What's In A Name?
My name ain't Susan. Or Mack for that matter.
It’s Amy. Amy Lynn. Sweet. And Southern. And I’ve always hated it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the name. There are tons of us out there. As I often say, most everyone has an Amy in their life. They either love her or they hate her. There’s rarely an in-between. I even had one friend who claimed to be a collector of Amys. She happened to like all of hers. If you know one, I’m guessing her middle name is either the same as mine or it’s close. Amy Lee. Amy Louise. Amy Lou.
For my entire life I felt like my name didn’t quite fit. Like a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans – straight from the 80s – super cute and chic, but what I really wanted was a no-nonsense pair of Levis. Tough. Built to last. And hella cute. Or maybe that’s Wrangler. Point is, my name just always felt a little uncomfortable. Maybe it felt a little too, well, commonplace. And if there’s one thing I’ve always taken pride in, it’s my individuality.
Sometime in my thirties, my mother and I were driving along just shooting the breeze. A lull in the conversation fell upon us, and while stopped at a red light, she sat upright in the driver’s seat and turned to look straight at me.
“I really screwed up with your name,” she stated plaintively.
I just blinked at her. A few times.
“Didn’t I?” she prompted.
“Yep.” I replied. “You sure did. But why do you say that? And why now?”
My mom rarely surprised me. We were thick as thieves. I’d always thought she loved my name and was happy that she’d picked it. Turns out I was wrong. She had wanted to name me after her maiden name – McKerall. This was well before the onslaught of Mackenzies, Makaylas and Mckennas.
“I wanted to name you McKerall,” she said. “And call you Mack.” “Having known you your whole life, well, I just got it wrong,” she declared. “Mack would have suited you way better.”
“No shit,” I thought to myself.
Then, “Holy shit,” I thought, “I could have been a Mack.”
I’ve always been a lover of boy names for girls. Strong, yet feminine. Charlie, Sam, Jack. But Mack? As in semi-truck? That shit’s downright awesome.
Now, my daddy, he wanted to name me Amy-Lynn. Yep. Amy. Hyphen. Lynn. For the record, I don’t call him “daddy”. Never have, never will. But you gotta read that first sentence with a deep, Southern drawl to get it. AY-Me-Lih-UHN. Guess it could have been worse.
I’m sure there’s some pseudo-psyche-science something or other in me always gravitating toward boy names. Actually, I’ll tell ya a little secret. Someone asked me recently when I shared that Amy naming story with them, “Did your father want a boy?” Yes. Yes, he did. And try as I might to do things like play baseball instead of softball, stubbornly refuse to cry, and belch at will (still do that one…), I stayed a girl. I’m pretty sure both he and I thought I could rectify the situation until puberty hit and put the final nail in the coffin. I’m not going to pull at that thread now (my sister and I did give him 3 grandsons after all), but it does beg some questions…another day. Another blog.
Back to Mack.
Our name is one of our first identifiers. There can be so much power wrapped up in a name. And it can go hand-in-hand with another earlier identifier - gender*. These things were true for me. I was Amy. I was a girl. I was a girl named Amy. I embraced my girldom but rejected “girlie things”. I’ve always walked a line somewhere between Sabrina (the smart, sassy, less pretty Angel, not the Teenage Witch), Wonder Woman (both the supergirl, and Linda Carter, the Maybelline woman) and Pink (the icon, not the color. She’s a bad-ass.). As I aged, I embraced my feminine powers and wiles, but ran far away from things I thought fell into the “weakness” column. Like crying. If tears welled up in my eyes, my mother would know to take cover. “If Amy is crying, Amy is mad. Like really, really mad.” A stereotypically masculine trait, among a handful of others that make up the paradox that is me.
I believed and was encouraged to believe that I could be anything, do anything – I could be an airline pilot, a doctor, a waiter or a proud housewife (and Lord knows I had the best role model for that one). Anything I wanted. Even United States Senator (see, e.g. Amy Klobuchar - love her or hate her. See what I mean?). I felt empowered by my status as a girl well before girl power was a thing. I embraced it. Most of it. I’m lucky to never have felt encased in a world with a glass ceiling. Not that it doesn’t exist – it just hasn’t been the majority of my experience. Those few times I did experience it, I didn’t give it life. I didn’t give it validation. I just worked over or around it. I considered myself tough and strong, with some fabulous lipstick (Girl Boss by Too Faced is a current fav), and a soft under-belly. Still do. “Amy” just didn’t sum it up for me.
When I decided to shed my lawyer skin (insert snake/lawyer joke here), and answer my passion calling, I decided to adopt the moniker my mother intended for me. It’s not a pseudonym for me to hide behind. It is my alter ego. It empowers me. It emboldens me. It reminds me to be me, and not the impostor identity I assumed. No easy task after twenty plus years of blood, sweat and tears scrapping my way through the music industry to hone my copyright law chops- not to mention the $100,000 debt I’d accumulated and paid off - to don the lawyers’ robe and peruke (not that we do that here, ya Aussies & Brits!).
Months later, I was listening to Jay Shetty’s On Purpose podcast (Episode 160) where he discusses the power of props (think Martin Luther King and his non-prescription glasses or Winston Churchill’s hats) and the power of the alter ego. He talks about Beyoncé and her alter - Sasha Fierce. “Yes!”, I thought. “He gets me!” “Beyonce gets me!” Wait. No. Not part of the hive. Don’t know Bey. But I do know me.
And my name, in this space, is Mack.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
THAT WHICH WE CALL A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE - ROMEO AND JULIET
*I want to acknowledge with love the LGBTQ+ community here for whom gender identity, name identity and masculine/feminine constructs can be much more layered than my experience. I was born female and always identified as such - just with a side of masculine tendencies. Relatively simple waters to navigate. I do not wish to conflate my experiences with theirs, denigrate theirs or to ignore the complexities that they may face.