Fanny, the backstory

There are a few of you out there – not many, but a few – who don’t know me in real life, which means you must be scratching your (three) heads at the title of that last post, doing a double take, sizing me up, wondering if I’m really strange enough to nickname myself backside, or if perhaps (fingers crossed) you simply missed something?

The answer, sadly, is yes: my nickname means tushie and booty and all those other lovely synonyms for that thing you back up on the dance floor. But – but! – you did kind of miss something, because the term of endearment has its roots in family history and middle school drama and all other sorts of good things. In other words, I have an excuse, and I’m happy to bring you in the loop now.

Our story is born of family lore. When my mother was pregnant with me, her first child and her parents’ first grandchild, the tale goes, my grandmother expressed her excitement and happiness and then equal parts assumed and instructed my mother that I would be named Fanny, of course.

It was my mother’s mother’s mother’s name, and it was, without a doubt, unfortunate. While my grandmother was given a perfectly sensible, classically beautiful name (Helen) and my mother was given a vaguely French, borderline chic name (Elise), stout, horn-rimmed glasses-bedecked Fanny was given a name that was not just unattractive, not just odd, but downright offensive. There’s no better way to ensure that a child will be the laughingstock of every classroom, every party, for years to come, than by bestowing the name Fanny on her. (Except, perhaps, pairing said body part-inspired name with a surname that starts with ‘F’ – gotta love that alliteration! – and is as unpronouncible as Fanny is unfathomable in our modern times.)

Such was the scenario my parents were faced with. There was no denying it – with a name like Fanny F., I would instantly be branded an outcast. And while my mother has never been big on saving me from social pariah-dom – as evidenced by her repeated efforts to make me terminally uncool (grounding me from sleepovers by the year,  formulating a detailed legal argument against mischief night, etc.) – this was apparently her battle to fight. Brave with pregnancy hormones, she stood up to her mother, assuring Grandma Helen that she would most certainly not be going through natural labor (48 hours, sucka!) in order to give birth to a daughter named Fanny.

This didn’t go over well.

In my over-dramatic childhood version of the story (ha, let’s be honest, in my over-dramatic mid-twenties version) my grandmother refused to speak to my mother for months after my birth; in reality I think it was probably only a few weeks of the pregnancy. Still, I’m pretty sure my grandmother harbored ill will over my name until the day she died, bequeathing us her distaste over the lack of a Fanny to carry on the family name alongside the boxes of perfume samples and clipped coupons that played a starring role in her material legacy.

Perhaps in her honor, perhaps at her expense, most likely because I’m not – thank god – actually named Fanny, I’ve latched on to this saga. Such a close call! Such a representation of how nuts my family actually is! Such a classic story! I wrote an essay about the situation – aptly titled, “I Could Have Been A Fanny” – in the eight grade, and that’s when the whole thing really went public. The nickname caught on, then died down, then flared up again. To this day there are several people quite dear to me – Courtney, Evan – who routinely refer to me as Fanny.

I secretly adore it. As nicknames go, it’s nearly perfect – it has personality, spark, a backstory. It’s strange, attention grabbing, embarrassing – just like, um, me. In my own way, I have kind of turned into a Fanny.

So that’s one reason why, when brainstorming names for our precious pooch, Franny really stuck out to me. I love the semi-dorky connotation it carries; the hint of an earlier, left-for-better era; the fact that it’s fallen out of favor in a world of Avas and Aidans. I insisted that my surname come before Dave’s in the hyphenated conglomeration of a last name we tagged to her first, just to make sure we captured that nerdy alliteration. I – very nearly – did that thing my mother could never do: I ushered my own version of a Fanny into this world.

Elise, as it were, thinks Grandma Helen would be offended. I like to think she would have thought it endearing. Because, let’s be honest: the only way the Fanny name is going to live on in my family is to pass it down to an heir of the canine variety. And even then, the unadulterated version of the name is probably a bit much.

How lucky, then, that Helen had a granddaughter crazy enough to think that Franny is just right.


4 Responses

  1. 48 hours?! That’s called prolonged labor…I’m surprised that Fanny didn’t get delivered by C-section

  2. I’m no longer sure of the exact hours of labor or the length of time (just days) that my mom didn’t speak to me following your birth. Yes, it is true that she wished you were named after her mother. But, most importantly, I am very sure that your grandmother would be exceedingly proud of the lovely young woman you’ve become!

  3. I liked this post! I thought you were just a big J.D. Salinger fan…hehe.

  4. 10 days and no blabbermouth?? whats up with that?

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