One of the happiest accidents of my recent past was the discovery that my name had meaning. Let me explain. Growing up black in America evokes stereotypes that, in my opinion, you either live up to or overcome, most times, completely at whim. Depending on the situation, I've overcome quite a few and when I couldn't, I've laughed my way through to living riiight on up to the edge of them. Here are some of my faves:
1) You can tell a black person by how they talk on the phone. Not this black person, you can't. I love meeting people for the first time after we've had a few phone conversations. That first glance? High comedy.
2) All black girls can jump double dutch. Maybe I could if you held a rattlesnake to my ankles, but I wouldn't do that if I were you; not safe.
3) All black people love barbecue sauce. *shrug* I don't like sweet-flavored meat. I prefer lemon pepper.
4) Black girls don't like to be outside or to get their hair wet. My favorite past-time is hiking/backpacking and my hair is naturally curly, so to maintain the style, I wash it every day. And let it air dry.
Looking back through this, I worry that someone will read this and take away my black card. Sad...
Anyway, there is one that for the longest time, I couldn't come to terms with or overcome. You know the one. You can tell a black person by their (oftentimes made up) name. I admit it: My name sounds and looks made up to anybody outside my family. Always has, always will. Frankly, it has too many syllables for a five-letter word. The family lore surrounding my name is that my mother, undecided on what to name her precious, new girl-baby, deferred to a sister's (my aunt's) opinion. Dear Auntie said three, fateful words, "name her Leida," that would forever frame my life. If I had a nickel for every time my name has been misspelled, mispronounced, denounced and denuded over the course of my life...well, let's just say I would buy my own island and move it right next to Johnny Depp's.
For years, I gritted my teeth, corrected pronunciations and laughed ironically at jokes about me and that guy from Chrysler, about French fries and about my fourth grade crush (a story for another time). Then, for a while after I developed a thicker skin, I responded with humor and a certain degree of whatareyagonnado? grace. If you can't beat 'em, shoot 'em in the face, right? (I don't know what that means, either). Then, one day, a couple of years ago, I found this on zelo.com:
It. Means. JOY! I had an answer for the question, "so, Leida...is that a family name, or...?" I don't lie and say that my mom did it on purpose. That would be silly. But I do take a ridiculous amount of pride in something that was a complete accident. It made my day, no my frigging DECADE, when I discovered it. Finally, my name had MEANING. Not only that but it made sense; I love Greek stuff. I want to go to Greece before I die. I regularly crave Greek food. I can even say the word, dolmades, with the proper tonguing on the 'd' to make it sound like a 'th' sound. I own that movie, " My, Big, Fat Greek Wedding." I mean, it doesn't get any more obvious than that! After digging a bit further, I discovered that it's also a species name for a Mediterranean moth. Love that, too. And don't get me started on how cool I think it is to have a name that means happy! I mean, how...happy!
Why am I telling you all of this, you ask? No idea. It just seemed like a good icebreaker. Now you think I'm funny. Or at least that I tell long stories. Either way, you're still here, so HA!
Welcome to my twisted, little mind, you brave soul.