There was a time it seemed as though everyone in my life was named some derivative of Susan. My sister, my cousin, my sister-in-law, my agent, and enough girlfriends that each required a further identifying factor such as a surname or a link to their husband, like my friends SusieandArnie or SusanandOri.
In additional to their first names, these women share something else in common: they are all born within 10 years of each other. As I have gotten older, many of my friends have gotten younger, and nary a Susan in the mix. Instead, the name that fills my contact list so often I’ve given up assigning them speed dial numbers, is Lisa
For the sake of conversation, there’s Norwegian Lisa, Little Lisa, CareLisa, LisaOH, K-ELisa, YogaLisa, TallLisa, and so on. When I meet some woman in her forties if I forget her name (which I usually do) I feel pretty confident it’s Lisa.
So why am I seemingly so fixated on these names? I’m fascinated by how they define us. They can give away our approximate age; they can, if not pinpoint our cultural identities, at least eliminate some, and they can even say something about our parents who apparently were kind of hip when they chose a name that was mainstream popular.
Take my mom, for instance. She named me Ellen – a name neither she nor I have ever really used – just so she could in all good conscience nickname me Ellie. Growing up, Ellen was fairly popular with my age group. Don’t get me started on all my old friends named Ellen (love you Brooks) but today Ellen is a rarity. Ellie, however, is used so often that I frequently think I’m being scolded in the mall by a woman who, as it turns out, is trying to control her four-year-old. Who knew my mom was ahead of the curve.
The real reason I think so much about the commonality in our names is because doing so provides a sense of comfort. It feels familiar, recognizable, not very mysterious.
In fact, if I meet a Susan or a Lisa, I kind of feel as though I already know her.