Don’t call me Diane. It’s a sure way to piss me off. My name is not fucking Diane. It’s Diana. Diane- UH. I’m not sure what tweaks me more – calling me Diane, or pronouncing my last name, “Rajchel” like Rochelle, or Ra-chelle. A nurse tried that once. “But it sounds so much fancier,” she said. I gave her a death glare. She added five pounds to the weight she wrote on my chart, then told the doctor to call me Diane.
My last name is pronounced Rachel – Ray-chell, like the first name. Don’t change my fucking name. You do not get that privilege.
Over the course of my life I’ve been called “D.J” (my middle name is rather banal), “Di,” “Denny” and of course “Diana.” This list does not include various epithets, deserved and not. DJ dropped off early in elementary school. Di found its way to me later on in high school – with no invitation to do so, people simply began calling me “Di.”
In college, the same pattern continued. The introduction might be “Diana” but some subconscious pulse led people to calling me “Di” by the end of the first conversation.
When I converted to Wicca, the name Diana posed a new problem. Changing to a magical name is a common practice among Wiccans. While frowned on in most traditions, some people do assume the names of deities from various ancient Pagan pantheons. Diana is a name of particular significance in the practice. Not only does the Roman Diana have considerable influence as a moon goddess, her later incarnation in Italian witchcraft tradition as the mother Goddess that issues the witch’s savior Aradia makes the name especially loaded.
Even so, I find the practice of name changing silly, especially since I do not feel the pressures that lead to nom de plumes. The idea of taking on a Craft name makes me feel as ridiculous and out of place as wearing robes at a ritual. I see myself as plenty magical without having to shift personas, thank you.
I have a strategy to handle this. I introduce myself at rituals with my name, and add, “Diana is a given name – not an affectation.”
Adulthood makes us much more conscious of names. For some, it’s one of the responsibilities, nay, dangers of parenthood. Give a child a weak name and there are consequences unfair and undeniable to follow. But we also become more conscious of our own names, how that situates us and what power that gives us. Our own names, names we assume or choose, give us social position, strength, a means to send subtle pulses aligning us with domination or submission.
A man I once knew gave considerable thought to my name. Sometimes to him I was Di. Sometimes I was Diana. At times I got the impression he thought of me as two distinct women. Years later, when a Myers-Briggs test readministered three times revealed me as so precisely between introvert and extrovert that no framework existed for me, I thought of him. I wondered how the results might support his thesis.
He never fully expressed what he thought the differences were, but he would comment to me about them from his pool of impressions. If I did something that I later shared with him – drag raced a total stranger, or maybe licked a window after losing a bet, performed a silhouette dance for a peeping neighbor – he would turn to me and say, “That’s what makes you a Di.”
I even had two sets of metaphorical parents. Di is the love child of Miss Piggy and Animal. Diana is the product of Emily Gilmore and Stanley Kowalski.
Lately, it seems like more people are giving thought to what makes me a Diana. It seems strange to me, to consider another person’s name. When I meet someone I never think about the name or examine how it fits the frame of the being before me. It is a name, no more impressing me than a shirt or a pair of shoes. But the people I meet do think about the name and the person before them. Several times over the past year, when I have introduced myself, the person I just met responds with a half-dazzled, “Diana? That name really suits you.”
I never ask why. I am Miss Piggy and Animal, Emily Gilmore and Stanley Kowalski. I am a spectrum – organization with explosions of silliness, fluxxus art and full knowledge of traditional table settings. I will always be a journalist and a priestess, well-mannered and foul-mouthed, and for some reason, both Di and Diana.