Wednesday, March 19, 2008
What'd you call me?
Oftentimes when I meet someone new, they ask what name I go by.
For me, that feels like a loaded question. How long will I know you? What will our relationship be? For it seems that at different points in my life and at different levels of intimacy, I am called different things. And each iteration has a different meaning for me. Am I unique in this regard?
I guess my name offers a lot of possibilities. I am Kristina Marie Kaczmarek Holt. A lovely mouthful.
Kristina after a woman friend that was kind to my dad when he was young. (thankfully she was not also named Jedwiga. If you haven't heard the Jedwiga story, email me.) Marie after my mother. Kaczmarek because that's the name my relatives in the old country took after their own last name had come into some sort of disgrace. The story is vague. And Holt because I married one.
When I was little, friends and teachers called me Kris. Hardly ever Kristina.
My mom and dad used to call me Punkin or the Punk when I was young. The rest of my family calls me Krissy. When I call a relative and announce "Hi! It's Kristina" I get a silent pause at the other end before I have to interject "I mean Krissy." I think there is only one person outside of my family who calls me Krissy. But I've known her since I counted my years in the single digits. She's family. Also? When she's feeling sarcastic? She calls me Prissy. That's okay. That's when I call her Jennifart.
When I moved from New York to Texas in my tender middle school years the familiar, comfortable Kris was eclipsed by Kristy. Or Kristine (choosing my own spelling here...) That last "a" sound seemed like a terribly hard leap for those spandex wearing southern teachers. In NY, I was the only one in my school (all 6 grades) that had that name. Now I shared it with a ripe half dozen of those variations in each class.
One middle school teacher only addressed us by last names. Can you guess if he was a full-fledged teacher or just a part-time coach posing as a teacher? Yeah. Anyway. He seemed incapable? uninterested? in getting my last night right so just ended up calling me Kaz-i-Mizzer-ak. Until I started responding with a bastardized version of his last name. I seem a little taken aback now that I had the huevos to call him Mr. Grifag to his face. But I did. If I was a boy? I have the strong sense that it would have earned me a POP outside in the hall, but I was a girl, and you couldn't POP a girl. Yeah sexism!
The summer before my freshman year of high school, I randomly met a super cute guy at a Bryan Adams concert at Astroworld. How lucky was I to learn that he was a dreamy senior varsity football player from my very own high school? And yes, he remembered me when school started. Even talked to me when he saw me in the halls DESPITE the fact that he was dating one of the twin cheerleaders. Heather I think? And even sweeter? Whenever they would play a Bryan Adams song at a dance or homecoming? he'd come find me to dance with. He called me "Cashmere" (that football playing last name thing again) which sort of rhymed with my last name, but isn't that sort of endearing? I'm sure he had never seen my name spelled out, and only heard me pronounce it maybe twice. I didn't press the issue. I didn't really care what he called me.
A little while after that, I started working at a college radio station. I needed an "air name." Avoiding the whole Kris/Kristina/Kristy/Kristine thing altogether, I went with Kazy. There are a good handful of people who ONLY know me by that name, including the family of my best friend at the time: Tina (coincidentally, she was a Christine by birth. She went by Tina. Why didn't I think of that?)
My batch of friends at PVA would call me Krispy or Krispy-tina. I can't really remember exactly why. Sitting outside at lunch, I was the most likely to get burned (crispy fried), while everyone else seemed to get a tan. (or in the case of lizard, really really really tan.) I also got called Elizabeth a fair number of times. In the media department, there were many girls and many of us blond and many named Elizabeth. A friend started calling me KEK - giving me the honorary middle name of Elizabeth.
In Australia, the pronunciation of Kristina is more like Kristiner. As heard in the oft spoken phrase "Kristiner'll have another pint of VB." After awhile though, my pub buddies called me Tex though, for my drawl. Seemed funny to me, sort of sacrilegious being born in NY and all.
When I started working, Kris seemed like a more professional version of my name. When I got married, Kristina seemed to work better with my new short last name (which I still have to spell out for new people. I traded in the long name to stop the spelling!) Now I'm happy to hear mom.
So what do I go by? It's really more about what another person is comfortable with. I'll answer to whatever you want to call me, just as long as you call me.
Did I miss any?
[AH Yes! Bud (also not his real name) reminded me of another "rhymes with kaczmarek" nickname that I he bestowed upon me: car-wreck.]