What’s my name again?

21 Jun

When she was in Destiny’s Child, Beyonce crooned “Say My Name”.  Michael Jackson’s little sister stormed out of the Jackson 5’s shadow when she boomed, “No, my first name ain’t baby.  It’s Janet…Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.” A person’s name says a lot about them.  You can read a name on a piece of paper and can immediately have some general knowledge about them.  Paco Sanchez, William Witherspoon, Sha’taviqua Moore, Patrick O’Flannigan, Brandy Smith, Ira Ruby…do you see where I’m going here?  But, unless you are Picabo Street, your parents, the state or a medical student with a twisted sense of humor gave the name you have to you.  It’s your name, but it wasn’t your choice.

I was named in honor of my mother’s identical twin sister, Charlotte.  Ours was a close-knit family and even though my Aunt Charlotte lived in another town, she was around a lot.  And if she wasn’t staying with us, she was on the phone with my mom several times a day.  When my mother would say “Charlotte”, she was usually talking to her sister.  This was confusing to me.  I’d hear my name then go trotting into the room where my mom was, only to be shooed away and told, “No, not you.”

Another problem with the name Charlotte, besides it being a hand-me-down, is that it is long.  In elementary school you had to write your name on the provided line on any ditto sheet you were given.  My name could never neatly fit on name:­­­­­­­­­­­____________    And finding a key chain or fridge magnet at a souvenir shop with “Charlotte” in puffy letters was never going to happen.  Girls named Kim, Lisa or Beth didn’t have these kind of problems.  Lucky.  Oh, what else?  Well, there was the crazy portrayal by Bette Davis as the title character in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte.  Iron Maiden had a song called “Charlotte the Harlot”, which was part of a series known as the Charlotte saga.  Just what every girl longs to hear: songs about a dumb whore with her same name.

When I transferred schools in the sixth grade it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give my name a tune up.  No one knew me there, so on that first day when all of the teachers handed out index cards for you to write down your 411 stuff, I filled in the space of “name you are called” as Ann.  It was so liberating and short.  Ann Hall.  It would fit anywhere.  Only four different letters.  And I could be associated with Annie Hall…that was so much cooler than crazy Sweet Charlotte rocking and clutching a music box in a dark bedroom.  Changing schools was going to turn out to be the best thing ever.

After about six weeks into middle school, my homeroom teacher made a call to my mother that brought it all crashing down.  “Mrs. Randall (we had different last names…furthering the name confusion and complications), this is Mrs. Margenson from East Cobb…No, she’s doing very well in her classes…Making friends?  Yes…But the reason for my call…there has been a lot of absences.  Mrs. Randall, does Ann have a problem, is there something that we should know about?”  Stunned silence.  Then my mother asked, “Who?  Is?  Ann?”

Yeah, I hadn’t bothered telling my family about my name change.  I knew that my mom would be pissed and the rest of them would tease me mercilessly.  This switcheroo was mine and they didn’t need to be involved.  So, it turns out that because I had absolutely no experience with being called just Ann, and no association with it outside of school, I wasn’t perking up at the name.  Teachers had noticed, and discussed in the teacher’s lounge that Ann clearly had an issue.  Ann never responded when she was called on in class unless she was being looked at directly.   Ann never turned around in the hallway when classmates called after her.  Ann seemed kinda spacey.  Ann was counted absent a lot because she never responded with “present” during class roll calls.  Maybe Ann was deaf.  Turns out, Ann didn’t know her name.  This made Ann feel retarded.

I was right.  My mom was furious.  And my brothers and step-dad thought it was hilarious.  So, on mother’s orders I had to go back to school and tell everyone that my name was really Charlotte Ann, but they could just call me Charlotte.  Back to Sweet Charlotte crazy land.  Great.

After I graduated from college I did what most English majors do…I went to work at the family business.  I didn’t do the other English major venue, law school, for another couple of years.  Some of the younger or more recent hires that had not really met “the family” were greatly confused about who I was if I wasn’t “that Charlotte”, my aunt.  When I talked to people on the phone they would ask, “Now, which Charlotte are you?  You’re Frank’s daughter, right?”  Even though my Aunt Charlotte had never actually worked at any of the plants, her name was known to all.  So, I pulled Ann back out, dusted her off and and tacked her back on.  Problem solved.

As an adult, I’ve learned to sign my name in a series of swoops and swirls that can fit on a small line.  Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte hasn’t been seen by anyone in years.  The Cure wrote “Charlotte Sometimes”, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions have “Charlotte Street” and Julian Cope released “Charlotte Anne”.  They mitigate the Iron Maiden thing.  Nowadays I get called all sorts of names: Charlotte, Charlotte Ann, Mommy, Hey You, Miss Lady, Hall’s Mom…I’m an adult now and I don’t really care either way.  I know who I am.  That’s not true, entirely.  I’m over people calling me Charlene.

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3 Responses to “What’s my name again?”

  1. katie June 22, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    Didn’t some guy accuse of you of pretending that your name was Charlotte because of “Charlotte Sometimes”? I recall this being said at a gas station, but I could be wrong. Glad you’re back Hotdamncharlotteann!

  2. kim June 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    I love your name! I may have had a license plate for the back of my bike, but I never sounded regal like you! So glad you all are back and everyone is doing well.

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