Names

My mom tells this story about the day I was born. I don’t know if it’s true, but I assume my mom lies only if it’s necessary – “I didn’t get your email” or “I never saw that text” kind of stuff – not about my birth.

The story goes something like this:

She wasn’t sure if I was a boy or girl, (while in her womb, not after I was born). She knew that if I was going to be a girl, my name would be Molly. If I was a boy, however, she was leaning towards the name John Michael…clearly hoping I would be a country music singer or a rodeo clown.

When I was born, the doctor pulled me out and proclaimed, “It’s a Molly.” The story has been told to me at least 473 times.

“It’s a Molly.”

“Michelle” was the name I wanted.  It sounded right.  It was simple and normal.  There were Michelle’s around.  I didn’t know any, but they were there. Out there. Living a normal life.

“Molly,” on the other hand, was old-fashioned and different.  And it was never “Molly.”  It was “Holly” or “Mary” or “What?”.  Never just “Molly.”

I decided on my name change early.  Not three or four, but early—maybe eight or nine.  My parents were still married.  We were still living in our house.

I was standing in front of the dark brown, built-in bookcase in our “formal” living room that no one ever sat in, and “Michelle” came to me.  I had been deciding on an encyclopedia (we had a full set) and the name suddenly struck me as right.  I don’t remember which volume I settled on (or if I even settled on a volume or why I was settling on an encyclopedia to begin with) because I had just decided I was going to change my name.  From now on I would be…wait for it…Michelle.

I do remember going to the mirror in the bathroom on our side of the house and getting up on the counter, a wiry eight or nine-year-old, and saying it over and over: “Hi, my name is Michelle.”

I studied myself in the mirror.

My eyes were big.  Very big.  And brown.  My hair unruly.  And brown.  I might have been fifty pounds by then, but I covered myself in oversized t-shirts stolen from my mom’s closet—a fashion of the times that happened to also fit my personality.  Did I mention that I was abnormally wiry?  My arms and legs were these appendages attached to my body but somehow of their own mind.  I was not a fan of how I looked.

But, after my name change, suddenly it was OK.  I could look exactly as I did, but at least with a “normal” name it would be bearable.

To be gangly and have a name like “Molly” was a cruel joke.

No one knew my new name, but every time someone called me by my “given” name, I would silently correct them. Defiantly, I would utter, “My name is Michelle.”

Today, marks my 34th year – the last year, in fact, that I’m closer to 30 than 40. If time worked backwards. It doesn’t.

Growing older doesn’t bother me. My friends, many of whom are older than me, say that it will. Perhaps. Currently, it doesn’t.

Today, I feel pretty comfortable as a Molly. I may be doomed to have a 4-year-olds name for the rest of my life, but I’m pretty comfortable with it. And while I know some pretty stellar Michelles (and even a couple of awesome Micheles), I’ll leave their name to them.

I’m a Molly, and I’m OK with that.

 

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