My mom named me after a girl she went to high school with that she thought was pretty, which is a pretty stupid reason to give someone a name, but it could have been worse. Her second choice was Lola. It’s not that Lola is a bad name, it’s just that I had a hard enough time getting picked on by bullies every day without having to deal with kids singing The Kinks song of the same name about a transvestite. I can only imagine how that would have made matters even worse. Although, perhaps if I had been named Lola, I would have become used to it sooner. I might have been better equipped to handle bullies than my meager way of dealing with them, which was usually to cower, put up with it and hope it would be over soon which it never was. I didn’t actually grow some metaphorical balls until high school. Before then, I was a target. No matter how many different schools I attended, which was all of them – for a good chunk of my school years, I went to a new school every year – I was always the subject of harassment. It’s as if there was a universal list for bullies that they all worked off of and my name was highlighted with little stars.
My first name has nothing to do with any sort of family history whatsoever. My sister was named after my grandmother. My mother has a family name, as do most of my other relatives, but not me. For generations, most of the men in my lineage were given one of three names. The women had a few more choices, but not by much. My mother inadvertently separated me from the rests of the clan by giving me a name that had nothing to do with anything. It’s as if she knew that I would be the black sheep, which I was and still am. There are few among my family who get me. Most of them look at me as an eccentric. They usually wash any agitation with my activities away with, “Oh, she’s the artist of her generation. So, much like her Uncle Henry…” and move onto talking about the latest invention or scientific breakthrough by my cousins.
I’m alright with that. My Uncle Henry was my favorite of all of my relatives. He played trumpet for a living while his siblings were doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs. I was his favorite, too. He could see me in there even as a young kid. He didn’t have a chance to see me grow into myself though. Unfortunately, he died of cancer when I was still rather young, but I think he’d approve of me as an adult. Since junior high, I’ve never bowed to anyone. I don’t take any guff. I do what I want. I protect my friends and family. I am everything my Uncle Henry was except that I can’t play the trumpet. I think he’d be happy someone is carrying on his tradition as the black sheep. I’m proud to even attempt to fill his shoes. Cheers, Henry.