My name is Emily. My family often calls me Em. You may call me by either name.
My mother told me that, before I was born, she saw the name Samantha on a gravestone and decided that she liked it so much she would name her daughter Samantha, if she ever had one. I have three brothers and no sisters, so I was almost a Sam, but by the time I came along, she had long forgotten about Samantha and chose to call me Emily instead.
Until I was well over 40, I could count the number of people I met named Emily on one hand and still have fingers left over. I was very young when it happened the first time and I wondered “why did she have my name?” I was NOT happy. She was much older than me, had darker hair than mine, didn’t look like me in any way, and I felt the name didn’t fit her all. It didn’t occur to me at the time that the age difference between us meant she had the name before I did.
My mother couldn’t think of a middle name for me, so she chose her own middle name, Louise. I never liked Louise – that was her name, and I wanted my own name – but now I realize what a privilege it was that she chose to give me something very personal to her – an eternal gift. My middle name also permitted my father to call me Emmy Lou; he also created fond memories for me as the only person in my life ever to call me that.
I met a hairdresser named Susan which was a very popular name when I was young. She intrigued me when she told me she had been an Emily once. She explained that her salon had five hairdressers, all of them named Susan, and the owner got tired of having five people answer every time he said “Susan…” Finally, he pointed to the Susan nearest to him and said “You’re Susan, everyone else pick another name” so she picked Emily because she liked the name and later chose to name her own daughter.
I always knew someone was talking to me when they called Emily. That changed. I heard people call Emily and turned around to notice some toddler getting too far away from her mother. I heard a woman named Emily being interviewed on television. She complained that her name was too common; there were three people named Emily in her classroom and she didn’t like it because of the resulting confusion it caused them all.
I, on the other hand, enjoyed the exclusivity of being the only Emily in the room for most of my life. It gave me a feeling of individuality and distinctiveness that the woman on television could not appreciate. To me, it’s rise in popularity gives me a feeling of warmth because I have come to realize that many other people like my name too.