Identity has been on my mind a lot lately, and a few days ago I rambled on about how I came to choose Waspgoddess as my nom de plume, but in all honesty what I am in real, urgent need of is a permanent name change. When my parents chose the previously mentioned ancient Nordic name they clearly did not expect me to go very far, literally. My name contains one particular letter that only exists in [some of] the Scandinavian languages, which means that since leaving the shores of my homeland almost 20 years ago, not only has no one been able to pronounce my name without a tutorial, they can’t even spell it. In fact, most of the time, unless they meet me they have no clue as to my sex either. And it’s not just my first name; my surname, despite its lack of odd letters and characters, is long and, in the eyes and ears of the natives of my new homeland, unwieldy.
It’s frustrating and occasionally quite upsetting when friends continue to misspell my name simply because one of the letters doesn’t exist in the English language. Really I think it’s down to laziness, and to some extent also ignorance. But sometimes it comes across as a lack of caring.
In my professional life I have to regularly deal with the press, and it has become something of a sport to check out what new and unusual spellings different journalists manage to come up with. A few weeks ago I was thrilled when one of the broadsheets (read a v important one) spelled my first name correctly (they did misspell my surname, but I was ecstatic nevertheless).
After all, your name and your identity are intimately linked. You become your name and your name becomes you. And so I wonder what nearly 20 years of constant mispronunciations, misspellings and mistakes about my gender has done to my sense of self? Maybe a new name would actually bring me home? At least it would allow me to stop wasting so much time and energy feeling upset when friends misspell my name on birthday cards, or consoling business contacts when they feel embarrassed for the inevitable mispronunciation (only for them to go ahead and do it again two minutes later).
So I’ve been playing around with several different names. It’s been a lot of fun, but it has made me think about what my own name really means to me, what it says about who I am and where I'm from, and I’m not sure what a new name, and essentially a new identity, would do to my 37 year-old self -- it may just confuse me too much. So for the time being I am Nina M only when I book tables in restaurants, order taxis and sign up for freebies.
Incidentally, the post just arrived with a letter addressed to Nina M inviting me/her to a free makeover. Fits perfectly really; my alias can be that sophisticated, perfectly coiffed woman the real me tries to be but can never quite manage to sustain.
This entry was inspired by a post by one of my favourite bloggers, La Cubana Gringa (check her out, she’s outrageously hilarious).
Photo by Ron