I’m currently in ID limbo, the letters of my name spread out like Scrabble tiles in multiple locations. Who I am depends on who you ask.
Ask the bank and they’ll tell you I’m Jessica Dofflemyer. Ask my email account and it would say I’m now Jessica Spichalova. Ask Facebook and they’ll say I’m both (yes, FB let’s you have two names).
Being that I have a modest body of creative work produced by Jessica Dofflemyer, it seems I shouldn’t shake this moniker entirely. Yet, my heart wants to take my newly wedded husband’s name.
For nearly forty years I’ve tripped over the awkwardness of “Dofflemyer”. Teachers reading it aloud at roll call with twisted tongues. The many years of spelling each letter out to an infinite number of phone representatives. The small chatty comments the name elicits.
“Oh, that’s different. Where’s that from?”
“Hmm…never heard that one before.”
“Wow, that’s a long one!”
As a young girl I dreamt of shedding it through marriage – someone with an easy name of Smith or Jones. No need, ever again, to spell it out.
Alas, I finally have my chance at 39. Marriage and a name change. But oh, it’s not so simple.
Marrying a Czech man, I’ve chosen to honor tradition, take my husband’s name, then add the customary “ova” at the end. He’s Spichal, therefore I am “Spichalova”.
Dofflemyer to Spichalova? Clearly, I’ve traded one big, strange name for another. Though I must say, I do think Spichalova is quite beautiful. If only I could say it in the correct Czech pronunciation (due time, due time).
I know how these cumbersome names go. One has to be prepared to spell them out to strangers. Often over crackling phone lines. As I settle into this new title, it’s all about phonetics.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was good. Maybe it all starts with a vibration that is carried into the ether through sound. These labels we put on things, the names we give ourselves, they have a tone.
Over the years, I’ve mixed woo-woo and the practical, hybridizing official NATO telephony and making it my own.
You know what I’m talking about. A as in Alfa, B as in Bravo, C as in Charlie.
To begin spelling Dofflemyer, I know it’s D like Delta, but I much prefer Diamond. F like Foxtrot, okay. But I like Flower better.
Shouldn’t the words associated with our names ring of all things with which we resonate? Good vibrations, right?
X for X-ray? Practically speaking, a sound word choice, but frankly, if I had an X in my name I don’t think I’d want to radiate that into the cosmos with every spelling.
So now I’m sounding out Spichalova.
The Bohemian and I take a night-time car ride and play with letters.
“So S like Sun?”
“Yeah, I like that. Sierra’s the official word, I think. I like that too.”
“Power is the first word that came to my mind. Too much?”
“Yeah, that is kind of strong.”
“I like Purple. Let’s just keep going. We can come back. So, S like Sun (or Sierra), P like Purple – hey, I just thought of Papaya.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“Ok, it’s a work in progress…moving on. How about I?”
“Too cold. Probably couldn’t be heard very well, either. Could sound like nice or rice.”
“How about Island?”
“Yeah! I like that. Or Infinite! How’s that? Well, probably too many syllables. It’s bulky. Look how long the name is. Gotta get through the spelling pretty quickly. What’s the standard? India, I think.”
“Well, I like that too.”
And so we Scrabble our way through Spichalova, though to be honest, I don’t remember every match we found.
With something like this, one needs to be prepared. Have these matches memorized. You never know when you’ll be asked to spell it out. And there’s nothing like enumerating every letter and suddenly forgetting “L like…” In the pressure of the moment you may draw a blank. Sound like you don’t know how to spell your own name. Or worse, end up with the default “Lima” (no disrespect to Lima) until you remember Love. Ah, right, L like Love.
Would the world hum just a little differently if everyone was spelling their names out with the words of their grand ultimates? Would life ring a little more true if a Julie Andrews’ list of “Favorite Things” was conjured every time we shared our name?
And what is my name, anyway? I guess I’m not choosing just one. Still spelling them both out into the world.