If your name is Bambi and you live in Las Vegas, these, apparently, are fair questions. I get them all the time. Sometimes they don’t ask, they just blacklist my email address. Bambi with a Vegas IP address could only be a certain you-know-what.
It’s no wonder, really: the Las Vegas phonebook has 110 pages of entertainers. And you know what I mean by entertainers. The naughty, discrete, spicy, barely legal, and exotic kind. They’re Swedish, Russian, Swiss, Vietnamese (twins!), Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, and Chinese. They’re sweet, new in town, and fiery. For years, my name was on the back of taxi cabs all over town, lasciviously illustrated with promises of bounty.
Being blacklisted is a pain but easily correctable. I communicate with quite a few police departments, and they’re the biggest offenders. So I do a fair bit of resending, while feeling like an illicit trifle, a forbidden floozy trying to regain her honor.
Here’s how introductions usually go:
Man: Really, Bambi? [[heh-heh] Like the deer?
Me: Yeah, right.
Man: And you live in Las Vegas? Are you a dancer? [read: stripper.]
Woman: Bambi, cute. Is that your real name?
Me: It is, yes.
Woman: Where’s Thumper? [ha-ha] Just kidding.
According to my parents, I was not named after the Disney character, the one in the film made from Felix Salten’s 1923 book, Bambi, a Life in the Woods. My parents insist their inspiration was Bambi Lynn, a dancer best known for her appearance in the 1955 film Oklahoma!. But who was she named for?
As a kid, I had a few nicknames I dare not resurrect. None pleased or bothered me. None lingered, probably because I moved so many times. One move had me in a new school at the start of second grade. The teacher asked if anyone had a nickname or middle name she and the class should use. Aha, I thought, I do, and raised my hand. Lyn, I said. Sure, said the teacher. And all was well until I brought home my first paper. My mother said What’s this? That’s not the name we gave you! It was a meek and humiliated little girl who had to change her name in front of everybody the next day. Probably scarred me for life. Or made me shoulder my burden and bear it.
Two years ago, I was interviewed on television by a Thai woman named Flower. Bambi is Flower’s guest today. Sounds too cute. Most people probably switched channels at that point.
I think a lot about names, how people grow into them, or don’t; how people modify them, or don’t; the effect they have on the bearer and others; the significance or insignificance of them. And how people carry their own names. What they are called vs. what they like to be called.
Many people feel compelled to crack a joke about my name when they meet me. They think they’re being original. I haven’t heard a new one in decades. I don’t have any good comebacks, either. Have any suggestions? I realize how silly it might feel to use my name. I’ve known women named Ditty, Cheery, Bunny, and Honey, and I’ve cringed using their names. Then I remember that I have a toy name, too. A cartoon name.
I’m against middle names, like mine and my sisters’, chosen only for their sound. I like them to have some importance or meaning. I’ve convinced more than one woman to give her maiden name to her child as a middle name.
I like my last name. Not too common but still ordinary; easy to spell and pronounce around the world. A relief after my exotic first name. My mother and father were both Vincents, so I’m double-strength. Of course I couldn’t dump it for marriage. (Somehow, my three sisters had no problem ditching it, though.)
Despite the sound of this rant, I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t like a boring name like Linda or Kathy (sorry Linda and Kathy), or a funny name like Gladys (Happy-bottom). I’ve been amused by many a name: women named Wonder, Spratley, Greer, and Phelps. In South Africa, I knew a man named Lastborn and a woman named Surprise (Lastborn’s younger sister?). Having a name that amuses others is not so bad. Even I am amused when someone forgets my name. Something I imagine is so shiny and neon-colored and remarkable can be vin-ordinaire to some.