March 2024

Mazel & Mishagoss: What’s in a Name?


What’s In a Name?
At a baby naming last week, it dawned on me that I’ve never liked my own name. The unfortunate shortened form of Stephanie is “Stephy” and when I was young, I had the unfortunate burden of allergies so kids called me “Stuffy Stephy.” It could have been worse, I suppose. But why not try on new names like we try on clothes? See how they fit us!

At a recent Jewish retreat, I impulsively scrawled “Rose” onto an adhesive name tag, slapping it onto my chest. Rose?! I’m not flowery or thorny! My great-grandmother was named Rose. Could that be why I chose it? Someone asked if I was named for Rose Kennedy? Then a man did a Leonardo DiCaprio impression shouting, “I’m king of the world!” (I didn’t feel very Titanic-y or I would’ve asked him to draw me like one of his French girls!) But it was fascinating to see how many people treated me differently, based on a name. Within an hour I was yawning, evidently channeling “Briar Rose” from Sleeping Beauty. But I was excited at the prospect of becoming someone brand new each day! Here are my results of trying on names:

Guests crowded around me at the Chanukah party. (Might’ve been the platter of latkes I sat near?)  They wanted to know if I could talk with an accent like Bernadette Peters. I ended up giving a few people legal advice after they twisted my arm and found out my closest friends had nicknamed me, “Bernie the Attorney.”

trolling barefoot in the supplement section of Jimbos, three separate people (upon overhearing me answer my cell phone confidently saying, “Harmony! Here to Help!”) asked me to recommend an herb for more energy. Without hesitation I blurted out, “Vitameatavegamin!” I followed that up with, “It’s so tasty too. Just like candy. Honest!” Then I winked. There was no question in my mind whose name I would use next.

As a Lucy, I kept wanting to be in the sunlight so the reddish highlights in my dark hair might catch someone’s eye. But nobody noticed or laughed at anything I said or did. And nobody yelled, “Lucy, I’m home!” Frustrated after telling each stranger my name and asking, “Don’t you love Lucy?” I binged on a bunch of chocolates, stomped on a few grapes (no wine materialized) and decided to instead look for Charlie Brown to pretend to hold a football for him. This day had been a total bust. I fell asleep to Kenny Rogers crooning, “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille” which offered slight consolation.

This was an odd pick for a nice Jewish girl. Although I was blessed by two different people as I sat in my new Doctor’s waiting room, in all fairness, I’d just sneezed. I also felt extremely cranky. When I grumbled at the nurse, she retorted, “Well if it isn’t Mary, Mary, quite contrary!” Needing to cheer myself up, I went outside and tossed my hat high up into the air, hoping to turn the world on with my smile. Nothing.

What possessed me, I’ll never know. I detest Harry Potter. At the park, several smarty pants kids harangued me. All sorts of questions about Hogwarts and Gryffindor and Muggles. In no time, the name Minerva had gotten on my last nerva! I immediately changed it to…

I resisted the urge to pirouette and arabesque right there in the sandbox. From now on my elegance and class would surely be self-evident. I told all the confused children that I’d catch them later, perhaps in a Royal Opera House and immediately went to high tea, where the waitress curtsied after I signed my name on the check. I might’ve inadvertently scrawled the word “Princess” before signing, “Grace.”

I dunno. I always wanted to have “Belle” as part of my name. Annabelle or Isabelle coulda worked, but Mirabelle just…well it just…rang a bell! I went to a new hair salon and wrote my name on the client log. When the stylist called, “Mirabelle” it took a minute before I realized that was me. “Ever go by Mira?” she asked. “That’s a super perky name!” Followed by, “Mira needs a pixie cut and some spiky bangs to go with her cute name!” Panicky, I exclaimed, “Uh, my name’s actually Stephanie!”  She shook her head, laughing. “Sure it is.” So I tossed my long hair indignantly and proclaimed, “Stephanie needs to maintain her glamorous curly tresses,” The stylist cocked her head skeptically, whispering under her breath, “And maybe some credibility!” After insisting there’s no way I could pass for a Stephanie, she wielded her beautician’s shears menacingly. Looking wildly around the room for someone, (anyone!) to vouch for my identity, I spotted Danny from fifth grade. “Please tell this woman my real name,” I pleaded. I was never so relieved and grateful to be called, “Stuffy Stephy” and alas, my long curly hair was spared. Mira, indeed. Oy!


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1 Comment

  1. Haha! Funny indeed. I always thought a beautiful feminine name might be Malaria! I hear it’s catching!

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