The naming of a child is a big deal here on earth. You come to be associated with the name your parent(s) picked out for you when you were born. If they actually — in my case, they didn’t — used the name they gave you at birth — that’s probably the biggest identifying marks you will carry around you for the rest of your life, especially your first name.
My parents, for example, picked out a beautiful, non-American name for me, and then they never used it. My mother called me a shortened version of the name, which I didn’t like, and by the time I got to Kindergarten, I had been re-christened by the school secretary, who was called “Betty.” They thought it was an Anglicized version of my beautiful name. They had no idea it was about as ordinary as you can get.
I grew up reading Archie & Veronica comics, as a result.
I often say I am indifferent to my name. It doesn’t really describe me. That hasn’t stopped people from buying me Betty Boop stuff all my life, of course. I was associated with Betty Boop more than any other name. People saw a resemblance between us. I never saw what they saw, of course. But still, it has persisted.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 40s, when I met my second husband, who was Greek and who started calling me by my real name as soon as I told him what it was. And he has called me by it more than anyone else. And I appreciate that. Because he doesn’t fuck it up.
I tried to use my real name when I went to College. First, I enrolled by the shortened version of the name my mom gave me — which I didn’t like, so I have no idea why I did that. And once I realized that, I changed my records to reflect my actual name. But then people kept fucking it up. They could not pronounce it properly and it sounded horrible. It was just easier to go with Betty. So I stuck with that, until I met my second husband, who refuses to call me Betty.
What you name your child is important. It’s the tag they’re gonna carry around with them for the rest of their life.
In the meantime, we also have the custom of shortening names, here, in the States, and people often go by that version. But to have a name that has very little to do with your original name is awkward. And that’s how I have felt.
I don’t know how my second name actually affected my life. What conclusions can you draw when people who know you compare you to Betty Boop? It’s even slipped out of their mouths occasionally. Which is definitely a no-no. So I suppose I have been more like a soldier, bearing a burden, which I cannot explain clearly, but seems to work okay.
But the problem I ran into recently really opened my mind about the value of a name. My friend, Ozzie, has seven dogs, all rescued from abusive situations (the 7th dog was mine, Aristophanes, who was rescued while I lived in Athens. I fostered him and then couldn’t let go of him. I didn’t feel anyone could understand him as well as I could — even though he had obnoxious habits, like jumping on you whenever he saw you. And I knew those obnoxious habits could turn others off, and there was the potential that he could be mistreated again, because he was such a highly energetic dog. So I kept him. And brought him back to States. Had his own passport, shots, everything on a 28 hour journey from Hell in September of 2010. We spent 3 hours sitting on the tarmac in Athens because there was too much fog in Copenhagen, our next destination. Then in Copenhagen, I was detained by Security for over an hour. They wanted to know what I was doing in Greece so long without a permit. A what? I said. A permit. After 3 months in the EU you have to have a permit if you plan to stay longer. Greeks don’t care about stuff like that! I shouted. No one ever approached me and told me to leave the country. Because I did not have a permit. There I was, thinking about the 3 hour delay in Athens, and now more delay, and so we missed our flight to NYC. It was absolutely crazy. I felt so bad for him. He was locked somewhere on the plane or in the airports in this crate. At least, he must have been thirsty. Instead, I was running around the airport in Copenhagen looking for the next flight they booked us on. I had about 10 minutes to get there! Then the long flight across the Atlantic. And then NYC, another nightmare.
Because we can no longer carry bottles of water when we get to Security (We can now carry pocket knives, of course, but no water. Makes a whole lot of sense, doesn’t it?) I had a hell of a time figuring out how I was gonna get water to him. Somewhere, I found (I now can’t remember if someone gave it to me, or what) a small bottle of water, 4 ounces, maybe. And he drank from the bottle. The ticket agent, having witnessed this, said he was in good condition to make the remainder of the flight to DC. But, they added, that would be an additional $200 ticket for him, which I had not worked into the scheme of things.
We flew on a small plane and I saw him on the conveyor belt, being put in his compartment. We were almost there.
And that’s about as far as I want to go. Cause the rest is an entirely different story. I only want to say that he is Ozzie’s 7th child, and I know she loves him as much as I do.
But as for her other dogs…
One of them is named Mikey. So I’ve known Mikey for about 7 years now. And Mikey is Mikey. But recently, when I was out with a group of friends, one young woman kept talking about Mikey, and I finally said: Who is Mikey? That’s my boyfriend, she saId. And THAT really did a number on my head. I couldn’t reconcile the names. I would always think of the dog, Mikey, when I saw him — if I ever met him. Mikey was dog, not Human.
So really what we should be worrying about in addition to what we should name our kids is the names we choose for our animals.