Preparing for the first day of 5th grade, in a school new to me, I made a resolution. From that day forward I would be called by my given name. “Cathy” is a perfectly fine nickname, but I preferred the name I was granted at birth, “Cathryn”.
Mother drove me to school and introduced me to Mr. Anderson. He was young and enthusiastic. He was friendly, and he was handsome. Turning to the class, he asked everyone to welcome the new girl, “Cathy”.
I was disappointed but tongue tied.
For the next thirty years, I accepted the nickname and thought little about it. Then on my 40th birthday, I reclaimed “Cathryn” by throwing myself a naming ceremony.
At the time, I was focusing on storytelling so had a lot of artistic, creative people in my circle of friends. I invited everyone to come with a story, a song or a poem – something to commemorate my name. It was one of the best parties I’ve ever had.
From that day forward, I gently but firmly corrected anyone who called me by my nickname, whether they had been at my naming ceremony or not. It was the right thing to do. “Cathy” was satisfactory for my younger years, but “Cathryn” was the woman emerging into full maturity.
That’s why I don’t automatically shorten “Thomas” or “Elizabeth” or “Richard” or “Judith”. Names matter. Using them in the way that calls to us acknowledges an essential part of our identity.
So, thank you, a quarter of a century later, to friends and family who retrained your minds and tongues to honour my request. You played a role in the person I have become today, and I am happy to be that woman.