Monday, June 4, 2018

Losing and Finding Faith

When my father came back from WWII, his family had grown.  His son was married with a baby of his own.  My sister was 20 years old and engaged.  He wanted a baby.  My mother was so happy that he made it home from the war, that she agreed.  It was a new beginning for them.  If I were a boy, my name would have been Jay, but I’m not a Jay.  My name is Faith, but the name has nothing whatsoever to do with religion.  My father said he chose the name so I would have great faith in myself.

The name, in the beginning, did the opposite.  In the 1950’s, the name, Faith was unusual.  Today, unusual names are in vogue, but that wasn’t the case when I was a child.  In fact, the name made me shy.  Yes, it was the name itself.  First off, the first word out of anyone’s mouth, upon hearing may name, was “What?”  In fact, there’s a good possibility that it was also the second and third words out of their mouths.

Then either you had to spell F-a-i-t-h, for them, or explain it further with, “i.e., faith, hope, and charity.”  Of course, that wasn’t the end of the discussion.  Exclamations of what a pretty name were offered. If it were so pretty then why don’t you name your next daughter, Faith?  End of discussion!
Selling Girl Scout cookies or raffles for school fundraisers was a torturous experience:

Ring…..Ring…  or Knock….Knock…. 
Who is it?
…opens door.  What did you say?  Who?
My name is Faith.
Who, oh never mind, what do you want?
I’m selling …
No, I’m not interested Fay.  Thanks, goodbye.

And so it went until I made a mistake on my college application.  When filling out the application I accidentally put my last name, middle name and then the first name.  The school enrolled me as Donna Faith.

I kept my mouth shut. And  I started signing my papers “F. Donna.”  Hey, if F. Scott Fitzgerald could do it, so could I.  At first, I reveled in my anonymous name.  I didn’t stick out.  I didn’t have to go around spelling my name, or listen to banal jokes, e.i., “Do you have two sisters named Hope and Charity?”

However, once in a while someone asked me what the “F.” stood for.  When I told them Faith, I had to listen to what a pretty name Faith was, why didn’t I use it?  In fact, after a year or so, I regretted not using “Faith.”

Why couldn’t I have a regular boring name that I didn’t have to explain or spell?

But life went on as Donna—college, marriage, and work until I started working as a real estate broker in Boston.  The day my business cards arrived, my manager saw my inscribed name and asked what the "F." in “F. Donna Flaherty,” was for.  When I told him, “Faith,” he looked at me incredulously.

You are selling real estate in Boston.  You know the name of the game is name recognition.  You know most of your clients are Boston Irish.  You realize you want them to remember your name to come back to you to sell and buy.

And you chose Donna over Faith?  Are you stupid?

From that moment on I’ve been going by my first name.

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