A Bridgette By Any Other Name ...
A Bridgette By Any Other Name.…
by Natalie Lance
On my morning drive to work one day, I caught the tail end of a radio show where a woman called in response to a clip about the importance of stereotypes associated with certain names. Her name was Brenda. She had changed it from Bridgette because she felt that the name had been bringing her down. Brendas were more successful, she had determined. The beginning steps were in her mind — dressing like a Brenda, playing her like a character. More than the legal aspect, these were the changes that really made the difference for her. She swore to choosing your own name as an empowering way to take control of your own life.
Well, it got me thinking…we create roles for ourselves based on lots of things. I never really liked my name, but I don’t think it has ruined my life. I do think we play different roles at different times in our lives. As a kid I loved the name Debbie, and as I got older I liked the name Michelle. Delving into “why” I would guess that I knew people with those names who possessed various qualities that I admired. In writing, I try to chose names that are fitting of my characters, and I sometimes assign names to strangers I see in public. These are almost certainly subconsciously based on commonalities with people I’ve known in the past. In all honesty, stereotypes of a name would be more linear to the parents hopes and dreams for that child based on the general social stigma of the era in which they were born, and even so that logic is terribly hampered by the immeasurable factor of personal perception.
Come to think of it, I knew a Bridgette! She was a blond-haired, blue-eyed cheerleader type, always smiling, who personified what every dorky, misfit, preteen girl hopes to become. Obviously not the association drawn by our radio caller…but then maybe she had just outgrown the name. Can I change my name every few years as my interests and goals evolve? I don’t want to be a Debbie anymore, but I still wouldn’t mind being Michelle. Does your name have anything to do with “who” you are? I wonder if Michelle would be any thinner … or happier. What if I’m not living up to who I’m supposed to be just because my mother liked the sound of three syllable first names and hated the Beatles?
My God, I have no idea who I am!
That same day, a visitor stopped into work. Silver streaked hair in a manageable-but-attractive cut, trim figure and classic clothing. I overheard her talking to someone in the hall about working in her garden more now that she’d retired from teaching. She spoke with sensible philosophical views and a positive attitude about her accomplishments in life. I found myself thinking that this was the sort of older lady I’d like to be. I wondered what her name was. Probably something like Mildred.
Gee. I don’t think I’m ready to be a Mildred.