I was honorably discharged from the military almost ten years ago. I enlisted in the spring of my high school senior year, and still to this day, I regard that choice to be the best decision I have ever made for myself. Entering the armed forces at such a young age, especially as green as I was, left me dramatically vulnerable to the world at large that I would soon discover beyond my small bedroom.
With our surnames stitched across our chests and on our trousers, that is how we were identified. Yes, there were titles of ranks and rates, nicknames (but only if they liked you), and general terms of endearment that were commonly used, but the service member’s last name was the official form of address. For quite a while after I separated from the military, I wasn’t used to people referring to me by my given name. Occasionally, I wouldn’t even reply the first couple of times someone said my given name just because I hadn’t heard it in so long.
I’ve since then reconditioned myself to respond to an utterance of my first name, but I will admit that sometimes it still throws me off. There is a level of distinction and formality when being addressed by one’s surname. Throughout my childhood, I would never dare address a friend’s parents or teacher by their first name. It was always Mister, Miss, or Misses. Call me old-fashioned or just traditionally respectful, but even today when I hear young children call their parents by their first names part of me still cringes.
As Billy Shakes writes in his teenage tragedy, “What’s in a name?” For me, therein lies so much to be digested.
Name Association is a fickle friend.
I know few people who are expecting a new child, and although I do not have any children of my own, I have had a talk here and there about baby names. As names are listed off, they are weighed in on. No, I have a weird uncle with that name. Yes, that’s my great grandmother’s name. No, definitely no to that one. Don’t ask, just no. And then there are others (cough, celebrities, cough) who just up and pick seemingly random monikers to brand their children with. Fruits, colors, diseases, song titles, whatever strikes them. Who knows, maybe they do have a personal connection with it from something growing up, or maybe they’re just going for shock value.
And then there are nicknames, or more specifically, shortened versions of names. If you’re planning on calling your kid by a shortened name anyway, why even give them the full version? So you have something to call them when they’re in trouble? Gimme a better reason, folks.
But I’m obviously not here to talk about children. Or babies. I’m here to talk about…Beca. That’s what we’ll name my ex-wife for blogging’s sake.
When I met Beca, I had cringed at the fact that my first girlfriend in high school had the same name. Same spelling and all. That relationship lasted as long a menstrual cycle, but duration aside, for my first relationship, it was a quick one-two combo and I was laid out on the canvas hearing the ten count go by with no intention of getting up.
That alone didn’t bear enough weight years later for me to take off running (obviously), but almost exactly halfway in between my first Beca relationship and my all but faded marriage to most recent Beca, there was wrecking ball, demolition derby Beca. She was condescending to me and my friends, lied to my face on multiple occasions throughout our relationship, seriously abused alcohol (and who knows what else), and was just flat out mean. Other than the fact she was shorter than I was and had an awesome rack, I honestly can’t think of why I dated her. All that aside, it was what happened at the end that really earned her the hatred that I harbored for her for way too long of a period of time. What she did absolutely demolished me. In just a few months time, she annihilated every wall, tower, gate, and foundation of confidence I had built up like a castle while in the military after escaping a not so nurturing household. She utterly crushed me and I sank into a deep depression where I drowned in solitude in silence because I literally did not have the energy to seek out friends or reach out to other people. I didn’t eat for days. I slept through multiple days at a time. (I did lose seventeen pounds in less than two weeks, but anyone can tell you that isn’t healthy, especially when it’s from not eating and not eating healthy and exercising.) And with her, she spelled her name the same way.
With the variations that were possible for this name, all three of these individuals shared the exact same spelling. And recently I was affirmed in my nauseating submission to Name Association. There was a waitress at a nearby restaurant who, as hot as she was, I couldn’t bear to speak to or even look at when she came to my table once I knew she carried the same given name as my exes.
This introduces a level of subconscious analysis that I do not think I am capable of fully addressing. I do know that my affinity for names is directly connected to my childhood. (Warning: #mommyissues alert) At some high school age I was watching home videos with some cousins and uncles, and took silent note at the fact that my mother used my older brother’s name graciously, and my younger sister’s name lovingly, but when she needed my attention she almost never used my given name. It was always “Hey, you,” or even just “hey, hey, hey,” or some general term in her native tongue which I am not fluent in. Maybe that’s why I pride myself on remembering people’s names. Because I find it important that what was given to them, and therefore, theirs, is used in a respectful manner.
Or maybe it isn’t even about Name Association. With each Beca I dated, or even met, I told myself to not project what I felt about the last one onto her. that wasn’t fair to her, or myself, and that she’s her own individual. When I met my ex-wife Beca, I had only known two other Becas that left me in shambles, but any mathematician can tell you that three points make a line.
Lucky for me, I don’t know too many other people named Beca in my current community, and if I do happen to meet one I’ll try not to throw up on her. I can’t promise anything, though. Just writing about it makes my insides churn.
I gotta run. My phone’s ringing and it’s my buddy Ralph.