Lesson 52

My name is Natasha.
You know this.
I’m also known as Tash
You know this too.
It’s how I introduce myself, 90% of the time.
I went through a phase (during late primary school to mid high school) of calling myself Nat.
Then, taking the moniker from a racehorse I’d seen, Nat the Brat.
Although I now hate that abbreviation for myself.
When I was little, my brother called me NOJ (my initials) which morphed into Nodjee.
I have a Hebrew name: Naomi Chaya bat Avraham.
It includes my father in my name.
I can’t be named without him.
Although I could add Va Rut to include my mother, Ruthy is old-school and doesn’t want to be credited.
I guess my face is all the identity that’s required to prove I’m hers.

I have also collected a variety of other nicknames over the years:
Fatty (Aussie humour – because I’m the opposite of fat, as we learnt)
Natasha the Basher (because it rhymes – and because despite my threats to punch people, I’m incapable of doing so without injuring myself [I learnt this the hard way, from having an older brother], so don’t)
Possum, Big Eyes and Curls – all names given to me by my mother when I was brand new and which she’ll still use on the odd occasion.
Auntie Tasha (figure this one out!)
and, of course, most recently, Rabbit Ash.

Why am I listing all of these for you?
Because in recent weeks, I’ve realised just how much the correct use of my name – or, rather, the use of my correct name – in any given context, can make a huge difference to me.

I’m on a six week temp assignment currently.
I’ve worked for this company before, but it had been a little while since I was last here, so, for my handover, I was taken around and personally introduced to each member of the team.
I introduced myself, to each person, as Natasha.
Then an email was sent out advising staff to contact me for the duration.
In that email, I was referred to as “Natasha” or “Tasha”.
These days, I never introduce myself as Tasha to anyone except children.
I was tempted to send a follow up saying “It’s Tash”, but knew that was petty, so didn’t.
I sign all internal emails as Tash (the temp) when on assignments anyway, so assumed they’d figure it out.
Most did.
Alliteration rarely fails me!
But there are still a few (male) staff members who, despite having many emails back and forth (where I deliberately sign Tash), continue to address me as Tasha.
It annoys me more and more.
It shouldn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter.

Or does it?

Some friends of mine have just moved to London for the year.
With them they’ve brought their three small children – I am beside myself with joy!
I had met the two older children previously, but not enough for them to remember.
Within hours of my arrival in their home, the kids were already calling me Auntie Tasha.
This made me so happy.
It shouldn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter.

Or does it?

The father of these kids is the first friend who started referring to me as Basher.
Technically speaking, you’re not supposed to nickname yourself.
I broke this cardinal rule.
In one of our chats, years ago, I’d made some smart arse comment about beating someone up (with all the muscles and might I don’t have!) and punctuated the sentiment with:
“They don’t call me Natasha the Basher for nothing.”
There was a pause.
Then he laughed.
“No-one calls you that, do they?”
From that day on, Google-Head started using the nickname.
It made me so happy.
It shouldn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter.

Or does it?

Lesson 52

Some time ago, I spoke a little of presenting different versions of oneself.
As I said then, I don’t think my personality changes wildly from one context to another – I may just temper the parts of my personality that I play up for certain audiences…

But I wonder – do these different names carry with them different identities?

Auntie Tasha is the same as Tash.
But she’s the me you’ll see sitting on the floor, playing with building blocks and encouraging the pursuit of imagination.
She’s the same me who uses those experiences each and every time I’m cast as a child onstage.
Even when called by another name altogether.
Basher is the same as Tash.
But she’s the me who knows there’s shorthand gifted by years of friendship with anyone who addresses me by that name.
She’s the same me who likes to use the comedy of being a teeny-tiny human with such a nickname.
Natasha is the same as Tash.
But she’s the me who is trying to be more professional.
Or more proper.
Or less familiar.
She’s the same me who worries when her parents send an email that starts with all seven letters of that name.

The list goes on.

The differences may be subtle – but who calls me what, and in which context, gives me a frame of reference for the ensuing conversation or encounter.

So does it matter?
Maybe not to anyone else.
Maybe not in the scheme of the world.
But it does.

We all know that it does.
We all know that names are important.
It’s why the easiest way to dehumanise someone is to strip them of a name and replace it with a number.
I’ve got two different directions to take that reference, and I’m opting for the music theatre choice this time.
It’s why we have “Not in My Name” protests.
My name is who I am.
Some days it feels like my name is all that I am.
And it’s why there are great scenes and monologues in a variety of works, each discussing the importance of a name.
The best being this.

At the end of the day, as long as you’re not maliciously slurring me with whichever name you use, I’ll probably answer to most.
Even Nat.
Despite the fact that I really do hate it when people call me that.
Because I’ll probably have another name to add to the list tomorrow.
And I have more and more nicknames as I think about it…
Names that are each used by a single person.
But names that are mine, nonetheless.

What’s in a name, anyway?
Some guy wrote that, a long time ago.
Or, most of that…
His point remains.

For all of my indignation and growing resentment about people assuming they can use a nickname they’ve not been given permission to use, they’re still meaning me.
And if all of those names are me, then does it really matter?

I don’t know.
All I can think about is this:
Naming something feels like acknowledging its existence.
If I have no name, I leave no record.
Therefore I never existed.
If there’s a record of any of my names, then I was here.
But I am here either way.
I exist.
We all do.

So my lesson for this week?
Collect all the nicknames you can.
It keeps you on your toes!

#yourewelcome

#thatlastparagraphcouldbeanotherallusiontoagodsoyoushouldprobablyrereadlastweekslesson
#ilovegivingnicknamesasmuchasienjoycollectingthem
#justaskruthyandbigal
#howdoparentseverpicknamesfortheirchildren
#thatguyjustcalledmetashaasiwastypingthisandigotangryagain
#myfamilyalsouseaslightlydifferentvowelsoundwhensayingmynamewhichalmostmakesitanothernamealtogether

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