My name is Gary. My parents told me that when they first saw me, they just knew I was “Gary.”
There are lots of Garys out there.
- Gary Kasparov
- Gary Sinise
- Gary Moore
- Gary Oldman
- Gary Cherone
- Gary Glitter
- Gary Busey
- Gary, Indiana
- Gary, West Virginia
- Gary, Minnesota
- Gary, South Dakota
So apparently it’s a popular name.
Nonetheless, I used to hate that name, particularly in junior high. I also hated my hair cut then, as well. Not man-ish enough. I wanted a Ted Danson do.
What was I thinking?
Changing my hair turned out to be easier than changing my name, which didn’t happen until college. Fresh start, new faces — I can be anyone I want. Armed with that knowledge, I tried going by my middle name: Lawrence.
It lasted a couple of weeks.
I’ve often wondered at stage names. Do Sting’s close friends call him “Sting” or “Gordon?” Is Bono “Bono” to his wife, or just plain Paul? Does Adam Ant’s mother still call him “Stuart?” When Eric Clapton was working with Babyface, did they call each other “Clapp” and “Kenneth?” Would Lauren Bacall be as famous as “Betty Joan Perske?” If you call Erykah Badu “Erica Wright,” does she answer? “Full list of stage names.
The trouble was, I could never remember who I was.
Someone would call my name and I would continue walking, oblivious to the fact that someone was trying to get my attention.
Names seem to merge with your self, and it’s difficult to separate “you” from your name.
The only reason I could start going by “Lawrence” was because no one knew me at college as “Gary.” It would have been difficult to convince everyone in high school to call me “Lawrence,” for I’d always been “Gary” to them.
Imagine calling the color white “blue” for the some arbitrary reason — it wouldn’t work, because white’s, well, “white.”
When I gave up on the “Lawrence” nonsense, a few people persisted in calling me “Lawrence” for a little while. That in turn made for a stupid situation, because I had to explain:
- that I’d always been called Gary;
- that I only switched to “Lawrence” at college;
- that I’d not been able to get used to it; and,
- that I’d decided to go back to my “original” name.
“Why’d you want to change in the first place?”
If I’d known what my name sounds like in Polish, and that I’d end up spending years here, I probably would have stuck to the Lawrence. “Garnek” is Polish for “pot” (the kind you cook in, not the kind you smoke), and so when you say, “I’ll wash the dishes,” you of course use the plural form: garnki. Or you can use the diminutive form, which sounds like…
When my wife introduced me to her grandmother, granny’s reaction to my name is, “No, really — what’s his name.” After all, what how would you react to being told your granddaughter is dating “Pots?”
Still, I’m glad I stuck with “Gary.” It at least lets me make jokes after lunch.