Monday, May 7, 2012

By Any Other Name

This video was posted on The Carol Blog and it immediately grabbed my attention. I had some similar experiences with my name. My legal name is Jessica, and I've had a tumultuous relationship with it for as long as I can remember. My mother actually told me as well that I was a Jessica, not a Jess or a Jessie, but that didn't bother me. What bothered me is that I couldn't own it. I just never felt like that was me. Something I really did relate to though was being told that it was "the name I was given," and so I was stuck with it.

And I really did feel stuck. I tried everything in the way of name changes. There was a period that I wanted to be called Alex, once I tried to get people to call me Medusa, and there were two times I almost got away with being called by my middle name, Morgan. The first time it didn't work because there was another girl named Morgan in my age group, but for the first (and last) time there wasn't another Jessica. The second time, when we moved to Texas, I was going to introduce myself as Morgan to my new friends, but forgot and so gave up. Oh and at camp I got called Eggs. I really was stuck, and it was right during my most image defining moments as a teenager when the solution came.

A quick segue into something on the subject of name changes that has stuck with me since I read it a decade ago. I say a decade ago with all the wish that I could go back and see myself on the exact day that I first read this book. It's one of those books that stick with you, and you don't always know why. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli was one of those books for me. Also, the colors of this picture as shown on the computer screen do it NO justice. I have it sitting next to me and the thing practically glows. Anyway, a quote:
   "'But the name,' said Kevin, leaning forward. 'Is it real?' 
   'The name?' Archie shrugged. 'Every name is real. That's the nature of names. When she first showed up, she called herself Pocket Mouse. Then Mudpie. Then - what? - Hullygully, I believe. Now...'
   'Stargirl.' The word came out whispery; my throat was dry.
   Archie looked at me. 'Whatever strikes her fancy. Maybe that's how names ought to be, heh? Why be stuck with one your whole life?'"
It's interesting to me that one of my heroes is a T1. Also that looking back she stood for a lot of huggly wuggly green bordering on anti-American trash that I don't agree with now. But I still look up to this fictional character as someone who shaped her own self in a way that I always try to.

Which leads me to another point: I made very conscious decisions about the kind of person I was going to grow to become. I think that my name had a lot to do with it.

Scotty. How did I get that name? I offer a variety of answers, but the truth is that in the middle of my struggle to define myself, a boon was granted straight from heaven, and his name was Ed. He walked into my life one night, and walked back out that same night. Sure I saw him around, but it somehow wasn't the same person who asked me "What is your favorite thing about yourself?" Now my family is mostly German. And the rest is mostly Swiss. But there's an extremely small amount of Irish and English in there, and if you go back far enough they're basically the same thing... together with Scottish. On top of that I could swear that my dad once said that he had an ancestor or two from Scotland, which he denies today. Regardless, I was feeling very Scottish that year, and told my new friend that was my favorite thing about myself. He promptly responded that he would call me Scotty.

The first play that I ever worked on was The Rainmaker, by N. Richard Nash, produced at my extremely recently Alma Mater, Brigham Young University - Idaho. I was the props runner. Interesting that props is my favorite thing now, huh? Anyway I had been going by Scotty for a few years at that point, but was still getting a few people asking me why in the world I would change my perfectly respectable, if not unfortunately common, name to
something as "ridiculous" as Scotty. One of the characters, Starbuck (Stargirl, Starbuck, common theme here?), changed his name as well.
I was taking makeup at the same time and I got to give
Jimmy his black eye. I gave a few others a black eye as well...
   STARBUCK: What's wrong with my name?
   LIZZIE: It sounds fake! It sounds like you made it up!
   STARBUCK: You're darn right! I did make it up! Why not? You know what name I was born with? Smith! Smith, for the love of Mike, Smith! Now what kind of a handle is that for a fella like me! I needed a name that had the whole sky in it! And the poer of a man! Star-buck! Now there's a name - and it's mine!
   LIZZIE: NO it's not! You were born Smith - and that's your name!
   STARBUCK: You're wrong, Lizzie! The name you choose for yourself is more your own than the name you were born with! 
I have to say that I agree with Starbuck. At the same time... and this may come as a shock to some... I'm not 100% certain that I'll be Scotty forever. Like Stargirl, I may grow and change and become someone different. At one point in her life she went back to her given name for a little while. The problem is that I don't want to go through the same things that I went through when I changed to Scotty. I mean, my family still calls me Jessica. Will my husband's family continue to call me Scotty if I change again? Will I have three names?!?!  And I don't know what I'd change it to. I don't think I could go back to Jessica, even if I wanted to, which I don't. In the words of a good friend who happened upon my given name while retrieving a book on hold for me at the library (that is what I could actually make out between his peals of laughter) "Your name is JESSICA?!?!?! That doesn't fit you at ALL!!!"

So yes this post is ambiguous, open-ended, and LOOOOOONG, but that was what was on my mind today.

1 comment:

  1. I think Jessica is a GREAT name :) Thanks for your comment on my blog - I appreciated it more than you know. I sort of threw my thoughts out there just to get them off my chest, but have been pleased to hear that it's had an impact on a handful of people. Thanks for letting me know!