Thursday, April 29, 2010

All...and nothing in a name

Yes my real name is Zen. Birth given.
I was going to be Zen whether I was a boy or a girl, my father says with some pride. He used to call us "People", no gender, not boy or girls. People. The other "us" are my brother Tao and sister Chi. All make sense now?
Tao means the WAY of life or the Path of life, Chi means the BREATH of life and Zen and life are so close in distinction that Zen is almost life itself.
Tao, Zen, Chi.

On top of that, those names were our middle names. No first names. On our birth certificate we all have an X where the first name should be. We were allowed to CHOSE our first names. Whatever we wanted. Our parents were obviously married in the 60's. Some people give me a knowing smile at this point... no, they were not pot heads..they were Dad was nearly 49 when his last, my sister was born. My Mom was 35. They were too busy with having kids, running a family summer cottage resort and being teachers to be entrenched in the late 60's and early 70's music and marijuana far as I know anyway.

So whenever we wanted, we all chose our own first names. We were aware that this was slightly peculiar, but from my perspective anyway, it was empowering. Exciting. Also a bit daunting. To invent oneself brings alot of questions to the table..
Who am I? Who do I want to be? How does my name represent me?
People looked shocked " WHAT? You get to pick your name?" The looked disgruntled, cheated, and then I tell them that anyone can pick their name, just go to the court house and change it. Then they wonder what they would change it to...

I thumbed through a dusty old book of names, and came across a french name
"Mignonne or Mignon" I had a distant cousin named Mignon. Didn't know her, but at least the name was validated by her. My father is French. I was tired of getting picked on by the blond 6th graders on the school bus for being half Chinese. The ching chong noses rang in my head like a church bell, ominous and foreboding.
I wanted something different, something French might remind them I am just as much Causcasian as I am Chinese...maybe...

The name meant petite or darling and I weighed about 70 pounds at the time. It fit.
I took it on. When I transitioned to "Jr. High" ,meaning 6th just so happened that the one African American person in the whole town, probably the whole county, was in my class and finally had his adoption papers go through and he now wanted to be called Adam instead of Clay. We formed a pact. You call me Mignon and I will call you Adam. The teachers announced it, we kicked it off, and soon, with weird looks and frustrated sighs, it eventually caught on.
Not without some taunting though, after letting it slip about the "petite and darling" meaning, one of the other blond eight graders taunted in a sing songy "Mignon, me darling, me dogshit".
Later in high school, it was " Filet Mignon" or a big "YAWWWWWN" as I walked by.
In college, at noisy New York City bars...the soft "M" and unpronounced "g" and "non" melted into the city noises and was simply " WHAT???"

On a trip to France I received snickers, out right laughter, and a "talking to" by several concerned adults. Mignon meant "cute" or more modernly " hot"...guys would check out woman walking by and say " Ahhhh, Elle est Mignonne." I was literally calling myself hot. And oh, it should be spell in the feminine version.

When I backpacked around Asia at 19...I don't remember if I told the fellow travelers that my name was Zen or Mignon. Hence, I didn't communicate and follow up, keeping in touch as often as I thought of it. I was beginning to confuse myself.
After a while I got tired of all the drama around my name.

When the current position holder version of Tim Gund at Parsons School of Design was reviewing my final fashion design project, he saw my middle name was Zen and asked me if I would like to be called that. I sighed and released a huge burden of "Filets", miscommunications and confusion and said strongly "YES."

People often ask me now if I am "Zen" and in my twenties I never said yes, I said, in a defeated tone " No not really...I have a temper." and would smile sheepishly. Later I became mildly Zen-like, saying simply " Sometimes. "
Now I am Zen, I own who I am... and yet I might not be...what you think zen is. Names don't really MEAN anything about us, except what we make them mean. Who were are is simply created every moment. We are nothing and everything. I am Zen if I chose to be.

And there are implications to a name. I know I have received job interviews because my name is Zen. I know my company name is catchy because it has Zen in it. I even successfully negotiated with a 5.9 billion dollar company over the right to use my name in my company and won. It matters.
I get that it is important to name your children something strong, something good, something that, if possible, stands out with grace.

When it came time to have children, however, I got the most important name to change was my last name. I wanted to be unified as a family. This would make a difference for them, for us to be Team Honeycutt. I debated however, as my maiden name is french, melliflous and royal. La Bossiere. I love it.
When I read on a chat board, a posting that said " I would rather have the last name of the man I choose than the name of the man my mother chose." That struck me.
Nothing wrong with who my mother chose, nothing wrong with his name, and however, nothing better about his name either. It's just a name. I do however choose my husband now. Today. I choose him and his name is Honeycutt.
So I am Zen L. Honeycutt ( kept the last name as a middle name to honor my family of origin and dropped the Mignon)
And none of it matters and yet it does. It's a choice. Thanks Mom and Dad for the choice. Thanks Todd, for choosing me back.

Zen L. Honeycutt

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