June 19, 2019As I evolve and change, so does my name.
That may seem strange to some. In my years on the planet thus far, I've had more than one name. I'm not talking about my surname, either, though I've had more than one of those, too. I'm talking about my first name, and how it's origin already started out altered. Maybe that's why it continues to alter and change. I like to think of it as evolving, just as I evolve as the true path before me unfolds.
The name on my birth certificate is "Catherine Marie Minolli." It's a great name and I'm very proud of it. As is the tradition in many cultures, I was named after my paternal grandmother. Sort of. In the wake of World War II, and the great push and social pressure to assimilate, my parents chose to 'Americanize' the name from Caterina to Catherine; from Maria (my mom's middle name) to Marie. They did the same with my sister Virginia, named after my maternal grandmother Virgilia (Leopardi) Rossi. Virginia's middle name is 'Ann.' My mom's name is 'Anna.' For the longest time the folks (Francesco and Anna) went by 'Frank and Ann.' Later, that changed. Evolved, so to speak, as social norms have done. These days Sophia, Eva, Isabella, Micaela, Angelo, Franco, Sergio, and other "ethnic sounding" names are as common as Mary, Susan, Jim and Bob once were.
For most of the earlier portion of my life I'm referred to as "Cathy." My folks, my sisters, my classmates, my teachers, coaches, etc. call me Cathy. In a classroom, when someone calls out the name, at least five other girls turn their heads to respond. Cathy with a 'C' and Kathy with a 'K' are both exceedingly common when I'm a kid.
A job interview changes that. I'm 21 or so, interviewing for a receptionist position at a real estate development company in Bloomfield Hills. All of the best paying jobs are in Oakland County, and I want a piece of that.
The secretary to the company's big wig conducts a little pre-interview. As she's perusing my resume, she prefaces her questions with my formal name. "So, Catherine, how long have you lived in Plymouth?" and "Tell me, Catherine, what would your ideal job look like?"
After about the fourth question I pipe up, "You can call me Cathy."
Her eyes grow wide. She shakes her head a bit.
"Why would I want to do that?" she scolds. "Catherine is such a beautiful name!"
Double take. Woah! She's right! From then on, Catherine it is. It takes a while for everyone to get used to it. And it's interesting to note that despite asking what my preference is, and me saying it's "Catherine," some still call me Cathy. Still do. But mostly it's Catherine.
Fast forward about 20 more years, and the name evolves again.
Friends begin to call me 'Cat.' I don't know if it's because 'Cat' or 'Kat' is now a common, socially acceptable and even somewhat popular name, or if it's because it's just shorter and easier to say than "Catherine." Whatever the reason, it has stuck. And I don't mind. I like it. I'd always coveted the name since the amazingly gifted singer/songwriter Cat Stevens rose to musical fame. I wondered how he ended up with such a cool name because it didn't really jibe with his exotic looks. Turns out he chose it, that's why. Born with the moniker Steven Demetre Georgiou, his folks may have done the same as my folks when he was born. Steven is pretty mainstream. Demetre Georgiou, not so much. As he walks his own spiritual path, his name continues to evolve, too. Today he's known as Yusuf Islam.
While I don't anticipate anything quite so different in the coming years, it wouldn't surprise me if my name evolves again, too. Especially, if like all Cats, I continue to land on my feet.
Email Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.