My parents gave me a unique name. Following traditions during that time, I was named after my mother and my grandmothers. In some cases, this would result to having three given names. But my mother was creative, and she combined the name of my grandmothers, creating a new, unique one. My name is May Francelline (Francisca + Marcelina).
My entire life, I’ve only used two nicknames – May and France. My family calls me May. Its short, not too difficult to write or speak. Its easy to remember. In every class during my elementary years, there is bound to be another girl with May in her given name, and there were instances where the teacher has to point to which May she is calling. You can imagine a girl named May to be sweet, wearing braids, kind, delicate. I had short hair then, with scars in my legs because I keep running around and tripping with my clumsy feet, with asthma and lots of allergies. Not a cute girl, not by a long shot (but I did have my dimples, which rarely pops out because I was too thin, like a Mongol pencil).
When I went to university, I decided to change my identity. College was a period of experimenting with freedom, independence, sophistication (or my idea of sophistication and culture then) and free thinking. I decided to call myself France. Francelline is too long, too unique. I would stand out too much if I go with Francelline. France, I feel, can be both masculine or feminine. France would asks questions, and won’t feel stupid asking questions, even the ones that she feels are stupid and obvious questions. France wont say No to new experiences, like watching movies in cinemas everyday for a week, or spending hours playing in video game parks. It’s more exciting in contrast to boring May. I feel France would have a twinkle in her eye and an inviting grin, while May would just have her dimples to prevent people from running her over.
I’ve been France for the past 14 years. Most of my firsts happened while I am France – my first boyfriend and its resulting heart break; failing exams and grade; first overnight concert; first overseas trip. First job, pay check, rent money. Drinking too much and waking up drunk. The times I felt accomplished and broken, I was France. The times I felt innocent, and naively still believing in Santa Claus, I was May then.
Most people assume that I was born on the month of May, or my parents had a fetish for France and French culture based on my name. Depending on my mood, I would correct them, or let them create fantasies on my name.
May is a month – a specific time, a period. It is ephemeral, but has constancy. You know that after 365 days, the smells and sounds of May has come again. France, on the other hand, is a place. It is solid, but its contours changes as it interacts with people, nature, with the beliefs and practices people build.
This captures the daily struggle I have with myself. I do not wish for chains to bind me, but I long for structures to guide me. I love deeply and constantly, both in my friends, family and interests, but once I am bored, I walk away with no regrets. I am both proud and ashamed of my scars, the souvenirs life has etched in my body and heart. It is both a medal and a shield, an accounting of the things I risked for life, both won and lost. As I struggle to define myself, I feel torn between May and France.
So, am I a time or a place? Can I be both ephemeral, free, and solidly rooted? How can I be both May and France?