11 March 2008

You can't call me "Al."

As a girl bearing what is pretty much universally recognized as a masculine name (despite whatever my dad attests to), I've dealt with some crap. Not necessarily as much as, say, a boy named "Sue" would run into, but a decent helping. Such as being stuck with male roommates in college - on two separate occasions. Not being on the list for girls' gym class - every year - and having to walk down to the main office to get the bureaucracy straightened out so that the lumbering symbol of irony - the overweight gym teacher - didn't have to. Inevitably, I'd end up getting stuck in something lame like badminton - before it was actually fun to play badminton (see: college). Being called every form of "Alexandra," as well as "Alice" and "Allie" (oh, how I hate "Allie"), though that is a pretty much a universal gripe for everyone with the name "Alec." I just happen to have the double whammy of a relatively uncommon name in combination with it being a masculine name.

So catching this article in the NY Times today was something of a relief - though the article focuses on the other side of the gender equation - guys with women's names. I've asked my parents many - MANY - times why they chose "Alec," and never really got a straight answer. My dad says it's partially because he knew "more than one" female Alec who was apparently kickass enough to name spawn after. I find this story to be rather dubious. My mom has said, "I wanted to name you 'Obi Wan Kenobi' but dad shot me down, so we went with 'Alec'... as in 'Alec Guinness.'" I am actually less skeptical about this story than I am the one concerning female Alecs roaming the southern New England area in the 70's.

What I've noticed over the years, perhaps surprisingly, is that guys are more likely to say my name properly on the first try, and to spell it correctly, as well. They rack up even more awesome points if they say something like "cool" after hearing my name (which happened just last week - thanks, Borders bookstore guy.) With women, I usually have the following conversation...

Random lady: Ok, what's your name?
Alec: It's Alec... A-L-E-C.
RL: Alex?
A: No - Alec. A-L-E-C.
RL: A-L-E-X?
A: With a "C."
RL: A-L-E-C-K?

I can't tell you how many times that exchange has taken place. Where did the "K" come from? Throwing it in for some flavor? It's not like it's an Eastern European name with Cyrillic characters or has silent letters just sitting, waiting to screw you up. It's four letters. It's the name of not only of classically trained, tragically deceased actor Sir Guinness, but of the best Baldwin, as well.

The best Baldwin!

The name has brought me some good luck - if the woman in housing at SACI hadn't stuck me with that random guy (oh, Soheil), I would have never ended up at the Buf, and probably wouldn't have made friends with Alex and Eryn and definitely wouldn't have made friends with Rachel since we didn't share any classes... it's weird to think how much would be different in my life if I was an "Emily" or a "Sara." I believe that everyone is shaped by their name, certainly - but mine has practically run my life at points - for better or for worse.

I have met a guy Alec before. He had a bit of an existential/gender crisis upon meeting me, but I'm sure he's fine since I explained that, no, his name is not a girl's name; my name is the boy's name. I've always wondered what would happen if I met another female Alec... we could swap stories and demented versions of our name... but then, having this name is sort of my thing. I kind of hate it... but it's mine...

There can only be one Highlander.


Eryn said...

awesome post.....as usual! i'm trying to think back to my reaction of meeting you for the first time. although, i think i was told about you before i met you. so i'm sure i didn't mention anything about a "k" or another "alex."

i kind of shot myself in the foot when i started spelling my name with a 'y.' my dad still refuses to this day to spell it that way. and the fact that it's not legally spelt that way begs for even more questions. i thought it was cool when i was younger, but when legal paperwork gets involved it's sooooooo annoying. i hate having to spell with an 'i' on those occassions, insisting that that is not who i am now.

anywho, because you're my one and only......alec. i now associate the name with an awesome female.......if anything it's androgynous in my book.

your name rocks!

Alec said...

I remember when I first met you in the Boston airport - you were with A-Town and I think Finkhousen. I excuse you however, because you were very hyper and A-Town had taken some sort of anti-queasy meds.

You are the only ErYn I know. And, of course, the most rockin. Soon enough you will be Eryn and not Er(i/y)n. Though if you wanted to start a singing career, I recommend that as a moniker.

My dad would be happy to know that you now associate the name with female awesomeness... he'd say "see? THAT'S why we gave you the name!" Something about changing people's preconceived notions... Thus adding to the impressive list of possible reasons why on earth they chose the name.

But thank you, my dove of gelato - your opinion matters to me more than just about anyone!

Eryn said...

awww you're so um....awesome.

anywho, sorry to bust your bubble but i never flew through boston on the way to SACI (the school of wonders) i went through JFK with the non-social travel crowd. I do believe the first time i met you was either in the buf or somewhere in the musty halls of SACI.

what was i doing in your memory in boston?

hahaha, did you ever hear how they messed up Fink's tickets and he was stuck in boston for 4 days before heading to italy?

it's a marvelous tale!

Alec said...

You are freaking kidding me... WHO was that then? I must have projected you onto that memory because it seemed so wrong for you NOT to be there. Even in that memory, you didn't say anything, so it must have been fabricated - because I definitely would have remembered what you said... because you're magic.

But this means that neither of us know when we first met, ergo, there is a giant gap in the space-time continuum of our love story... Maybe being back in the streets of Flo-town will jog our collective memory.

And I don't remember ever hearing about Fink's FOUR day lay-over. I bet it is a marvelous tale!

Melissa said...

i'm wondering if that was me in boston, although i think i would have remembered an encounter with both a-towns at once - after all, doesn't your mind overdose on awesome and subsequently explode when that happens? - but i met alex in detroit and then we met up with fink in boston, and i DID in fact hear the tragic story of the 4-day layover. hmmm. this is all very odd.

...am i hyper? i would not have guessed. i show enthusiasm for very little.

Melissa said...

AND, i had no idea that eryn's name was legally spelled with an 'i'. how sassy are you now?!?!? sassy with a capital 'Y' of course. who thinks i should add a double L to further confuse everyone who seems to find my relatively normal name so difficult to spell? or just officially change it to maluso to really shake things up?

Alec said...

It was YOU. Holy Helen.

Ok, that makes sense.

And yet I still have an overwhelming sense of guilt regarding forgetting whose awesome presence I completely transmogrified in my brain.

And go for another "L" - hell, make it two more. And throw in a silent "J" just for kicks.

Normally I would support the "Maluso" system, but I feel that it's a privilege, not a right.