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Monday, January 27, 2014

Name Calling

I always hated my name when I was a little kid.  Mary.  How boring.

I remember Big Mare telling me how hard she prayed, just so that she could have children.  She said novenas to St. Jude and got pregnant with my sister, Judy.  The next time she wanted to have a baby, she went straight to the Blessed Mother. And that was her absurd reason for why I was called Mary.  It had nothing to do with the fact that her name was Mary, and my folks weren't particularly imaginative.

By the time I'd gotten to the sixth grade, I had moved on to other reasons for which to hate my mother.  One day at recess in the schoolyard, a few kids were talking about a young lady in another class; her name was Robyn.  The only other Robins I'd ever heard of were Batman's sidekick and the second least attractive BeeGee.  Both were dudes.   Besides, this new girl spelled her name with a y. The whole thing sounded highly implausible.

I went home to my mom and told her what I'd overheard.  "That can't be her real name," she said.  "All children are named after saints."

When this recklessly identified female child finally made her way into my homeroom, I got the chance to examine her more closely.  She looked pretty normal, I guess.  Except that she had braces all over her teeth.  I automatically assumed that Robyn's family must be incredibly rich. Her nails were unusually long as well, especially on her thumbs.  And they were painted dark brown.  I wasn't even aware that Woolworth's made such a color!  Some girls said they were fake, but they looked pretty real to me.  At that point, I didn't know who or what to believe.  Almost overnight, it seemed everything about the world was changing, right down to the nail polish.  Robyn also looked like she knew her way around a curling iron.  "She must be from another country," I decided.

Upon closer inspection, I observed that Robyn with a y did, indeed, speak English. Very well, I might add.  Just about as good as the rest of us.  "If she is from Europe or wherever, maybe she really wants to make like she's from the Bronx," I thought to myself.  Hey, who wouldn't?

Like everything else that takes a little getting used to, I got used to Robyn.  She was a sweet little thing.  My fascination with her origin was replaced in the seventh grade by a Puerto Rican girl named Wanda Cordero.  Wanda sat in front of me in Sr. Rosemary's Spanish class.  She knew plenty of Spanish already, before the teacher even opened her mouth.  And she sounded alot more real about it, too. "How could she be Spanish?" I wondered. "Her hair is so blonde."


I promptly went home and asked my mother.

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