I get the question pretty much every time I'm introduced to someone new: "Is that really your name? REALLY?" Well, actually, yes. I mean, that's the name I've gone by since childhood. Sometimes my dad called me "John Henry" because of my infamous stubbornness, which I'd like to be known more of as fortitude of will. I haven't pulled any steam engines up any mountains with my bare hands recently, but I've been known to drag out a conversation until it drops with a thud of finality without ever giving up whatever answer a person has desired. Only my dad calls me John Henry, though.
My given government name is just as foreign to me. I can pretty much tell you in which era you met me just by the moniker you use for me. I can tell where I met you if you use other names. And I have a few.
What did my parents desire to call me? What did they want to write down on my birth certificate? And what's in a name?
No, none of that Romeo and Juliet philosophical stuff here. I'm genuinely pondering the significance of why I didn't receive the name my mom wanted to give me at first-- Annette. I mean, that's a good name and all. I know an Annette, and she's pretty cool. But I don't look like an Annette. I don't feel like an Annette, assuming I know what an Annette would feel like. Would my life have turned out differently if I'd have received the name my mom fought for during the first 3 weeks of my life?
See, I was born during that time when parents didn't have to immediately decide what to call a baby before leaving the birthing facility. How old am I? 🤦🏾♀️That's a story for another day.
My mom wanted me named after one of her nieces, who is named loosely after my mother's mother. My dad wanted me named after his mother. Who's gonna get the honor of having me carry on the weight of her name? A three week battle where I'm being called two names, and no one willing to give... How did it end? Well, clearly my name isn't Annette, but if it was, I'd probably be going by Little Ann, after the heroine in one of my favorite childhood books, Where The Red Fern Grows. And then as I grew older (perhaps the age I am now), "Little Ann" would sound more like a gangster or something. Or maybe I could convince people of how innocent and wholesome and good I am with a name like that.
"Nope. Not a gangster. Not a goody two shoes. A dog. Yep. And she died in that book, too."
Would Annette have led as colorful and full a life as Ernie has? Would Annette have landed in the middle of the same circle of friends? Who am I kidding? Annette would probably be a lot friendlier, and her circle would probably be a lot larger.
But Ernie has met Ed. Ed used to be really weird about my name because he didn't want to be introduced to someone and then say, "...and this is my wife, Ernie." People definitely get curious or weird, with no in between. The ones who are thinking it anyway, I usually floor with, "I used to be a man." It's a joke. It was a bit funnier before it became a frequent possibility, but this day and age is what it is.
It's usually made worse because I also am blessed with diarrhea of the mouth, when I feel like being social. That too is another story for another day.
But the bottom line for my name? It's up there 👆🏾...somewhere.