The Trouble With Having an Even Vaguely Unusual Name

When I was growing up, I thought my name was fairly manageable and easy to pronounce. Lillian didn’t seem all that hard, and my last name, a good Irish surname, isn’t common — but it is phoenetic. It’s pretty straightforward, or so I thought. But, as it turns out, this assumption was completely untrue. Apparently my name is not unlike this train station in Wales!

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This has taken many hilarious forms over the years; when I was little, Lillian was a sufficiently old-school name that receptionists in doctor’s offices would routinely remark that they’d expected an old woman when they called the name Lillian, but look at me, I was just a child! (THE SHOCK.)

As I’ve gotten older, people have become less shocked by the fact that someone named Lillian could be younger than 90, and have instead been totally unable to wrap their minds around the name Lillian at all. I’ve been called Lorraine, Luann, Lauren…basically, if it involves an L at the beginning and an N somewhere near the end, people have thought it might just be my first name.

And, for some real fun, sometimes the L or the N don’t even make the cut. Behold the following examples:

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Sillion and Nalin. There’s broad consensus among my friends and family that Sillion is the most apropos mangling imaginable, since I have been known to be silly. (But this has only happened, like, maybe twice in my life. I’m otherwise extremely serious. I don’t even like smiling!) Nalin, though? I don’t know what to do with that.

And if you think that’s bad, things get particularly gnarly when my last name is involved. When I was in undergrad, I was looking for off-campus housing and calling around to leasing companies near campus. I’d leave my name and number, as requested — and when people called back, there was usually a long pause in there message before they sputtered out some bastardized version of my name. My favorite, though, was thus:

“Hi, I’m calling for…um…Luann McFireman?”

Yes, friends: Luann McFireman. Because obviously there’s a whole batch of last names that involve the title of first responders, preceded by a “Mc” prefix. Did you know that I’m a distant relative of the McParamedics? And I definitely shouldn’t marry into the McPolice family, because we’re third cousins twice removed. SMH.

More recently, when I had a birthday party a few years ago at a restaurant in DC, I called a week in advance to make the reservation, since I knew it was going to be a fairly sizable group. The restaurant called me a few days before to confirm that it was still on, and I called the night before to make sure everything was still good.

So you can imagine my shock when, in a cab on my way to the restaurant, one of my friends called and said “Dude, they don’t have your reservation.”

Um, no. This was patently false. I’d spoken to them three times about my reservation. There was no way they didn’t have it. Sure enough, when I got there I looked through their reservation book for my phone number. I found it, and when I looked at the name next to it, I had to try exceedingly hard to contain my laughter: Gloria Necternan.

I mean, I can totally imagine misunderstanding my last name, even though I’d spelled it out for them — background noise can make it hard to hear well over the phone. But Gloria? Where did they even get that?

Gloria Necternan has become my go-to nickname among my friends in DC; occasionally I’ll roll up to meet people for dinner and be greeted by a rousing “Gloria Necternan! Good to see you!” The worst part is, Brandon once decided to see if his phone’s voice command function would do anything with this — and it worked. “Call Gloria Necternan,” he said into his phone while grinning like the Cheshire cat…and moments later, my phone started ringing. Sigh.

Clearly this is just something I have to live with, since the name confusion won’t likely be clearing up anytime soon. I can, however, go back to my old tactic of using a pseudonym whenever I’m getting carry-out or hitting up Starbucks: nobody messes up when I say that my name is Elizabeth.

Cool Things Are *Happening,* People!

I have a long history of being easily amused. Okay, so it’s actually to a ridiculous degree – as in, I’ve been known to bound out of bed on a Monday morning because I have a new kind of coffee or tea to try out. (And, considering my general enmity towards Monday mornings, this is saying a lot.)

So, considering this particular quirk, last week involved two discoveries that made things pretty awesome.

First, I found out that Starbucks is now offering coconut milk as an option for the dairy-free crowd. I’m trying to avoid dairy when I can, and soy and I just don’t jive – so I’ve been hoping and praying for aaaaaaaages that Starbies would get on board and find another non-dairy, non-soy option.

(A quick disclaimer/caveat: I know chai lattes aren’t the healthiest things in the world, so they’re not on heavy rotation in my life. However, I like to try and get them on Fridays – it’s a “Yay, self, you made it through the week!” self-care thing. I’ve also been known to do this if I’m having an exceptionally crappy day, since a chai will keep me from merely slogging through until close of business while being tired and cranky. In these circumstances, I figure the less-than-super-healthy chai latte is absolutely worth it.)

Anyways, they started offering coconut milk on February 17th, but since we had Tuesday off work on account of the snow (yaaaaaaay!) I wasn’t able to take part in the coconut milk revolution until the end of the week. But when I did? Sweet fancy Moses. In case anyone is wondering, coconut milk chai lattes are fantastic.

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As for my second awesome discovery, I was perusing this month’s InStyle magazine – which is slightly ironic, in the sense that I love fashion but a) wear really basic clothes in real life, b) more or less live in yoga pants during the weekend, and c) pretty much refuse to shop anywhere other than Marshall’s and Target – when I saw that The Limited is offering a whole line of clothes based on Olivia Pope.

YOU GUYS.

As anyone who watches Scandal knows, Liv’s wardrobe is to die for. (Side note: is anyone else sick of the Liv-n-Fitz Eternal Angst and Drama motif? Sh*t or get off the pot, you two.)

Granted, I can’t afford these threads (like I said: Target and Marshall’s 4-EVAH) – but if any of you are in the market for some new clothes and spend as much time admiring Kerry Washington’s Scandal wardrobe as I do, this is like a goldmine of awesomeness. I mean, this dress?

Scandal Dress

If I were 30 pounds thinner and psychologically able to handle the idea of spending $170 on a dress, I’d buy two of this. Not even kidding.

So, all this is to say that between the snow day, coconut milk chai, and the mere existence of an Olivia Pope line at The Limited, it was a fairly exciting week. What’s happening in your world?

Tikkun Olam (Hopefully Without Feeling Like a Creeper)

In the lead-up to my birthday last week, I found myself thinking about what I want to achieve this year. This wasn’t like making new year’s resolutions, since I loathe those with the fire of a thousand suns, and for various reasons: my illustrious history of sacrificing my well-being in pursuit of a goal (please refer to exhibit A: high school and the college admissions process), the fact that most resolutions are things you could choose to do at any point in the year, the fact that the whole idea of new year’s resolutions is a weird, fabricated, and artificially-imposed social construct that people seem to do because they feel obligated to participate…well. Suffice it to say, new year’s resolutions — to quote Austin Powers — aren’t my bag, baby.

Given that my stance on new year’s resolutions falls somewhere between “how I feel about migraines” and “how I feel about Nazis,” it’s probably surprising that I was thinking about what I want to achieve during the next year — but, as it turns out, I do really like finding an over-arching goal or purpose for my next trip around the sun.

The more I thought about it, the more the answer became clear as that still, small voice in my head repeated: tikkun olam. To explain what this is, here’s what I posted to Facebook that day:

A Jewish philosophy translated as “repairing the world,” tikkun olam is a long-standing love of mine. Human history is littered with astonishing levels of cruelty and destruction, and although I believe we’re moving in the right direction, we have a long way to go.

So, my hope is this: that we can all work towards building empathy instead of judgment, compassion instead of intolerance, creativity and repair instead of destruction, and patience instead of anger. Let’s give more hugs. Let’s do more charitable work, whether through donations or volunteering. Let’s make each other laugh. Let’s cut each other some slack, because everyone, whether you know it or not, is fighting a hard battle.

Let’s contribute to repairing the world, in whatever way we can — because each contribution, each random act of kindness, and each moment of empathy is important.

As it turns out, my efforts  to do this are a bit more awkward than I’d hoped. (I’ll pause here and express my amusement about the fact that I’m continually surprised by my own awkwardness. This should’ve stopped being surprising to me a looooooooong time ago, but somehow it always pops up and leaves me going “Wait, WHAT? Awkward? Me? Well…yeah. That’s actually quite plausible. Ok, it’s highly likely. Upon further inspection, it’s basically inevitable.”)

On my birthday, I’d planned to use the free birthday drink loaded onto my Starbucks card to purchase a drink for a random stranger. But, as it turns out, the random stranger has to be there, in the flesh, and ordering their drink in order for you to use the free drink on someone else. This has potential to be spectacularly awkward and tremendously creepy. There was a dude behind me in line, and when I looked over in his direction to see if I could get away with doing this in a non-awkward, non-creepy way, the look of apprehension on his face quickly answered that question for me.

So I bought myself a marshmallow dream bar. (For those who may be wondering, they’re both gluten-free and delicious. It didn’t do anything to help repair the world, but it did make my taste buds happy.)

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Not my photo – via misterbelly.com

Then a few days ago, I was getting a cup of tea from a coffee vendor near my office. The two women in line behind me were having a long conversation; one had apparently just broken up with her live-in boyfriend, and she was understandably upset. Just as I was paying for my chai, the newly-single woman broke down into tears.

Y’all. I think most of us have been through wretched break-ups. I think most of us can agree that they’re abjectly miserable, and that having an acutely broken heart makes you feel like you may never breathe normally — let alone laugh — ever again.

Before I could think about whether or not this, like my Starbucks attempt, would make me look slightly insane, I turned around and offered to buy her a coffee. “I’ve been through bad breakups too,” I said, “and I know how much it sucks. Please let me buy you a coffee.” I told her that it’s awful now, but that it gets better — and then I felt like I was probably being weird, so I decided it was time to walk away.

As I walked back to my office, I started to reflect on the situation. At first, I worried that I might have come across as a hideously weird old lady. But then I realized: who cares if I did? I’d rather do something nice and look like an idiot than not do something nice at all. Random acts of kindness towards strangers are precisely that: interactions with people I’m probably never going to see again. If they think I’m weird for doing something nice, then so be it.

That also led me to wonder: what is it about modern culture that makes niceness so suspect? Why am I even in a position of feeling like people might think I’m creepy or mildly insane for offering to do something nice? It’s not like I’m standing there, wild-eyed and desperate for human interaction, while I offer to tell them about my latest surgery and 27 cats. If that were the case, apprehension would be totally understandable. But it’s not (to the best of my knowledge, at least) — and yet, I got really self-conscious about it.

So, I’ve decided not to worry about whether I look like a complete fool in my tikkun olam efforts, because the fact is, this is something that needs to be done.

So, tell me: have you ever been in a similar situation? Do you feel like strangers doing random nice things for others are greeted with suspicion or gratitude? Or is this just a DC thing?

Weekend Recap

Aaaaand just like that, the weekend is over. Blergh. I don’t know about you guys, but this is how I feel each and every week:

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No dice on that one, I’m afraid — but at the very least, I can revel in the fact that I had a lovely weekend. I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, and I decided to take advantage of this and get some errands done before the hordes of people descended.

A quick side note about DC: it takes freaking forever to get anything done around here. Between traffic, finding parking, dealing with the crowds in the store, and then waiting to check out, two errands — like hitting up Walgreen’s and Trader Joe’s — can take hours under normal circumstances. There have been times when our entire afternoon is consumed by just going out to lunch and hitting up Whole Foods on the way home, so I decided to circumvent that whole mess and hit the road at 7:45.

Happily, it wound up being awesome. I was one of the only people at Walgreen’s, and TJ’s was blissfully lacking in huge crowds. I was out and done in record time, which was a huge win! I also picked up epic loot at TJ’s; I didn’t get a picture before putting everything away, but let’s just say I could’ve used a barge to transport it home.

 

After the grocery run, I met one of my dear friends for coffee — which, I must say, was awesome. Once we had caffeinated ourselves and talked for aaaaaaages (it’s a time-honored tradition with us), I came back to find Brandon watching The Conjuring. Now, Brandon and I have divergent views on horror movies: Brandon really likes them, but I hate — nay, abhor with every fiber of my being — anything even remotely scary.

I have a wildly over-active imagination, which means the slightest hint of something scary will send me over the edge. I’m 32, and I totally close my eyes during previews for horror movies. When I finally got up the nerve to watch Scream in 1998 — a movie that most of my friends thought was funny because it was just so campy and ridiculous — I could barely answer the phone for a week.

So, I created a rule that Brandon can only watch horror movies when I’m not home. Since I was at coffee for a few hours, he understandably seized the opportunity to watch the horror movie he was most interested in. It wound up working out well: when I got home from Starbucks, I knew I needed to hit the gym — but my motivation was flagging. Knowing that The Conjuring was playing in my living room? MOTIVATION RECOVERED. I grabbed a magazine and my headphones and then booked it towards the door. I. Was. Outta there.

 

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This is an alarmingly accurate depiction of what I look like after merely *hearing* the previews for horror movies.

 

After 50 minutes of cardio, I was pleased to find that the movie was long since over once I got back. Biggest sigh of relief ever, y’all.

After a busy Saturday, I spent most of Sunday getting caught up on stuff around the apartment. Sundays tend to be my big chore days — when I clean, do laundry, and chop veggies/act as my own sous chef — and this week was no different.  I get all kinds of discombobulated and flustered when things aren’t in order for the week ahead, so Sundays are when I prepare, organize, and try to come up with ways to save time during the week. (Outer order equals inner peace, folks.) I had a truly ludicrous pile of laundry to deal with and an equally ludicrous pile of veggies to chop up, so one could say that I had my work cut out for me.

 

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Yup, a Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry seems about right.

 

I did, however, take a break from all this in order to hit the gym. I’d intended to go for a run, since the weather we’ve been having lately — cool, crisp, and sunny — feels sublime after an oppressively hot and humid DC summer, but my running route was blocked off as part of the Marine Corps Marathon.

As I headed to the gym as my Plan B, I thought about all the people running the marathon and promptly realized that I have a confession to make: when it comes to running, I max out at 4 miles. I can eke out five miles if I’m really, really feeling awesome and ambitious.

But a marathon? Nope. I mean, I know marathons are all the rage these days. Marathons are one of the trendiest trends ever right now, and it seems like everybody who’s anybody is doing them. Those people all deserve major credit for doing something so challenging, because holy crap — that’s an impressive undertaking.

That said, though, I’m actually pretty sure I’m the only health/fitness-ish blogger alive who isn’t in marathon or half marathon training — which probably totally negates my credibility as someone interested in health and fitness — but I can’t even express how much my knees start screaming in protest when I even contemplate running a marathon.

 

This course is about 21 miles too long for me and my creaky knees.

 

So, that’s my big “I’m a lame health blogger” confession: I have no desire to run a marathon. Do I love running in 5Ks? Heck yeah. Do I love solitary four milers? Absolutely. But marathons are so, so not in my future. Forgive me, running gods, for I have sinned!

That being said (please don’t turn me into the health blogging police!), I also took a break from my mountain of chores to watch my beloved Broncos take on the Redskins. As a displaced Coloradan who only gets to see her boys when they play on national TV (as opposed to every Sunday back in the Motherland, le sigh), this was a big deal. I like to get decked out for game day in all my Broncos paraphernalia, which probably looks ridiculous — but whatevs, anything in the name of team spirit! (Is it overkill to wear a Broncos sweatshirt while drinking out of a Broncos glass? I think not.)

Anyways, now that another work week is upon us, I hope you’re all getting your day off to a good start!

And, with that, tell me: what was the highlight of your weekend?