Finally, not alone in my name

Originally posted in the Moxie section of the Post & Courier on December 31, 2010.

I love Facebook. It’s not because I found a millionaire husband, or a long-lost brother, or anything as romantic as that. It is because I found several women named Doretha. Of course, I do not expect anyone with names such as Ann, Mary, Linda, Jane, Amanda, Susan or Pam to understand.

Let me explain. I spent my childhood not being able to buy the preprinted bike license plates, pens, pencils or anything else that people with commonly given names had access to. That felt like pure discrimination to me. I cannot tell you how many times I cried wishing my name were something simple and one that other little girls shared. 

Yes, I wondered what my parents were thinking when they named me. Later, they told me I was named after a college friend. I still felt tortured. I cannot tell you how many times I correct, recorrect and finally ignore people who say my name wrong.
I can tell you how many times I have hugged people when they pronounce it right the irst time. When I found out that my mother’s father was half-American Indian and her maiden name was Bridgewater, I secretly called myself Missouri Bridgewater. Missouri was my dad’s grandmother.
Yes, I know that name is different, but at least it was recognizable and, more importantly, pronounceable. I thought that when I became rich and famous, people would say, “Here comes Missouri Bridgewater.”

They would call me by my first and last names, just like Sophia Loren, and I would be just as unforgettable. If I were to be the only one of something, at least I would have a really cool name. When I decided that I wanted to be a writer, my pen name changed to Raven Jay. And for the life of me, I cannot remember why. Oh, well.
Facebook has changed my attitude about my name. OK, not really. I have made peace with my name now. After all, I am almost a half-century old, and my name has followed me throughout the years when many so-called friends have not. I am even better at not rolling my eyes or making a face when someone butchers my name the first time. I will admit that I am not so polite the third time.

What Facebook has done is allow me to connect with sistergirlfriends with the same name! I found five Doretha Walkers and sent friend requests to all of them. One of them lives in Alaska, and her grandfather is the image on the tails of the Alaska Airlines planes. I know there is a story there, which hopefully I will explore at a later date.

I found at least 30 other Dorethas with different last names. I sent requests to most of them and now have more than 20 Dorethas as friends.

So they are not friends in the sense that we know each other, but we share a common bond: our name. Many have expressed delight in finding someone else with the same name.

We all understand the isolation of being the only one, of people mispronouncing our name, of not being able to buy the all-important bicycle license plate that most other children owned. We get it. We have to get it or live in misery, or change our names. I admit that the only reason I did not change my name is because I did not know I could.

I cannot explain what it felt like to be connected to what I now call the Sistergirlfriend Society of Dorethas. Even my mother looked at me strange when I told her. Her name is Joyce: How could she understand? Plus, my sister’s name is Lysandra. Go figure.

No matter, the Dorethas (I have never ever been able to say that) are discussing meeting so that we can actually say we know someone with the same name.

It’s a small thing, but for those of us who have felt like name outcasts, it is a thing of beauty. I am not sure what this will mean to me later in my life, but right now I am working on the secret handshake.

 

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