Monday, October 22, 2012

What about Naomi?

What about the choice of the name "Naomi", that is...

On October 22, I legally became Naomi Renee Ceder. In a way it was a second birthday, one that I'd dreamed of for a long time. But how did I come by those new names?

The easy one is "Renee". Just about a year ago I asked one of my dearest friends to give me a middle name. She agreed and after much deliberation found what she was looking for - a name that matched the time I was born and had a special significance. She wanted something to indicate a fresh start, and Renee was moderately common in the 50's but not so much after that. And Renne means "reborn". That seemed quite apt to both of us.

The Naomi part is much more complex. I chose that name more than 15 years ago, when I was in the very early stages of coming to terms with my gender. I wanted a name that was compatible with the time I was born (so no "Tiffanies" or other names that were trendy when I was already in my 30's or 40's), and one that was just about as popular (or unpoplular) as Vern - I didn't want to become one of the many Susans or Deborahs my age - that just wouldn't match my experience.

As I thought about it Naomi struck me. Perhaps it was seeing Naomi Judd sing, maybe it was watching Naomi Campbell strut the catwalk, but somehow it occurred to me and once it did, there was real resonance there. As it happened one of my mother's friends was named Naomi. I never knew her very well, but I remember thinking she was pretty in a quiet and reserved way. And in some later interactions with her I learned that she was a tireless worker, full of dedication and attention to detail.

But there was more to it than that. It had the same popularity in the 50's as Vern, and it also echoed in my head from all of those Sundays in church. Our Lutheran church had several women's groups, or "units", named after women of the bible, and announcements of activities of the "Naomi Unit" seemed to echo out of the past. I don't remember if my mother was part of the Naomi Unit or not, but thinking back, that name seemed always to there.

While not a Christian, I felt obligated see what the biblical Naomi had been like. The story of Naomi and Ruth strikes me as a nuanced one. I've read many contradictory intrerpretations of her character and her relationship with Ruth, but it is clear that she suffered great loss, that she inspired great love and loyalty from her daughter-in-law, and that she hacked the social system to provide a better life for Ruth and herself. I like that view of the story - I too have sometimes felt "bitter" at the fate dealt to me, but I'm also trying to find something better.

So... Naomi Renee. 

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