Monday, August 29, 2011

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

I would assume that when you are expecting a bundle of joy, you would have a bevy of names waiting. Granted I have no children, nor am I expecting to be expecting any time soon (Hey, I’m not even 100% sure I want kids. They’re a lot of work and they’re your responsibility for a lifetime, but I digress). Yet even I have a few ideas of what I would name my children, if said hypothetical children were actually to be born. However, my parents apparently did not prepare. In fact, my mom so strongly believed I was a boy that she had decided my name was to be Michael. There were no alternatives. So when, lo and behold, I turned out to be a girl, they were up the proverbial creek. I know what you’re thinking, They should have named you Michelle. Yes that would have been the logical thing to do. Well, they didn’t. Amelia, my mother, emphatically rejected that choice. It got so bad that the nurse actually said “If you want to take this baby home tomorrow you need to pick a name.” It was then, as legend has it she, my mom, not the nurse, turned to my father and said “Her name is Jean Ann. That’s it.” Perhaps she was still hopped up on pain meds because no one has any idea where in the world she got this name from. And every time I meet someone in a noisy place and repeat my name three times until I finally just agree with whatever the last thing they called me, I secretly and sarcastically, thank her.

Just last week while in a bar someone asked my name and for a second I thought, let me make this easy on everyone involved and say something simple like Marie or Liz, but my friends would have thought I was insane, so I said Jean Ann and of course he said “What?”. So I tried again, this time with more emphasis on each word, “Jean__Ann”. “Gina?” he asked. “No” I smiled, and said it again, slower now with more feeling “J-E-A-N A-N-N”. Lightbulb! “Oh! Jean Ann, like two names”! Hallelujah. And as the conversation died and I felt semi-exhausted from the effort that had been wasted, it got me thinking what exactly is in a name. How important is it really?

Let’s face it, you didn’t have a choice about it unless you legally hated it so much that you changed it, or you have an alter ego like Beyonce’s Sasha Fierce (or Roxy Strago?), but it’s something that you are stuck with forever. You also have a last name, I know you can call me Captain Obvious, but it’s what you share with the rest of your crazy family. Some people can’t wait to get rid of it as soon as possible, but for me it’s something I hold dear. I’ve always been proud to be a Garrish. And since my dad passed away in 2006 it means that much more to me. I want to celebrate my name, to make him proud, to carry it on for the family. But what happens if and when I get married?

Growing up, I, like many other little girls, held on to the romantic belief that a tall, handsome prince would sweep me off my feet and we’d live happily ever after. How could it not happen? It did for every Disney princess, as well as every female character in every romantic comedy I’ve ever seen (I think shrinks sound give money to companies that make these things, they must have send a bunch of us ladies into therapy) and hey I had a leg up, I didn’t live with seven little men and I most certainly did not have a fin. Well, a few, ahem, years later, my prince has apparently gotten lost and is without a reliable GPS system. So I continue to live and enjoy my life as a singleton. And with each year that passes I accomplish more and more. So why should I have to give that up? Okay, I know I’m getting ahead of myself because I’m thinking about something that may not even happen. Shouldn’t I wait until someone puts a ring on it before I analyze this? Maybe, but that’s just not me.

When I lost my dad there was a part of me that felt like I had lost a part of myself. He, along with my mom, was one of the few people who had always loved me unconditionally. I knew in my heart of hearts there was nothing I could do that would change how he felt about me or just how much he loved me. And believe me; I’ve heard the story of when my parents were both 40 and I unexpectedly came on the scene. He was none too happy. I’m not sure when he’s feelings changed, I’d like to think it was before my arrival, but I knew from the time I was a little girl I would always be his little girl. Then he was gone, far too soon, no cure. How could this happen? Who would now love me for exactly me?

People always want to change you. Make you into who they think you are or should be; especially in the entertainment business. And as an actress, I have come across more than a few people who have thought I didn’t have the “look”, whatever that is. I once met with a manager who pretty much hated everything about me & the way I looked. She actually was the subject of my very first post on this blog, I think she was the reason I started writing it, so I guess I should thank her? ( In brief, I was told that I'm not beautiful, but rather I was pleasant looking. I needed to lose weight, change my hair and makeup, be more glamorous, maybe get colored contacts, make my eyebrows thicker, my eyelashes longer. And that was not the first time someone in the industry has been critical of my appearance. One time an agent told me my teeth were too white. Um, seriously? Is that even a possibility? Apparently so! She 'might' work with me as long as I made changes.

Now I'm not telling you this to get compliments from you, I'm telling you because it's bullshit! As an actor I'm always trying to improve. Had she said I think you should take this class, it will make you a better performer. Or learn this monologue because it will stretch you, I would have considered it, but changing everything about myself just to get my foot in some door isn't ok with me. Maybe that's why I haven't found that big commitment yet, because I'm scared of someone wanting to change who I am. I'm scared of losing me, I guess (technically I also have commitment issues, but that's a subject for another blog, another day). And Lord knows there are many things I’d like to change about myself, but it should be up to me to make those changes (or not) and no one else.

A few years ago while celebrating my birthday, a friend and I got into a discussion about relationships. He pretty much told me I’m an idiot, well that was implied, and then he told me that I could find a man that would support my dreams and goals, and wouldn’t make me give anything up. I’ve never forgotten that conversation and I still wonder if he really exists, because I haven't found him yet, but if and when I do, I hope he'll be like my dad (not look like him because obviously that would be creepy and weird). But I hope he has integrity, faith, strength, a fierce loyalty, a sense of humor but most importantly, I can only hope he loves me with a quarter of the amount of unconditional love my dad had for me. And at the risk of sounding greedy, I pray he never wants to change me (or my name) because I’m Jean Ann Garrish and that’s all I ever have to be. Thank God, because it’s all I can ever be! And I’m pretty okay with that.

*my barista knows me by name and actually never asked me how to spell it...she's just a genius it seems!


adam sheldon said...

For what it's worth... You will always be my Ga-Resh!!! :) We love you... Jean Ann!

Roxy Strago said...

Love you too Adamey! :) Thanks for reading!

Ashley said...

In starting my new show, they accidentally listed me as Ashley Fleming, and my castmates thought I should keep it going forward. But there's a reason I never changed my name on my union card (other than not having a gig since I've been married.) so I made them change my listing to Ashley Turba. I think you just helped me realize why. Thanks, friend!!