Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's In A Name?

This time of the year always gets me thinking about family. Probably because I know this time of the year, back East, they're all getting together at my mother's house for Thanksgiving. Which is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It has nothing to do with the food, really, it's the togetherness. Family members you normally don't have the pleasure of seeing on a daily basis, or perhaps even weekly or monthly basis, all collected under one roof.

Unless of course you're one of those people who dislikes their family, in which case you probably loathe Thanksgiving. I've never really understood people like that. Unless your family has committed some unspeakable transgression against you, you should really just forgive and forget. Even if they are perhaps a little obnoxious at times. They are your family after all. Your only family. I think they deserve that much. Sweet potatoes, my family isn't perfect, but you get over it. No one is perfect.

But I digress, I've gotten away from where I was headed (huge surprise). November reminds me of family, even though I'm three thousand miles too far away to spent it with them this year. Being reminded of family especially reminds me of my mother and in turn her decision to rename me several years after I was born. And that is where this entry was supposed to be headed. It dawned on me that prior to this very instant, I've never brought this up in my writing. Meaning some of you know because I've told you and others are wholly clueless. Let's fix that.

When my mother was pregnant with me, she and my father could not come to an agreement about what my name would be. To make things more difficult, my father was something of a controlling d-bag who would turn down my mother's suggestions just on the basis that he hadn't come up with them. And, to be fair, not all of my mother's suggestions were stellar. If it were in her hands exclusively I almost would have been named Midnight and very narrowly would have escaped being named Storm. Cool names for a comic book character. Challenging names to be saddled with through elementary school. Instead my father would intervene, declining not only Midnight and Storm but also Jean and several other more common first names.

The only name they could both agree on was Michelle. Yet even then my father insisted on having his way. He declared that were I to be named Michelle, which at this point was the only name on the table, there would have to be an S before the C. Mischelle. My mother agreed just to finally be done with it, but this set her to seething. Something you should probably avoid shortly after your wife has just given birth. As she filled out my birth certificate she decided that if he was going to add an S -- she was going to take out an L. Thus I was born on a snowy April morning and named Mischele. A name that no one would ever seem capable of spelling right ever again.

After a handful of very bad events my mother and father would divorce. Or rather, my father would disappear into the night fearful for his life (I love my grandfather), and a few years down the line the court would nullify their marriage at my mother's behest. To this day no one knows where my father actually is. Every time he's located, he vanishes yet again. I would live seven years as Mischele before my mother realized there was nothing stopping her from renaming me. After some consideration, she decided on Inari, which as I've mentioned previously means Silver Fox. However, renaming your child after-the-fact is no easy feat.

Other family members didn't seem to "get it." And, through no fault of my own as a child, I had serious issues learning my own name. At the time every member of the family had a different nickname for me and at school I thought my name was my ID number. Like a child-bot. Adding one more name to the mix just confused me further. I was Short-stop and Punkydunky and Duchess and Mischele and Schele and Inari and countless others which seem to escape me now. So for a while, the change went totally under the radar.

When I was deemed old enough to be given the complete story, I was at that age where you rebel just for rebellion's sake. Everyone at school already knew me as Schele so even if I accepted that my name wasn't actually Mischele anymore, it would be a task in tedium to get people to quit calling me that. So I just didn't bother trying to explain it to anyone. It wasn't until I was about nineteen or twenty that I really took the time to consider where my mother was coming from and appreciate the name change for what it was. A celebration of her independence.

By then Mischele was so ingrained into people's heads that to this day most of my high school friends still refer to me as Schele. I made an effort to introduce myself to all new people as Inari, to honor my mother's decision and get it to catch on, but that just segregated my friends into groups. Those who call me Schele, those who call me Inari, and those who interchange the two freely. This has lead to some confusion, surely, but I feel like an ass demanding people who've known me for twelve or more years call me something other than what they knew me by. Particularly since I rebelled against the change so adamantly in the first place and the whole situation is partly my fault. So I never correct them or get anal about it. I am both Inari and Mischele.

And there you have it: the reason I have two first names.

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