(Over) twenty two years ago, I was born. My parents had painstakingly and carefully chosen a name for me, a significant name that they both eagerly gave to me. They both decided against the previous contenders: Tammy, Rebecca, Elizabeth, and gave me the name Christine. I think they both were dismayed when I ended up being Chrissey.
Everyone had called me by Christine throughout my early childhood, but that was changed when my younger self believed that Christine was elderly and stuffy. Although abnormal to some individuals at the time, I became Chrissey, and that nickname evolved into essentially, my identity. I became Chrissey, and although Christine is my “actual” name, very few people call me Christine.
When I moved to Dallas, my mom asked me if I was going to finally go by Christine. It seemed like a weird question at the time, and I responded with an awkward maybe. Every boss and coworker I had called me Chrissey, and it seemed strange to go by anything else. But as I sat there and thought, I remembered moments when my name was used against me and repeated in a patronizing or mocking way. Those specific memories certainly made the case for Christine.
And since it was my first full-time job, I decided that possibly going by Christine wasn’t the craziest idea. I would say something if it felt weird and that was going to be my plan. But then interview after interview happened and before I knew it, my very first week of work had ended.
Although it took me a few instances to process that people were talking to me when they called me Christine, I guess it wasn’t strange enough for me to say something.
I was sitting in my boss’ office a few days after that, when mid-meeting he interrupted me. He paused for a moment, looked at me, and said,
“Do you prefer being called Chrissey?”
The world shook and froze in that moment, as I peered off into a corner as if I was an employee of Dunder-Mifflin being filmed. Was my boss secretly psychic? How could he possibly know what I was thinking?
“How did you know?” I asked, completely in shock. He laughed and then pointed to the top of my legal pad. Scrawled across the top, in my very own handwriting were two words.
Not Christine’s, or anyone else’s. I realized that an inexplicably long amount of time had passed, and mumbled the words, “Yeah, kind of.”
Retrospectively looking back, I don’t know how my boss still thought I was coherent and competent after that experience. I ended up explaining to him that I go by Chrissey, and now I don’t think that anyone else in our organization would call me anything else but that.
As I get older and older, I think that Christine doesn’t feel as strange to me as it did when I was a kid. But at the same time, Chrissey has always felt more familiar and it’s grown into something more than a name. Ultimately though, at the end of the day, both these names mean the same thing and they represent the same person. They’re both me, and I am both Chrissey and Christine. Even if one name isn’t mumbled as often as the other.