Ahhhh. There’s nothing as sweet as a newborn baby. Precious. Cooing. Little limbs flailing all over the place. The bond that you form in those first few moments after your baby’s birth can either be enhanced, or destroyed, all over what should be a simple process: giving your child a name.
As you’re holding your sweet new infant in your arms, it’s highly likely that you’ve already contemplated names. Maybe all you were waiting for was to find out the gender in order to decide on the name? Maybe you already knew what you’d be having and the name was set in place? Maybe you had several names in mind but was waiting to see what the baby looked like in hopes of trying to match a name to the baby’s personality? Maybe you were obligated to use a family name in order to lengthen the line of III, IV or V’s? There are many possibilities.
At birth, I was given the name Sarah Danel Phillips. “Sarah” was for my paternal grandmother. “Danel” was for my biological father, whose name is Danny. Not Daniel. Not Dan. But Danny. Jacob Danny Phillips. He used his middle name, so it was decided that I would go by my middle name, too. Plus, my Grandma Sarah was still living so I imagine they didn’t want to have two Sarah’s running around. So the first 20 years of my life I was Danel Phillips.
My parents divorced when I was fairly young. It was not amicable, most likely because my biological father is a complete idiot. But I was stuck with being named for him LONG after he was gone. Not cool. For the uninitiated, (and honestly, who IS familiar with this name?) it’s pronounced “Duhnell”. It was inevitable that it would be mispronounced. Dan-yell, DAN-elle, Day-nell, Duh-nail. It was massacred consistently. And even when I would say it for them in slo-mo, they would always say “Duh-what?” It was tedious.Â It was especially ridiculous when trying to “introduce” myself at any function that had loud background noise. I’d hear the all too familiar “Duh-WHAT?” I just started telling people that my name was Penny.
Then, in 1990, my Grandma Sarah passed away. While the event in itself was disheartening – I truly loved my G-ma – I thought that I could officially start to use my first name of Sarah. So I started immediately. When asked my name during any new encounters I would smile and say “Ssssaarraahhh”. I’d say it slow, lengthening the “s” and the “ah” at the end. I felt as if I was the Breck Girl shaking my head of luscious golden hair as I said it. The beauty just dripping off of my stunning new personality. Mmmmm. It was delicious.
I started using Sarah during my Junior year of college. I continued to use Danel in all of my classes and with my already established friends, but new scenarios called for the use of Sarah. Then, one day I was typing a paper on a new-fangled thing called a computer. I had actually received a typewriter for my high school graduation and used it for nearly every paper I ever wrote during my undergraduate studies, but I worked at the local Kinko’s and thought I’d give this thing called an “Apple” a try. First, I typed in my name. D-A-N-E-L. And it gave me an angry squiggly line underneath the letters. What’s this? Oh. Of course. It doesn’t recognize D-A-N-E-L. So, up pops a list of suggestions for what had to be an incorrect spelling. And then I was presented with what this “Apple” thought would be the equivalent of a “DANEL”. One of the very first options it posted was “dunghill”. Dunghill? A pile of POOP? A Sh*t pile?I was absolutely mortified. This name had to go.
It was a bit harder than I expected to just immediately switch names. Asking family and friends to eradicate Danel and only use Sarah was asking quite a lot. They all had to be deprogrammed. Â So, even after I graduated from college I didn’t deter people from calling me Danel. Â Then I got diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As soon as I was healthy enough, I packed up my little Ford Escort and moved to Summit County, Colorado. I left “Danel” behind in Ohio. In fact, in 1994, I legally changed my name from Sarah Danel Phillips to Sarah Hinson Washburn. Hinson is my mother’s maiden name and Washburn is my step-father’s last name. Danel Phillips was officially dead to me.
Since changing my name in 1994, I’ve had a couple of other last names. I don’t really discuss the first husband for many reasons, but mostly because his last name was just ridiculous. So, in signing up for a Facebook account, I didn’t have the simple option of listing a maiden name because none of my high school friends ever knew me as “Sarah” (although the 1986 issue of the Wahigan Yearbook does list me as S. Danel Phillips).
So, in listing Sarah Brewer, most people from high school probably thought, “Oh, hey! That’s Sandy Brewer! (Who is another fine WMHS-er and my best friend from elementary school). So, I’m an ever-changing kind of girl. It would be impossible for the average person to keep up with my name changes, but thankfully I look pretty much the same as I did in high school, so people can hopefully tell from my profile picture who I really and truly am. And I’m sure they say “Hey! That’s “Duh-nell!”
When my children were born, I insisted on good old-fashioned names that would transcend time and repel any confusion of pronunciation. Someday they might decide that they hate having a classic name and want to change their name to Topaz or Spongebob or something else.
And I’m completely cool with that.