Every time I meet someone new and the obligatory introductions are made, I have to explain my name. It’s spelled N-O-E-L-L-E. No, it’s not pronounced “Noel-lee.” Silent “E” at the end. Yes, it’s a real name, French in origin. “Noelle” is the feminine version of “Noel.” Yes, it’s a real name, damnit.
(I’m just thankful that in person there’s no doubt I’m not a man. Getting form letters that address me as “Mr.” or “Sir” because they’ve guessed my sex by my name is very, very annoying.)
I used to wish I was called something else. I had no idea what other name I wanted, but the only qualification was that it wouldn’t be as strange as my real name. Because my first name was so short nobody could manufacture a nickname from it, I remained “Noelle.” I began to think I could use my second first name, which is “Frances,” when I started college. Then I realized I have a younger cousin named Frances and I didn’t want to be confused with her. So, “Noelle” stuck.
Now I realize that my name has helped me define who I am. I’m different from a Sarah or a Jenny or a Michelle (not that there’s anything wrong with having those names). I love that I’m the only one called that among my acquaintances; when my friends mention “Noelle” I’m the one they’re talking about. Search for “Noelle” on Google and I’m in the first few pages of results; in fact, everything I’ve done on the Internet is associated with this name.
Over time I have become my name; I think I’m as unique and idiosyncratic as it is. When someone recently suggested I could use my second first name, I scoffed at the idea almost immediately and realized how important my name has become to me.
I still have to go the long way about introducing myself these days. I’ve even taken to wearing a gold necklace with my name on it, just to make spelling it out less tedious. But now, I realize taking the trouble with my name is worth it. It’s my name, and don’t you forget it. Ü