On Liking My Middle Name

anne

My grandmother’s middle name is Christine. My mom’s middle name is Christine. My middle name is Anne. Growing up, I hated that – to me pointless – choice to break tradition. “Molly Christine” was more interesting, more romantic. It could have been a small comfort to me in all the years I hated both my names and longed for something feminine and flowery like Rose or Violet. My mom always said that she wanted to name me something that worked in all stages of life. She wasn’t fond of the popular choices of my era like Katie or Brittany. If not Molly, might have been Anne Elizabeth or Elizabeth Anne (called Liza).

Molly is perky, clipped, and short. It wasn’t common, but it didn’t feel special. The one or two others at school were always sportier or cheerier than I was. Famous examples real and fictional (Malone, Brown, Bloom, Ringwald, et al.) likewise seemed cut from a different cloth entirely. And Anne…well I often prefaced it with “and the most boring middle name ever.”

I dreamed about being an Isabelle, a Juliette, or an Ophelia. I was the kind of young girl who fantasized about dying beautifully, coughing blood into an embroidered handkerchief and meeting the operatic end of a Violetta or Mimi (whose real name was the also glamorous Lucia). Having the middle name Christine would have at least drawn a connection to the heroine of the Phantom of the Opera, because of course I also imagined being so talented and desirable that hot but sinister men would seek to possess me.

For a while I took matters into my own hands. I was so obsessed with Final Fantasy IX and Princess Garnet that I cut my hair like the character and demanded that my family call me by her name – her alias, Dagger, was also acceptable. My aunt and uncle were kind enough to address cards to Garnet during this time. In middle school, I met a real Garnet and resented her lack of aspirations beyond small time popularity. She was named after one of the official colors of the University of South Carolina. This experience sort of ruined it and I never wore dark red lest people mistake it for USC fandom.

This is all just evidence that Anne is the most fitting middle name I could possibly have been given. I started to come around because of Paul (who I guess is just a character on this blog now). His first term of endearment for me was to call me by both names. Because I don’t like my name, I had never let anyone do this, and because I liked him very much, it sounded new and secret from him. He also counts Anne of Green Gables among media integral to his personal lore.

The Anne books and miniseries bypassed my own family’s canon. It’s a catch because as an Anne, I might not have appreciated hearing about a little girl just like me. Like Anne, I wanted to make up stories and live in them, to read and dream about things bigger and more fantastic than I could ever experience. Watching Anne as an adult was overwhelming but perhaps the best experience in the end. I was lucky to see it with someone who cherishes and nourishes my Anne-ness, but my heart ached for the little girl and young woman I was, who so often needed to feel like I wasn’t fundamentally wrong in the world.

When I sit with myself, that little girl is still there. I move through life with uncertainty and pain. My feelings are deep and intense. My heart is so often too big for me. But I love being an Anne now. Seeing it written and hearing it said are reminders of the incredible gift of kindred spirits, to use an Anne favorite, who have met me where I was and held some of my heavy heart anyway. Something that once seemed so direly plain and unspecial is a precious token. Being an Anne is a lot, but Anne Shirley harnessed her big heart and succeeded in a brilliant way. I hope I can fight for myself and build up the minds and hearts of others. I hope I can be brave. I hope I can live up to my name.

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