11 January 2010

What's in a name?

I've never liked my name. I've never felt comfortable with it, never responded to it like I should.

If I was born a guy, I would be named "Sergei", the name of my grandpa, my uncle, my father, and now my cousin. I don't like that name, but, to tell you the truth, there are no Russian men's names that I like.

Instead, my mom debated naming me either "Ksenia" or "Alexandra". At the end, she settled on Ksenia, and my sister - born two and a half years later - got Alexandra.

Now, to understand my name, you gotta understand how Russian names work. There's the formal name "Ksenia" or "Alexandra", in this case; and the casual version, the nick-name for each name, used to refer to children and friends: Ksenia is "Ksyusha" and Alexandra is "Sasha".

So, for much of my childhood, I grew up, pretty pleased being "Ksyusha". Then, at the age of seven, I moved to the US, and went by "Ksyusha" here, too (I think I might have spelled it "Ksusha"). However, no one could pronounce my name, and, after a while, my mom and I decided that I would - from now on - go by "Ksenia". Now, no one could pronounce that either, but I didn't change it again.

I never felt like my name was a part of me. When someone would refer to me as "Ksenia", I would feel like a sudden distance formed between us, mostly caused by the fact that it was mispronounced. Whenever I said my own name, it made me cringe, because it's Russian pronounciation sounded so wrong within the context of the English language, and I could never intentionally mispronounce it, as my sister often does with our last name when people ask her what it is. What more, at home, the only time I was referred to as "Ksenia" was when my mother was angry at me, and I did enjoy being called "Ksyusha" at home.

What's worse, I envied my sister's name "Sasha". It was unique, yet simple, and easy to pronounce. And that name was almost - ALMOST - mine, while my name could have been hers. Would things have been different?

Summer 07 I became a CIT at Girl Scout camp, and I chose my camp name to be "Cream". The name comes from the character Cream the Rabbit from the video game Sonic the Hedgehog. A few of my friends from the internet had already been referring to me as Cream, so I quickly got used to it. Finally, I had a name I felt was my own, and began talking about myself in third person. "Cream" is still the name I am closest to.

Last summer, before starting college, I decided I needed a new name to go by in college. I quickly chose some variation of the name "K", because I had long ago decided it would fit me, simply because it's the fist letter of my first name, and a simple nickname. However, I didn't want to spell it "Kay", because I wanted to be unique, and went through a long list of possible names, trying to create a new one. At last, I settled on "Kae", a simple variation of the original using only letters from my given name. I'm starting to grow into it, and I'm enjoying being called "Kae" and reacting to it. However, I still feel distant from my name. At times, I would have great conversations with friends, and I would feel a sudden gap form when I they'd call me "Kae", especially over text or online talk, when I'd see it typed. I think it still takes getting used to, but I simply don't like the spelling, and I don't think there's a spelling of "K" that I like.

I feel like my whole life I'd lived so far away from my name, and I can't even imagine having one name that's me. Sometimes, I feel like I simply cannot have a name, that my identity transcends names. That's not necessarily a good thing, but just who I am and who I became throughout my life.

What's in a name, I wonder? Does your name affect the person that you are?
I saw on the news once about a woman who'd help parents choose their child's name based on the personality they wanted their kid to have.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I've known anyone else that grasped names like I do until reading this. I've found that names are really just labels. You can't imagine someone having a different name, because their names fits them, but the same name also fits the polar opposite kid you know from somewhere else. Not to mention that when they change their name, that also fits just as well. I have always felt distanced from my name too, and perhaps it's just one of those things that a lot of people feel but never talk about. Is there a such thing as a perfect name? Do names have more significance? Maybe, maybe not. It's just one of those mysteries.