Names are Important
I recognized at the age of three that names are important.
The names you are given, and, especially, the names you choose for yourself. Others demonstrate respect and caring by honoring your choices, even when ridiculous.
For example, when I was a child in New Jersey, we had a parakeet I named “Cheepy”. Not very original, and I have to admit that this creature was not an important part of my life. Not like my dog. We were also unaware that this bird needed a mate, or at least a companion, to share his cage. A lone bird is a terrible thing. Kind humans, not intending to do harm, do so through their ignorance. Every day.
My family had nick-named me “Nickie” – short for the last syllables in “Monica”. “Monica” was a hard name for a shy child to utter. People always thought I had said, “Martha” or “Matilda”, so I would have to repeat it, louder, often several times. I didn’t meet another “Monica” until I was in my 30’s. Now it’s relatively common. Only my family and close friends through high school called me “Nickie”. Some still do, and I like it.
I left that name behind when I crossed the country for college. Even though I am very particular to people named “Nick”.
For some unknown reason I decided at three that my parakeet’s name was preferable to mine. I announced to the family that henceforth I wanted to be called “Cheepy”. I didn’t choose my dog’s name. Laddie was too real a presence, too essential to my well-being for me to adopt his name and therefore something of himself. I didn’t notice either any eye-rolling or any particular eagerness to comply.
One day I was hiding behind a piece of furniture in the front hallway. Perhaps I was testing my influence. I heard my mother’s voice calling, “Nickie”. A second or two later: “Nickie!” I failed to respond. A few seconds more: “Monica!” Several seconds went by as I waited to hear what would come.
I still remember listening for it. There was no hint of amusement or condescension in her voice, as, perfectly modulated and controlled, she called, “Cheepy!!” I ran out happily.
From this I learned several things. One, what you call yourself is important and must be honored by others. Expect it will be. What others wish to be called is likewise important. When my son was a young child, I had many names for him, variations on the theme of his full and nickname. At some point he stated, “Mom, please call me (by my real name). After that, I did. No more theme and variations.
Last names are important, too. Women’s last names, married or “maiden”, matter. Please acknowledge my choices, and expect to have yours accepted in return. My choices belong to me and will not be surrendered.
I never told my mother I remember and appreciate her choice to honor mine with love and respect at age three. She would have enjoyed hearing it so much.
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