(Plinky Prompt of the Day: How Did You Get Your Name?)
I was talking with my pregnant friend Ashley this afternoon and at some point the conversation turned to baby names. Let’s just say they haven’t picked one for the soon to be new baby girl Lambert and from the conversation, it may be a while before they do agree on a name. It got me to thinking about names and how much I love names. It’s a weird fascination, but trust me, it’s not as weird as my fascination with fuzzy feline nut sacks. I’ll save that one for another day.
I love hearing the story of people’s names. To me, our names are who we are. I have always been a very devout believer that family names are important when choosing a child’s name. I know many people do not share that feeling but I feel very strongly about that. Had I been blessed with children, you can believe I would have used a family name. I always dreamed of having a baby girl and naming her Marian (after my grandfather) Elizabeth (my grandmother) and calling her Mari-Beth because all true southern women should have two word names. It’s a rule. During my previous life, I did dream of a baby boy named Creighton Lee, after my ex-husband’s great grandfather (the Creighton part) and Lee (me, my dad and my ex-husband all share this name). I heard years later that my ex-husband did indeed have a boy with his second wife and I heard a rumor his name is Creighton.
My parents must have been reading from the same rule book when they had me because here I am, Lee Ann. You can’t get more southern that that one. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my name, but for as much as I wish I had been dubbed with a moniker like Sophia, Genevieve or Samantha, I wasn’t. However, my name does have pretty special meaning. My first name, Lee, was my father’s middle name, while my middle name, Ann, is my mother’s middle name. I would say that my parents covered all the bases here. Not only can I see glimpses of my mom and dad every time I look in the mirror, but I’m also reminded of them each time I hear my name. This often makes me smile.
Now, as much as I love my parents for sharing their names with me, I’ve also been pretty bitter about the simplicity of my name. I can remember the first time I realized my name was lacking some flair. It was during my sixth grade graduation ceremony as the principal announced each name and each one flowed with this beautiful multi-syllabic harmony. That is until they called out my name. Lee.Ann.Roney. Bor-Ring! I remember thinking how odd it sounded after hearing names like Loren Micheal, Julia Dell and Kerry Dawn. It was almost like something was missing. Like there should have been something else, another name, another syllable. Something. But nope, it was just Lee…Ann, and thus began my utter aversion for my name.
Now, throw a very thick southern accent into the mix. This is where the ridicule began. “What’s your name?” “Lee Auunnnn Roneeeeey.” Go ahead, sound it out. Say it out loud. See what I mean. I was as country as they came as a child and my accent was as thick as syrup, so every time I said my name, it would be repeated by the adult listener with such a drawl that it would take them about 45 seconds to get those three little words out. Seriously. Of course, it would be followed up with an “Ain’t that cute” comment that I think was supposed to make me feel better, but never really did.
As I got older, my favorite game was to change up my name when I met new people. Sometimes, I would be just Ann, in an attempt to keep it real, and sometimes I would pick something completely different like Sabrina or Catherine. Lord only knows where those came from but they were names that made a statement and I liked that. At some point I created my bar name of Angel and then Angelee, which I’ve always kind of liked. It was my beloved nephew who created my current persona of Leelee, which I would make my legal name in a heartbeat.
When I got divorced from my first husband, I elected to keep my married name, Sullivan, because that had been my name my entire adult life. It just made sense at the young age of 32. My work history was based on that name and it just seemed like it would be too complicated to explain a name change at that point in my life. Besides, Sullivan was so much less likely to be misspelled AND it gave me some street cred on St. Patrick’s Day. I also dropped the Ann when I left Alabama, so at 32 years of age, I had officially become Lee Sullivan and Lee Ann Roney was never to be again. Ever.
Now, let’s flash forward to June, 2009. I’m about to get married for the second time. For a year a battle was fought inside me over what to do with my name. My deeply rooted traditional heart was telling me I should take my husband’s name. It would be an honor to share my husband’s name. I WANTED to become Mrs. Lee Gonzalez. And then I said that out loud. I really didn’t like the sound of it. At.All. But, take my vanity out of the picture and my reasonable, rational head was telling me to keep the name I had been using for almost 18 ½ years. I thought about the years of history in both my personal relationships and my career that I would have to basically change. There would be credit cards, bank accounts, student load accounts, work emails, and the list goes on and on. When I was 22 it was no big deal, there was like one thing that required a name change so the idea of not changing my name back then never crossed my mind. Now, combine all of this with the fact that my marriage documents are all in Spanish and I can tell you right now, all of this is more work than it’s worth. Way more work than I’m willing to put in to it. Oh, and let’s not forget that my wonderful, progressive thinking, new husband adamantly opposes the idea of me giving up my identity (my name) for some old-fashioned tradition. So, the decision was made to keep it simple and keep my name.
Now, here’s where I have a problem with all of this. I am currently married to the man of my dreams, building a life together in our happy, little, blended family and I am wearing my ex-husband’s name like a scarlet letter. I’m not sure how to feel about this. I sometimes feel like I’m cheating, like I’m betraying my marriage with the constant reminder of a man who has been out of my life for over a decade. I need to resolve this in my mind but it still really weighs me down at times. I wish I didn’t think about it and that when I do think about it, that I didn’t feel so bad about it. Gil doesn’t care. His kids don’t care. Why do I care?
I keep threatening that I’m going to have my name officially changed to Leelee Gonzalez. THIS would be my perfect name. It’s got panache, it flows in perfect syllabic harmony AND it would allow me to take my husband’s name. If I decide to change my name and deal with all the hassles associated with that, I’m going to do it right! Hey, go big or go home! Right? Gil does not find this joke funny. At.All.