In the spelling bee of life, my first name, BethanEy, would be a constant source of sore losers and failed rounds. Like the silent M in “mnemonics” or unnecessary T in “depot” or “potpourri,” it would send many competitors back to their bright, plastic chairs. But unlike a real spelling bee, one with prizes, clout, and judging eyes who laugh at your inability to read minds, no one cares when they spell my name wrong. In print, in emails, in bylines, they just pick the spelling they’ve most seen and choose it to be so.
When introducing myself to a new medical receptionist or restaurant hostess, I’m forced to recite, “I’m Bethaney, that’s b – e – t – h – a – n – e – y, Bethaney,” in a sing-songy fashion. Saying “Bethaney with two Es,” causes immense confusion. “Ok, so b – e – e,” or, “Got it … e – n – e – y,” it’s like a requirement for spelling names is not being able to spell names.
To be fair, I realize it’s weird. Like the countless unfortunate children with random Ys and phonetically incorrect names, I’d the odd man out. BUT, at least my name still reads correctly. There’s no awkward vowels, no silent Hs to trip over; it’s just … different.
Perhaps the spelling was God’s way of foreshadowing my future life. Knowing I’d grow up to email JC Penny’s about their incorrect use of “everyday,” and take it personally every time someone used PC’s, towards, or irregardless, he tacked on the letter. Or, probably more realistically, my parents were just bad at spelling. On the day I was removed from Cork Head, she and my father, Wonk*, signed my name to the ever-permanent birth certificate. It was sealed and made legal before it could be checked. It was an act that, although would separate me from the other bethanys of the world (and more annoying bethanies and bethennys), would cause the majority of my personalized belongings to be incorrect.
When my siblings and I received monogrammed mint tins in our stockings, mine simply read, “Beth,” a nickname I only sometimes answer to. My personalized water bottles, koozies, or t-shirts held a single B, and my social security card had to be issued a third time before reading correctly. I often wonder what type of terrorist alerts are behind my name after doubly replacing the info that makes me legal.
If I ever call you from jail, that’s probably why.
*Who you have yet to meet, be patient
Spelling Bee photo courtesy of “The 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee“