What’s in a name?
It’s a strange, funny story, especially when you go by one name your entire life, and then travel to a foreign land (Israel) where everyone squints at you with a confused expression after hearing your name, but then nods in deeper understanding and appreciation when you, with a hand gesture, add in a side note that your Hebrew name is different yet more familiar. You realize that your Hebrew name is something deeper, more significant, more universal and particular to your mission in life.
But when you go back to where you came from, that certainty fades and everything feels awkward again, as everyone who knew you before sounds out your new name with discomfort, as you ask yourself, remind yourself, “Who am I, again?”
Names have always felt odd and humorous to me, back before any Israel voyages. Even when going by “Marcy,” I found it funny when others would refer to me that way, as if I was watching myself from a distant vantage point. My name, though I enjoyed it, it always felt distant from who I was. And “Rivka” as well, now more than ever, also feels like a piece of loose clothing. While I was in Israel it was snugger, but still loose. Here, as I’m asked what my name is, I have to stop and think, “What’s my name again?” as I answer with slight hesitation and amusement, “Rivka. Rivka Nehorai.”
But I’m not really Marcy either. It’s all a costume, all an act, all a shell, all of it.
I think about the desire I feel to feel known, a deep desire not just to be enjoyed, or respected or “Pop Chassid’s wife” or a “cool artist” or ” mom” or ” nice” or any of that, but known in a deep, comfortable, and intimate way that can only happen through a soft sharing of myself.
I think about how often times when I’m talking to others I feel aware of myself – self-conscious, we call it – as I imagine how I look and appear as I’m speaking with them. Good or bad, I imagine in my mind.
But when I’m with my husband, someone I feel close to, I realize I don’t think about appearing good or bad. I find myself beyond that, beyond myself, in the realm of connection.
My husband calls me “Marz” around the house, though he also refers to me as Rivka. He has known me since I was 12, when I was Marcy, and Marz, and through all the journeys of Rivka-hood. When I pointed out to him the strange discrepancy of calling me both names, he shrugged, unbothered: “It’s a nickname,” he responded.
I like that. Because I’m not Marcy; I’m not Rivka. And that’s what I’ve been intuitively feeling all these years when I noticed the names felt like a costume, an act. I’m something way beyond them all, in a realm that “Marz” fits when my husband calls me it, not because that’s my name, because it’s not – not really, not completely – but because when he calls me that, I know, and I feel, that in the midst of this rushing world in which I am a friendly stranger to just about everyone, when he calls me that I feel like I’m finally home. I feel, finally, known.