I never liked my name when I was growing up. “Patricia” seemed too old and stuffy. I liked my nickname even less. Patty. When I started school, and rude boys decided it rhymed with fatty, I positively hated it. Some people tried to call me Pat but I put a stop to that right away. Pat was what you did to a dog. Not until high school, when my boyfriend nicknamed me “Tricia”, did I actually start liking my name. But then he went kinda psycho. He’d “pass out”, continuing to talk to “Tricia”, and then tell me not to tell “Patty”. It was a confusing time. I eventually resolved this problem by losing him but keeping the new nickname. My mother was offended. She gave a loud snort and said, “I won’t call you Tricia. It doesn’t even start with the same letter!”
Then there was the problem of my middle name—Merle. It was my mom’s name and, at the time, having anything the same as my mom was simply annoying. As a kid I remember complaining that “Patricia Merle” just sounded ugly. That’s when my mom amazed me by doing something brilliantly nice. She told me that my name actually meant “Beautiful Blackbird”. Now that got my attention. She said “Patricia” meant “beautiful” and “Merle” was French for “blackbird”. I felt I’d been given wings. I suddenly had a secret name that sounded like an Indian princess. How magical was that? Years later I unfortunately looked up the meaning of the names in some baby naming book. True enough, Merle means blackbird. But I could never find where Patricia meant beautiful. The best I got was “of noble birth”. Oh well. Chalk one up for Mom, though. I don’t know where she came up with “beautiful” but by then it didn’t matter. I would forever more be Beautiful Blackbird.
Many years later, when I was expecting my first child, I found myself heavy into negotiations over her name. I wanted her to be called Brianna. It was Celtic and meant “woman of strength”. My husband offered up a whole list of names which I rejected out of hand since they were all names of his old girlfriends. To be fair to him, I must admit you’d have to search a long time to find a name for someone he hadn’t dated. But he hadn’t dated a Brianna. He hadn’t even heard of one, which was why he didn’t like it. “It’s too unusual,” he argued. He was holding firm on the name, “Jennifer”. When I met him he had a cat named Jennifer. While it was a nice enough name I was damned if I was going to name my daughter after his dead cat. In the end, when our baby arrived, we called her Brianna Elizabeth—Elizabeth, a concession to him, was his mother’s middle name. Neither of us liked her first name—Dorothy. The name Brianna must have been floating heavy in the ethers during that time because once she entered school our daughter always had about three Briannas in every class. So much for being too unusual.
Our second daughter was to be Lorelei until right up to the time she was born. I had pushed for “Zoë”, which means “To Life!” but my husband didn’t like the look or sound of the name. At the last moment we panicked and decided Lorelei was too flowery. I still didn’t want “Jennifer” so we decided on “Kristina Merle”. Many years later, out of the blue, my daughter told me she didn’t like her name. She wanted to be called “Zoë”.