(I wrote this originally for another venue. The editor there thought it too much of a rant. I’m sure it’s that, and I want to share this in the lighthearted manner it was intended. Hope you get a chuckle out of it.)
Did you ever think everyone around you was stupid because they couldn’t get your fucking name right? I wish people would just learn to read, and absorb what their eyes tell their brain. Sadly, it doesn’t happen as often as I would like.
My birth name is Donald Evan Hornstein. For as long as I can remember, my family called me Donny. Or Don Don. Or Donella (little Donny in Yiddish.) But mostly, it’s Donny. With a ‘y.’ And not Danny. Getting people to remember that, though, might take an act of Congress; and even then, under penalty of whatever, I don’t think they’ll pay attention and get it right.
I didn’t always use Donny, though. In the late 1960s, 1966 to be precise, Marlo Thomas stars on TV in ‘That Girl.’ What red blooded American male isn’t in love with Marlo Thomas? Me, included. On the show, she calls her boyfriend, Donald. OMG, (I was way ahead of my time) if I make people call me Donald, maybe I’ll get Marlo Thomas, or at least a reasonable facsimile. A boy can dream, can’t he? For the next decade or so, it’s Donald, and I never have to worry about someone misspelling my name. Maybe I’m a slow learner.
In college, the group I run around with has two brothers in it, Bobby & Donnie (yes, with an ‘ie) Ginsberg. Every time I hear Donnie’s name, something inside me quakes a little. (Remember, I’m still running around as Donald hoping for Marlo to show up, but I like how it sounds when someone says Donny.) I don’t realize consciously, I’m starting to struggle with such a formal name on such an informal guy. After all, I hate suits. I want to go to job interviews in business casual. Someone always has to remind me to put on a jacket and maybe even a tie.
In the late 1970s, I become a newspaper photographer and I begin to struggle with my credit line. Donald Hornstein? Don Hornstein? But never Donny Hornstein, the name I gave up for Marlo. I never have to go to a typesetter or editor or anyone to make sure they spell my name correctly. (Now I’m really starting to believe I’m a slow learner.) But, I struggle with my credit line, because it never looks right to me. I’m at the point where I start to wonder who this Donald guy is, because it sure as heck ain’t me.
I bomb out of photojournalism due to my Peck’s Bad Boy attitude (did you see me in Oral Fixation’s Slippery Slope? It’s on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMIzdUTY3gE) It’s many years later, about a decade in fact, I’m living in Dallas, and working in a network marketing organization selling term life insurance. “Buy Term & Invest the Difference” is the motto of the company. I’m attending a weekly meeting with the Regional Vice President with whom I work. A good ol’ Texas boy, Steve, sees me and says, “Hey, Donny, how’s it goin’?” I stop dead in my tracks. “Why did you just call me Donny? No one has called me that for years.” He kinda scratches his head and says, “Well, that’s my little brother’s name. It just came out.” I think to myself, “Crap, Marlo Thomas is married to Phil Donahue. I don’t have a chance in hell with her. I should use the name I’m most comfortable with. It’s 1988 and I’m back to calling myself Donny, and I like it.
But, now, the problem starts. People are either spelling my name wrong or calling me by someone else’s name. Crap! Not quite as bad, people who knew me during the Donald years, a bunch of old fogies now, refuse to call me Donny. In one case, a girl I dated in college, calls me Donald for many of the same reasons she did 40 years ago. Her father is Robert Donald and goes by Don. Her brother is Robert Donald, Jr. and goes by Donny. When we were dating, it just made sense for me to be Donald (even though she wasn’t Marlo, she did kinda remind me of her.)
For nearly 30 years, it seems like every time I turn around, someone is screwing up my name. A part of me just wants to let it go. The other part, let’s call him the asshole, wants to cut everyone off at the knees who gets it wrong. He usually wins. The first guy says, “Just let it go. People just don’t pay attention. It’s no big deal.” The other guy, throws a hissy fit. “Hell no, why can’t people get my name right? How difficult is this? We’re talking about the modern man, not the planet of the apes!”
In an email exchange recently, a man I’ve known for 14 years wrote, “Bruce, u and Donnie, D-O-N-N-I-E, were missed”….I mean seriously! In any email, my name appears in the from field and typically in a signature. D-O-N-N-Y. We ain’t talkin’ rocket science here, folks. I wrote him back and say, “After all these years you can’t spell my name 😉 (smiley face.) His response, “I think it was sub conscience. The “i.e.” (sic) just means fun and light hearted (sic) to me.” Really, that’s the best he could do? And, how in the hell does Donnie with an ‘ie’ mean lighthearted and fun? Is that in some secret dictionary someplace? And do I have to know a secret handshake to see it? Puhleeeeease!
The other one, especially today with email so prevalent a form of communication, is Danny. My brain immediately goes to “Are you stupid or what?” There’s my name again at least twice in our email exchange. Oh, I get it! Most of us don’t want to admit we need glasses, if only reading glasses. They look at my name and mistake the ‘o’ for an ‘a’. They’re both vowels after all. OK, maybe. Could ya just please let your eyes and your brain work together? The asshole would really appreciate it.
I should end this by telling you I’m not the only one in my family with issues around a name. My brother is Jerrold, J-E-R-R-O-L-D. He complains it’s our Mother’s fault. What? He says the more common spelling is G-E-R-A-L-D. Where he came up with that, I haven’t a clue. Maybe a secret addition of Poor Richard’s Almanac. You need another secret handshake to see that. Nonetheless, he thinks our Mother just didn’t do such a great job with our names. Maybe. I wonder, since most people call him Jerry, if he gets G-E-R-R-I-E? Or Gary? Criminy!
Perhaps the writing really is on the wall. If I’d just stuck with Donald I wouldn’t be in this predicament. Or maybe, Mom could’ve named me Bill or George or even Sue! Nah. Just do me a favor and try to remember, it’s Donny, with a ‘y’. And not Danny.
How Am I Changing? I’m trying to not sweat the small stuff. I really am. It’s just that the asshole keeps getting in the way.