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Friday, January 17, 2014

What's In a Name

This will only make sense if you are the younger of two brothers or sisters.

I have had an identity crisis most of my life.  It’s probably one of the reasons why I thought that acting was a good career choice, albeit one I gave up years ago.   From the time I was in grade school, I really had trouble knowing if someone was talking to me.  This is because I have an older brother.

Now, older brothers are cool, like if you’re Ben Seaver on Growing Pains. And, unfortunately, sometimes they are shits like Wayne Arnold on The Wonder Years.  In any case, I don’t blame my older brother for my identity crisis growing up.  I blame everybody who knew him. 

There is a seven year difference in our ages and even with that gap, people had a hard time reconciling the two of us being different people.  I find this odd, in that we have a definite difference in looks.  We even have different hair color.  His is more brown and was even dirty blonde as a child, while I’ve had dark brown, even almost black since I was a child.  The only similarities in us is our voices and personalities.  We have the same traits that we probably got from our parents.  Yet, it’s odd that people had a hard time telling us apart.

Case in point, Ms. Nancy Jones, our grade school nurse was the biggest offender.  For six years, whenever she saw me in the school, she would call me by my brother’s name.  Sometimes she would catch herself, sometimes she wouldn’t.  When I was about 12, I sensed that she was being facetious as she would wink when she would call me the wrong name, but it was still a thing in my mind.  Even my own parents were guilty of doing it.   I would never know they were calling me, because they were calling me by the wrong name.

The identity issue continued as I followed my brother throughout schools and into graduation.  We even went to the same college, but by then, it was a different problem.   Apparently, there are a lot of me in this world.  None of us are related.  In fact, when I was registering for classes in college, I had another case of mistaken identity when first of all, the admissions office lost my records behind a filing cabinet for three days.  And after it was found, they proceeded to question my class choices, insisting that I should be in the pharmacy program because my father was a big name in the field.  I said, “No, that’s not even the right first name on that file and unless he’s paying for school, he’s not my dad.”  In 2011, when this doppelganger who shared my name died, one of my former  classmates posted a “RIP” message up on Facebook.   He happened to be a former boss and it led to a few of our mutual friends thinking I was dead.  I had to jump in and give the old Monty Python and the Holy Grail quote just to clear things up.

As I approached my 30s, I thought I was finished with the whole naming issue.  I was my own person with my own life.  My brother was his own.   Then, my sister had a son.  Not only did he have a completely different name, he looked nothing like the two of us.  Yet, one day, as I was visiting my parents, I hear my mother yelling out my name as if I had done something wrong.  It turned out she was correcting my nephew and using my name.   And so it began again.

This is why I have a daughter.

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