Perpetual Plan B

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ally's Identity Crisis (Warning: EXTREMELY long post)

Growing up, I always thought it was weird when people (usually girls) would change the way their names were spelled. I know a lot of girls who had names with a letter "e" on the end that just opted to drop the "e". I didn't think that was entirely legal and it always bothered me. You couldn't just change the name your parents gave you.

Or could you?

This is my daughter, Ally. Isn't she cute?

She wasn't always named Ally. I bet you want to know the whole story.

When our second daughter was born, we gave her a name. It was a nice name too. I'm rather partial to it because I got to help pick it out. Her full name is Alexandra Gail Fronk.

Alexandra is just a name we liked. I was kind of going through a European history phase, though I hadn't gotten around to reading Nicholas and Alexandra yet. If I had, I might not have named her Alexandra. (Come to think of it, she does kind of act like her. Maybe it was meant to be.)

Gail is after my mom. Morgan's middle name is Roberta, after Hal's mom, so it worked out nicely that we had another daughter. I like middle names that mean something. My middle name is Ann, which I hate and it has no meaning. Of the girls my age growing up in our ward, at least 5 of us have the middle name Ann. That's a pretty high percentage for such a boring middle name. Our sons' middle names are Hastings, after the little town where I grew up (until late elementary school) in Nebraska and Hendricks, which is my maiden name.

Now back to my story. It gets to be quite long and tricky. I hope you can keep up.

When Alexandra Gail was born, we had planned on calling her Lexi. I liked the name Lexie, but Hal has a sister named Cami, (with no "e" on the end) so we did it that way in honor of Cami. I secretly only agreed with it once I realized that if I ever decorated Lexi's room with something with her name on it, and you had to pay by the letter, it would be a little cheaper. Looking back, I wouldn't recommend using this thought process. It really only saved us about $3.50 total, probably not enough to make it worth giving up a spelling that you really like. Lexi did seem like a little more grown-up spelling too, though, so when she was 30 maybe it wouldn't be too little girlish. (And of course I had kept in the back on my mind the girls - at least two - who had dropped the "e" on purpose.)

So we had our little Lexi and life was good.

Until the week after she was born and people kept spelling it wrong. My personal least favorite way was Lexy. It looked too much like the word "sexy". I couldn't get over it. I kept looking at my sweet baby girl and couldn't bear anyone thinking of her as "sexy Lexy". I called a family conference and said "I propose we change the baby's name to Allie. That way she is still Alexandra and it is a cute name too."

Well, Morgan (then age 3) had a fit. She kept saying "No, she's my baby Lexi."

So Lexi stayed Lexi for a few years.

One day when she was three and a half, she came home from preschool, just disgusted. She said "I don't like my preschool teacher." I asked her why not. She said "I don't like the way she talks to me."

Well, she had caught my attention with that remark.

I asked, "What does she say to you that you don't like?" (I knew my daughter and her temperament. I wasn't too concerned yet.)

She said "I don't like it in the morning when she says 'Hello Lexi'."

"Um, okay," I said, "What do you want her to say then?"

"I really want her to say 'Hello, Thomas'."

Well, that seemed rather out of the blue. I knew she was a fan of Thomas the Tank Engine, but I didn't know it had reached that extent.

So I asked the preschool teacher to call her Thomas for a day or two and do you know what? She refused. Just flat out said no. (I'm sure she gave me a reason, though I can't remember what it was.)

So we found a new preschool for the next year. And this teacher knew how to humor children. I kind of thought the Thomas thing would blow over by then, but it did not. In fact, she was so worried that the teacher might call her some awful name like "Lexi" that she made herself a little name tag to wear the first day.

(I will insert the picture here as soon as we get a new scanner. Believe me, it's worth the wait.)

So she was Thomas, and life was good again in her little world.

The preschool teacher even went as far as put her name down as "Thomas Fronk" on the class list. She became "Thomas" pretty much everywhere we went, church, school, neighborhood, etc. This caused a couple of funny situations, like when moms of boys in the preschool would just assume she was a boy.

Also, Hal has a brother named Thomas Fronk and my sister-in-law was less than thrilled. She also wasn't thrilled when we named her Alexandra in the first place, since she has a son named Alex. I assured her repeatedly that she would never, ever be called Alex. It would always be "Lexi" as far as I had any say in it. I lost all control in the situation a lot sooner than I ever could have anticipated.

So "Thomas", or "Tom" as her preschool teacher eventually shortened it to, seemed pretty content. That is, until springtime when she discovered Hello Kitty.

The girls and I LOVED Hello Kitty. I grew up too poor to buy much of anything Hello Kitty when I was younger, so I was thrilled when she made a comeback in the '90s. One year for Christmas the girls got pretty much EVERYTHING Hello Kitty, pajamas, game, dolls, toys, hats, etc.

Then, without warning, "Thomas" started calling herself "Me-me". One day I asked her "Where did the name "Me-me" come from?"

She looked at me like I was the biggest idiot and said "Don't you know? It's Hello Kitty's twin sister." (It did sound vaguely familiar.) It should be noted here, that as a four-year-old, she had already mastered the art of the perfect sarcastic tone of voice.

Well, she was right. Hello Kitty does, supposedly, have a lesser-well-known twin sister named Mimmy (pronounced "me, me"). By then "Thomas" could spell somewhat and had spelled it phonetically, and somewhat ironically, Me-me, complete with hyphen in the middle. (Maybe that was a cosmic Freudian slip. With her everything tended to be "me, me, me!", especially at that age.)

So, again, the understanding preschool teacher humored her and she became "Me-me" for the rest of the year.

And then Kindergarten came. "Me-me" was somewhat reluctant to go to school. I was more than ready for her to go. Long story short, she refused to go at all, unless she could be called "Me-me" officially at school. And I assure you, she is the kind of child who really would. not. go. unless she wanted to.

(I think it should also probably be noted here that I'm the kind of person that likes things neat and tidy, no messy little ends sticking out. I have had to realize, in my life especially, that life IS messy and I just need to deal with it. Having a child who constantly changes their name is the ultimate challenge for a person like me that likes things cut and dried. Just thought I'd throw that in.)

So I made sure she got the sweet, little lady who had taught children for many years and really loved them and wanted them to love school too. And she loved my daughter and was wonderful with her. She even humored her in the spring when she decided to change her name to "Liana", who was one of the friends of the little Kelly dolls that were supposedly Barbie's little sister or daughter or something. (I did think the Kelly dolls were cute. Much cuter than Barbies. I think we ended up with every Kelly doll ever made, including the African-American one that I looked all over Connecticut and New York with Barbrina Beck to find for her. That is another whole story in itself. Another LONG story.)

(Insert photo of Ally and Liana doll)

Well, first grade came and along with it her first grade teacher. She did NOT humor children who picked names that were not their own. I told my daughter she could pick her name again that year. It just had to be either Lexi or Alexandra.

Well, wouldn't you know it, she picked Alexandra, a name that we had never, actually, ever called her, even though it was her real first name. (I have learned since that if I give her a choice and I have a preference, not to let her know what I want her to pick, or at least have her think I want her to pick the option I really don't want.)

So Alexandra went to first grade. And she had a cranky teacher that called her "Alexandra" in a cranky voice, even when I was in the classroom helping. It kind of made ME tired of the name Alexandra.

But she kept it. And she started 2nd grade. Another teacher I didn't particularly like, but like a good parent, I kept my mouth shut.

Then in the middle of the year, I discovered something disturbing. Her teacher had been callng her "Alex". (I had a new baby at home, so I didn't spend as much time in the classroom that year.) I don't like the name Alex for a girl, so this was a problem, especially since I had promised my sister-in-law that my Lexi would "never, ever" be called Alex. I told my daughter to ask her teacher not to call her Alex any more. (I was too chicken to ask her myself.) But somehow between that and the kids in her class already used to the name Alex, it stuck. "Well, there's always next year." I thought to myself.

She was Alexandra (and subsequently Alex) all the next year too.

Throughout all this, we started calling her Lexi again at home. Her grandmas and cousins still call her Lexi. Sometimes people at church will use the wrong name and then look at me apologetically or say "I don't remember what name to call her." I just say "I don't blame you and I don't care what you call her. (It's true, I really do!)

So, somewhere between the end of third grade and the beginning of fourth grade something happened. The name "Ally" started popping up here and there. Before I knew it, Ally was the name of choice. I know how she came up with it (and she hates it when anyone brings this part up). There is a girl that is Morgan's age and her name is Ally Stolworthy. She is a very cute girl and probably nice, her dad is nice. (He was friends with my little brother.) I'm pretty sure my Ally got the name, with that particular spelling, from her.

To me, there are at least two problems with this name. First of all, I really don't love how she spells it. Second, and probably more annoying: our cat's name is Alley. (We got Alley when Ally was 2. Did you follow that?)

Actually there is one more big reason I'm so bugged about them having the same name. It is that if the cat gets run over with a car and I have to call my husband, crying that Alley is dead, he might think I mean my daughter and then he'll be so distraught I won't be able to explain that it's the cat, not our daughter.

What are the odds that this would actually happen, you ask? Do you know our family at all?

Don't you think that's a good enough reason to change one of their names?

It has now been two and a half years since she has been Ally and I keep asking her what it will be next. She says she thinks she'll stick with this one.

Do you know why I believe her?

Because she knows I don't love it. But I do love the fact that she's her own little person and she knows what she wants. She just learned a little early about a girl's prerogative to change her mind.

I'm just sharing this story as a Public Service Announcement to anyone who will be naming a child in the future. Don't ever use the name Alexandra. I'd stick to names that can't be messed with so easily if I were you. (And I'd stay away from that final "e" too.)


Anonymous said...

You misspelled the cat's name. Some spelling champion you are. We have Ally-the-Girl and Ally-the-Cat. "Alley" looks utterly ridiculous and makes you think of dark alleys where bad things happen and gangs lurk, not a nice, cute, friendly cat. I think you need an editor (e.g. moi). (See? I don't need to take French. I know plenty!)
--The Poison Pen Authoress

Holly said...

Morgan, (oops, I mean The Poison Pen Authoress, or should I just call you "Poison" for short?)

When we got Alley-the-Cat, you couldn't even spell. You agreed to the name Alley, as in "Alley Cat" which is a cat who actually lives in an alley, get it? (You don't need to take French to know that either!)

P.S. Usually an editor knows MORE than the author, so you are not qualified for the job. Your opinion does matter though, except in this case.