When You Hate Your Name

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Confession: I hate my name. No, I really hate my name.

Truth be told, it’s not a terrible name at all. In fact, I like it for others, it just doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t suit me. No one uses my actual name, and sometimes I wish I could change it. I compromise by using a shortened version of my full name — Eliza. In the past, I’ve also gone by Liz, Lizzie, and E.

There are lots of reasons people might hate their name. Maybe they think it’s too ordinary or too unusual. Maybe it’s too long or too short. Maybe it lends itself to unfortunate nicknames. Or maybe you have a bad association with the name. For me, it’s a little bit of all of this.

My mom picked my name because it’s my grandmother’s middle name. Which is a decent reason, and I loved my grandmother a hell of a lot, but she gave my sister her first name. I’ve always feel pretty left out about that particular parental move. Sorry, Mom.

When I was a kid, my parents never used my name. They called me Lucy, for reasons unknown. In fact, every goddamn relative I had called me Lucy. My father and aunt still call me Lucy. (Lucy: I like this better than my name, so much better that I tried using it in the real world for a while, but it wouldn’t stick). When they used my full name, I knew I was in big trouble. So what did I always associate my name with? Someone angry at me. Someone really fucking angry at me.

My husband calls me Beautiful all the time. He only uses my real name when he’s really pissed off. The same way call him Bear all the time, and only call him Christopher when I’m super angry. So I still associate my name with someone being angry at me.

When I started school, everyone just sort of collectively decided I’d be called Liz, because they were too lazy to say a name with four syllables. But Liz rhymes with whizz (i.e., pee). So guess what I got called, all the way through school? I hated my name. But no one would call me anything else.

I tried to get everyone to call me Lizzie. Which I liked a lot better. Honestly? I still like it a lot. A friend who rode horses with us started calling me that. I actually associated that name with something positive (for once). But everyone seemed compelled to shorten it, so I was back where I started in the beginning. All through middle school. All through high school. Good friends would call me Lizzie, and still do. I don’t mind that one. If I knew no one would ever shorten it, I might actually use it. But everyone shortens it, so I don’t bother.

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Four syllables. Parents, be careful before giving your kid a name with more than two syllables, unless you want them to end up with a nickname. If you want them to go by the name you bestow on them, if you don’t want the entire world to shorten it to something else, pick something two syllables or less. One of my sons has a one-syllable name. One has a two-syllable name. The other intentionally has a three-syllable name I don’t actually like very much. Everyone mispronounces it, and I intentionally misspell it half the time, just because I think it looks better and then people pronounce it correctly. I gave him this name I don’t like much because I prefer his two-syllable nickname, August, so much. Something about a four-syllable name is just too damn long to say. Even my three-syllable husband Christopher inevitably becomes Chris to everyone but his mother.

When you hate your name, you eventually get to a tipping point. You can either surrender or take a stand. Me? I chose to take a stand. I got so sick of correcting folks who used my full name or a nickname I didn’t like, I posted about it on Facebook. I went on a long rant about why I hate my name. I laid out all the reasons. I explained everything and asked folks to call me by my preferred name. And it worked.

Well, except for when my husband and I are debating whose turn it is to put the dishes away.

 

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