I-dentity Cry-sis

Apr 27, 2011
© gurudesignZ.com 2002

When I was about 14 years old, I had a crush on Shaun Cassidy – for about 2 weeks.  During those two weeks, my best friend and I spent an afternoon babysitting and scrutinizing every word in a celebrity rag sheet (Star Magazine, I think).  And who should be on the cover of this Pulitzer-prize-worthy publication?  Shaun Cassidy.  But wait, who was this woman on his arm – where *I* was supposed to be?  All I remember is that her name was “Debbi”, spelled just like that, without the ‘e’. 

The next day, I began spelling MY name “Debbi” – without the ‘e’.  In my insecure, peer-dependent opinion of myself, I now had something that made me…. interesting.         O, happy day.
After about 2 years of writing “Debbi” on my test papers, term papers, and all things school-related, I graduated from high school and began working on Wall Street as a receptionist.  It was just a temporary gig until I started college; I was only 16, I had time.  But a combination of events kept me at my Wall Street job earning money instead of a degree. 
And I was so good with money, I still am.  I loved to watch the numbers in my savings account increase each week as I admired myself for such monetary maturity.   When I left home and moved into my own apartment, I needed more than just a savings account, I needed checks to pay bills.  And I needed those checks to tell the world that I spelled my name D-E-B-B-I —  Because at 18 years old, this was still extremely important to me. 
I remember gleefully opening my first box of checks and peeling away all the paraphernalia packed with all those booklets, anxious to see my name written across the tops of about 1000 blank checks.  But my excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I saw that the bank had spelled my name WRONG.  One thousand blank checks and my name was spelled “DEBI” on every one of them.

My dilemma was excruciating, as dilemmas only can be for a teenager: Do I return to the bank and have them correct the mistake, which would take another several weeks?  Or do I just drop one of the “b”s from my name, too? 

For the last 30 years, I have spelled my name “DEBI”, and that is exactly what is written across the tops of my checks today.  I no longer need an ‘interesting’ or differently spelled name, but it is quite easy to scribble on the bottoms of all the many checks that pay all the many bills now. 

But no matter how it is spelled, the important thing has always been – and is – that it’s not “DEBRA”.  It is not the name my parents insisted I use while growing up and, to my horror, even corrected my friends when they overheard them call me Debi.  (or Debbi, or Debbie :-/)  “Her name is Debra.”
If only the teenage angst over how to spell my name was the identity crisis I now experience.  As a person with more than one chronic illness, I don’t know who I will be from one day to the next.  Will I be bed-ridden?  Will I feel well enough to do laundry or grocery shopping?  Will I be so depressed that I hide in my bedroom until I have to come out and behave ‘normally’ for my husband and children?  Will I awake to discover that my pain is manageable and I barely feel sick at all, then become engrossed in one of my many untended projects… only to be punished with multiplied pain the next day?
I am not the vital, healthy, attractive woman I once was.  I can’t even hold down a job.  There is no savings account to watch with glee or pride and there are fewer and fewer activities available for me to enjoy. 
I’ve always thought the name “Debi” brought to mind the vision of a youthful, fun-loving, adventurous girl.  And I always thought it was a good fit for me.  But not anymore.  Now I feel like a fraud, like I should change my name to fit who I have become… something more like Ethel or Gertrude (no offense meant to those bearing these names).
Whenever I’m at the grocery store and a young check-out girl looks down at my check and then up at me, I feel certain that she’s thinking: “Debi”?  Really??
No, not really.  The bank just made a mistake.


  1. I remember once being horrified as I yelled “I hate that name” after my grandmother called me by my first, middle and last name one too many times. I then back peddled when I realized that my god-mother, the woman whose name I bore, was standing near me… I exclaimed “I don’t hate THAT name – I just hate it when she says it all at the same time in that tone.” Nice catch, NOT!

    Does it count that you still write like a Debi, Debbi, Debbie? Fun and vibrant!

  2. Oh, how I wish I could erase some of the things that have come out of my mouth… I know just what you’re talking about, Blog Owner! I guess that’s why I like writing so much, I can spend a ridiculous amount of time editing myself (and I do spend a ridiculous amount of time).

    I’m glad you think I have a “fun and vibrant” quality to my writing – I think that’s a “debi” thing ;-) And I’m glad you took the time to stop by and read something I wrote AND then leave a comment.

    Thank you very much :-)

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