“What’s in a name? Not an extra B, motherfucker!”
I have a problem with names, mine in particular.
Carol’s no big deal. I actually like its simplicity and the tiniest inference of “song,” even though I can’t sing a note in key or on pitch.
If you must know, my mom named me after a ‘60s song she liked by Neil Sedaka called, “Oh, Carol!” He wrote the lively peppy upbeat ditty about his unrequited love for songwriter and singer Carole King. The lyrics aren’t exactly favorable to that, or any other Carol: “... I am but a fool, darling I love you, though you treat me cruel, you hurt me, and you make me cry, but if you leave me, I will surely die, tra la la!”
It’s worse the having to study Yeats in my last year of college after Professor Thomas Caramello Caramagno rejected me the same way. Not that I was trying all that hard. But still, the lapis lazuli center will not hold nearly drove me insane with pathetic loneliness for focused, melodramatic attention, the kind that drives off into the sunset without a map or a forwarding address.
Fitting, then, that Tom turned out to be a bi-sexual who survived prostate cancer, but just barely. His manic-depression turned me on. Who knew his fascination with “The Big Chill’s” Nick would prove self-fulfilling, the second he turned his back on me. Or that he placed all his manhood on his manhood, from hung like a horse to barely wilted.
Or that, my reticence served me well in the end, for all my unrequited circle jerks alone in the night, calling his name as if reciting poetry to save my life. So much enigmatic prose to describe my failed attempts at capturing the kind of focused attention merely glimpsed in the likeness of Level 42’s “Something About You” video, “The Forsyte Saga,” he passed by my window, always gazing toward the horizon, smelling salts, to the lighthouse.
Every boy I talked myself into falling in love with went through my name treatment, a typical schoolgirl’s doodles during Math. Carol Koballa. Carol Deering. Carol Coble. Carol Elseth. Carol Jensen. Carol Komatsu.
Of course I’d drop my last name—my “adopted” last name, it turns out, but then I only found out mid-term into my sophomore year right about the time I thought I fell in love with Professor Caramagno, because he offered to buy me a can of Coke, stared into my eyes as if I were Chloe, full of hidden meaning and the key to unlock his unrequited joy.
Banks doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, or lend itself to blending unobtrusively in the background. Banks actually cuts off the lyrical flow of Carol with a sharp thud and a nasal twang. I could swear people knew I wasn’t really a Banks, just by looking at my slanted eyes, flat face, crusty tangled black hair and preceding a Carol.
I don’t look like a Carol or a Banks. More like a Bong Soon Lee.
People, in fact, went to grand creative lengths to spoof the pair with as much disgust as possible. Carol Bing Bong Banks. Carol Bonk. Cadole Bangkok. Loan me some money for my mortgage?
In my last year of Aiea High School, my favorite teacher, Mrs. Beverly Greges (my, how that trips off the tongue) took to calling me only by my last name, because for some reason which is unknown to me now, I decided that everybody should call me Carla. But then when Mrs. Greges called me Carla, I wouldn’t answer, because, well, you know, I forgot I was Carla.
She was the only human being alive who got away with it, made it sound almost hip. It’s like hearing OLTL’s Kevin mutter “Manning!” like a curse, but coming off almost like, admiration for an uncontrollable powerhouse of intense energy.
Then, there’s the not-so-minor matter of my middle name. I don’t have one. My mother is Korean, therefore, she had no idea what a middle name was. It was only after my brother came along three years later – with considerable prodding from my adoptive American Army sergeant father, Walter Marshall Banks – that she remembered enough to christen him James Marshall Banks.
No matter where I go and who I encounter, I always have to deal with the meltdown about my lack of a middle name. James Ward, the high school newswriting photographer and archetype for smart asses everywhere, who once walked the campus during lunch hour entirely clad in Reynold’s aluminum foil while blasting “Rock Lobster,” hassled me so much that I caved in and let him attach his own idea of the perfect middle name, Zantibago.
My mother later asked if I wanted to go to court to add the middle name of my choice. I just looked at her as if she contracted Alzheimer’s. A middle name doesn’t count if you have to pay the legal system for it yourself. Otherwise, I might as well be Carol Elizabeth Banks, which had been one option I’d toyed with in the 7th grade. I don’t know why I picked Elizabeth, maybe I couldn’t come up with any other name, maybe it’s after the little sister of the big brother I had a crush on. I hate that name; it sounds prissy and high maintenance, and I’m anything but one of the two.
Doesn’t matter anymore anyway. I got married on December 1, 1990 to Edward (who hates anything but “Ed” or “Eddie” after I kept insisting on being formal, thinking I was gonna be different and stand out, when I was just annoying him) Kurt Weber, a nice German/Irish/American young man two years older than me, and given to bouts of Spock-like contemplation, mixed in with James Brown outbursts.
Well, hey, I thought, now I have the perfect middle name and it’s automatically legal the second I got married. I can use my maiden name, and be Carol Banks Weber. I only have to keep reminding people, no, that’s not my real middle name, it’s my maiden name but I kinda let it stand in for my mid— never mind.
My married last name causes loads of problems. You think it’s a pain in the butt being a Banks. At least I only had two people take the “s” off the end, and one of ‘em should’ve known better (Liane Matsukawa!).
But Weber... everybody wants to add a “b” there.
Eddie went through his share of hell growing up with that name. In third grade, a substitute teacher began arguing with him that his last name should be spelled Webber, because he pronounced it “Weh-ber,” phonetically. Otherwise, it should be pronounced, “Wee-ber.” At that age, Eddie explained to me recently after turning over in bed late one night—when we usually engage in our deep discussions of the universe and various assortment of assholes in between—“I didn’t have the logical skills to argue back, so I just got mad.”
“What did you end up telling the teacher?”
“I said, ‘It’s Weber. I say it Weh-ber. One b.’”
He’s a working jazz musician most nights, weekends and holidays, when he’s not putting in long hours at his day job as a software tester... all so I can stay at home and be mommy and shit my pants whenever the IBS-D wants to spew out. Part of my pride is seeing his name in lights, in the credits of CDs, demos, posters he helped produce and play keyboards for.
But every single time, they get it wrong. Two ‘bs.’ People who’ve known Eddie for decades. They even get it wrong on his paycheck, for God’s sakes.
As a former journalist, it’s intrinsic to my job to be accurate in spelling and syntax. As an anal-retentive perfectionist from the day I was born and cried incessantly because I could feel every pea and pebble and speck under my bed (and I hated the mint-flavored Wrigley’s those old Korean ladies with the nasty gold teeth kept breathing on me as a baby), accuracy in spelling was basic. Accuracy and double-checking.
Anybody who can’t spell basically is a useless moron better left to the waste bin of trailer trash. That, or lazy as hell.
Last week, I caught the tail end of another touchy-feely after-school special, otherwise known as KOMO-TV’s local news. The reporter was having an orgasm about the Mariners practicing for their first game, interviewing fans. One in particular, a toothless blond bimbo in her early 20s raved on and on about the poster she made worshipping her favorite baseball team. On it, “Go Mariners! I am a fan, to.”
“to?!” Shouldn’t that be “too?”
Such elementary school misspellings are rampant, including TV commercials, billboards, teletype during national news broadcasts, 90 percent of soap actors aren’t literate above the 8th grade.
Amber Tamblyn (“Joan of Arcadia”; ex-Emily, GH), God love her, she’s very talented, her poetry isn’t too cornball Hallmark or Plath affected like Jewel’s, but the girl can’t spell to save her life—and she graduated from high school, ladies and gentlemen.
Early on in our courtship, Eddie told me that he came close to changing his own name, because he wasn’t feeling the Weber either. He always liked Kurt Edwards.
That’s not bad. I doubt anyone could misspell or mock it either. Maybe if I drop Banks and throw in a, Madeleine, I could be Carol Madeleine Edwards.
Forget it, I sound like a blue-haired old lady from Des Moines.
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