A Geeky History, Part II

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name,
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

There is great power held within a name.

Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!

I disagree, Juliette. A name is a part of a man, or of a woman. Perhaps intangible, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.

Would he? Would a Romeo be a Romeo if he were called Steve or Tyler or John? Did Shakespeare know that the same etymology that gave us romance (meaning “of the Roman style”) also gave us Romeo (literally meaning “A pilgrim to Rome”)? Of course, Shakespeare didn’t name the characters himself…but how would he feel to know that Romeo is now all-but-synonymous with “lover”?

Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Takes a lot of love to give up your name. Most girls grow up with the idea that they’ll someday marry and change their names to match their husband’s, but even though that’s a pretty standard cultural expectation (try telling someone you know a man that took his wife’s name, see what their reaction is.) it’s still hard for a lot of women to give up the identity they’ve lived with for their entire lives. Having someone’s name is having power over them, even in the smallest sense of the word. I have a pretty uncommon last name – you google my full name, you get….me.

I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

When I was 14, my family went on one of our last “vacations” to see my grandparents. My older brother didn’t come, instead choosing (wisely) to stay home and throw a massive house party. My grandparents live in a teeny house that backs up to a large field that has been somehow overlooked by deveopers for most of my childhood. Eventually a drugstore went up, and at some point a little playground went in at the far end of the field. As a 14-year-old, I certainly had better things to do than play on a playground, but none of those things were available to me, so that’s where I ended up. While I was there, a guy showed up with his little girl. The girl was three – barely three, I think her dad mentioned that it had been her birthday recently – and her dad was probably in his early-mid twenties. He was pierced and tattooed and generally not the sort of person my parents would want me talking to, but whatever, how dangerous can a guy with a toddler be? So I talked to him and pushed the little girl on the swings, and at one point, I asked her name.

“Vayda,” he said, “But we spelled it v-a-y-d-a. Do you know what it means?”

I shook my head.

“It’s the constant conscience. Universal wisdom.”

I nodded, like I got it.

Later, I looked up what Vayda meant. Veda is the sanskrit word for understanding or wisdom. The holy Vedas are the oldest Hindu religious texts. The little three-year-old Vayda may not have known the power of her name just yet, but I saw it. I wanted that name for my own.

I have, throughout my life, wanted a lot of names other than the one I was given. As an adult, I see the value in the name my parents picked for me – it’s short, uncommon but not unheard of, easy to spell and say, doesn’t pigeonhole me into a specific year or decade, and sounds good with just about any last name. But my inner self doesn’t like my “real” name. It doesn’t represent who I am, who I feel like I should be. I place a lot of value on words, and the meaning of my name is “youthful.” That’s good, I guess, but I’ve never really put a lot of value on youth. I value knowledge, wisdom, understanding. I’d be a wizard if I were a D&D character. Or maybe a druid.

But such is the beauty of being a geek. We choose our own monikers. Before I met little Vayda, I was BugGirl. Not a bad name, but I dislike that it’s not really a name so much as a title, and it felt immature to me. It didn’t have a meaning behind itself, there was no depth to it, it was just a shallow and vapid annoucement that hey, I’m a girl, and I’m on the internet. When I got home from that trip with my parents, I changed my online persona to Vayda. I’ve been her ever since, in almost every place online where it’s appropriate to use something other than my real name. I have friends who only know me as Vayda. My boyfriend called me Vayda for months before we got used to each others’ “real” names. I put real in quotation marks there, because the truth is that our online names are real. They’re as real to use as the names that we were given at birth.

By a name,
I know not how to tell thee who I am.
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee.
Had I it written, I would tear the word.

Screech, of Saved by the Bell fame, was the only one in the show with a nickname. Yes, Zach was short fo Zachary and AC was short for Albert Clifford, and I think Jessie was short for Jessica, but Screech had nothing to do with the character’s real name – which, although I remember the rarely-mentioned “Albert Clifford,” I cannot recall. And aren’t nerds often the ones with nicknames so pervasive we forget there might be another name on their driver’s license? My Facebook is filled with people that I constantly have to remind myself I know as someone else – Sym, Nito, Faceless, Bazz, Treez, Trodi, Xenius, Woflies. I once asked Cami, of all the questions I might have had for her, how she chose her name. I read The Name of the Wind and completely agree with Elodin. Even calling names have power. When your mom uses your middle name, you know you’ve done something wrong.

Changing your name is changing your identity. Why would someone want to do that to themselves?

To be a geek is to embrace everything you love without restraint. It is to show the passion that everyone has but few are brave enough to release. And our names, our given names, sadly don’t always correspond to the very things we love the most. But that is the beauty of being a geek. You’re already out there as a misfit, a social nonconformant, as someone who wears their heart on your sleeve.

Why not change your identity, too?

My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words
Of that tongue’s utterance, yet I know the sound:
Art thou not Romeo and a Montague?

Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.


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