It Doesn’t Matter What You Call It

“When you finish drying that pot, can you help me pick down the turkey, Diane?” asked my husband’s aunt.

 I nodded yes on the outside, while shaking my head in silent disbelief on the inside.  After nearly a decade since marrying into this family, they still regularly called me Diane. 

Not that it was really all that unusual.  For my entire life, people had been calling me Diane, even though my name is actually Denise.  Never Becky or Donna or Lisa, always Diane.

Now, I admit that sometimes I get names wrong, too.  Usually it’s because I am preoccupied when they tell me their name, or they resemble someone else I know.  I always get Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio mixed up when I see them in films.  Some people just seem like their name should be something else, I guess.

 In 1963, when my mother was expecting, there was no ultrasound to predict the sex of your baby.  There were plenty of wives tales, though.  Everyone from her best friend to the grocery clerk had a “foolproof” way to tell whether her baby would be a boy or a girl.  Dangling a wedding ring over her pregnant woman’s belly, a neighbor whispered “If it swings back and forth, it’s a boy.  If it moves in a circle, it’s a girl.” 

If she looked prettier during her pregnancy, it’s a boy.  If she looked tired, it’s going to be a girl.  Others told her just the opposite.  In fact, the ways to predict the baby’s sex seemed to flip-flop depending on who was doing the telling.

Taking no risks, my parents chose a boy’s name – Robert – and a girl’s name … what else … Diane!  For months they talked about Diane or Robert.

When she arrived at the hospital, a little radio playing tunes eased the tension in the room.  He’s so Fine made the nurses laugh.  Surfin’ USA lightened the mood when the contractions passed. Song after song filled the room as the hours passed.  If I Had a Hammer was a favorite after tougher contractions.  The labor was hard, lasting through most of the day and long into the night, sapping her strength.  The songs had started to repeat themselves, like a modern day Muzak track.  A little before midnight, the disc jockey played Randy & The Rainbows’ title Denise, Denise for what seemed like the thousandth time that day. 

 As the next contraction wracked her body, my mother swore, “If this damned baby is a girl, I’d better name it Denise, since they keep playing that song!”  At 12:19 am, the little baby who had been imprinted with Diane for all those months arrived but now she was named Denise.

Inevitably, when someone has my name wrong, they still call me Diane.  I gently remind them that my name is actually Denise.  But, I always silently thank the DJ for not having played the Edsals’ Rama Lama Ding Dong!






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