New Snow and Madia, My Other Name

Our backyard in the heart of Reykjavik, all prettied with fresh snow

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In the States I spelled my name Madia instead of Maria. It was a phonetic thing that my dad says he suggested to me when I was going into 8th grade. I'd been kind of a book geek up until that summer of '80 and was socially hung up on the fact that Maria was not a common name, and that my real name was pronounced with the Icelandic rolling R which no one in Cupertino, California seemed to be able to master.

 Even though the US boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games, the name of Romanian
gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who scored a perfect 10 in the 1976 Games, was being mentioned as the favorite that year. I remember making the connection between her name and mine, how similar they sounded, and how much more beautiful Madia sounded than Maria.

When Dad encouraged me to try out the new spelling, I did: at the start of each new class in 8th grade I raised my hand and explained to the teacher how I'd be spelling my name, and how to pronounce it. This took serious guts, making a spectacle of myself in front of all my peers, but I was tired of the cocoon I'd been hiding in and wanted to emerge as a butterfly, finally.  It didn't hurt that my sister, Addy, had coerced me into trying out for cheerleading that year, and had coached me so well that I'd made the squad. I was a New Person, book geek no longer, a twelve-year old reinvented to fit the social stage of Hyde Junior High, and later Cupertino High School.

The new name stuck. Out in the States I'll always be Madia Roff. I never changed my name legally, so there's been confusion when the true spelling has been found out. Friends I've known for years who see my drivers license, and the name Maria on it, suddenly get all jumbly and can't pronounce my name. Mardria, Madradia, Madiria, they flub. And then there's the boys I went to junior high with, who thought I was a snot for trying to be different. At the last high school reunion I attended in 1996, I had to chuckle at the fact that the "popular" boys, sixteen years later, still called me Maria, with childish obstinance, and in a pre-teen teasing tone. How cute.

Nowadays I can go to the States and say my name like an Icelander says it, and people say, ahh, ok, no explanation necessary. Unusual names are so common now, and in major metro areas people pride themselves on being international enough to get it the first time around.

Not a big fan of being in front of a camera, but...well here's me ~.~ 

3 comments:

Professor Batty said...

Good to “see” you again!

Jono said...

It is good to have a unique name, but it does take some explanation once in a while. Lovely snow and lovely you.

Steve Savage said...

Ahh the wonders of Hyde Jr. High!! I remember your name "Madia" and just thinking that it was cool and different from the typical girl names that we heard every day. Then someone called you "Maddy", and I remember thinking "Oh, it rhymes with Addy, so that makes sense." I had no idea about the Nadia Comaneci thing, but that is kind of cool, too, because she was hugely popular back then. Basically, you should call yourself what you like and I'm glad you had the confidence in Junior High to pull it off. I don't remember the shy cocoon Maria at all. Peace.