I used to hate my name. My mother said she named me Roxanne after some obscure actress who had a few fleeting moments of fame back in the early fifties. When you’re young, you want nothing more than to fit in, and my name stood out. I longed for a more common moniker, like Ann or Mary.
Kids would tease me, spelling my name “Rock-Sand.” On Romper Room, Miss Jo’s magic mirror never spotted me in the viewing audience. I could never find a miniature license plate for my bike – or any type of premade personalized item – with my name on it. It just didn’t seem fair.
I didn’t meet anyone else with the name Roxanne until I was in my twenties. By then, however, I was coming around to the advantages of having a “different” name. It was memorable. It set me apart. It got me attention.
For example, my first job out of college was at a small Boston PR agency. My duties included calling local media to solicit coverage for our clients’ events and programs. One day, I called Robert J. Lurtsema, host of the well-known “Morning Pro Musica” classical music show on WGBH, Boston’s leading public radio station. When I introduced myself, he began to quote from Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” delivering lines – in his sonorous radio voice – that Cyrano said to Lady Roxane (Rostand’s spelling). To a rube from Maine fresh out of college, it was a swoon-worthy experience.
Then came the 1978 Police song “Roxanne.” The first time I heard it was when my clock radio alarm clicked on one weekday morning and Sting was screaming my name. Talk about a wakeup call. And wouldn’t you know:
Finally a song
about Roxanne – and she’s a
hooker. Just my luck.
The next decade brought the June 1987 release of the movie “Roxanne” with Steve Martin – a modern take on the Cyrano de Bergerac story. I kinda liked seeing my name (spelled correctly this time) on movie posters and TV ads.
Then, in 1995, my name made headlines the world over when Hurricane Roxanne hit. Some favorites: “Roxanne sinks barge off Mexico,” “Mexicans sigh in relief after Roxanne,” “Tourists flee coast in Roxanne’s path” and “Relentless Roxanne.” Who knew I was so powerful?
There’s been quite a bit of research done on the impact a name has on a child’s life. Here are some of the findings over the years:
- Early studies found that men with uncommon first names were more likely to drop out of school and be lonely later in life (good thing I’m a woman).
- One study found that psychiatric patients with more unusual names tended to be more disturbed (good thing I’m not a psychiatric patient).
- More recent work suggests that wealthy, oddly named Americans are more likely to find themselves in Who’s Who (good thing I’m not wealthy).
- In other research, children with a deviant spelling of a common name tended to have slowed spelling and reading capabilities (good thing Mom didn’t name me Maerie or some other odd variation of “Mary”).
- And one sociologist says children with unusual names may benefit from being teased about their names by learning to control their emotions or impulses, which is a great skill for success (you might disagree if you saw the profanity-laced fits I pitch when my computer acts up).
At this age, my name is simply part of who I am. And it’s not even that different anymore. On meeting me, some people comment that they think the name is cool. Some break into song, screeching a falsetto “Rox-anne,” a la Sting, which I think is kinda cool.
But the best response yet was when I recently got a note from my six-year-old grandson addressed to “Rocksan.” Today, that misspelling doesn’t bother me in the least. Because I know who I am. And being a grandma rocks.
What about you? Did you like your name when you were growing up? Have you changed your first name as you’ve gotten older? Please share…