Monday, January 23, 2012

A is not for Amy.

You know the question that goes something like “If you could have lunch with any person dead or alive, who would it be?” Well, I choose my mom, dead or alive--although "dead" would be a really depressing lunch hour. I would love to ask her what in the world compelled her to name me after my lunatic aunt, Amarilis.

My name has a background that would work romantically in a Lifetime movie somewhere, but not in my life-time. My aunt Amarilis was in Cuba when I was coming out of my dear mother’s Pikachu singing the baby version of “bad to the bone.” Naming me after her was like a dedication, meaning she was metaphorically "here" with us. Cute, right? Wrong.

If I could’ve spoken any coherent words at the time, I would’ve snapped my fingers and said “Girlfriend, I am not a baby to reincarnate anyone. That is a fucked up name! We live in the U.S of A, ya’ll. Ain’t nobody gon' know to pronounce that!” Don’t ask me why my infant self would’ve sounded like Lil' Kim.

Elementary school was a place for day-dreaming, drawing stick figures with odd shaped heads, and encountering people different from you. My second grade teacher Mrs. Stern was blonde, blue eyed, and red from how white she was. In other words--she couldn’t pronounce my Hispanic first name if her life depended on it. Right then and there, she dubbed me Amy. This defining moment made me believe if I could be Amy, I could be anyone. I didn’t go as far as wanting to be Wonder Woman, but I did get some ideas.

At four years old, my aunt arrived from Cuba. My duty of keeping her legacy alive was done. I set an internal alarm that would ring when I turned 18 to remind me that I can legally change my name.

While I've fantasized about being someone else or going going by another name, my family has served as a constant reminder of how much I do in fact act like my aunt. As you could imagine, this only adds fuel to the fire. Aside from 'Amarilis', my mom likes to call me malas pulgas--which doesn’t make any sense when translated to English: bad fleas. In Cuban slang, it mean "bad attitude" and sort of references my aunt's own behavior. It’s time to put on my big girl panties (not to be confused with my granny panties) and prove them wrong. If I don't, they'll call me Amarilis the second--like a renovated apartment--and continue to picture both of us as the evil twins from The Shining.

At this point, my name will not be legally changed to Emma or Charlie as I had planned since I was Gary Coleman’s height. That is a resolution I will have to build a bridge over, given that it has a tiny fee of $500. And I don’t have a wealthy grandpa waiting to die anywhere. Amarilis will continue being my first name and I will, in the fabulous words of Tim Gunn, “make it work.” Sure, I can never lie about my Hispanic heritage every time I answer a “What’s your name?” followed by a “That’s so Cuban.”

And in the end, so what if no one can pronounce it? Amarilis [ah·mah·ree·lease] noun 1. for person who has plans to change it, so do not make fun of her in the meantime.

With help from the lovely

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