Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chosen Names Can Get Weird

Given the known and absolutely true fact that the name "Nayad" has been at the top of the baby-naming charts for several decades, it may come as a surprise to you that it's not actually the name I was given by my parents when I was born. Take a minute to sit with your shock and surprise. It's okay. It will all be okay.

They gave me a name inspired by their earnest hopes for me. They meant well. They picked something that they thought would go well with a title, in case I wanted to be a doctor or a reverend or a president. I appreciate that. It's a classic name that was pretty popular at the time, to the point that there were two of us with it in our kindergarten class and the teacher used our last initials to differentiate us. I was "Timeless Classic M" and the other kidlet was "Timeless Classic F."

It's just that the name didn't turn out to match ME. To my mind, it's a boring name. I'm not going to mention what it actually is in this post, for lots of reasons, one of which is that I'm sure there are plenty of completely fascinating, non-boring people with the same name. In fact, I can even think of an example.

I don't want to be a jerk about it, but I chose to go by a different name because it suits me better. That should be enough, but if you need a more practical justification for it, last I checked there was also a professional writer out there with my old name, so now I'm all differentiated. I'm way more searchable this way. And I like the way my "new" (since the 1990s) name sounds, looks, and what it represents. The transition from one name to another came on organically, over time, mostly because it started as my screen name in the early days of widespread internet usage. I never sat down with each person I knew and explained that I'm going by this name now, and I'd prefer that they used it. Some people just took to calling me Nayad and that was that. Others, people I like very much and don't want to upset, were posting on my Facebook page with my old name as of yesterday. The page says "Nayad A. Monroe." You don't even have to include my name when you post or comment there. It's a given that you're talking to me. So it seems kind of pointed for someone to add my old name when posting on that page, as if they're talking to the "real" me they knew before I started parading around with this inauthentic new name.

But which name is more authentic? The one my parents picked before they even knew me, or the one I chose as an adult?

Maybe people aren't trying to comment on my name's authenticity. Maybe they just haven't thought about it. There's something in me that holds me back from contacting each person, each time, to explain my preference, and probably that's a conflict-avoidance thing that I should work on, and how can I expect everyone to just know what I want? It's not fair to expect that. On the other hand, after I started to present myself as Nayad, the vast majority of people I knew just got it and went with it.

This is why I go with whatever name and pronouns my friends want to use, the minute I'm aware they want to use them, even if it's hard at first. I really appreciate being called by the right name. I want to give that to anyone else who needs it.

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