I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life wondering, would I, by any other name, be as bitter?
I have, at best, an indifference-annoyance relationship with my name. (At worst, which tends to coincide with a certain few days on the calendar, I merely detest it outright, as I do everything else about myself.) At this point in my life, changing it would be counterproductive, but I have tried to do an informal relabeling a few times: there have been a couple new jobs I’ve started where I decided to try out a nickname (Dana and Dee, respectively). Both jobs lasted exactly five weeks, which is surely just coincidental, but in this economy, reason enough to stick with what my mama gave me, even if it’s a re-gift on par with an ugly half-felted moth-infested wool sweater. (Also, it’s not easy to just be someone else all of a sudden as an adult.)
The reason I have this name is because my mother saw it in a class and liked it (and apparently, made up the pronunciation out of whole cloth). It originates in Greek mythology: Danaë was one of Zeus’s many conquests. Her father (a king) locked her in a tower after being told by an oracle that she would have a son who would one day kill him. Zeus used some Olympian shape-shifting mojo to knock her up, Daddy Dearest found out, and rather than kill them both, the king sent mom and son (who was Perseus) adrift at sea. They washed up on an island, were taken in by a fisherman, and Perseus grew up to kill Medusa and rescue Andromeda. He would later go on to fulfill the prophecy by accidentally giving his absentee grandfather a hell of a Frisbee crack to the skull.
She’s really little more than a footnote in a sad story, and the whole thing reminds me a lot of this scene from Jurassic Park:
I have a lot of legitimate gripes with my name, so I wouldn’t call never having a personalized mug or bike tag or keychain a major inconvenience, although every once in a while I’ll see something that reminds me how much I hate it when parents decide to take out their creativity on their children, like the Coke bottles I’ve been seeing around with names on the label. I mean, it’s Coke, for pity’s sake. I don’t need to be drinking it anyway. But just once… I’d like to see my name on something. Well, something good, not mentioned in a depressing novel.
I realize that it’s a first-world windmill-tilty kind of problem, something that could have been avoided altogether if I had been given a nickname as a child. (True story: I didn’t understand that I could have a nickname until I started 3rd grade in SC after having moved from MA. My first day, the teacher garbled it, as inevitably happens, and then asked “what do you go by?” I didn’t know what “go by” meant. I had never been called anything other than my name. Well, until the next place we lived, where a crazy neighbor thought it was cute to call me DJ, which I hated with a passion because that middle name was another rotten, stinking albatross that I gladly tossed overboard when I got married.) Intellectually, I know it’s unhealthy to have this kind of complex about my name, especially when I have so many legitimate, sensible things to hate about myself. In reality, though, I still get irrationally happy when I see my name on something that didn’t originate from me.
Which is where knitting comes into all this.
I have been trying, with varying degrees of success, to save my “allowance” until SAFF. However, there have been moments of weakness, one of which was when I saw that Rachel Coopey had come out with a new pattern. Obviously it wasn’t named for me, but the feeling of seeing your identity validated somehow, especially by someone you admire (I love Coopey’s patterns), is something I think you just can’t understand if you’ve always known someone else with your name. Even if it’s spelled differently, being one of two or three or five people named Ashley or Eric gives you a commonality that I just can’t relate to, and can only imagine from the outside of it. (And may just be some romanticized idea that I have, borne of the circumstance of always being the weird girl with the weird name. My husband has a very common name and says it’s annoying. Greener grass, I suppose.)
Obviously I have an unhealthy fixation on this subject, but it’s been a splinter for over three decades now. It’s my identity, I can’t exactly get away from it. I mean, there are people I work with that I’ve given up correcting because they just revert back to the wrong spelling/pronunciation after a few days. My husband’s grandparents, whom I adore, still get it wrong sometimes. (May you never experience the gut-punch of swooning over a hand-sewn wedding quilt, only to notice your name is spelled wrong on it. How do you tell someone that without seeming like an ungrateful, self-centered piece of crap? I mean, I am one, but I try to keep it in check around my in-laws.) It’s a full-time battle inside my head, and I just don’t have the energy to fight it externally, too.
Rachel Coopey, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with my neuroses. It’s just that I rarely get to feel good about my name. And I love knitting socks, so it’s especially nice that that gets to be the balm on this particular bit of inflammation.