Do you like your name?

Growing up, I hated my name. Mom said she named me Roxanne after some relatively unknown actress from the early fifties whose moniker caught her fancy. When you’re young, you want nothing more than to fit in, and my name stood out. I longed to be an Ann or a Mary. Ugh.

Kids would tease me, spelling my name “Rock-Sand.” On Romper Room, Miss Jo’s magic mirror never spotted me in the viewing audience. I could never find a miniature license plate for my bike – or any type of premade personalized item – with my name on it. It just didn’t seem fair.

I didn’t meet anyone else with the name Roxanne until I was in my twenties. By then, however, I was coming around to the advantages of having a “different” name. It was memorable. It set me apart. It got me attention.

For example, my first job out of college was at a small Boston PR agency. My duties included calling local media to solicit coverage for our clients’ events and programs. One day, I called Robert J. Lurtsema, host of the well-known “Morning Pro Musica” classical music show on WGBH, Boston’s leading public radio station. When I introduced myself, he began to quote from Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” delivering lines – in his sonorous radio voice – that Cyrano said to Lady Roxane (Rostand’s spelling). To a rube from Maine fresh out of college, it was a swoon-worthy experience.

Then came the 1978 Police song “Roxanne.” The first time I heard it was when my clock radio alarm clicked on one weekday morning and Sting was screaming my name. Talk about a wakeup call. And wouldn’t you know:

Finally a song
about Roxanne – and she’s a
hooker. Just my luck.

The next decade brought the June 1987 release of the movie “Roxanne” with Steve Martin – a modern take on the Cyrano de Bergerac story. I kinda liked seeing my name (spelled correctly this time) on movie posters and TV ads.

Then, in 1995, my name made headlines the world over when Hurricane Roxanne hit. Some favorites: “Roxanne sinks barge off Mexico,” “Mexicans sigh in relief after Roxanne,” “Tourists flee coast in Roxanne’s path” and “Relentless Roxanne.” Who knew I was so powerful?

There’s been quite a bit of research done on the impact a name has on a child’s life. Here are some of the findings over the years:

  • Early studies found that men with uncommon first names were more likely to drop out of school and be lonely later in life (good thing I’m a woman).
  • One study found that psychiatric patients with more unusual names tended to be more disturbed (good thing I’m not a psychiatric patient).
  • More recent work suggests that wealthy, oddly named Americans are more likely to find themselves in Who’s Who (good thing I’m not wealthy).
  • In other research, children with a deviant spelling of a common name tended to have slowed spelling and reading capabilities (good thing Mom didn’t name me Maerie or some other odd variation of “Mary”).
  • And one sociologist says children with unusual names may benefit from being teased about their names by learning to control their emotions or impulses, which is a great skill for success (you might disagree if you saw the profanity-laced fits I pitch when my computer acts up).

At this age, my name is simply part of who I am. And it’s not even that different anymore. On meeting me, some people comment that they think the name is cool. Some break into song, screeching a falsetto “Rox-anne,” a la Sting, which I think is kinda cool.

But the best response yet was when I recently got a note from my six-year-old grandson addressed to “Rocksan.” Today, that misspelling doesn’t bother me in the least. Because I know who I am. And being a grandma rocks.

What about you? Did you like your name when you were growing up? Have you changed your first name as you’ve gotten older? Please share…



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15 thoughts on “Do you like your name?”

  1. You probably know this already, but the original person who had your name was “Roxana,” who was the first wife of Alexander the Great and the mother of his son. She was a natural politician. When Alex decided to exercise his right to have more than one wife, Roxana was pretty pissed, not to mention scared. After Alex died, she had the 2nd wife, who was pregnant with Alexander’s second child, killed. Roxana thought she had gotten away with it, and was probably surprised when, several years later, she and her son were both killed, too.

    In those days, it didn’t pay to have ambitions.

  2. My name is Kathryn, and my given nickname was “Kitty.” You can imagine the ribbing I took from my fellow kindergarteners. When I started First Grade, I demanded that my mother make the teachers call me Kathryn, and she did. At home, though, I was still Kitty, and my family still calls me that.

    The funny thing is, I love animals and my last three pets have been cats!

    1. It’s always interesting to hear how people’s nicknames came about…and we’re SO sensitive to the teasing when we’re that young. I’m assuming none of your cats has been named Kitty?

      1. So far I have had three cats (one at a time) and they have been named Juliet, Oliver and Harmony.

        I adopted Juliet and Oliver from vet’s offices, where they were being offered for adoption. Juliet’s name at the vet’s office was “Stevie Nicks.” I changed it to a name I had picked myself.

        Oliver’s original name was “Sylvester.” This time I took a poll of the people sitting in the waiting room of the vet’s office. One of them came up with the name Oliver, and the others agreed unanimously. That’s how he got that name. I probably would have called him “Cyrano” if I’d left myself to my own devices.

        Harmony already had that name attached to her at the ASPCA, where I got her. I liked the name, and decided to keep it.

        Juliet and Harmony have both been called “Kitty Girl” by me during the sappy times, but I have not yet actually named any cat Kitty.

  3. My parents named me Mark Richard–and called me Rick. It caused no end of confusion until I entered high school and declared myself to be Mark … which, of course, people who knew me before refused to accept.

  4. Friends did my mother a favor, I think, by giving her a nickname that she kept her entire adult life. She was born in south Georgia with the given name of Carlieze (pronounced Carleez)—and her middle name, Rheta (pronounced Retta), wasn’t really a better option. When she was 18, she went to upstate New York as a camp counselor, where her co-workers started calling her Cinderella, which was then shortened to Cindy.

    My stepson’s name is Farzad, and from the age of 4 until 18 he lived in the Mississippi Delta. His mother asked him if he wanted to go by a nickname so he might fit in with the culture better. He thought about it and decided, “No, there’s only one Farzad, and I’m Farzad.” Each year on the first day of school when the teacher would pause and look puzzled while calling roll, he knew to answer.

    1. Sounds like your mom’s friends DID do her a favor! And I applaud your stepson’s sense of self, given his age and his environment. Thank you for sharing, Bill.

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