My mother doesn’t like my name.
The woman is never short on opinions.
It seems that on the delivery table, she fancied me a Lily, and she was sure all nine rosy pounds of me would blossom right into it.
Everyday, I thank God she lost the battle for naming rights.
Nothing seems more incongruous than quirky, sassy, tiny little me brandishing a moniker tailored for a demure, delicate, lithe debutante.
Lily would have excelled at gymnastics, what with her flowing grace and calculated steps.
I found myself politely excused from tumbling class at the tender age seven. The instructor said I “might be better suited for something a bit more rough and tumble.” Apparently, the class title wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
Therein began 11 years of my parents trucking to American hot spots like Evansville, Indiana and Zanesville, Ohio to watch me break my wrists, trash talk like a sailor and drag other girls to the ground when the ref wasn’t looking. I loved every minute. My mom loved every minute flipping through her Vanity Fair on the sidelines while screaming, “Goal it, Erin!” She tried.
Lily would have traipsed through town in beautiful dresses, replete with spotless lace, pressed creases and crinoline to boot.
Oh how my mother tried to squeeze me into that closet, but I dripped popsicles all over her well-intentioned efforts and dragged my saddle shoes through the mud. Literally. She graciously surrendered altogether somewhere around second grade when I traded in cardigans and pretty headbands for bandanas and funky fresh overalls inspired by 90s music mavens TLC. Hip Hop and Country never played so well together.
Lily would have collected a brothel of Barbies, invested in the Dream House and sunk her fortune into buying Ken’s love with a spiffy, red corvette.
Instead, I refused to own any doll that didn’t “do” something. Thus, “Sparking Rollerblades” Barbie was the only bimbo to make it into my collection of toys.
Well, except for Transgender Barbie…Trans sold separately.
In fifth grade, my best friend and I enrolled Homecoming Queen Barbie in an experimental sex change operation. We were the most progressive ten year olds 1996 had to offer. After scrawling the obligatory “Do not enter! Surgery in progress!” sign in crayon and posting it on my bedroom door, we got to work sawing off Bab’s boobs with a steak knife. The reverse plastic surgery went extremely well, by all accounts. Barbie woke up from the procedure looking banging. Short hair, painted on combat boots and a flack jacket completed the look. We paraded our new leading lady around the house, and my mom looked horrified. Lily would have fainted, face first, into her plate of crumpets.
Years later, I found out my mother’s terrified expression had nothing to do with our act of defiance, and everything to do with the basic parental fear that we could have cut off our fingers. In truth, she was entertained and inspired by two budding feminists with the gusto to risk their phalanges in a campaign against the status quo.
I like to think I remind my mom every day how thankful she is that I am not a Lily, written with rigid lines, but instead that I am four much more well-rounded, flexible, dynamic letters that spell Erin. I like to think she hoped for a Lily instead of an Erin because she couldn’t hope for something she’d never known. She envisioned my rosy cheeks growing into a Lily instead of an Erin because she couldn’t picture something she’d never witnessed.
Nothing has ever been more essential to my identity than the fact that Erin by any other name would not smell as sweet. Sorry Shakespeare, you can’t win ‘em all.
My name just is Erin. And it fits me like my bright red Converse.