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?