Daily Prompt: My Name is Beautiful

Names are incredibly important in the great scheme of things. Giving something a name, or knowing their true name, is also incredibly powerful. So this Daily Prompt is, to me, a very deep one (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/daily-prompt-name/).

My name is Shana. In Yiddish, a language created by Jews in the Diaspora merging Hebrew, English and German, it means “beautiful.” So I grew up with the name Beautiful, with older men and women calling me Shayna Maideleh (beautiful girl) or Shayna Punim (beautiful face). Note my name does not have a “y” in it, as most Shayna’s do, so I also grew up with Shawna, Shaana, one time even Shai-e-na. I’m named after my great-grandmother, Sarah, who died when I was very young. What I remember most about meeting her was being surprised at how she looked – she was the first person I had seen with a masectomy (no reconstruction).

I also grew up in a Jewish community in San Diego that was fairly large, but I was the only Shana. There were a ton of Rebecca’s (or Becky) or Lisa’s or Jennifer’s, but I was the only Shana around, even all through Jewish summer camp and temple up through confirmation. Very active in the community, but the community only had one Shana in it.

So I grew up feeling unique and special and like I had a “J” stamped on my forehead for Jewish because every time I met someone Jewish, they would hear my name and call me Shana Punim and tell me that their daughter had a pet dog named Shayna. Just me and the cute puppies, I guess.

And then I became involved in the Los Angeles Jewish community a few years back. And suddenly, I’m swimming in a sea of Shana’s (or Shayna’s, really). I’m not even remotely unusual, except for maybe that my parents forgot the “y.” There had to be more to me than just my name, now, to make me stand out. Because I’m an Aquarian and I can’t stand being one of the crowd.

But, at this point, I still have my ex-husband’s Guatemalan/Catholic last  name (I kept it after the divorce). There’s really no other Shana in the world quite like me.


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