Me, You and the Music I’m Putting You Through
–by Sheila Squillante
For three years in my late twenties, after my divorce, I dated a man who almost never said my name. And it wasn’t as if he was simply subbing my given name for a series of affectionate nicknames. I wasn’t “baby,” or “sweetie” or “pookums.” I was simply the recipient of his speech, or a pronomial referent. I was “you” or “she,” or even “hey,” but never Sheila. I’m not sure at what point in our obviously quite doomed relationship I realized it, but once I did, I listened for it constantly. I began to obsess about it, telling my friends, “He never says my name.” It wasn’t his only withholding, but it hurt me in a strange, primal way. More than wanting him to suddenly become publicly affectionate, or to actually book his plane ticket to see me on his own, without my prodding for once, I wanted him to say my name.
I have, it seems, a pretty uncommon name for someone my age. I’ve never been in school with another Sheila, and in my whole life, the only other Sheilas I’ve met (with the exception of just last year, when I heard a mom on the playground call out to her “little Sheila”—which is how my family always referred to me) were either my aunt, after whom I was named, or women of her generation, 20 years older. Sheila is not a classic American name. It was a trend in the 1950s, and only ever reached #62 on those baby name charts would-be parents consult while nesting. I’ve always liked that. I like being a little unusual. I like my name, and it feels good to hear it spoken. Continue reading