I was not supposed to have my name. Instead of my legal first name, my nickname would have been on my birth certificate, but that was not meant to be. If that had been the case, what on Earth would my mother have called me when she was/is mad at me? (That sentence makes me laugh because because I only referred to her as “mother” when I am annoyed at her!)
Evidently my experience is not unique. I get knowing chuckles when at doctor’s office/ government agencies/ employment interviews – anywhere where “legal” names must be used – when I ask them to please call me “Tammy” … unless I’m in trouble. They all willingly agree, and most share what unhappy parents called them, or what they call their petulant child.
The use of “that” name kept me in line as a child and adolescent. Well, that and the look of death. When my friends first heard my excuse that I couldn’t do something because Ma (my not annoyed name for the woman who gave me life) would look at me, they thought I was kidding. That is until the day one of them received “the look”.
Ma was driving an excited bunch of us to see Peter Jennings speak – we were the speech and debate team, hence our enthusiasm for a newscaster – when someone in the back seat made a derogatory comment about homosexuals. Ma shot the look of death into the backseat. Unfortunately on the first attempt she hit an innocent bystander (bysitter, actually) next to the culprit. He paled. Ma apologized, then got the offender’s attention, and pulled out “the look” again. She paired it with an explanation about why his coment was not only inappropriate but also inaccurate. I don’t think he said another word the rest of the day.
My poor bystander friend did share the incident with others, mainly how I was serious about the severity of my mother’s look. I did use that excuse often as a teenager to keep me out of situations I didn’t want to be in. Ma was great, and she always backed me up when my friends would want confirmation that I couldn’t do something, if they were silly enough to ask.
Were any of you kept in line with your parents’ equivalent of “the look”? Do you still cower in fear if an authority figure calls you by your full first name PLUS your middle name? What do you do that your children will blog about in the future?