometimes an unrelated name altogether to indicate familiarity and friendship.
But why do they get to decide that we are close enough to make that call? I get to decide if and when they are that close, and I get to tell them if shortening or twisting or interfering with my name reflects the depth of our friendship.
Let me put it another way, maybe one that allows nicknamers amongst you to deflect any blame or responsibility for the liberties that you take with names. Say we’re hanging out at a party, and you insist on referring to me as Deb. You may even go so far as to introduce me as Deb because that is the name you have grown accustomed to using (without my consent). You set an example by referring to me by a name that I have yet to grant to these strangers – people who do not have the same unauthorized rights that you don’t really have. You see the problem there?
Yes, at times I don’t care for my name. It doesn’t roll of the tongue, and it doesn’t mean anything special. Deborah is the Mildred of the next generation. “Oh you have a Grandma Deborah? Me, too!” “Oh you named your dog Deborah because you thought it would be funny to give your dog an old Jewish lady’s name? Me too!” But I don’t dislike it enough to change it. I’m good with it. And if I’m good with it, you should be, too.
Love and kisses,