Saturday, November 22, 2008

What's In a Name?

How important is your name to your identity, to your personality, to your self-concept? All my life people have misspelled and/or mispronounced my name. I have been called Diane, Deanne, Deanna, even Debbie (how they got that one I don't know). One of my close relatives, someone who has known me since I was in diapers, still calls me Diane, even after repeated corrections. Even Google gets it wrong: when I type in my name it asks me if I meant Diana!! And forget about finding commercially produced items with my name on them. The situation improved somewhat in the 80's when Princess Diana came onto the world scene, but that was short lived and it didn't help the misspelling problem.

The truth is it has always bugged me when people get my name wrong, and I tend to take it as a symbol of our relationship or potential relationship. I usually give people the benefit of the doubt and wait to write them off only after the third or fourth time they goof up my term of identification. My attitude has been, "If you don't have the time or inclination to get to know how to spell and pronounce my name, I must not be that important to you, so there." (Tongue sticking out in derision.) I shouldn't be that hard on the poor people who come in contact with my hypersensitive self, and I know my feelings are more of a reflection of how I tend to feel invisible. Yet all these years I have used this small symbol in my life to define and determine too many things. I wonder how many great friendships I have derailed because someone called me by the wrong name.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I got brave enough to speak up and correct people when they made the mistake. I would carefully mention to them that my name is Dianna with two n's and not Diane or Deanne. This new behavior took people off guard even though I did it with respect and tact. Unfortunately, what I learned was that it was only slightly self-affirming and not correcting the problem. People who get my name wrong continue to get my name wrong with or without corrections.

Yesterday Abbey came home from her first Activity Day activity with a hesitant smile. Her leader had made all the girls beautiful embroidered pillows with their names on them. And there at the bottom of Abbey's pillow it said, "Abby." She saw the disappointment in my eyes even though I tried not to show it. She shrugged and told me it was okay. She also told me that she had let her teacher know how to spell her name correctly. Inside I cheered, because it took me about 40 years to do something like that. I guess if we don't get a chance to overcome something in our own life, we get to keep reworking it, even with our children. Thankfully Abbey is way ahead of me at her age. Oh how I wish my parents had just named me Susan, or would that be Soozun?

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