My Name Joan

I confess. I don’t like my first name Joan. What were my parents thinking? Probably about a brave but misguided saint who was burned at the stake. Maybe glamorous movie stars from another era.

But Joan is so abrupt. One syllable with a short vowel. It rhymes with moan, groan and ah, the list is a long one.

I have some relatives and male friends who call me Joanie, but it’s not a trend that’s caught fire. Even my husband doesn’t call me that.

Once in Seattle, I passed a parking lot next to a brick building. Above the stenciled lettering “reserved” someone had spray-painted in large white letters “Joan.” Yes, I would say the two probably go together.

Another time a friend came to me with a dilemma. Her mother-in-law named Joan was dying and the family hoped she would name the baby she carried after her. She took me aside. How did I feel about my name? I understood her dilemma. I told her the truth: I wasn’t crazy about my name but I’ve gotten used to it. Besides, the family could call her Joanie. So, that’s what happened. The woman died after the baby was born, happy about the tribute.

This month, on the flight to Atlanta I read Natalie Goldberg’s new book, “The True Secret of Writing,” in which she makes this observation: “Santa Fe is not a large town, population about 60,000, yet Joan seems to be a powerful moniker here.” I was delighted.

I also think of famous Joans I admire. Joan Baez, Joan Didion, and Joan Allen. Good company to keep, I’d say.

No, I don’t plan to change my name. It’s who I am, I’m discovering.


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