What’s in a Name?


Names are really a funny sort of thing. Your parents give them to you, so you don’t really have much say in the matter, but you have to deal with whatever name has been given to you for the rest of your life. For me, this has been a bit difficult. See, my mother named me Ryan. And yet I am female. The trouble with this name started on the day that I was born. The nurse who came to get my name, after being told “Ryan Patricia”, put a hard look to my mother and asked her “You ARE aware that you’ve had a girl, right?” to which, of course, she replied Yes. She should’ve known then.

Ever since then, I have gone through a myriad of problems regarding my name. When I was young, it was just kids being evil kids and making fun because Ryan was supposed to be a boys name. I’ve been told that my mother must’ve REALLY wanted a boy, and that’s why she named me that. Then when I moved into Junior High, I had the joy of being placed in boys gym three years in a row. I would always have to go and explain at the office that no, I was not, in fact a boy, and could I please be switched to girls gym. It just baffled me that they couldn’t figure it out by my third year there. There were also people who, after asking my name and me telling them, looked at me funny and asked “Are you sure?” to which I had no other reply than “Are you SERIOUS?”

Then there was high school, which was sort of alright. I had been with a lot of the same kids since 1st grade by then and most people were used to me. I’ve since had some of these people tell me that they were taken aback later in life upon meeting boys named Ryan, because I had been the only Ryan they knew! My breaking point in high school, however, came from a substitute teacher in what was I think my freshman year. He was a sub, so of course, we were all slacking off and goofing around and sitting wherever we wanted. He got fed up with us and insisted we all sit in our assigned seats. He had the delaney book out and once we were all seated correctly, he went through attendance, checking us all off one by one. When he came to me, he looked at me, looked at the card again and said “Ryan E——-?” and I said “here”. He then proceeded to grow thunderclouds for eyebrows and acidly asked me what I was trying to pull. I had no idea what he was talking about and said nothing. He then demanded that I go to my real seat and stop messing around and to tell him what my real name was immediately. I was on the verge of tears from getting yelled at like that and my classmates began to come to my rescue, telling him that Ryan really was my name. He still didn’t believe me. He went so far as to call me up to the front of my class to write my name so he could match the handwriting on the delaney card. With the rest of the class upset with me at this point and shouting at him to leave me alone, he finally told me to go back to my seat and didn’t apologize for being an ass.

I went home furious that day, screaming at my mother, asking her why she thought she had to make an example of me by giving me a weird name. I think that was the first time that I got away with cursing at my mother and not getting slapped, because she saw just how upset I was and that it was because of her that I was so upset. I had carried on so much that she actually agreed to let me legally change my name if I really wanted to. Upon hearing that, I was straight away to Barnes and Noble for a baby name book. I searched and searched and tried on different names. Could I be an Andrea, a Rachel, a Sarah? I walked around, poring over that book for three weeks and couldn’t come up with a single name that I felt better suited to. So I guess I had resigned myself to a life lived a little more difficult than other people.

Now that I’m older, my name issues are still there, but they’re a little more interesting. For instance, when I call my cable company to make changes to my account, they always inquire if they’re speaking with Ryan’s wife. I assure them that no, I am not Ryan’s wife, but Ryan herself. Which often garners profuse apologies which I’m then able to turn into a bargaining chip of some kind. I think I got 3 free months of HBO cause of it once. I’ve been on several interviews in which the first words our of the interviewees mouth is “Oh, I was expecting a man.” And this really baffles me, because I have intentionally put my middle name of Patricia on my resume. I went so far as to point that out to one potential employer and his reply was that he thought it was a typo for Patrick. I really had to hold my tongue then, because I wanted to ask him “And you called me back for an interview even after you thought I spelled my own name wrong?”

The kicker in all this, however, comes when you pair me up with Hungarian Hottie. Her first name is Ildiko, which is a very common Hungarian girls name and is repeatedly butchered by us dumb Americans. It is also often assumed to be a male name due to the O at the end. So imagine my surprise last year when I got a call from the receptionist at my GYN’s office, laughing her head off. HH and I had been in for regular check-ups about a month prior. And my company is nice enough to offer domestic partner benefits so we are on the same health insurance. The receptionist said that they had put in our visit to the insurance and it had come back as rejected because they do not provide GYN services to men. The receptionist and I had already shared a laugh over the name debacle, so it was in good fun that she told me that was the first time they had had a claim rejected for those reasons. And you would not believe the hoops I had to jump through in order to get the insurance company to change our status to women! I had to send birth certificates, licenses, everything short of going down to the office and flashing them my tits and it STILL took them 3 more months to correct everything.

I suppose now that I’m old and wise, I don’t mind my name so much anymore. Considering some of the names that are out there now, a female Ryan is hardly turning heads anymore. But I swear, if I ever hear “Are you sure?” again, heads will roll!

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