With a name like Marna, you often think and talk about names. People are always asking me how I got my name. What does it mean? They are often mispronouncing it or forgetting it. In my mind it’s just a name, random letters arbitrarily in an order.
You may be surprised to know I have had many names in my life. I was born Marna Carly Noritz. Noritz was my dad’s last name, and Carly was a name I was given by my father to remember one of his relatives who died, come to find out later of suicide. Then after my dad abandoned me and divorced my mother, I decided I wanted to change my name. I was 15. I became Marna-Daryn Silverman. Silverman is my mother’s maiden name, and Daryn was a name I chose to remember my grandmother Dorothy. For a while I went by MD. Then I got married and became Marna-Daryn Altman. Altman is my now ex-husband’s last name. After I got divorced, I decided to keep Altman as my last name for my kids. When I taught I was Miss Marna. Then I had kids and became Mom and Mommy and also JoJo’s mom and Brayden’s mom. But honestly, I don’t really identify with any part of my name. I don’t feel like a Marna or a Mrs. Altman.
Recently Brayden has been asking about changing his name. He would like to go by his middle name Henry. When I asked him why, he said he feels like a Henry. So I try my best to call him Henry, at least for now. Truthfully I don’t know if he is more of a Brayden or a Henry.
That got me thinking: what makes someone identify with a name? Parents arbitrarily pick names, but what if they are wrong? What if he really is Henry, and I am really called someone else? Would having a different name make me someone else?
Maybe names are so important because very often, the first piece of information we have about a person is their name. It’s often the first thing you learn about someone, and we form judgments about people very rapidly. And those judgments accumulate, so the first piece of information is especially important. It can lean you in a positive direction or a negative direction and can set the stage for future interactions.
Another factor is that we identify very strongly with our names, and they are an important part of the baggage that we associate with ourselves. They reflect upon us. I don’t, but everyone I have spoken to about this topic seems to.
Choosing your child’s name is a big decision–after all, he’ll be walking around with it for the rest of his life. When a child is born, the name reflects more on you, the parent, than him. The name doesn’t belong to you–you’re making the decision because your child can’t do it for himself–but what you choose does say a lot about your personality. As your child gets older, the name will also reflect on him–especially when he’s doing things like sending out job resumes. People do draw conclusions based on someone’s name. It sends out such a strong signal before the person even walks into the room.
There is a surprising number of parents who, following the birth of their child, suffer “namer’s remorse”. In a recent poll of 1,219 mothers conducted by BabyCenter.com, 10 percent considered changing their baby’s name. The reasons they gave ranged from being inspired by another name to having a relative disagree with the choice. Many of them use a nickname instead, but some will go the legal route and officially change the baby’s name.
Regret is common after any big decision, and few prenatal decisions these days are as open to debate as picking a child’s name. Rare are the parents who haven’t invested in a small library of baby-name books or trolled the Internet for a name unique enough to be usefully Googled, but not so weird as to cause ridicule. Today, there’s this perception that naming a child is almost like naming a product — there’s this huge national drive now to not be like anyone else.
I am sure I don’t identify with my name, because it has been changed so many times. And I will honestly answer to any and all versions of my name. But right now the name I like best and that fits best is Suburban Goddess Mom.