New name. Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?
This one’s short but sweet: I wouldn’t.
Here’s why: I like my name, and I have a very hard time getting a whole range of people actually to use it.
In the sixth grade, I decided I didn’t like my name, mostly because most people in Louisiana pronounced it as if it had three syllables (insert invisible schwa between the h and the l), so I persuaded everyone to call me by a severely shortened version of that name.
Which I then equally grew to hate, and realized how much I actually liked “Kathleen.”
But it was of course impossible to convince people who’d known me by the short form to give it up and go with the full version. And so I waited until I moved away from Louisiana, and only introduced myself as Kathleen, always.
Astonishingly, just about everyone outside Louisiana pronounces it correctly.
But I still face a couple of problems with it. First, that there are more common variants of both my first and my last name, and at some point nearly everyone slips and uses one or both of those variants. I try not to be offended by this, but it’s irritating to become Katherine Fitzgerald when I’ve worked so hard on being Kathleen Fitzpatrick.
And second, though it’s been twenty years since I asked everyone to switch to my full first name, I simply cannot persuade some of the members of my family to drop the diminutive. Which they’ve now passed on to the next generation. It grates unbelievably, but again, I try to ignore it.
So no. I’m not taking on any new names, not even in imagination. Instead, I’m imagining a world in which everyone gets my actual name right.