I used to wish I was a Susan. I have known a couple or three or four Susans in my life. I liked the people, as they seem happy and cheery but I never saw any commonalities between them (or would that be among them). I just didn’t think I should be a Barbara but it was the 50’s and there were a lot of us. I went to elementary school with at least five other Barbaras and at times we were known as the Barbara Bs and the Barbara Ss and then big Barbara (who was very tall) and little Barbara (and I was very small). But that never did clear up the confusion as another Barbara was also small and we vied for first and second in line both in names and in height. That being said, I am lucky that the maternal grandmother, for whom I was named, was the last one to date, to have her first name in the family, and that my name ended that possibility when I was not named “Bertha”. I will always be grateful that my parents seemed to know that it might have been a burden at the very least. I never knew her but always hoped that she would not have been offended that I didn’t carry on the name. I do know, throught family lore, that she had two nicknames, “Die Dicke”….translated as “The Big One”as she was a large girl,when she went to a finishing school where she was during her adolescence, and the name “Bertie” which was a diminutive of Bertha.
I did a bit of research about nicknames. Actually the word came from the words
“eke” ,meaning addition, and name, which means name, oddly enough, and it means an additional name given, sometimes in affection, sometimes in ridicule, and sometimes in diminution. I don’t ever remember anyone calling themselves the name that became their nickname. It seems as though others take the lead on this, and I can bear that out as I have been called “Barbie”, “Barbs”, “Babs”, “Babsie”, “Basha” or “Bash”, “Barbieleinschin”, “Barbsie” and now, as a Grandmother, I have taken on and prefer the term BeeBee. I find that people like to call me a familiar name that they like. I have never actually said to anyone… “that’s not my name”. I just answer to just about any of them, and they are often attached to people that I am attached to, in a good way. I thought, when I was younger, that if I actually referred to myself by one of the myriad of nicknames I inherited, that no one would take me seriously in life. My parents started some of this business. Although we were a formal bunch and I would be introduced as “My daughter, Barbara”, someone, or more than one someone would say “Nice to meet you, Barbie”. It was the generation of a doll with my name, as I was born before that famous, longlegged, tall and curvaceous woman of an unknown age. She wasn’t the “Barbara”doll, was she?
I realize that the names I have been given, over time, grew with me as I grew. They are milestones in my development and personal history. The first of them, “Barbie” and the more recent iteration, “Barb” are reflections of the relationships I am involved in and the level of connection that people feel toward me. For many of us, a nickname is a reminder of a prior time and an attribute that someone ascribed toward and about you. I was lucky that my nickname was not done in ridicule, and grateful that I was not a Bertha when all is said and done. This is a shout out to all the “Bunny”,”Red”, “Stretch” and “Buddy”s that are out there. We answer to all of them and know it’s nice to be reminded of the kids we once were and the people who knew us when we were Barbie. And of course, there is that woman, Barbra… She probably thinks I spell my name wrong. That’s okay with me.