Auditioning Names

One of the coolest things about my life is that I am in a position to choose a new name. My entire life has consisted of me trying on new names in my imagination and in the stories I create in my head. I always took naming very seriously for the kids, and I think I take it that seriously for me.

Growing up, I was very ashamed of my last name. It was weird and it was something my grandfather was proud of. My father is named after him and the expectation was that if my father had a son, he would name him the same name. When my mom had a miscarriage and then I was born female, he told my father that he had destroyed his chances to have a boy. My grandfather was also proud of his racism and his family’s long legacy of racism. So fuck that name. When I got married, I was eager to change it. And now that I have the kids, I find myself not wanting to change my last to be different from theirs and also because I really feel like I am part of this family. No one made me feel unwelcome after the divorce. We were all very clear that we are still family and that is meaningful to me.

My first name…it sucks. It has always sucked for me. But then it was turned into a meme and it’s been even worse for me. I cannot wait to change it. My middle name was just ok, way too girly, but not as terrible as my first name. My first name makes me cringe when I hear it. At therapy, I don’t have to hear it anymore and I put down a preferred name for the VA recently. I think I am going to start doing that everywhere there is an option.

As a little kid, I tried out Sam, Simon, Timmy, and something else. I named all of my stuffed animals Timmy or Sam unless they came with their own name. I remember hiding behind my dresser with a pencil and writing Timmy over and over again as small as possible. I so wanted to be Timmy at school, at home, and everywhere I went. I don’t think I ever asked anyone to call me any of these, except my brother when we played pretend. He always chose a different name for our pretend games too. I don’t ever remember him judging me or thinking that it was strange that I wanted to be a boy. For that I will always be grateful. He was the only person I was open with about wanting a new name and we even called ourselves brothers for a long time.

As an adult, I spent a lot of time thinking about names for the kids. I liked crazy, girly names when we were making girl name lists, and strong names for the boys. My parents never wanted me to have a name that gave options for a nickname, which maybe would have helped me like my terrible name even a little bit. I wasn’t worried about that with the kids’ names. Nickname or not, I didn’t care what they wanted to call themselves. I still don’t care. I think it might be a little hard for me if they decided to change their names but I wouldn’t tell them that. It would be my problem and I don’t want to to put that on them. I tried to choose names that were well thought out and not something that lent itself to jokes or teasing. But if they feel the name doesn’t fit who they are, it does not fit. I will not get that same understanding from my parents. I will get a sob story and denial of my feelings. But that’s ok. Part of why I haven’t told them about me is because I am not ready for their bad reaction. Sure I am assuming it will be bad, but I don’t really see it going well at all.

I have spent the last year auditioning names. I tried out the old Timmy, Sam, and Simon but none of those felt right. I tried Tobias (Toby) but that didn’t feel right. I tried Lazarus and Laslo but those ended quickly. Then I thought about more formal names. Alexander, William, Andrew. Meh. None of those felt right either.

And then one day I thought about Zander. Xander or Zander? I definitely like the Z better. It feels more like me. I had considered Xavier for one of the boys and I couldn’t get myself past the Ex-avier pronunciation. I don’t want that for myself either. Zander is obviously not Ex-ander. And the Z just fits me and my personality. It doesn’t necessarily fit my age and the typical names around that time period but I do not care. After enduring what might possibly be one of the worst names ever, I want to choose my own name that feels right to me. Not my generation, not what someone else would choose for me, but what I want.

My criteria was that the name had to stay in my head for 30 days, with no doubts or me deciding that it just didn’t fit. Zander was the first name that made it past the 30 days. It’s actually at almost 10 months now, so I know it’s the right one. My therapist calls me that and my wife says it sometimes. It just fits me, I know it does. I can’t wait until it’s really my name!!

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