The Name and the Person

Growing up, I disliked my name. It’s a 1970’s-era “J name” — like Jennifer, Jessica, Julie, and Jason. It was partly inspired by the Scream Queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, who starred in Halloween in 1978, the year I was born.

Since Jamie is often a boy’s name, I got Boys’ Life magazine ads and Boy Scout fliers in the mail. On the first day of 7th grade, my homeroom teacher met me with an “oh!,” and said he was surprised I was a girl. These things greatly offended younger me.

My mother chose a cute, trendy name for a critical, contrarian child. I could only see the contradictions in Jamie the name: an androgynous name for a feminine girl; a plain name that has four or more different spellings; a common name that people misread as Janice and mishear as Janie.

My middle name was no better in my opinion. It is my mother’s maiden name, a last name. I would have liked a “real” middle name like Jamie Lynn or Jamie Lee, like Ms. Curtis.

When given my own chance to name a person, I bought a book called 1000 Names for Your Baby. I poured over this book, dog-earring pages and underlining hundreds of names throughout the long summer I was pregnant. I would say names out loud as I came across them. My husband agreed with every name I said. We weren’t really choosing, just dreaming.

We planned to meet the baby before naming her. Born on a Friday night, she remained nameless for hours, into the following day. We had the book, we had our dog-ears, but no name. We repeated this pattern when our second girl arrived on a Monday two years later. There may have been too many choices (I mean, there were 1000).

In the end, the girls’ names resulted from coincidence. The fog of indecision around Baby #1 was cleared by Ruby, the receptionist who checked us into the hospital. Her name was dog-eared in 1000 Names. With Baby #2, a very nice nurse leaned over me, and her nametag — Claire — dangled above my eyes. Claire was already underlined.

There are a lot of reasons to choose a name: trend, tradition, creativity. I think the success of the name lies in the interaction between the name and the person. Often, this interaction is so smooth, it barely seems to exist. For me, for my own angsty reasons, the interaction between Jamie the name and Jamie the person is still under construction.

Still, my outlook on Jamie the name has improved. I have a good friend named Jamie; a wonderful former student named Jami; and a male friend named Jamey. I even have a neice whose middle name, James, is inspired by mine. It seems coincidence may surround my name as well: with Jamie the name, my mother supplied 40 years’ worth of material for questioning, analysis, and over-thinking to a-more-than-willing critical and contrarian Jamie the person.

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