‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
— Juliet, in Hamlet (Act II, Scene II), by William Shakespeare*
Today’s Writing Group prompt: Write about your name. What does it mean to you? What do you think it means to others? If you could change it, would you? To what?
This is kind of funny. My name, Melanie, means “dark one” or “clad in black.” When I first learned this, I was probably 10 or 11. I got so pissed. “Dark one?” My brother’s name, Nathaniel, means “gift from God.” What the actual fuck? I was totally put out about this in a way that only an 11-year-old can be. Now I don’t care, of course. Although I like this bit, which I just discovered: “[Melanie] was the name of a Roman saint who gave all her wealth to charity in the 5th century. Her grandmother was also a saint with the same name.” Since my middle name is my Mimi‘s name, Diane, I dig this. Also, I’m big in Austria.
In high school, I only knew one other Melanie. She was not that awesome (and I say that not because I am so awesome, but because she ended up marrying a friend of mine long after high school – a friend who did not go to school with us to know better – and seriously fucked him up. They’re divorced now.). Even now, I don’t personally know any other Melanies, and I like it that way. There aren’t even that many famous people named Melanie. Melanie Griffith, of course. Both Spice Girls named Mel. Melanie Lynskey (“You have a baby! In a bar!”). Apparently I also missed my calling as an Olympian.
Somewhere I have a piece of paper on which my biological mother (supposedly) doodled various names while she was pregnant with me. I can’t remember what’s on there, but I think Melissa, for sure. I know my dad once told me that there was a time he wanted to name me Rhiannon, after the Fleetwood Mac song (“And then she is the darkness”). I think I might have dodged a bullet, although I love the idea of being named after a song.
Would I ever change my name? No. I had enough angst over changing my last name when I got married. So much so that I actually legally adopted my maiden name as my middle name (I pass it off as a Southern thing, but really, I couldn’t bear to part with my father’s name). I can’t imagine changing my first name; it’s making me shudder to think about it. Except for people at work, no one really calls me Melanie, though. Nearly everyone calls me Mel. My niece and nephew call me Mel-mel (at least for a little while longer; I don’t think I’m going to be able to handle it when they stop). Mimi calls me Melly. My dad often calls me Begonia (I . . . don’t know, but I love it). David calls me baby. They all fit, and I wouldn’t change any of them.
* As if there could be any other quote to start this post.