That which we call a…
Ah, never mind that.
You all know the Romeo and Juliet quote and the whole debate about how much or how little a name represents the person or the object that it stands for.
Words in general are, for the most part, randomly connected to what they stand for, and if you’ve ever tried to repeat a word for a dozen times or so, you probably realized that you’ve used it so often and yet given so little consideration to the actual sounds, to the jumble of letters, consonants and vowels, stumbling one into the other. But whenever that word lands on your lips, a mental image pops into your head, almost instantly, never giving you much time to realize the reflex created.
But what about our names? They’re first stamps of individuality we get from the world, not chosen by us (or not in my culture, at least).
My name is Mara. You know that, most likely. Even if you’ve just chanced upon my blog, you have noticed it’s about scraps of me. But do I look like a Mara? Do I strike you as a Mara?
How about a Mara Ambrosie? Or, if we are to go into more detail…
a Mara Ionescu-Ambrosie?
My name and I…we go back a long way. (dooh). And our conflict and later more peaceful relationship is as old as my self-awareness and my first social interactions with kids my age.
- Where it all starts:
Let’s just say that kids can be brutal when it comes to picking on their fellow midgety population. Those people who said we’re pure-hearted rays of light have clearly suppressed their childhood years, or have, luckily and oddly, never run into a bully.
My name, in Romanian, rhymes with stuff. A lot of stuff. So much, it made me cry. There’s a sing-song quality to the translated version of “Mara the pear, blind and a crow, plays the guitar”. It sounds like gibberish, but I tell you, it rhymes, all last three letters. Also, for some reason, the part about playing the guitar really got to me. Alas, if only it were true now.
So that was the first source of name-related segregation.
- Second challenge of childhood: you know how when you’re little, friendship starts from the smallest of things?
“Hey, your mom and my mom have matching blouses. We must be friends!”
“Hey, you’re my next door neighbor.”
“Hey, you have the same name as me! We’re linked for life.”
And I swear I heard the following sentence coming from a 5 year old girl talking to her grandma:
“So this kindergarten friend of mine, she’s got a pajama just like mine. I think we’re twins.”
You get the general idea: in a small world of bewildering variety, similarities are the foundational stones of childhood socialization.
Back when I was a kid, the Mara trend hadn’t begun. What I would later appreciate as being a nicely sounding and not so common name (hence a plus), was at first a plague, a sure cause of being ostracized.
Where the question of meaning appears
Later on, towards my teen years, I became curious as to what my name meant. Sure, my parents had no way of knowing back then, B.I.a.G. (before internet and google), but my name has as its most commonly presented origin, a not so cheerful meaning.
Coming from Hebrew, Mara means bitter, or bitterness. Yeay me!
Other versions appeared, ranging from the Hindu Goddess of death, to the Buddhist demon of temptation, to the Old Norse word of “mara” which is the same as “mare” as in…nightmare. You name it…the situation is not at all rosy!
Sure, there’s a cute rodent family named the Mara (the forth largest in the world, mind you!) but that provided me with little comfort… and the hidden joy that I fixed my buck teeth before that association could hurt me!
So I turned to my family name for solace. And that is yet another story of identity and meaning.
Since my mom and dad decided to share their names in an egalitarian fashion, both my parents my brother and I have the same hyphenated last name: Ionescu – Ambrosie. Ambrosie with an S, not a Z, contrary to the way it is pronounced. And that brings me to a series of documents containing variations on that combination: I have been Mara Ionescu, Mara Ambrosie, Mara Ambrozie, Mara Ambrosie- Ionescu, Mara Ionescu-Ambrozie (hey this is getting fun!) Ionescu Mara Ambrosie…and you get how confusing it becomes.
The suggestive part is the hyphen. My hybrid identity is clear from the very start.
But I normally use my mom’s name, because it sounds nicer and less common, and the whole name is otherwise too long. So I’m Mara Ambrosie, short and simple.
And ambrosia is the nectar or food of the gods in Greek mythology…so I get a partial revenge in claiming that I’m bittersweet. (was ambrosia sweet? let us say for my name’s sake that it is).
Where did this whole name related frenzy start from?
My initials. M.I.A.
When I read that someone was “M.I.A”…and after googling it, I found that the universe had made fun of me and my symbolic meaning yet again.
Not only am I a bitter sea of death and temptation goddesses, bearing nightmares and all (but hey…I’m a bittersweet sea of all that!)…but my initials stand for:
Missing In Action.
So what do you think? Are we or are we not formed or influenced by our names? Do they shape us in any way? What’s in our name? Could I be me, the same heterogeneous composite as I am now, if I had been called any other name? To some extent, I am my name and it has spilled into my existence among many other variables.
With the initials and what they also stand for I am not one bit happy though, and I just hope, really hope, that I can prove it all wrong, despite what one of Salman Rushdie’s main characters was saying in a book I just finished:
Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.