What’s In a Name?

Plenty of people hate (or at least, dislike) their given names.  It’s understandable.  As you grow and change, the name your parents gave you often stops feeling anything like the person you are, and so you default to a nickname that you feel better represents the person you’ve become.

This is not the case for me. I’ve been Frankie, essentially, since I was born. My mum gave me the nickname, deriving it from the 90s movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino, an adaptation of Terence McNally’s play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.

For all intents and purposes, “Frankie” might as well be my given name.  But it’s not.  Instead, the name on my birth certificate is Francesca Nicole.  Francesca, pronounced (but never spelled as) Fran-ches-ka, is Latin/Italian, meaning “free one.”  Nicole, pronounced how it’s spelled (certainly it’s common enough not to be misspelled), is Greek-based, meaning “victory of the people.”  Both incredibly bold names, especially when considered together.  And I have no problem with Nicole; in fact, I plan to name my son Nicolas, after my maternal grandfather (which is where I get my name).

But I’ve never used–and will never use–Francesca. In fact, no one who really knows me, not even my mother when she’s upset (and you know it’s serious when even your parent won’t call you by that whole name when she’s mad), uses my first, given name.  The only people who do are people from my high school, which frankly only compounds the PTSD from that part of my life.

The reason? I hate my first name. And I promise it’s for a very good reason.

I remember hearing once, at a parenting seminar (I’m not sure why I was attending one of those), that the name you give your child represents the first blessing you want for them, sort of like how the fairies in Sleeping Beauty blessed Aurora with beauty and grace etcetera etcetera.  But if Aurora had Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather, I only had Maleficent: my dad, whose intentions were, if not less-than-pure, horribly misguided.

My dad and I don’t have a great relationship. I’m frank enough (hence, Frankie; good one, Mum) to admit that. While I want to love him, there’s a lot of childhood baggage stemming from his few appearances during my formative years (my parents split up when I was three; the annullment finalized when I was thirteen) that gets in the way. Part of this baggage is something he and I have in common: we say things without thinking. A lot.  It’s why I took to writing, because putting thoughts on a page forces me to go over them.  

Unfortunately, my dad isn’t as literarily inclined as I am (though he does fancy himself a critic, dismissing my fiction as “too verbose” at one point, which it probably is but like you aren’t the same, Dad). Where he does excel, however, is telling tall tales about my childhood. I call them tall because, well, let’s just say there are reasons to consider him an unreliable narrator. My dad’s memories have always been foggy and rose-tinted, at best. Even today, I’m not sure the story of how I got my name is actually true, but if the facts aren’t straight, at least the intention is, and the intention is all that matters in this case.

I’ll jump straight in: my dad named me for another woman.

Before I get accused of defamation, let me clarify: she wasn’t his mistress.  I’m not sure he was capable of having one, to be honest.  (He had girlfriends after he and mum split, but they never stuck around for long.) Instead, this other woman was an officemate, a law firm secretary, to be exact (Dad’s a licensed attorney).  By all accounts, he didn’t know her very well, but he seemed to be very…impressed (for the lack of a better term) by her.  Enough, at least, to take her name and give it to me.

Sounds innocent enough, until you get into the reason for why he was so impressed by this first Francesca.  From his own testimony–which, caveat, he probably won’t remember giving; like I said, his mind’s not completely reliable anymore–this Francesca was “…sweet, charming, very friendly. Not too bright, but everyone liked her.”

Whether or not the actual Francesca wasn’t bright is still in question, since it took my dad years to recognize that he couldn’t pull the wool over his Game of Thrones-watching daughter. What’s important is the fact that he thought she was so, and, by his own admission, this collection of traits was why he decided to give me the name Francesca.

Basically he wanted me to be sweet, charming, attractive, and not too bright.

(As if I needed any more reason to be proud of being an abrasive, antisocial cactus.)

Francesca is a beautiful name, with a beautiful meaning, and on any other girl I’d embrace it. But when it comes to me, that name comes loaded with my dad’s intentions: to have a docile daughter, a people-pleaser, an attractive and non-threatening little lady.  Everything I’m not, and honestly, don’t want to be.

Frankie and who I’ve grown to become have always been a good match.  I’ve tried re-nicknaming myself, for radio and college and a bunch of other things, but no name’s ever stuck quite as much as the one my mother gave me. Her intentions, I know, were better: among other things, the name Frankie sounded like Punky Brewster, a feisty, smart-alec of a kid with enough fighting spirit to survive whatever the world threw at her. Punky, based on the Wikipedia synopses and Youtube clips, was still quite a bit more likeable than I am, but she wasn’t likeable for likeability’s sake.  

No, she was likeable for being unapologetically herself.

Between my dad’s picture of the First Francesca and my mum’s image of Punky Brewster, it’s a no-brainer which one I’d choose.  I choose Frankie, every time, because with it comes my mother’s first blessings: courage, resilience, and the capacity to be unapologetically oneself, even if that self is very weird.  I am not, and refuse to ever be, that docile and pliable, non-threatening Maria Clara stereotype.

The fact is, I’ve always been Frankie, not Francesca. My legal first name is a person none of you–including myself–would recognize. No matter how much I’ve tried to hide it, or change it, or tone it down (well, at least the toning it down helped), I’m Frankie. I’m Frankie. 

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tl;dr, seriously high school/Chinese community people, my name is Frankie Torres.  Stop trying to make Francesca happen; it won’t happen.



[Me and My Lists] Part 4: A Prince Charming (Named Dad)

My favorite Disney Princess, growing up, was Cinderella.  I loved everything about her story, from the singing animal friends, to the fairy godmother, to the sparkly dress, to the ball.  But what, or rather who, I loved most, was Prince Charming.

Prince Charming was my hero.  Even if he nearly never spoke, I was absolutely in love with him.  He was perfect: tall, handsome, rich, could sing, could dance…did I mention he was tall, handsome, and rich?

Jokes aside, I was absolutely in love with him.  Why?  Because he rescued Cinderella.  Because she was miserable, and abused, and had to sleep in a garret full of vermin for crying out loud (cute animal friends though they were, I knew that it technically wasn’t hygienic for a girl to be sleeping somewhere with mice), and then he came along and suddenly she was royalty, she was a princess, complete with the Grace Kelly-style wedding gown and the tiara.

Growing up, I wanted someone who would make me feel like that.  I wanted someone who would rescue me from the monsters under my bed or the bullies at the playground.  I wanted someone who would listen to me when I cried because my friends had been mean or my teachers were teasing me by calling me a “piggy.”  I wanted someone who would tell me I was a princess.  And while my mum did all those things…with my Prince Charming, it would be different, somehow.

The name of my Prince Charming was “Dad.”  I wanted a Dad.  I had a father, but he was a father in the Cinderella sense–he disappeared in the very beginning of the story, leaving behind shadows of memories that could not be completely trusted.  See, my parents were separated, and would be annuled when I was thirteen.  My dad wasn’t around very much when I was growing up, and when he was…it wasn’t always pretty.  Instead of enjoying my drawings, he laughed that I couldn’t color within the lines.  Instead of calling me beautiful, he called me “dummy.”  Instead of singing to me, he shouted.  Oh sure, sometimes he laughed and joked and bought me toys…but when it counted, he couldn’t be Prince Charming.

Eventually, I grew old enough to understand completely what was going on, and around that time stopped liking Cinderella.  I found her too weak, too feeble and vulnerable.  I couldn’t be those things–I had to be strong, to fight my own battles, to figure out my own way in the world. (I guess it’s no surprise that my next-favorite Disney Princess would be Mulan.)  When the boys teased me, or tried to beat me up, I fought back with fists and feet.  I flushed my food down the toilet so I wouldn’t have to eat it, making sure no one could call me “fat.”  I made very sure to give my friends no reasons to be mean to me.  In short, I learned to survive without a Prince Charming.  I was determined I would never need him.

…Except I still wanted him, somewhere.  Even as I got older, learned to fight with different weapons, learned more and more to make my own way, there were times I wished for someone to sweep in, fit the slipper on my foot, and transport me to a better life where I wouldn’t have to fight anymore, where no one and nothing could touch me.  Try as I might to deny it, I wanted Prince Charming and the safety of his Palace Gates.

Or, well, I wanted a dad to be there for me the way the dads of all the other daughters I knew were.  Because when you’re young, romance isn’t a big deal.  It’s all fun and games, fairytales.  What matters is love, and protection.  Security and significance.

We’re taught, in my church, that the father is the head of the family for a reason–he provides for them the picture of what it means to have God as a Father.  He leads the household, the same way Moses and Joshua led the Hebrews, or the Judges (the good ones, anyway) lead Israel.  That’s why being a dad is such a serious responsibility, and that’s why dads need all the help they can get from God Himself.  To their wives, they are lover, protector, and head of their household–the Warrior King for the Warrior Queen.  To sons, they are the example of what manhood means–a walking, talking operational definition, the Jedi to their Padawans.  To daughters, they are to set the standard for future husbands, to give them something to demand from men, and to reinforce the worth of their daughters to demand it.

I never got that from my earthly father, and I guess that is the reason why I spent thirteen years looking for my Prince Charming, until I found Him.  Or, rather, I found my King Charming.  I found my Dad, the King of Kings, the Father of all Fathers, the literal Best Dad Ever.  And while that doesn’t mean that all my war wounds were bandaged up overnight, it did mean that I could start to heal, because I didn’t have to fight my own battles anymore, not even the ones in my own head.  I had Someone to protect me now, and, more importantly, someone to set the standard for what it would mean for me to be a woman, and what the man in my life, my eventual Prince Charming, would have to be like in order to deserve me.

So now I have my King Charming, my Heavenly Father, God, to do all the things for me that my father never managed to do.  Except here’s the thing with having a King for a Father…you still have to treat Him like royalty.  Which means you still have to submit to Him, to learn to obey, to follow His design.  Otherwise, you end up back where you started: fighting for nothing, trying to control things beyond your control, running a life you have no idea how to run.

Considering the alternatives, submitting to God makes sense.  After all, He knows better.  He made me, after all–worked out my design, fleshed out my purpose, put me together, quirks and all.  It’s sort of like having Steve Jobs around to personally guide you on how to use an iPhone–you’d be a fool to dispense with his advice and go and do it your own way.  Except that was exactly what I was, a fool.  Even if I had made the decision to make Jesus Lord and Savior over my life, I wasn’t exactly going to go quietly.  Years of fighting my own battles had given me an insanely strong pride and a habit of control.

Most of all, those years had given me a rebel heart.

(Stay tuned for Part 5)


[I’m INFECTED: Life As a Virus, Inc. Intern] #CrossingFunctions, featuring STORIFY! (I hope.)

4/4!  FINALLY.  It’s nearly 1AM and my eyes are beginning to get all blurry.  Honestly when will I ever learn not to cram major academic requirements?  Though, pretty soon (God willing), I won’t have any more academic requirements though.  Don’t know how I feel about that yet.  Will probably blog about it when I figure it out.

Anyway, back to the task at hand: update 4/4!

Today was a pretty big day for us at Virus.  First, a TV crew actually came over to film us as part of a feature for ABS-CBN’s morning talk-show Umagang Kay Gandawhich I’m told will air Monday, some time between 6:30 and 7:30am.  (If y’all are from the Philippines, and feel like waking up early then, do check us out?)  While I will admit in a past life I was a shameless media attention-seeker (I remember when camera crews came to our elementary school to interview my classmate Keeshia Wee Eng because she’d interviewed Erap, I got excessively jealous and was depressed for days.), and certainly I don’t think things have changed that much, I had to finish a pitch deck for one of the three client pitches on Friday (tomorrow, or, well, today), and so decamped to the quietest place I could find in Virus HQ: The Kitchen.

Actually, I didn’t so much decamp there as I was summoned by Sir Miguel.  We’re currently working on a microsite for a major client, and I was dispatched to shadowing Justin, who was spearheading this effort, and helping him out with content placement and layouting…at which point I had to reveal I had zero Photoshop experience.

This being the case, I was asked instead to pinpoint where we still needed assets from the client, which I did as quickly as possible before plunging back into my deck.  The cameras still invading my side of the office, though, I decided to “lie low” in the Kitchen for a while, promising that as soon as my deck was done I would help out wherever else I could.  To be honest, though, I didn’t expect to be much help, due to my lack of coding knowledge and Photoshop illiteracy.

I finished the deck a little after lunch, a few minutes after the cameras had left.  After getting the go-ahead, I sent it off to Roch, along with the fonts, all from the stolen bit of space I had in the Kitchen.  Chalking it up to pure inertia, I settled in to do pre-work for another deck…when Sir Miguel approached me again, this time asking me to assist with CMS: content management.

At first, I thought I was going to be in over my head–I’d never excelled in development, and my puerile attempts at tinkering with my blog layouts before I’d wised up and stuck to templates looked…amateurish at best.  CSS and HTML were, as I’d mentioned before, beyond me.  I’m a BD-Strat intern, which while technically makes me “cross-functional” isn’t as dramatic “cross-functioning” as Keynoting to CSS!  Could I handle this?

…Apparently, I could.  It wasn’t that much different from blogging, actually–just a bit more photo-editing involved.  And about one line of CSS.  The only skill I really needed was attention to detail, which as a woman I guess is sort of a given.  Justin showed me the ropes a bit, I asked some stupid questions, and I was off!  About a quarter of the way through, I decided that I’d live-tweet my adventure as well, so I did.  Look out below!

[UPDATE: Okay, so WordPress isn’t allowing me to embed…so let’s pretend it worked? You can click the link real quick instead and check out the live tweets, then come back and finish. Sorry guys! TOLD YOU I SUCK AT CODING!!]

What I’m liking about this internship is that despite being assigned a certain department, I’m allowed to have face-time with all the others, learning bits and pieces of the more technical sides of digital as I go.  While I won’t claim to be any good at what the people of the Kitchen do (compare my paltry AE art to their masterpieces and you’d see what I mean), it was fun to feel like “one of them” for a day, and watch how they worked.  They even joked that after getting used to the dual-screen and the code-checks, I might migrate permanently!  (Heck no; I’m sticking to Keynote!)

All good things have to come to an end, though.  Eventually, my time to head out–and go to my last ever official class at Dragon U–came, and I said goodbye to everyone, and thanked them (especially Justin, who had to put up with all my n00b mistakes) for their patience with the midget “Intern 2” from across the office.  All-in-all, an interesting day, and, as usual with my internship, I learned a good deal.  I actually quite enjoyed doing my “baby development team” work (though it hardly qualified development work, I think, compared to what they actually do), and would definitely want to help out again when needed, as long as at the end of the day I could go back to my my AE-art and strat decking. :))