Growing up, I had the misfortune of being addressed by my middle name. The name Desiree has been mocked, joked and rhymed with so many times in my youth, there is literally NOTHING I have not heard that would even be remotely new (including injecting my name in musical ditties and so forth). For the record, I do not dislike my name. It has many uses and this is a good thing. When my mom yelled it, there were inflections of its pronunciation that made it clear if she merely wanted an audience with me or she was going to rip off my arm and use my head for batting practice.
Never, in all my years growing up, was my first name used by my family, friends or neighbors. Like, ever. It’s how I know I am home. Once I set foot on the soil of Paradise suddenly I have to remind myself that… oh yeah! I remember going by Desiree once… a billion years ago.
The big change came in sixth grade. It was a new middle school located clear across the valley and I was attending with an entirely new group of kids. Frankly, I wiped my brain clean of the awkward middle school years like they never happened (they didn’t, I had my memory store electrified), but I do remember my first day of school. All my teachers kept calling my by Alyson. Odd. It took me a while to catch on that this new female name was mine.
What I also found out was that I was PETRIFIED of correcting them. I think something like a peep of noise came out of my mouth in first period, but that was the last of it. Heaven forbid I ever raised my hand. That would be mortifying.
So, from sixth grade on, I became Alyson. I didn’t mind it either because the name caught on like wildfire and I never quite got around to going back to Desiree.
Which now brings us some twenty years later. I have gone to college, got married, had kids, moved away from home and moved back. I felt like I grew up and moved on, but whenever you move away (no amount of time changes these facts) and then come back, there is one thing certain: YOU HAVE NOT AGED ONE DAY SINCE YOU LEFT.
For example, I got married young and we moved to Oklahoma at a still fairly young age. So, naturally, when I moved back to my home state, it was as if I had never left in the first place and the seven years of separation never happened. This is the part that I hate. Suddenly everyone I grew up with (most especially my family) have had amnesia for nearly a decade and can no longer remember my name. Let me illustrate:
Since I have returned, on every occasion that I have been introduced to my sister’s/brother’s/parent’s friends and acquaintances, they have NO CLUE what my name is. As in, they draw a COMPLETE BLANK. Do we call her Desiree? Do we call her Alyson? Not only do they forget said name, they verbalize the conundrum OUT FREAKING LOUD.
“By golly, this is my sister…. Uh Desiree, or is it Alyson? We’ve called her Desiree all her life, but now she goes by Alyson. Gosh, I don’t know what to call you, Des. What would you like me to call you?”
This all goes down while the total stranger facing me has a fake smile pasted on their face, their eyes are unfocused and they’re wondering what planet they are on. How does this translate to the person I am being introduced to? As the following: This woman is obviously conflicted with serious identity crisis issues. Gosh, I really don’t want to get to know her because this freakizoid can’t even figure out her own name. Geez, do I have to shake her hand? I wonder if touching her will transfer her crazy to me! Crap, what do I do? Smile and nod.
Not to single out just my family on this matter. Frankly, they aren’t the only ones so, to be fair, pretty much every acquaintance I’ve had since FREAKING BIRTH, has this problem. So, to belay any further mishaps in the future…
Hi, my name is Alyson Desiree Peterson. I am a human being (I checked). No, I am not crazy, I am not contagious and I am not conflicted or have an identity issue. Yes, my parents named me Alyson, wrote it on my birth certificate and then decided that it wasn’t annoying enough to confuse people with a normal name and began addressing me by my middle name. Alyson or Desiree? I answer to both.
Pick a name and go with it.