Friday, November 13, 2009

What's In A Name?

I love getting gifts. I love to give them even more, but that isn’t the point of this post.

At the top of my list of Things I’d Like to Receive is a priceless gift that everyone I speak to can give me. It’s so simple, you may not believe it. Better yet? It doesn’t cost you a dime!

I’d really just like everyone to call me by name: Linda Lee.

You see, for the first half of my life, I was called by my first name—Linda.

It’s a fine name. I have a friend named Linda. I’ve known many people named Linda.

The thing is... I've never really liked it for me. I never felt it suited me.

Growing up, I often considered changing my name altogether. I always wanted my name to be Elizabeth. I would use the name Elizabeth anytime I wrote a novel. (Yes, I wrote novels in elementary school. One of them even got up to 11 or 12 chapters before I abandoned it.) Even in some of my writings today, I often revert to the name Elizabeth, whether or not I'm in the story. At this point it's just habit.

But back to my first name: Linda. When I left home for college, I considered adding my middle name, Lee.

Over time, I integrated the use of my first and middle name, Linda Lee, into my life—first, through work, then through friends, then through acquaintances, etc.

Finally, I told my family that I'd started using my middle name.

Oddly enough, my sister had also started using her full name. Her name is Wendilyn. Actually, it's Jill Wendilyn, following a naming pattern for the women in my family. She's always gone by Wendy... but within the past several years she's started using her full name, Wendilyn.

I wonder if we both felt like we grew into our names.

Now, of course, I go by Linda Lee exclusively—except for a few errant doctor’s offices and some members of my family, on whom I’ve given up the prospect of ever being called by the name I’d like to hear. (Especially regarding family—it’s about picking your battles, and some battles aren’t worth fighting, ya know?)

I feel that Linda Lee suits me perfectly. Many people shorten it to “LL”, and I've also been called "Double L" Or "Luhluh" or other endearing shortenings of my name.

I think that going by Linda Lee serves several purposes.

Not only does it speak to me tonally, and "fit" who I am, but it fits who I've become as a woman, and who I will be, throughout the years of my hopefully long and healthy life.

Linda Lee signifies the changes I've already worked so hard to make, and the development I have yet to traverse.

(For example, my name gives me permission to be playful and light-hearted, which is a personality trait that’s natural to me, and yet—it’s one I’m working on developing. I’ve kept my inner Entertainer under wraps for far too long, and now she’s coming out to have some fun! See that little girl? That's me... she lives inside me every day, but now she likes to come out to play relatively often.)

I am proud of my name.

Now, most conversations with someone new start off with me introducing myself, and correcting the other person when they call me Linda. I don’t mind, but I do wish people wouldn’t assume that because Linda is a common name, that the “Lee” part doesn’t matter and can be left by the wayside.

Oddly enough (to me), many folks assume that Lee is my last name.

And about 90% of those folks assume I’m Chinese! Until they see me in person, that is. And then—well, there’s absolutely no way anyone could possibly mistake this pasty-white-freckled-green-eyed-blond-haired-big-boned-in-addition-to-overweight-British/Irish chick as Chinese.

Still more people assume that after they call me Linda Lee a few times, they can call me Linda and that’s okay.

It’s not okay, y’all.

That’s like… meeting someone named Robert and assuming he goes by Bob.

Or Richard is Dick.

Or Samantha is Sam.

Or Mary Jane is Mary, or Jane.

(This horse is dead, and yet I’m still beating him…)

I’ve started doing various things to help people understand that I really, truly, do go by Linda Lee. On Facebook and a few other places, I’ve started typing my name as one word: Lindalee. Sometimes it’s LindaLee, sometimes it’s lindalee… in reality, it’s Linda Lee, but that so often trips people up, so I figured writing it as one word offers clarity.

My name is more than just a moniker. It’s a significant part of the identity I present to the world.

So, I ask you—what's in a name?

Do you like your name?
Have you ever considered changing your name?
Any other thoughts you'd like to share?


  1. I love Linda Lee. I never remember how you spell it (all one word, two separate) so that is why (ahem) I usually address you as LL in email. :)

    I like my name, but didn't always. Nobody spells it right. People are lazy about it - I get called Jeanie a lot. In 8th grade I fancied myself "Jena" but that was short lived. So, Jeannine it is. What is funny is, I'm starting to meet a lot of younger women with my name which is cool, but ... I hope it never goes the way of Jennifer. :)

  2. There's a great scene in Star Trek TNG when Counselor Troi's mom is talking to Data and she keeps saying his name like "dah-tah" instead of "day-tah," and when he corrects her she asks, "What's it matter?" and he replies that one IS his name, and one IS NOT.
    It's a great scene.

  3. I admit it was hard for me to think of you as anything but Linda for quite some time. And I slipped a bit from time to time But I do respect that is what you like to be called and I will certainly always do so in the future.

    As for the whole post? WORD. Or, more eloquently...

    I understand completely why you want to be called by the name which you feel suits you and the woman you've become. I don't like anyone to call me Mel. I still let my sister do it from time to time, though she rarely does now. But a couple of my friends called me that recently on FB comments and I was like... ehhhh. No. I am Melissa. And it DOES matter. Melissa is the adult woman that *I* have become. It makes me feel strong and feminine and real. So I really do get it.

    A few people I know, specifically friends of South American descent, have a habit of calling me Meli. For some reason, I don't mind that. It sounds very sweet and endearing and I know it's cultural and playful rather than presumptuous or thoughtless.

    On that note, I really dislike when people do presume. My boss is bad about that and it bugs me. I have one coworker he insists on calling Mike instead of Michael, even though I have never in 6 years heard the guy refer to himself as anything but Michael. And a guy from this other company he calls Rich instead of Richard. I swear there are other examples because I've pondered this about him before. He does it frequently and I wish he would understand it's kind of inconsiderate. He's socially inept though, so I guess it doesn't really surprise me. ;)

  4. I wrote you an email message recently and called you Linda. I'm sorry!

    I'm a person who shortens everyone's names. Elizabeth becomes LizBeth, Annemarie is Amarie.

    I did change my name, from Robin to Robyn, when I was 10. Some of my family members still write it with the "i". It's kind of a long story as to why I use the "y" but I never felt like Robin, the bird or Batman sidekick, although I do like both. I also embraced "Rockin Robin" because if I didn't, I knew it would drive me insane.

  5. See, now this is where blogspot kinda stinkies... I can't reply to each of you individually, which is what I'd like to do!

    Jeannine: That spelling confusion is my own doing, isn't it! LL is fine... and now you know for sure ;-)

    I think it's fascinating just how many of us were uncomfortable with our names, at least until we got older or found something that worked for us.

    Jennifer - such an over-used name! It's a good name, but now seems so... dull, I guess? Hopefully no Jennifers will read this!

    Evilegg: LOVE it. I love that. I loved Data the character and I can imagine him saying that. And I totally dig.

    Melissa: To me, Mel was something you went by as a young'un... as if you hadn't quite grown into Melissa yet. Now that you have, I can't picture you as anything but Melissa.

    Yes.... remember that old adage, "Never assume - it makes an ass out of u and me"... Ha! I still love that...

    rredhead: When you were 10!! Wow! That's so cool, that you knew yourself well enough then to change that spelling. I have an aunt named Robin, so she's the first person who comes to mind when I hear the name.

    I like the spelling Robyn, though!