You were born with THAT name?
"You were born with that name?" This is the question I get after I introduce myself with what has been my full, legal name for many years now... Beautiful Existence.
Now there is always an ackward pause after their question... one usually combined with a glassy-eyed distance look that begs for more explaination. So I often find myself giving my elevator speech of WHY this is my name.
"No, I was not born with that name, and No, my parents were not hippies. I changed it after I divorced an abusive man, making a statement for how I wanted to live the rest of my life and hopefully what I could help inspire in others."
This is when it gets interesting...
Never would a person have a better understanding of social conditioning than to have a name that defies normal english language convention. And NEVER on top of that would this person understand the doors that open up for other human beings simply by having and SAYING such a name. My name is a social experiment as much as it's my life's dedication. Let me explain the science of our names that I've become accustomed to...
In a room filled with visitors that know me by my nickname in the office, Bella, I approach the podium. I was asked to speak to the room by my Executive Director about what I do at our office, and I (of course) start my speech with an introduction of my full, legal name... Beautiful Existence. I leave the podium and am met immediately by a female client who starts speaking to me about her life-long obsession with a name that she felt she was born to have. Which by the way is NOT the name her parents gave her. I politely listen in on her past 40 years of verbal torment and simply reply with an "it's okay to change your name, it's easy!". She looks at me in amazement; like I just opened up the clouds of heaven and allowed her to fulfill a hole in her soul with my words of acknowledgement. Her eyes glossed in a dream-like state, she is smiling with a level of pure joy that not many people get to see from strangers very often, except me, I see this look a LOT. I excuse myself and walk toward the back of the room to grab a beverage when an older man approaches me and jokingly says "So your name is really Beautiful Existence?" (like I havn't heard that line before) Again, without any prompting on my part, he starts in with the annoyed but nervous opposite end of the spectrum questioning... "Are your parents hippies?" "What was your name before?" "What are your children's names?" I know by now how to douse this fire, I give my elevator -abusive husband- speal and that's that. They stand there, unsure how to respond to a formerly abused woman, and I have a quick get-away line finalized with a warm smile. I take my drink and move away to a quite spot in the room.
After all these years and all these people, I know most of the common approaches by now. It is the ones that have caught me off-guard that I'm constantly on the look-out for. The ones that will leave an impression on my soul when I am old, all because I changed my name. Like the younger, college student who was tattooed and peirced beyond recognition that scorned my "obscure approach to getting attention"... or the elderly homeless woman on the bus that told me that my name is the "most beautiful thing she's heard in quite sometime". And of course we have my parents. The people that named me, the people that gave a name to the first half of my life. The same two people that refuse to acknowledge my name even now and go so far as to criticize it to the friends or family members that made the switch to the new me years ago. I understand their attachement, it is after all engrained into our society for parents to hold the naming rights for our children just because they are our off-spring. But I still wonder every once in awhile if my parents will ever say it?
I'm often asked if my boys would want to change their names in the future if I would let them. I simply answer "it is THEIR name afterall, let them define who they are." And I honestly believe it. Why do only parents get the entire naming rights of other human beings just because they birthed/adopted them? I mean really... why are our names our names? Where do they come from and (more importantly ) WHERE are our names taking us?
You were born with THAT name? Sometimes I have found that the easiest thing to do is just to say "Yes". And let them take it where they want to from there.