Coming to terms with an unusual name

My mom liked to tell a story that made it sound like I was named on a bet. Or more accurately, as a permanent “I told you so.”

If you’d met my mom, you’d buy this as totally plausible.

My mother was pregnant before ultrasounds became routine and our family doctor told her I’d be a boy born around March 1. No, my ever-cocky mom replied, it’s a girl and she’ll be born on March 17. We’ll name her Colleen because that’s St. Patrick’s Day.

I arrived one day before that, but that was close enough, apparently.

My dad disputes this story, which also isn’t surprising given how few things they agreed on in my childhood.

But it doesn’t really matter whether this is a story my mom made up later or if she concealed her true motives for liking the name Colleen from my dad.

I think the main reason she told me the story was the frustration I had with carrying such an unusual name.

According to the Social Security Administration, Colleen was the 121st most popular baby name in 1971 -- and it's dropped to 897th since then.

In an era when it seemed 97 percent of my female classmates were Michelle/Shelly, Elizabeth/Lisa, Jennifer/Jenny, I was the odd girl out.

I constantly faced people calling me something close but not quite — Kathryn, Kathleen, Kelly, Corinne, Katie — and each time I had to spell my name for someone, I wished again that my parents could have gone for Amy, Melissa or Julie.

Would you believe search engine optimization and social media helped me come around?

Whenever I sign up for a new online service, I’m virtually guaranteed of getting my preferred username cnewvine, because not only is Colleen usual, so is Newvine. Put the two together and my name is the like the vanishing point in a drawing. If I ever try to register for something and find cnewvine taken, I go back to my email to see if I previously signed up and forgot. That’s almost always the case.

Do a Google search for “Colleen Newvine” and you’ll find pages and pages of results, 99 percent of it about me.  There might be another woman with my name in Fort Collins, Colo., but I’ve never been able to actually track her down to figure out if it was an attempt at identity theft or if she really exists.

Look for me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype — Colleen Newvine is always me. Only me. Not hundreds of Michelles and Jennifers, but just weird-named me.

So whether it was a “told you so” by my mom or not, I appreciate that the name my parents picked 41 years ago helped me do this new media stuff a little more effectively.

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Categories: home and family, lifestyle

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1 reply

  1. I hear you, sister. There were no Eleanors my age (nor are there now) while growing up. (People would say stuff like “Oh, I have a great great great great aunt named Eleanor.)

    Enjoy your pretty name and its advantages on the internet. And Happy Happy Birthday!

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