Please call me Pamela.

The doctor had to spank me to get to me to breathe when I was born just minutes before midnight in 1958. Or maybe he was just mad he was called from a formal dinner dance, and delivered me in his black suit. My father didn’t see me for two weeks until my mother flew back to the remote outpost where he was stationed with the Department of Transport. My mom filled out my name on the hospital forms. Pamela Berdeane Fernuik. My middle name is my mothers first name. I was thankful my father wasn’t there when I was born. He may have gotten to the paperwork before my mother. He wanted to name me Murmur Ann or Roxanna Rose. Two names that were not included in the top 100 names that year. I don’t think I would have ever been able to buy something in the dime store with my name on it, if I had one of those names – a heart attack or a dancer with red shoes.

My mom had wanted my middle name to be Jane.  I remember standing on the landing to go upstairs to the kitchen when I was in grade school, listening to her  holler for me to come.”Pamela Jane! you come here right now!”

I said, ” I am not coming! That is not my name. My name is Pamela Berdeane!”

I love that my middle name is my mom’s first name. A part of her I carry with me in my purse on my driver’s license. Someone suggested I drop that name when I got married and just keep my last name as a middle name.  But I kept all my names on the marriage certificate, and just added one more – to the confusion of the police man when I went through the stop sign last spring. My name is on two lines and he missed the Hodges.

I  wanted to legally change my name to Angela the summer I was eight.  My friends kept pretending to spray their pans with me. Maybe that was the year they learned to read.  They recognized my name in the kitchen cupboard. The invention of a non-stick spray in 1961 by Author Meyerhoff ruined the name Pam for me. The spray was named after its inventor – an acronym of Product of Arthur Meyerhoff – PAM. My name was almost in the top ten the year I was born.   So close to being with Mary, Susan and Linda.  But then it became a non-stick joke. A can in everyone’s cupboard. Why couldn’t it have been an acronym of his partner Leon Rubin? And everyone would have a PLR in their cupboards.

I started to introduce myself as Pamela when I moved to Tokyo in the fall of 1983.   The Japanese had trouble pronouncing Pam, as their language does not have an “mmmm” sound.  Pam became, Pamu, and then Shamu the whale. The Whale at  Sea World in San Diego was popular in Japan in the 80’s.  I reprinted my business cards and introduced myself as Pamela, or  Paw-may-la.  My Japanese clients  called me Pamera Camera.

I had an assignment to photograph the head of Chase Manhattan Bank in Tokyo for a business publication. He handed me his business card, shook my hand and said, “My name is Timothy, please call me Tim.” I handed him my business card and said, “My name is Pamela, please call me Pamela.” I didn’t lose any work over not shortening my name to appear more friendly. The marketing director even repeated the story to other employees.

Why do people always want to call me Pam, after I have just introduced myself to them as Pamela? Or maybe the question should be. Why does it bother me when they change my name? I want to ask them, “Are you deaf?”  Last week when I went to the doctor I circled my first name on the intake form with a bold, firm line and wrote above my name, Please do not call me Pam. I included a little smily face as well, to soften the blow. The radiologist called me Pam as I as standing on my tippy toes with my breast sandwiched in the mammography machine. I was mortified. If she couldn’t pay attention to my intake form would she pay attention and release me from the machine before it turned me into scrambled eggs?

When I was at the dentists with my daughter and the receptionist called me Pam, she whispered to me, “Mom, she Pammed you!” Even my youngest knows the horror of someone shortening my name.  My husband warns his friends that his wife does not like to have her name shortened.  He has felt the full fury of my wrath when we met at the Atsugi Base Officers Club on January 26th, 1990. He said, “Hi Pam”, right after I introduced myself to him.  He quickly recovered from a near fatal social mistake, as five days later I was drawing sketches of what I wanted my engagement ring to look like. Two weeks later when he called me on the phone from his ship, the Midway, he said “Pamela, will you marry me.”  That Naval Officer learned quickly.

I have met many women called Pam, who are really Pamela’s.  They have given up the fight. They have surrendered their identity to  society. They have given up their power to the nameless masses who wants everyone to be their best friend.

I pray for my friend Joy when I wash my dishes with Joy. The bottle of Joy helps me to remember to pray for her.  Joy, my friend, not the soap, put her can of PAM on her kitchen counter. She uses the can as a visual reminder to pray for me. She did take her magic market and add “ela” on the can while we were talking on the phone last week.  She knows me well.

I have other names, Mrs. Hodges, Auntie Pam, Aunt Pamela and Mama. And occasionally I won’t correct someone when they call me Pam. I just smile and think to myself, “Oh, how quaint. They want to be my friend.”

Please tell me your name.  Do you like it when someone shortens your name when they meet you?


29 responses to “Please call me Pamela.

  1. My mom always liked my grandma’s middle name, Jensena, but she didn’t want my name shortened to Jen. So she named me Jessica. She has always called me, and my siblings, by our full first name. Never has my name been shortened by my family. It wasn’t until I met my husband that my nickname, Jess, came into the picture. I really don’t mind either names. The one nickname I can’t stand is Jessie. When I hear it I want to say, “I am not a boy!” I have made to exceptions to that Jessie rule. My neice – how can I refuse “Aunt Jessie”? And a dear friend who I let call me Jessie. For the record, I have never felt the need to shorten your name. 🙂 (by the way – your writing paints such wonderful pictures. I chuckle, sigh, or even cry when I read your posts – that is a “good” writer to evoke emotion!

    • I always want to call you Jessica. Or refer to you as Mrs. Whitmore when we teach the class together. I promise to never call you Jessie. It is so much fun to slice with you.

  2. My parents named me Cynthia, to be called Cynthia, but my grandparents, who spoke Pennsylvania Dutch (a combination of German and English), had no “th”. So it got shortened to Cindy, which I prefer, doesn’t sound as fancy or high-class as Cynthia. But there are the occasional people who insist on shortening it to Cin, which of course, sounds like Sin. No, thank you.

  3. Oh Pamela, you have hit on a nerve with this whole name game! I love the way you have been so explicit with people and they choose to ignore your plea. I may have to write about my name one of these days.

  4. I love reading about names. I got pretty upset when I was little and my grandmother had given both my brother and sister nicknames, but I was always LeeAnn. Knowing how sad I was, she tried Sunshine, but it just never stuck. When I was finally old enough to realize I was named for my Grandpa, Leon, it didn’t bother me anymore not to have a nickname.

    But my husband gave me one. After calling for me, “Hey, LeeAnn!” enough times, it got shortened to HeyLee. 🙂

  5. I was named Debra – too highfalutin for me! I went by Debbie, until in 3rd grade when there were three of us in the same room. One gal became Deb, one stayed Debbie, and I became Debbi. I fought the battle over “Deb” for years, but I have given up the fight. My main reason? My brothers insisted on calling me, Bed Backwards!!

  6. My “Stacie” can get shortened to “Stace,” but most people don’t call me that. Like you, my middle name is my mother’s first name. I always liked that. My first name seemed so random, I liked that my middle name was grounded that way.

    I don’t like people turning my name into other things. In high school (of course?) there was a period of “spacey Stacie,” but that, thankfully, is well in the past. I have a friend who calls me Anastasia … because she studied Russian in college and is a bit pretentious. I’ve gotten used to it, but she’s the only person who’s allowed to call me that. As much as I used to hate my name, I love it now and want people to call me by my full name … and to spell it correctly. That last is the hard one. People spell my name all kinds of ways that aren’t the way I spell it. I’m nice enough about it, but it does feel like a little pinch every time I see it written incorrectly.

  7. Oh yes. I am Katie and it irks me when someone calls me Katherine. I guess I can tolerate it although that was the name of “in trouble.” Katherine Lorraine after both of my grandmothers. What really kills me is Kathy. I am soooooo not a Kathy or a Cathy. I’m certainly not a Katy, Catie, Cadie, or Candy. My maiden name Stancati often turned into Katie Stancadie, stancat, satancottie,(!) or my favorite starcat (now that one I liked.)

    • Oh, I am glad you told me you are a Katie. The name Starcat sounds so exciting. I usually ask people what they like to be called. Yes, you don’t strike me as a Kathy or a Cathy. And why would anyone think you were a Katherine, if you introduced yourself as Katie.
      Silly people.

  8. Wow, I love all the different stories about the stages your name has progressed through in your life! I’m Jennifer and my family and oldest friends call me that. In high school marching band, people started calling me Jen + Lastname, and I didn’t mind that. Jennifer is too common not to use a last name, and Jennifer + Lastname was a mouthfull! I loved marching band and it sounded a little less serious. (I’m pretty serious and studious, which is good sometimes but not always.) By college, I usually introduced myself to new friends as Jen. Jennifer became my academic name (I used that in my classes and wrote it on my papers), plus a distinguishing marker that meant someone was an old friend or family member if they called me that. That continues today, with the exception of my husband, who calls me Jen because we met in college. However, I hate when people call me Jenny. I’ve always been little and naive, and Jenny seems to accentuate that. Plus, I always got the feeling that my parents didn’t want me to go by Jenny. Every once in a while, someone will just randomly start calling me Jenny, and like you, I don’t understand why. Why would you shorten / diminish someone’s name when they’ve never told you they like being called that? Loved your post and loved that you feel the way I do!

  9. Robin Patrick

    I love the way you write!

    Names are so interesting and so personal. We have several friends from other countries that just give up and tell Americans to call them a simplified version of their name, or they even choose an American name. That upsets me. Who wants to give up your name because some people are too lazy to try to learn your correct name?

    My original birth name was Robin Louise and my family called me Bobbi Lu. After being adopted my family kept the name Robin, since I was 5 years old, but changed my middle name and, of course, my last name. This has made my first name all the more important to me. It’s the only name I’ve had that hasn’t changed. From birth name to foster home name to adopted name and married name, Robin is the one that has been with me all of my life.

    I think the name Pamela is more romantic, colorful and pretty than the name Pam alone. More importantly it is YOU. The name that identifies who you are. I’m glad you stick to your guns and insist on using your full name.

    • I am so glad you shared a bit of your life in your comments. And I will think of you when I see Robins this spring. How special to have your name Robin be your constant.
      My name sounds the most romantic when a native Italian speaker says it. Pa-mey-la.

  10. OH you have hit a nerve of many. The name on my birth certificate is Tamara Jo HODGES but my entire life I have been Tammy. I like Tamara but could never get anyone to call me by that. I named MY kids names that couldn’t be shortened or altered. I love your slice.

    • If I ever have the opportunity to meet you, I would love to call you Tamara. My kids all have names that can not be shortened too. Oh, and nice to meet you, fellow Hodges.

  11. My name is one syllable, so shortening was never an issue. I went through a long stretch as a kid where I hated “Pauly”, though — not to mention “Pauly wanna cracker”. That’s gone now; I have a couple of buddies who use “Pauly” and it doesn’t bug me in the least.

    And oh yeah — I was supposed to be “Michael Paul”, but at the last minute I guess my parents changed their minds and switched the names.

    That makes my initials PMS. Thanks, guys. 🙂

  12. Hello Pamela, my name is Lisa. I have also been Li (Lee) which only bothered me in elementary school because I always thought of the suffix “ly.” Yes I am a bit nerdy. I am also Lis, not to be confused with LEAST. Perhaps my least favorite name has been Li-Li which is what my mom would call me when she wanted to get a rise from me.

    Perhaps my favorite name has been She-She. That is what I used call myself when I learned to speak. Yes, I referred to myself in the third person, and I imagine that is also rather telling in regards to my personality.

    May I say, PAMELA, your blog is a joy to read.

  13. Pingback: Ohso « elsie tries writing

  14. Wonderful writing about your name and the stories associated with it. I don’t blame you for NOT wanting to shorten your name. You are who you are, and good for you! I come from a family of odd names. My mom was Orcelia – named after my grandmother’s Swedish friend in Nebraska. Her first name was Blanche, named after her aunt. She never seemed to mind and thought it was good to be unique I guess, because them she named me JeNan. NMN – no middle name (to fall back on). There have been times in my life – going to college, getting married, and moving to new towns -when I could have shortened it to Jan but I never did. We did name our children Beth and Mark so they wouldn’t encounter any of this. (But our daughter’s middle name is Robinson because BOTH my grandmothers, thorugh unrelated, had that as their maiden name.) Anyway, if I ever have grandchildren, I am going to become Nan from now on. Thanks for sharing so many interesting stories about your name.

  15. Tamara Burchell

    Oh I love reading your blog, dear Pamela. Thanks for writing.

    Love, Tamara (not Tami)

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