I define the name, it doesn’t define me.

May 28, 2013- Daily Prompt: Say Your Name

Write about your first name:
Are you named after something or someone? Yes.
Are there any stories or associations attached to it? Yes.
If you had the choice, would you rename yourself? I almost did.

Wow. The first time I check out the daily prompt and you’d be hard pressed to find another topic that would be more personal to me than this. My Pandora’s Box has just been opened.

pandora's box

I am named after Mindy from Mork & Mindy. My dad named me, and he said he chose that name because he wanted me to be “cute and sweet” just like the character on the show. This is also pretty much the story of how Mindy Kaling became Mindy. Her first name is Vera and Mindy is her middle name. According to Wikipedia, her parents knew they would be moving to the United States and wanted a “cute American name” for their daughter. And, yes, they also got the name from Mork & Mindy. But I’ve never liked the name all that much. It’s an ok name, but I’ve had trouble identifying with it.

Growing up I always liked the prettier, more popular, less “cutsie” names. Names like Tiffany, Stacey, Natalie, Michelle, Theresa, Ariana, Maria, Amber, Samantha or Cassandra. Starting in 6th grade I went to school with mostly black/African-American kids, and so a lot of the girls had African-American names like Shaleetha, Keyna, Keisha, Quiana, Tomiqua, Carkeisha, Talia, and Taniesha. To a lot of people these names are weird, perhaps even unattractive, but to me they sounded pretty and exotic.  My mom wanted to name me Danielle, I think I would have liked that a bit more. Even Melinda would have been better than it’s diminutive, and it’s a wonder my parents didn’t name me Melinda considering that my mom’s name is Linda.

As I mentioned, I’ve had trouble identifying with my name. Not only because it isn’t exotic, but also because for me it has some negative associations with it. My childhood was traumatic. Literally. I go to therapy and have been diagnosed with PTSD as well as mild Dissociative Identity Disorder. As my therapist has explained, I associate the name Mindy with my childhood, which means it is also associated with words like weak, small, powerless, scared, timid… And yet there was a part of me that was furious and full of rage. I didn’t know what her name was. There was a part of me that had the potential to be strong and confident. But she didn’t have a name either. The abuse had caused my “self” to become fragmented.

girl interrupted

I attempted to make myself whole again by changing my name. I had always fantasized about changing my name. Always. I can remember giving myself new names as early as age 8. Now I understand why. Last year I really almost did it. I had the papers filled out, I knew which part of the Franklin County Courthouse building to go to, and I had the money. I had given a lot  of thought to my new name- too much. It took me 2 years to decide. I agonized over it, I was obsessed with finding the perfect new name. But it wasn’t really about the name- I was having an identity crisis. The name I chose to pull all of my parts together was Natalie. It’s a very pretty name, and to me it sounded like it could embody all of me- the weak, timid, and “cute” as well as the angry, strong, and confident. I even had people start calling me Natalie.

But I didn’t do it. I backed out. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself- it still just didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t going to work. Changing my name was not going to erase my past. Sure, having an ID and a passport with my picture and the name Natalie would be cool and exciting. But the name on my childrens’ birth certificates, my marriage certificate, and my framed wedding invitation, is Mindy. My friends and family who love and adore me call me Mindy.

mindyOnce I thought of that I didn’t want to change my name anymore. I told people to go ahead and call me Mindy again. Little by little I keep trying to create more positive associations with my name. I think I put it best when my husband’s friend, Freddie, asked me why I decided to not change my name. At first I stuttered and stumbled trying to explain myself without getting too deep or being too wordy. And somehow words of wisdom came to me out of no where, and I said to him: “Because-  I define the name, it doesn’t define me.”
TRUE STORY! And, boy, did Freddie like that answer! I was quite impressed my-damn-self!

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4 thoughts on “I define the name, it doesn’t define me.

  1. Pingback: Identity crisis?! | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me

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