Do you like your name? Do you think it ‘fits’? You know, does it suit you? Does it feel like you? When you hear someone call your name do you automatically think, “Yeah, that’s ME.” I only ask because first names were the topic of yesterday’s WordPress Daily Prompt.
In case you’re wondering, I do not. Like my name. Never did. I feel misplaced in it.
My given name is Frances. Definitely not me. Too unimaginative. Too formal. Too prissy. Too straight. Too straight laced. Too prudish. Too serious. Too strict.
No disrespect intended, by the way, if your name is Frances. This is just how I feel, given my particular personality.
The other reason I’m not crazy about it is, despite the difference in spelling, whenever I hear it, I immediately think of Francis the Talking Mule. Don’t have a clue who I’m talking about?
He — yes I know that because males spell their names with an “i” instead of an “e” — was a mule celebrity, featured in seven
movie comedies in the 1950’s. If you say there’s a resemblance between us I will hunt you down. I promise. And then there’s no telling what I’ll do. (just joking). HaHa!
Of course on the positive side there’s also Frances McDormand, who I happen to think is a brilliant actress. She’s married to Joel Coen who, along with his brother Ethan, make wonderful, if slightly bizarre, movies. I still don’t like my name. At least not for me. If, by chance, any of you know Frances McDormand, I’d love to know how she feels about it. For her, not for me. She hasn’t a clue who I am. And why would she care, anyway?
She must be okay with it. She would have had a choice. Actors usually pick their ‘stage’ names.
I, on the other hand, did not. Have a choice. My parents named me when I was born. What could I do? I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t tell them I didn’t like it. I suppose I could have cried. Which I’m sure I did. But they probably thought I was hungry. Or tired. Or in need of a diaper change. Which I’m sure I was. But I’ll bet I was also crying because of my name.
Jewish people are named after deceased family members. It’s meant to be an honour. For the dearly departed. My paternal grandfather’s name was Frank. He passed long before I was born. Even my mother never got to meet him. I think he was a relatively young man when he died. Strangely, I don’t know all that much about him. My father didn’t talk about him a lot. He didn’t dislike him, to the best of my knowledge. They got along. He loved him. Just didn’t have a lot to say on the subject.
Now I’m sorry I never probed. Asked some questions. Who knows. Maybe grandpa Frank and I have a lot in common. I don’t know. Similar character. Or mannerisms. Perhaps I would have felt better about my name, if I could have better identified with the man I was named for. Too late now. No one’s around who can tell me.
Regardless, I’ve been unhappy with my name for as long as I remember myself.
When I was about eleven or twelve years old I remember I was going through a phase where I wanted to be an artist. I moaned about my name to my mother’s twin sister one day, when I was visiting her. As long ago as it was, I remember our conversation like it was just happening. “But auntie Annette”, I whined. “How can I sign my canvases Frances? It’s not a good name for an artist. I really want to change my name.”
Inside she was probably killing herself laughing. But somehow she managed to keep a straight face. No one ever called me Frances. Everyone — friends, family, teachers all called me Francie. She listened to me attentively, probably praying for divine intervention or something. Suddenly she snapped her fingers and exclaimed: “I’ve got it! Let’s change the spelling of Francie to Fransi. You have to admit it’s very different. Creative. And it would look great on a canvas!”
“Hmmmmm …” I thought about it. And while I was thinking she was listing all the reasons why it was the perfect name for me. Counting them off on her fingers. Talk about salesmanship. Well it worked.
It was settled, much to my aunt’s relief. To seal the deal she suggested we call my parents immediately and inform them. Which we did. She wanted it cast in stone as quickly as possible. She knew me very well. She knew, even at that tender age, when I got stuck on an idea, I got stuck. I guess she wanted to make sure I didn’t start trolling the yellow pages looking for lawyers who specialize in name changes.
My new name, or at least the new spelling of my name, satisfied me for a while. But buried in the back of my mind there was always a secret longing to change it. To this day, I never have. And I suppose now I never will.
Years ago I had a friend who insisted on calling me Franzi. With a “z” instead of an “s”. I liked it, but by then I was known as Fransi and I decided it would just be too complicated to ask people to spell my name differently.
What name would I like? I have no idea.