In theory, parents take great care in selecting names for their children. The consider the meaning, possibly naming them after relatives, look at the initials, sound it out for the rhythm, spell it out for the look. They take into consideration the possible nicknames, good and bad, and seriously consider the consequences of the child living for the rest of their lives with that name.
In reality, they just pick something they like, spell it the way they want (something that’s gotten way out of hand), and then wonder why the kids end up hating their names.
To be clear, I don’t hate my name. I used to hate it when I was younger, as children tend to do when they’re growing up and establishing their identity, but now I can’t imagine being called anything else (nicknames excluded, of course). However, I have to admit that my mother saddled me with a pain in the ass.
It should be noted that this isn’t the worst name I could have gotten. She had several picked out for me, including Carrie, Lauren, Sara Elizabeth, and Christina Maria. Thanks to Dad for putting the kibosh on the last two.
It was late in her pregnancy when she added Christin to the possible name pool. She’d seen a movie called Hardcore starring George C. Scott. A lovely little film about a man finding out that his runaway daughter works in the sex trade. One of the characters was named Christin, though spelled Kristen in the credits, and Mom decided that she liked the name. We’ll just nevermind that the character was a porn star/prostitute and I would have to one day reveal that fact in my high school sophomore speech class.
(In contrast, my sister is named Lindsay after Lindsey Wagner. She got the Bionic Woman, I got a hooker. Years later I got my revenge by middle-naming two of my sisters kids after actors that portrayed a hobbit and a dwarf in The Lord of the Rings. Take that!)
I ended up with name Christin because my mother decided I didn’t look like a Lauren and Mom’s roommate in the hospital named her baby Carrie, which led mom to believe that I’d end up being one of many Carrie’s in my class. I always found that amusing considering Mom’s sister is named Kerri. Different spelling, same name, but that was apparently okay. And for the record, I didn’t have any Carrie’s in my class.
So I ended up with the name Christin.
My mother decided to spell the name the way it sounded, Chris-tin. And thus began my long, never-ending journey of constantly correcting people on the spelling and pronounciation.
The spelling I can forgive somewhat. I went to school with several variations of my name. Christin. Christan. Kristin. Kristen. Kristan. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how creative people can get. Out of boredom, I once came up with twenty-four different ways to spell my name. However, mine is one of the rarer versions. I could never find my own personalized stuff (I had to settle for Chris or Christi) and I could count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen with their name spelled like mine.
What really kills me is the pronounciation problem. I can also count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a teacher, college educated and literate, looked at my name and pronounced it correctly. Remember, my mom spelled it the way she thought it sounded. I’ve never had a kid read my name and mispronounce it. They’re learning to read and they learn that skill by sounding things out.
Adults, on the other hand, know how to read. They just glance at my name, get the gist of it, and I end up being called Christine, Christina, Christian, and in one instance, Kirsten. Going to school in a small town, I had a lot of the same kids in my classes for twelve years. By the time we were all seniors, a teacher mispronouncing my name would be met with a chorus of correction.
And that correction has continued, but I admit, I’m getting lazier and lazier about it. My name is misspelled on one of my bills. The IRS misspells my name on my tax refund checks (they really have no excuse as my name is spelled correctly on my social security card and they have that number). I had one driver at work calling me the wrong name for a month because I didn’t feel like correcting him on it. I waited until someone else did it, which was kind of a rotten thing to do, but when he asked me about it, I told him the truth.
“I’m used to people not getting my name right. I’ll answer to anything now.”
A lot of people don’t understand that. It’s my name. It’s a very important part of my identity.
And thanks to a lifetime of people getting it wrong, that’s become part of my identity, too.
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