Speak no evil (3)
"what's the matter, cat got your tongue?"
I absolutely love my name now, but when I was little I hated it. My nickname was “Peaches”, which I adored. You see, I was born covered in peach colored fuzz and when my hair grew out, it was also peach colored. If anyone called me Cyan, they probably weren’t part of my family. If my name was used, I was probably in trouble or it was the southern sounding version of my name - Cyanna, which my Grandmother loved to say. If she was particularly playful, it was Cyanna Danna.
There are two stories for how I came to have the name Cyan. The first is my father’s version. It is simple and romantic. He claims there was a list of baby names and that was just one of them, but when I was born there was a blue star in the sky. That was the sign that my name was meant to be. My father is an artist and does abstract and often creative work.
My mother’s story is more graphic and full of detail. She’s a photo-realist and draws and makes what she sees. According to her, when I was born, I somehow squirmed around and got into a breech position. That’s when your bottom is coming out instead of your head. For those of you who don’t know anything about child birth, that’s the wrong position to be in. Usually, births like that today end in c-sections, a surgical procedure where the baby is removed through a cut in the abdomen. These procedures were less popular than they are today in the 70s. I won’t be graphic about the details, but lets just say it was messy and involved forceps. Somehow, when I squirmed around into this position, I wrapped my umbilical cord around my neck and literally choked on it. When I was finally out of the womb, I was blue in color and rushed away from my mother into a critical care area. My mother said she saw me and she knew that if I survived, my name was Cyan, because that’s what color I was. I was in fact, Cyanotic.
I apparently turned all sorts of colors after that. After finally getting enough oxygen, I turned bright red and then developed jaundice and was yellow. So, I was the whole darn primary pigment color wheel. An artist’s dream!
My mother, when she finally got to hold me, was told that I was going to be mentally slow. Back then, we used the word “retarded”. They were convinced I had experienced brain damage as a result of not having oxygen and I also didn’t cry or make much noise.
Understandably, my mother was devastated by this.
I’ve chosen to believe my mother, because the events that follow in my life kind of give weight to it. You see, people treated me like I couldn’t understand them for a long time. It didn’t help that I didn’t talk much. Far past the age when kids typically talk, I was what we now call “selectively mute”. We understand it a lot more today than back then. I simply didn’t talk out of fear. Everyone was so kind to me when I said nothing and if something came out of my mouth, it had too much gravity. The world would stop and these large looming creatures would stare down at me and gasp at every word like it was a miracle. So, I kept it to myself that I understood them and had cracked the code of language.
I hated my name mostly because nobody could say it or spell it. I was often asked what language it was from and it put way too much attention on me. Something I really didn’t like. I loved being in the background like an observant spy, soaking things in.
However, it did bum me out when we’d go to tourist stores and they’d have all of these pens or other things with people’s names on it that were never mine. My mother was mindful of this, and she made me a sweater with my name embroidered on it that was bright yellow. It was definitely nice to see my name on something.
It didn’t occur to me until recently that my sister was also a color. I always thought of her as the flower or plant, but she was in fact a color like me. Heather. She isn’t Heather anymore and changed her name. She’s now named Christian. I always loved her name, but she didn’t love it. When she was born it was incredibly unique, but then Heather Locklear happened and there were more and more Heathers out there. I also suspect, but don’t know, that she wanted to shed her childhood and start over. A new name maybe helped with that.
I too wanted to change my name, but I’m actually glad that I never did. My middle name is Starr and it isn’t because of a star in the night sky like my father claimed, but instead because of Belle Starr, the horse thief gun slinging female outlaw. My mother also says she wanted to call me “5”, but they wouldn’t allow a number to be a name, so my middle name was after Belle and a star has five points. I’m also related to Belle Starr through marriage. When later in life I pondered changing my name, I thought about going by my middle name and simply being “Star”. Eventually, life became easier for me, because color printers came along as well as default color backgrounds for window managers on operating systems. Suddenly Cyan was more of a household name. Now when people ask me for my name, for something like a Starbucks cup, instead of a puzzled look and lots of questions, I get someone who’s proud of knowing what it is, “Like the color?!”.
Yes indeed. Like the color.