Sunday, March 28, 2010

On names

I never go by my full first name. It's not me. I have made a few attempts, post-high school to be known by my first name, but I have killed them all. I thought about trying it out in college but I couldn't do it. My full first name is what my third grade teacher who didn't bother to get to know her students called me. It's the name my mother called me as a kid when she was mad at me and needed me to come downstairs this minute.

Instead, I go by a diminutive of my name. Over the past few years, it has come to my attention that being a female that goes by a nickname ending in y has a few drawbacks. Professionally, I think it makes it easier for people not to respect me. It also makes it harder for clients and vendors to distinguish me from all the other women who work in my office and go by a name that ends in y. (Kimmy, Sammy, Emily etc.)

A coworker of mine once asked why I didn't go by my full first name. "It's a great power name." he said. "You could start calling yourself by that name and wearing short skirts and then you could refuse to crawl around under people's desks when you have to fix their computers-you could demand that you have a Lower Level Employee to do that for you." Aside from the fact that I enjoy crawling around under people's desks to fix their computers and don't enjoy wearing short skirts, he had a point although it took me a year or two to realize this.

I had a discussion about my name with my MBA team mates a few weeks ago. It started as "Should I introduce you to the people we are interviewing as your full formal name or your nickname?" I said nickname please. I hate the full name. One of my teammates suggested that I might feel better about my formal name once I had the MBA after my name. I let it slide (I was at the time busy trying not to have a panic attack-see last week's post for details.)

But, after that discussion, we had a presentation to do. The team mate who puts together our presentations decided to call me by my full first name. Both team mates were pro-full name-for me and for themselves. I had no reason to say no. For a change I decided that I could be this person who goes by my full given name for an evening. It wouldn't change who I was-it would just be a role I was putting on. It worked out okay.

But it made me think. Is my MBA self going to turn out to be a role I put on daily to go to work (the way other women put on makeup?) I'm okay if the answer is yes-so long as I still get to talk to people who call me by the name I prefer.

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