I have a complicated relationship with my name. It took me a long time to feel connected to it. Over the years, I heard comments circling the stereotype of “Britney’s.” Let’s start there—Britney Spears and I share the same first and middle name. Britney Jean and Britany Jean. Twice a month I hear, “it’s Britney, bitch.” (I actually don’t mind this so much.) I once worked with a girl who said I was the first Britany she “ever liked.” Inferring the rest had been “bitchy” or “ditzy.” There was the guy I had a crush on when I was in Peru: “You just don’t seem like a ‘Britany.’”
And I’ve had a confusing relationship with my name. Most of my life I spelled it with two t’s. It was the day I took the Skylark to the DMV, and it was the first time I’d ever seen my birth certificate. Everything seemed in order—mother, Mary Golden, father, Charles Golden. Born on January 30th. Everything but my name; it was spelled B-r-i-T-a-n-y. Just the one ‘t.’
I called my mom immediately. What the hell was going on here??
“It was the 80s, we’d never even heard of ‘Britany.’”
I changed it to one t.
In their defense, my birth was a chaotic time. My mom had convinced my dad and everybody I was going to be a boy. I had a blue basinet, blue clothes, blue everything; my name was to be “Sean Michael Golden.” She was in labor for 15 hours (thank you, mom!), on the verge of dying from exhaustion when the doctor said, “it’s a girl!” Everyone was shocked. They had no idea what to call me.
A little girl on the same floor had a Cabbage Kid named “Britany,” but someone had suggested “Shauna,” so they held a vote. “Britany” won, and I was given my grandmother’s middle name, “Jean.”
The Great Cabbage Patch Vote wasn’t the only naming ceremony that winter’s day in Los Angeles; I have another name, Shea. It’s what most of my family calls me. The day I was born my father rocked me in his arms, and looked into my eyes. I looked back and I said, “sshhh, sshhh.” He said, “ssshh,” back. We talked it out. He said it over and over until it turned into “sshh shhha shea.”