I Used to Hate My Name (Allie)

ImageThat face we make when someone yells our full name.

What did I do? What did I forget? Did I make a mess somewhere and forget to clean it up? Laundry. Did I leave a load in there? Dishes?

My entire life, right up until late last year, I hated my name. My first is Alexandra. First of all, everyone always wants to add a phantom “i” in there and make me into the capitol of Egypt. Do I look like I’m from Africa? *window toss* Secondly, my middle name is Ilene. Right. No “Ei”, simply “I”. Naturally, that gets misspelled all the time too. Alexandra Ilene. My last name is very typically English, but for some reason, I always have to spell that out for people too! Going to the DMV is a terror, or reciting my information to someone writing down my name. It’s almost as bad as trying to verbalize an email address.

But the difficulty of the spelling isn’t what made me dislike it. Nor was it how it sounded, or looked, or felt on the tongue. I grew up with my grandparents in a tiny town in central-ish Texas, on a farm on the outskirts. Population: 1300. One stoplight. We didn’t even have a McD’s or a Wally-world. Just a Chicken Express and a couple gas stations, a friendly feed shop, and a nursing home. My grandfather was VERY politically active. IS very politically active, I should say. My grandmother was the resident peace-keeper; she never said a word against anyone. Since they are adamant Christians, I was made to wear skirts that fell below my knees until I was 17 years old. (That’s when I high-tailed it out of Texas.) My grandfather had anger management issues and would often lash out at us, yelling and verbally abusing us. Calling us stupid and idiotic and dumb. I was never once treated like my opinion mattered, or like I was allowed to even have one. My grandmother and I spent all our time in the kitchen, cooking meals for the men, or cleaning the house. Men were superior, and women didn’t matter. I still struggle some days when I’m asked what I think about something; I want to shrink away and say I don’t have an opinion. But it all comes down to this: when we would go anywhere, I was fondly introduced as “Alexandra, my granddaughter” and when we were home, that same name was used to put me down, to shove my personality into the mud. My grandmother stood by, watching, and not saying a word. Her middle name is Ilene. I struggled with disgust for her for a long, long time, and only recently began to understand that she is doing what she thinks is Biblically sound: sticking by her husband and being a Proverbs 31 woman of virtue. Being named after her was a thorn in my side my entire life.

But now, I have a different view of my name.

When someone asks me what it is, I respond with “Alexandra,” because I want to own who I am inside that name. The parameters that I felt surrounded my moniker was self-inflicted. I only hated my name because I felt that, even after I left Texas and struck out on my own, it was the one tie I had to them. When I would say “Alexandra,” I would hear my grandfather. When someone asked me my middle name, I would see my grandmother, standing by as I was riddled with insults or yelled at for something I didn’t do.

Then one day, Justin said my name was beautiful. He said that when he hears it, he thinks of me, and who I am, and how much he loves me. I laid in bed after receiving that text and thought, am I the only one who feels this way about my name? A few months later, Justin and I went to visit my aunt Halcyon in Johnson City, Texas. Halcy reminded me, in an off-hand manner, that Sophie, one of her little girls (technically my cousin, but more like a niece to me) was named after me. Sophie Alexandra. It hit me that I wanted to be the best Alexandra anyone had ever known. I wanted her to be named after someone she admired, someone who owned who she was.

So I am proud to say, after a few months of coming to terms with it, my name is Alexandra Ilene, and I’m proud to be who I am.

Knack it up.


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2 Responses to I Used to Hate My Name (Allie)

  1. I enjoy hearing / reading any name that is out of the ordinary, because I have a super-common first and last name. When I was growing up, there were 4-6 other “Mikes” in every class at school. I never felt like much of an individual until people started giving me unusual nicknames. “Sparky” was my favorite.

    Your name is and always was terrific. I’m glad you learned to like it.

    • J & A says:

      I hadn’t thought about it from the other side: having a common name might be more stressful than a weird name or an awkwardly spelled name!! Thanks for the like, and stick around, Sparky. 🙂 -Allie

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