Monday, December 15, 2008

October 12, 2008 "Coming Clean About My Name"



    Through no fault of my own (well, almost), I have ended up with several versions of my name, to the point that people who have known me for years get confused when they get an e-mail from me, look at my website, or read my blog. To clear some of this confusion I will detail here, as briefly as possible, the tortured history of my many names. After that, feel free to choose whichever one you like. I answer to all of them.


    1. I am born and christened Maria Eulalia Teresita Magina Francina Benejam Boque. My main name, Eulalia, places me under the protection of Saint Eulalia, the patron saint of Barcelona, my birthplace. Teresita designates Saint Theresa of Lisieux, who starved herself to death for Jesus. Magina and Francina are the relatively baggage-free names of my maternal grandmother and my mother. Like everybody else in Spain, I have two last names: Benejam, my father's name, and Boque, my mother's maiden name.

    2. I come to the U.S. as a high-school freshman, and start shedding names. Boque is the first to go. Maria goes next, since Americans understandably take the easy way out and call me Mary, which I feel isn't my “real” name. Teresita, Francina and Magina also go, and I become just plain Eulalia Benejam. This leads to much pain and angst through my high school and college years, as nobody can say my name and I grow utterly weary of teaching people how to pronounce it (eh-oo-lah-lee-ah) and explaining how I got it.

    3. I meet my husband-to-be who, magically, on the first date, learns to pronounce my name perfectly, thus proving that incentive has a lot to do with linguistic performance. I notice that he comes equipped with an attractively problem-free last name: Cobb.


    4. I become Eulalia Benejam Cobb and use this name during my academic and freelance writing years. It's still a mouthful, but in situations that require quick action I delete all but Cobb. Eventually my husband persuades me to give up the Spanish pronunciation of Eulalia in favor of the English-speaker-friendly yu-lah-lee-ah. My friends breathe a sigh of relief.


    5. For complicated reasons, I take a decade-long detour through the visual arts. I take my paintings and sculptures to stores, shows and art fairs, and realize that Eulalia Benejam Cobb is a business liability. Reasoning that people should be able to say the name of the person whose art they are thinking of buying, I declare that my name shall, henceforth and forever, be simply Lali—no last name.


    6. Though my friends and family are confused, Lali works pretty well. Some people, however, spell it “Lolly,” which makes me grit my teeth.


    7. I buy a nice laptop computer and return to writing. It dawns on me that no publication that accepted my work before will know who Lali is...so I embrace my writing name again, Eulalia Benejam Cobb.


To my old friends who struggled through two versions of Eulalia only to have it changed to Lali, I apologize for changing my mind again. To my newer friends who know me only as Lali, and to those of you whom I am meeting through this blog, I'm sorry to present you with this complicated name. But you can call me anything you like, and I'll answer every time.



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