My name is Edie; spelled E-d-i-e and pronouned Eee Dee. It was given to me at birth by my parents who wanted (in the tradition of the Judaism of our heritage) to honor my maternal grandfather named Edward.
It is both a joy and challenge to have an unusual moniker. I was born in 1958, and common designations back then, as evidenced by role call in the classrooms, were Susan, Linda, Mary, Debbie, Barbara and Beth.
The most unique name in my school belonged to a girl named Mimi and she was Chinese. Not sure whether she faced the frustration that I did each first day in a new grade when the teacher (and you’d think a teacher would know better) would mispronounce my name as Eddie. To this day, there are still people who do that. I can laugh at it now. Back then; most especially in sixth grade when I had a crush on a boy in the class, it contributed to a sense of mortification, as he took the opportunity to call me “Eddie spaghetti.”
Many years later, via Classmates.com, we happened to get back in touch and I told him of my pre-teen pain over his humor. Amazing the things we hang on to for so long. He apologized profusely with these words, “I’m sorry I caused you so much angst. In my family, we teased each other.” I forgave him.
When phone solicitors call, they often ask for Eddie. I tell them, with glee, “Sorry, no Eddie here,” and hang up. I figure that if they want my business, they will pronounce my name correctly. In my lifetime, I may have met a dozen women who share my name and for most of them, it is a shortened version of Edith. Mine is not. The oldest may have been in her 70’s or so, and the youngest a four month old. Edie Brickell, Edie Sedgwick and Edie McClurg, Edie Falco, and Edie Adams are on the roster. I wonder if they faced the same annoyances? These days, I use the think-link of “Edy’s Ice Cream” as a pronunciation guide.
Several years ago, when I was a magazine publisher and would call potential advertisers, I would leave messages, spelling my name for them; still they would return calls and ask for Eddie. Not an auspicious start for a business relationship. As a result, I decided to use the nom de plume Kate Joy. The first was to honor my favorite aunt who even in to her 70’s was lighthearted and playful, and the second because I saw a ceramic heart shaped pendant that had the word inscribed on it. In combination, the two names had the feeling I wanted to invoke daily. I never changed it legally and decided after awhile to reclaim my birth name when I remembered its origins. It has been translated as ‘rich gift,’ ‘fortune,’ and ‘war’. I much prefer the first two, since I consider myself a pacifist.
I often wonder what my life would have been like had I been given a ‘normal name.’ Would I feel as great a need to explain myself, or clarify for people who I am? Ironically, my grandfather’s orginal name was Abraham. When he wanted to assimilate into the American culture (although he was born here of Russian immigrant parents), he changed it to Edward. Had he maintained it, I could have been named Ann, Amy, Anna, Abby, Amanda or Allison; all popular back then as well.
Yesterday, I saw a posting by a long time friend whose birth name is Scott Kalechstein. He and I met in the early 1980’s at a retreat in New Jersey. He is a talented singer-songwriter and pens musical mash-ups in the parody style of Weird Al Yankovic. In addition, his wildly creative imagination has him offering song channelings on the spot; given an idea, he is off to the races. Scott is the father of a little spark of light named Aysia. He told of a recent experience that involves her, as well as his decision to claim his name.
He decided to change his last name to Grace, since it was far easier to spell and pronounce than Kalechstein, and he felt it embodied the essence of who he is. He explained that it gave him a sense of freedom to recreate himself and the ways in which he presents himself out in the world.
This is the tale of his daddy-daughter adventure:
“My daughter and I used to play a game. She would wear a certain hat that she called The Name Change Hat. When she wore it, she would become The Name Change Princess, and wielded the power to change names. I would bring stuffed animals and dolls to her feet as if she was royalty. And then I would pretend to be the stuffy, saying something like: “Oh, I am so excited to finally meet you. I heard you have the power to grant me the perfect new name. Might you? Folks call me Froggy, and I’m tired of it.”
The Name Change Princess would speak in a commanding tone of authority, as if all beings were under her rule: “You are no longer Froggy. Your new name is Groovy Green Thing!”
Then I (as the frog) would happily hop away, profusely sputtering out thanks, insanely thrilled about my new name. Then the next stuffy approached her throne. And the next. Then we switched and I’d wear the name change hat. There seemed to be no end to the amusement this game brought us. At least two years worth. And then two years of forgetting about it.
Last year I remembered. We were at my favorite hippie dippy health food restaurant in Santa Cruz called Dharmas. I surprised Aysia by taking out the hat. “Remember this, Aysia? Remember the name change hat?” “Of course, Daddy.” We played for a bit, and we both got nostalgic. When Aysia got up to use the bathroom I walked over to a lively couple sitting at a table near us and whispered, “Would you be willing to do something that would make my daughter’s day?” I explained what I had in mind, and they agreed.
About ten minutes went by, and then one of the women came over to us and said to Aysia, “Aren’t you the Name Change Girl? And isn’t that the Name Change Hat? Might you be willing to give me a new name? I’m so ready for a new name!”
Aysia put on the hat wielded her authority. Then her partner got in on the action. Both women poured on the excitement and gratitude as if the new names were new cars. I was so grateful for this couple. They were naturals at improvisation. They played it beautifully. Aysia had a huge smile on her face, and asked me if we could do more.
So we did.
We traveled from table to table, inviting children and adults to get new names. I explained that these would be temporary names, not legally binding, and could be discarded anytime. Almost everyone played along and had a ball. We left the restaurant filled up with joy.”
He then asked for his friends on line to consider what they would name themselves. I offered that I am called many things, including “Edie Sweetie,” ” Bliss Mistress,” (given to me as a result of being influenced by philosopher/author Joseph Campbell who encouraged ‘following your bliss’) “Mutha Hugger,” (since I coordinate FREE Hugs events) and “Opti-Mystic” (who sees the world through the eyes of possibility).
One of my favorite movies is The Never Ending Story. In it, a little boy named Bastian is being bullied by classmates and after being chased into an attic in his school, he hunkers down for the night and reads a book he has taken from a dusty and cluttered bookstore, about a land called Fantasia, where imagination used to reign supreme, until a dark force called ‘The Nothing’ invaded. He goes on all sorts of mystical adventures as lived vicariously through another intrepid young man named Atreyu. What he discovers is that only a human child can save Fantasia from being engulfed and prevent the Empress who rules it from dying by giving her a new name.
How would your life be if you could claim your name and true identity? The choice is yours.