Saturday, 6 September 2008

names & no name

Have you helped Jess decide on hir new name yet? Well, go on, and then come back here.

I admire Jess’s decision: it takes a lot of courage and certainty to choose a new name. Me, I’m in name limbo here. My real name is ok. It’s not one of the super-feminine female names, though it’s also unambiguously a girl’s name. Sort of like the gray wool skirt of names. My middle name is in the same general category. Nothing wrong with either of them, but I’ve never really identified with them, either. When someone says my real name, oftentimes, a ghostly image seems to appear next to me: the girl I think they’re imagining, the girl I thought I was supposed to be, the girl I’m definitely not. It’s a strange, disembodied feeling, and I admit I prefer it when people don’t use my name at all.

I read an old interview with k.d. lang (shocking, I know) where she talks about the song on Ingénue with the line “Where is your head, Kathryn?” For the less k.d.-obsessed, her full name is Kathryn Dawn Lang. The interviewer suggested that the line was especially personal since that was probably how she thought of herself in her own mind. k.d. laughed and replied that it was more the sound of her mother reprimanding her. She didn’t say what she calls herself inside her own head.

I don’t call myself anything, generally, or at least nothing like a name. In my own internal consciousness I’m nameless, which seems just fine to me, though I admit it could suggest some existential question.

But despite my lack of identification with my proper name, I’ve never sustained a nickname, either. In daily life T. calls me ‘sweetie’ or ‘baby’. Adorable, but not how I want to introduce myself. I’ve grown really fond of this “Leo MacCool” self, but I don’t think I want hir to leave the confines of cyberspace. Recently I’ve been trying out another nickname, derived from my last name, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit, either.

I tried this meme but the results ranged from silly to bad. Some highlights:
Your rock star name (first pet, current car): Casey Honda (um, no. Not even remotely rock star.)
Your gangsta name (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe): Chocolate Doc Martens (tasty lesbian treat!)
Your Native American name (favorite color, favorite animal): Blue Sheep (sheep dip gone wrong?)
Superhero name (2nd favorite color, favorite drink): Red Beer (ewww)
Dancer name (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy): Soap Bounty (oh yeah, I think we have a winner... not. Bounty Bars are the British version of Mounds, coconut covered in chocolate. So good.)
TV weather anchor name (your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): Kovaliv Kalamazoo (my personal favorite. What’s not to love?)
Spy name (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Spring Sunflowers (I. Don’t. Think. So. Seriously, if I were a spy, I’d really, really hope for something a little darker and edgier than this.)
Cartoon name:(favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now): Peach Boxers (awww)

So... do you identify with your name? How did you get a nickname that felt right? And how did you know it felt right? Any tips or thoughts or suggestions?

Until next time, I’m ... Soap Bounty.

10 comments: said...

Ah. What's in a name....?

Well -- I'm Tina -- which isn't a nickname for Xtina (blech, ptewey) or any other name.

I'm named after my grandmother Albertina (thank god my mom just gave me HER nickname).

"T" or "Teen" are all I've ever heard which hardly qualifies being as both are just SLIGHTLY shorter versions of my full name. LOL

So no -- I've never really had one. Wish I did though.

I think I had a point when I started out.

It seems to have escaped me.


Jen said...

My name doesn't define me, its a reflection of who my parents were at the time I was born. Its simply how I am identified...Nothing more.

Then again, I have never felt misrepresented by the femininity of my name either

However, my last name is important to me because I am proud of my family, they are good people. I know not everyone can say that.

I have known children as young as 3 to change their names, permanently, as well as adults who are finally discovering who they are...its yours. Sure it was given to you, but you don't have to keep everything you are given...right?

Jess said...

Thank you sir, for posting this and the link to my polls.

I have a couple of ideas for you if you're interested. Pop up on me in gchat and I'll tell ya ;)

it's all really about what makes YOU comfortable, right?

Clementine said...

I have a really common 1970s name, which kinda sucked as a kid. There were always other "Clementines" in class with me, so I would up being "Clementine 3" or "Clementine W." most of the time. My family and friends always called me by a butchy nickname, though, and to this day my nicknames are in my head when I talk to myself (different ones in different situations). Can you tell I'm a Gemini? I'm completely nuts.

PS--I love "Leo MacCool," btw.

Holden said...

I understand where you're coming from with the whole name issue, it is difficult. It makes me think that we should all have the opportunity at some point in our lives to change names if we want to without it being a big deal or difficult to do.

Your examples of new names did make me laugh though....

Sublimefemme said...

What about the long tradition of the butch name? Eg. Judith "Jack" Halberstam? It strikes me as somewhat different than having a nickname or legally changing one's name, and I wonder what you think about this.

I do the exact same thing with a certain special person in my life that T does with you--"Honey" "Sweetie" "Hon" "Sugar" She's made her peace with her name, and so have I, because it's a part of her and her history.

It turns out my superhero name is Lavendar Manhattan! How much gayer could I be?!

Anonymous said...

My nickname is just my name shortened and it is quite boyish, so boyish that it bothered me when I was a kid. I grew to love it and now when someone says it for the first time I know that they've reached that level of comfort and familiarity with me.

I also love the name Leo MacCool. :)

Anonymous said...

I changed my nickname for the first time when I was about 7 years old. I insisted that everyone start calling me by my new name immediately and most everyone complied (although some extended family still call me by my original name, which is fine with me). Actually, I kind of regret changing my name in the first place cause it was an awesome name for me (Marty).

Since then I've changed my nickname two more times. The problem with me I think is that I am changing and then the name doesn't work anymore. Names are weird for us queer people cause we're constantly discovering new things about ourselves that can drastically change our perspective on our identities.

I really liked the idea of picturing the person that I think of when I'm called by any of those old nicknames. Marty conjures up an image of a little kid with a curly mess, a tomboy in cords and an e.t. sweater. Klaire was a very confused adolescent and a young lesbian who never felt quite right. Koen was a self confident warrior who pushed through the hardest parts of growing up.

But now, I am Honey. This name is working for me for so many reasons. It's genderless, entirely. It's totally unique and it feels really good when people call me by name because it's a term of endearment. I think I'm finally ready to go through with the legal process I've been dreading my whole life. No more Mary Martha.

I really like the name Leo. I don't know you, but I enjoy the image that appears in my mind when I think of this name. It leans a little into a masculine gender but not too much. It also makes me think of kitties (why?), and I love kitties. I can understand wanting a separate cyber identity though.

Oh, one more thing (you can tell I have a lot to say about this) is that there is a lot of history and ritual around the act of naming in many ancient cultures. One of the things that strikes me is that typically, naming is an act which is performed by someone else for you. I think maybe Jess has the right idea with the poll.

Sabertoothed Screaming Lemur said...

'Leo MacCool' sounds like you're related to the legendary Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, whose name was anglicized to Finn MacCool. ^_^ Bonus points for that.
I always hated my name as a kid, because it's very unisex and I wanted to be seen as 'girly enough'. Now that I've grown up and into it, I like it very much. It too is Irish, and it means 'brave'.
My partner's always had a very butch nickname, so I call her that. Or Ferret. We make an interesting couple online- Lemur and Ferret.
I hope you find a nickname that makes you feel awesome when you hear it.

Ms.Hinterland Femme said...

I'm one of those Southern girls with two first names and a middle name. The one I've been called or all of my life I have never really connected to. I have no connection to my formal first name either. I like my middle name -which is gender neutral actually-, but I'm not sure it really suits me.

When I started my job, I got called Ms. Lastname, or Ms. J (the first letter of my last name) and I thought that was going to be hard to adjust to, but I respond to it soo well Actually, I like it a lot. lol.

In my private life, I often get nicknamed the same way over and over again by people who don't know each other. It is always Ms. Firstname.

So, I guess I must have some kind of honorific femme attitude. . .I think if I could be called Ms. Firstname all the time I'd be cool with that.