It’s hyperbole to say, when looking around our very crowded apartment, that I don’t have a lot other than my name. But maybe, when you have a name like mine — that everyone tries to shorten or thinks you made up — it’s easier for it to seem a bigger and more solitary possession.
I haven’t always liked my name. I still don’t always. I got teased for it a lot as a kid (“Do you have a rash?”) and everyone still mispronounces it. Auditions and business meetings invariably begin with explaining to people how they’re getting it wrong and then being all cute and flirty about how I’ll give them three tries to get it right.
And I do give people three tries, before just sighing and resigning myself to all sorts of things that aren’t right but will totally do.
All that before we even get to my last name.
Despite this, the name is more or less here to stay. I went through a whole thing about becoming an Alex (for Alexander) or a Heather (the name I always used on a terrible job when I had to cold call Wall Street execs whom, upon hearing my last name would say, “Oh, like the dog?“) when I joined SAG and then then, once I decided to keep it, never really looked back; I’m not like other girls, so why should my name be? And the deed is done now anyway.
But sometimes it needs saying:
– No, I didn’t change my name.
– No, you can’t call me Rachel; my name doesn’t even sound like that.
– No, it’s not French.
– No, I do not have the falcon.
– No, I am not a dog.
– No, it’s not polite to ask people of Italian descent if they are related to mobsters.
– No, I am not to my knowledge a Maltese princess.
– And yes, I know it’s a handful.
Very few of us get to be in the world in the way we ask to be, and I would have never chosen this name for myself. But it’s still mine, and how I wear it matters even more than what it is.