What’s in a (first) name

A continuation of “What’s in a (full) name“.

Contains mentions of child abuse, adult mind control, suicide, codependency and mob mentality.

Total Lunar Eclipse. Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash.

Some time in the early 1990s. My family and I go to San Antonio for a summer holiday. We go to Sea World. We meet Shamu and Baby Shamu. There are snakes, dolphins and fishes of all colours and sizes. We spend hours in the swimming pools. I’m eight years old. I’m learning English. We go to the gift shop and they have small gold-copper-coloured plate keyrings with different first names and the meanings of said names engraved in them. I look for my name. I find it. “Cynthia”, It says. “It means “belonging to the Moon””.

Later in life, at a bookshop, I open a compilation of names and their meanings. Once again, I find mine. Cynthia. I find out it is one of the names for Artemis, Greek goddess of the Moon, also known as Diana by the Romans. A hunter, also patron of the forests and childbirth. According to the myth, she was born in Cynthus or Kynthos, a mountain on Delos. Hence, the name.

People in school barely call me Cynthia. Instead, they call me insults and physical descriptors used as derogative terms. I change schools.

I’m ten years old. I start going to an afternoon communication school for children. We learn how to inform and entertain on radio, press and television. Someone else called Cynthia joins a year later. Agent of Change laws aside, the teacher chooses to start calling me by my middle name, in spite of the new Cynthia saying she likes being called by her initials engraved in her school uniform, and in spite of me hating my second name. Everyone calls me that name now. He touches my first name. He touches my surname. He touches me. Eventually, I grow old and his projects fizzle away.

Thirty years old. A chaotic year, a chaotic country. I meet some local feminists. One of them is Alice. Alice loves the Moon and lives according to her faces. She is soothing. A mother bear. In her hands, I am play-doh. I admire someone else, Nelly, and Alice convinces me I actually love her. Moves me to abandon my husband, my family, former friends, household, activities, gender and name. My new nickname is similar to my name, but more musical, more neutral, yet synthetic. She takes my culture, a pet. I spend one of my increasingly rare visits to Mexico looking for a personal religious statue for her. She is white, she says she’s a witch. She comes with me to POC-oriented events, to learn, to absorb and take. Convinces me that my voice is powerful when I use her vocal chords. She cuts the ribbons of my ancestry and then says I am my ancestor’s pride. Alice moulds me into her as she moulds herself into me. She tells me to disrespect boundaries, a creature of clay, make Nelly uncomfortable. In secret, Alice does the same things to her. 

I somehow make a career in music and cultural organising. One night, I have a few drinks with some friends at a studio at the top of a terraced building in the city centre. I listen to Stevie rip off Interpol for hours. Her parents named her after a rockstar because they wanted a rockstar child. Her dad plays in her band. Walking down the stairs, I fall. Stevie asks if I’m ok. She hugs and walks me, tiptoe, to the taxi rank. We have hung out before and we hang out again. Coffee shops, house parties, album release gigs, pubs. Friends of friends, but we know each other. 

May 2019, bad news come our way. Allegations of crimes and broken physical boundaries in educational atmospheres. About my latest name thief, emulating previous name thieves, using her power against someone else. We ask colleagues for help. We love Alice, she’s family. I want to die. I try to die, but fail at dying. We ask Nelly, as we have events in the pipeline. Unbeknownst to us, she’s in Alice’s company. After a week of white noise whispers and no one answering, I break our collective, and Nelly breaks what’s left. No band, no group, no reputation. A former bandmate invites me for a coffee, becomes a CIA interrogation. I take myself to A&E, as adviced by my GP, to make sure I don’t succeed at death. Success is not my brand. 

Their veil comes off my eyes and I still love my husband. He loves me too. He did all along. My blood family from afar does too. Some people from my previous life of music and event management outside of this city still love me. A really good band of them comes to play, and they invite me to open for them with my solo project. I take the challenge. Petrified. The other friend who got exiled from the scene comes to support. Stevie is the barista. My friend asks Stevie “has Cynthia got here yet?”. Stevie asks “who’s Cynthia?”. My friend, bless her heart, asks with anger on my behalf “what do you mean who’s Cynthia? You know Cynthia”. Stevie shrugs. I’m petrified. I’ve played for thousands of people at open street celebrations. I’ve played Rescue Rooms. Now I play for five strangers and Stevie, at the end of the room, texting and rolling her eyes on a stool. I play two songs, cry the rest of the night and never play live again.

Early 2020, Alice annoys a man. Those who rejected me following her and her girlfriend’s advice are now embracing that man and giving him unconditional love and support. Pandemic gets here, but no one else does. No apologies, no acknowledgements. He still makes things happen. Studies my useless masters degree, active, in his case it’s not useless. Holds events. Doesn’t call. Avoids. Everyone else still avoids too, a few brave ones wave from a distance. The amount of people I used to call friends, who now block and delete me, hurts more than having lost the women I used to believe that I loved. 

April 2021. I am thirty-five. All of these moments are played present tense in me, every day and walking, sitting, lying hour. I have more time for myself, to heal, to organically reccuperate from their synthetic overdrive. To take back my name, femininity and legacy. To take back the Moon. I’m from there, after all.

Picture of my right hand, wearing a moonstone ring from RiosLondon and a brown eye against evil eye from AwCreateShop, both available on Etsy.

All names, except mine, are pseudonyms to protect people’s privacy. I no longer believe in public callouts and cancellations. I am an abolitionist and detest all forms of surveillance and punitive methods of justice. I will elaborate more on this in further writings. May all people involved find some mercy on their own. They may have ruined fragments of my life but I don’t want to ruin theirs. 

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