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I say to myself, “Sandy,” under my breath, testing to see if I still feel like Sandy, my childhood nickname that almost no one uses anymore. Just my brother and a few scattered friends from high school. Mostly the people who knew Sandy have learned to call me Xan. Xan co-existed with Sandy, since it was the name my mother always called me. My father, on the other hand, always called me Alexandra.

If my father
Had just called me by my name
Would he have loved me more?

I test it now, “Xan,” under my breath, to see if I still feel like Xan.

After Xan came Alex, or more, Alex overlapped with Xan when I had an art career, because the foreign sounding Xan and the feminine Alexandra were coming up against the bigotry and misogyny of gallery owners. The last person I know of who still calls me Alex died last summer. I test the name, “Alex,” to see if I still feel like Alex, but I think that Alex died with Lynn.

Hi, I’d say, it’s Alex
Oh Alex, come for dinner, she’d respond
But never again.

My father occasionally managed Sandy, but never Xan and I don’t think he ever knew about Alex. He called me Alexandra, and always made it sound like he was mad at me, mostly because he was always mad at me. But I decided to use Alexandra anyway, to make it mine, to make it me, to claim the elegance, and the gravity, and the heritage that the name Alexandra carries.

Sometimes people shorten Alexandra to Alex reflexively, without asking, assuming that is what I’m called. No one ever accidentally stumbles on Sandy, let alone Xan; they go straight to Alex as if Alexandra is just too much, and like they get to decide what I am called. For the most part (you know already if you’re allowed), if you call me Alex and I don’t correct you, be warned. It’s because you don’t matter enough to me to be taught my proper name.

Alexandra, I say
Nice to meet you, Alex! No,
I say. Or maybe not.

I don’t know how much Sandy, and Xan, and Alex, and Alexandra have in common. I say to myself “Alexandra” under my breath, and yes, I feel like Alexandra.

yes, WordPress calls me Xan, and won’t let me change it

4 thoughts on “Names, a haibun essay

  1. I really like your haibun, Alexandra. I think of you as Xan as it’s the first name I saw. I do connect with the name transitions over the years. I was Lisa or Lisa and my middle name when I was in trouble. As a kid an old lady friend of the family nicknamed me LiLi. One of my old mentors called me Li. I nicknamed myself Jade, which eventually transitioned into Jade Li, then just Li. Will try to remember to address you by the name you’ve chosen from now on.

    • It was interesting to see everyone here connect with “Xan” I have to say. I let it go once I realized I couldn’t change who I was in WordPress’s universe lol.

  2. I have two Sandys in my life – you and my sister. Sandra is a reasonable blend of Alexandra and Sandy. I don’t want to create a pet name. It should have meaning. Will Sandra do, or should I keep searching?

    • Sandra is entirely a different name. Choose from the above list! (But you have the correct provenance to continue using Sandy. In fact, it sounds weird when you call me Xan)

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