What's in a name?

One writer discusses her journey on finding the perfect name

My name is Martha. Believe it or not, this was a difficult burden to bear while growing up in the 1960s. Surrounded by a sea of girls named Debbie, Nancy or Linda, I was often asked, “Were you named after your aunt?” “Were you named after your grandma?” “Why did your parents name you that?” I was even asked, “Do you like your name?” Well, no, I did not.

I had four sisters all of whom were lucky enough to have, what I perceived to be, modern, lively sounding names: Kathy, Julie, Susan and Liz. My name, on the other hand, was different, not young and playful like a Tammy or a Jenny. Instead, it felt old-fashioned and stodgy.

As a child with an insecure, shy streak, crooked teeth, and a gangly body towering over the Marys in my class, a name like Martha was certainly not an asset. I took on the burden of my name, and stayed quiet and in the background for the duration of my childhood. I often asked my parents, “Why did you give me this name?” My parents’ response was of course that they loved the name. Today, many people tell me they love my name. I do not.

Naturally, as I was growing up, I made a vow that I would name my daughter the most classic, most beautiful name that I could think of – a name she would treasure. And when I gave birth to my daughter 15 years ago, I did just that. I chose the name Christine. Turns out I chose wrong.

Almost from the time she could express an opinion, Christine has complained about her name. She says that she is the only one with that name in her school, leaving me to wonder, just when did the name Christine go out of fashion?

She complains that people call her Christina, which she loathes (I can relate. I am often called Marcia or Margaret, which I loathe). She wants to know why her dad and I named her that, and in a voice that echoes my parents I say, “Because we loved the name.” In fifth grade she switched schools and decided to go by the shortened version ‘Chris.’ The experiment failed: she hated the name Chris. Junior High brought on the name Christy, and I kept my mouth shut even as I cringed.

I have heard of people out there who treasure their unique names. I envy their spirit, and I wish I had more of it. Turns out my daughter feels the same way – history repeating itself indeed. Even though it seemed outlandish, I wanted to be a supportive parent so I agreed to let Christine change her name.  
Martha and her daughter Allison (formally known as Christine).


Martha Wegner lives with her husband, John, and her children, Allison and David in St. Paul, Minnesota.