What’s In a Name?

Few will readily admit their own lives to be anything other than a series of happy fated circumstances. Spouses are soul mates. Careers are destiny. Our very body is an instrument of God himself and each step begins a life changing journey.

That narrative is hypnotic, seductive and, at least in my case, an utter lie.

My very birth was a medical curiosity. My mother was thirty, in a time when childless thirty-year-old women stayed that way. Additionally, at least two doctors had actually diagnosed her as barren. The second pronouncement spurring my mother to begin adoption proceedings for my uncle’s bastard son.

Barren. Bastard. Already you know that my story is set far far away from today’s world of political correctness and black Presidents. It’s 1974 and my thirty-year-old mother has just been told that she is in a family way. Oh, and that I will be a boy.

I guess I could build up the suspense a bit and drag this announcement out for a few pages, but I won’t. My story is long and chock full of enough cliches and cheap tricks.

I was not a boy.

Oh, don’t get the wrong impression, it’s not that I *am* a boy now or anything. I’m not. I am, as I was on the hot July night  when I was born, a girl. Well, I am thirty-five years old, so not so much “girl”, but you know what I mean. Female.

“A girl? But Dr. Friedman said I was having a boy.”

And pretty much everytime I heard this story as a child, I tried to imagine the nurse’s expression just then. What on earth could she have said?

“Well, I don’t know what the doctor told you lady, but I’ve seen boy babies and I’ve seen girl babies and this one here, definitely NOT a boy baby.”


“Well, if that’s what the doctor told you, then congratulations, it’s a boy, maam.”

My mother’s version of the story goes straight from disappointment to annoyance.

“I don’t have any girl names.”

Quite the pickle indeed for the parent of a newborn baby girl.

She then settled on one of the Afro-centric girl names popular in inner cities during the seventies. Something ending in -asha or -iqua. My aunt, five years my mother’s junior, had a better idea.
“How about Stephanie”?

She was the live-in maid for a white family on Long Island and the youngest child, a four-year-old girl, was named Stephanie.

At this, and here is my favorite part of the story, my mother shrugged and said “Okay. Whatever.”

In her defense, I was born four days late after 35 hours of labor AND I had a vagina. Already I was something of a pain in the ass.  (Literally, or so I thought for a long time. When I was five, I asked my mother where babies came from and without hestitation she replied “my butt.”)

My mother was handed a hospital issued birth certificate with my name hand printed in black ink: Stephanie Clare. She was also given her screaming daughter. My aunt walked alongside her as she was wheeled to the hospital entrance, and together they took a cab back to our two bedroom apartment in East Flatbush.

My parents were high school sweethearts, who married young. They were together for 16 years before I was before I was born. My father was a relentless philanderer.  However, since my mother thought she couldn’t have kids, she tolerated his infidelity. A few months into her pregnancy, though, she told him that since they would be parents now — he would have to make a choice between being a cad or being a dad. He chose the former and she threw him out about seven weeks before I was born.

My mother quickly arranged for my baptism into the Catholic church and bought a plane ticket to Panama. My grandparents still lived in the small town where she grew up and (and here I’m quoting) “I had to get out of the apartment before I threw you out of a window.” And so, at 21 days I was baptised. At 22 days I was on a plane to Central America. We lived in Panama for four months. I got my ears pierced in my grandparents’ living room by the octogenarian who pierced my mom’s ears and the ears of all the women in my family for the previous 30 years. I don’t remember this, obviously, but the story drives me to rub peroxide on my ears every now and then. Just in case.

We returned home to the two bedroom apartment, a pile of bills, late notices regarding same and an eviction notice. Someday I’ll tell you more about my mother’s irresponsible younger sister and what she did with the money that my mother sent her every month to pay the rent and bills. But today, we’re telling the story of my name.

I was a few months shy of my sixth birthday when I found my official New York State issued birth certificate in my mother’s closet. It had already started to yellow and the two creases, from where it had been folded in three, were now permanent. An oblong form, it contained type written information regarding the particulars of my birth.

I stared at the form. Something was not right.

I confronted my mother immediately.



“This is my birth certificate.”

“What were you doing in my closet?”

Focus, woman. That’s not important!

“It says my name is Stephane!”

“So? That’s your name.”

“But you’ve been writing it Stephanie!”

“Well, they spelled it wrong.”

“But this is my birth certificate! It can’t be wrong. If it says “Stephane,” then THAT’S MY NAME!”

She explained that she had requested an expedited birth certificate, so that I could fly internationally. When she opened the mail from the Department of childbirths, or whatever beaucratic name the agency had for itself at the time, she noticed the error in my name.  But we were leaving for Panama the next day, and there was nothing to be done. She called the D.O.C., when we got back and they informed her that the grace period for making changes to the birth certificate was 90 days. After that, there was a $300 fee to correct any mistakes on the birth certificate. She hung up the phone, looked at the pile of bills for extravangances like rent and electricity and decided Stephane was close enough. She would just spell it the regular way and no one would be the wiser.

In fact, my bedroom wall was covered with cards for Stephanie and certificates of achievement from my Day Care Center touting Stephanie’s reading ability. There were programs from Stephanie’s stirring turn as “teapot Number 1” sitting on my dresser. My bracelets and chains were beautifully adorned with gold script letters reading: Stephanie.

They were all lies! A fraud! My present-day self would have cried “racism”! I am NOT Stephanie! I went through the rest of documents in my mother’s closet: a social security card for Stephane. A passport for Stephane. According to the United States government Stephanie Clare did not exist!

“I want to start using my right name.”

And for the second time, my mother simply shrugged and said “Okay. Whatever.”

There are many things I didn’t know when I made this decision. Understandable. I was five. Like, for instance, I didn’t know how about cellophane. I also didn’t know about France. If I had known that for the next thirty years, idiots would be rhyming my name with window pane and strangers would see my resume and assume I was a French man, would I have made another choice? Probably not, but I didn’t know, so it didn’t matter.

I systematically removed all remnants of Stephanie and stubbornly insisted upon my government identity. I became intimately familiar with the following sentences:



“There’s no i. No, not in my last name either. NO EYES ANYWHERE.”

When I was feeling particularly hostile,  I would add “Eyes cost money that I don’t have.”

Somewhere around fourth grade I started drawing two vertical lines through the S and a single vertical line through the C.

$tephane  ¢lare became the only acceptable alternate spelling to my government name. I now had new jewelry. Awards with the right name on them. Stephane had pictures in the school yearbook. Everything was as it should be.

Unfortunately, my birth certificate also listed my eye color as black. I stared into the mirror’s reflection of my brown eyes for a long time and furrowed my brow.


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34 Responses to What’s In a Name?

  1. Angela says:

    Not surprised that you outed your name but I’m shocked at the outing of your age!

    Loved this story. The new site looks great!

  2. Alceste says:

    Welcome to the internets, Stephane!

    • Carthian says:

      So far I’ve love and enjoy every season ccoieltlon Cremieux has launched out. However, for this year 2013 Spring /summer I would like to see a jean jacket. A nice easy comfortable fit that’ll bring a relax feel with a button up, collar shirt to a V neck shirt. A 6 pocket would be tradional with the 7th inside. And top it off with the unique 38 shield logo on the chest. Color denim navy. Wash blue, and light blue. I hope this will be discusses and consider.Thank you for the great wear and your time.Forever Cremieux.

    • Turdukulova says:

      I am amazed this acousaticn comes from Ezra Levant, but then again on second thought I’m not.Our friend Ezra Levant deliberately published cartoons ridiculing Islam as a freedom of the press issue.At that time, islamic fundamentalist were threatening Danes because the same cartoons had been published in Denmark.Through his recklessness and stupidity, Mr. Levant risked the safety of Canadian citizens at home and abroad. If radical fundamentalists had noticed and made a similar sized international stink Canada’s reputation would have suffered.So, who is the more loyal Canadian citizen, Mr. Levant or Mr. Dion?I would challenge Mr. Levant to demonstrate some of the same courage that Mr. Dion has done in advocating for and defending Canada but given his tactless methods, the outcome would be unpredictable and possibly disastrous.We can all thank Mr. Harper for one thing. He pre-empted Mr. Levant from becoming a member of parliament by usurping his riding nomination after being elected leader of the Conservative party.A modern day “Rat Pack” composed of Rob Anders, Myron Thompson and Ezra Levant might have been a real parliamentary powder keg.

  3. Gib says:

    So…now that your ID is public, will we finally be ending this whole “Patriots fan” silliness?

    • Nidhi says:

      The Concordia Lutheran Church Men’s Club will once again be selling Christmas trees and wraehts this year. The tree lot is located at the Church-School, 4245 Lake Avenue. Christmas tree sales will begin on Friday, November 23rd. The lot will be open 12:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily, except Saturday mornings, when it opens at 9:00 a.m. The proceeds from this fund raiser are used to support various projects and functions of the Concordia Church and school. A selection can be made from Scotch Pine, White Pine, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, and Blue Spruce. These trees were just cut a couple of weeks ago. Please come see how fresh they are. Decorated and undecorated wraehts are also available. Your patronage would be greatly appreciated.

    • Armando says:

      I am in the early stages rnsearchieg to open up a Man’s Boutique in Manta Ecuador, South America, and I will like to see how can I become a retail license individual to carry your product line in my store. The majority of my own clothing is your brand, bought here in Cleveland Ohio, from Dillards Dept. Store.To be able to purchade your product at a wholesale price and exported to Manta Ecuador.Your assistance to above request is greatly appeciated.

  4. Ken Wheaton says:

    You got a whut-WHAT in your butt?

    Mama Clare is a trip.

    Oh, and welcome to the real internet, where people use their real names. It’s a different world on this side.

  5. Ugarles says:

    My mother’s name is Eileen. Her birth certificate says “Helen” – which is probably how the name sounded to the nurse in Grandma Gertie’s Polish accent. As far as I know, my mother never had an episode like yours.

  6. admin says:

    hahaha! Your mom is choosing to live the lie! 🙂

  7. Chilly says:

    TL:DNR but I assume that this is a variant on the rather hilarious Thanksgiving story so I will tell my friends to read.

    You should consider serialization of your longer posts.

  8. Jordan says:

    Do I need to start a separate section in my Google Reader for Stephane Clare blogs? I mean, COMEON! How many blogs do you plan to keep?! Jeebus!

    • Nasar says:

      I am requesting a coambeck . The Daniel Cremieux Croco Front Pocket Wallet. Three cards slots, magnetic money clip. I had one a few years ago and lost it during a frantic round of golf It is probably in a creek on the 13th. I have spent the last two years scouring the interent in search for this wallet. I had to settle for a coach wallet that is not nearly as attractive or functional. Please bring this wallet back! Also, if you have any sitting in a warehouse somewhere I would be more than happy to take two of them off your shelves. (I may need two in case of another frantic 18 holes).

  9. Stephane says:

    I’m not going to lie to you Jordan. You might.

    • Daniel says:

      Dear Mr. Cremieux,I am looking for a very spieifcc shirt designed by you. It is:The Definitive Shirt, Stanev (Staney) Shirt, Classic Fit, 100% Cotton 16 1/2 /35, RN 58909, Made in Sri Lanka. (Color-pure white)This is my boss’ favorite and best fitting shirt and he would like to buy more. Do you still make this style? If not, is there one you make currently that is similar? I have searched on the internet and did not find anything close to the shirt described above.Thank you so much for your help!Warm regards,Sarah Prystupa

  10. F-Train says:

    After more than a decade of friendship (or perhaps more accurately “tolerance”), I am surprised that this is the first time I’ve heard this story. I certainly do remember the clerk in the 2nd Department rhyming your name with cellophane at our swearing-in ceremony though.

    You should start a new blog just for all the instances where people have mis-pronounced your name.

  11. Stephane says:

    Yes, I will call it “Punchedintheface.com”

  12. Petitedov says:

    Also having just completed season 5 of Buffy I’m finding the first Dawn Summers truly annoying, so it’s about time you went disassociated yourself from the whiny brat.

  13. Stephane says:

    I know, right? She was the worstest!

  14. Elana says:

    Congrats StephanIe. So far so good! – Elena (I feel your pain)

  15. Stephane says:

    haha and we both chose impossible to spell wrong blogonyms: Dawn, Ari!

  16. Ugarles says:

    My mother is not living a lie! You are like all the sheeple who do whatever a low-level city bureaucrat tells you to do.


  17. MissusB says:

    I must say, after lurking around your blog for years, I was a little thrilled to learn your real name and age all in the same post!

  18. Pingback: dustbury.com » To be new baptized

  19. Stephane says:

    MissusB Aren’t all my stories and entire existence just that much more ridiculous given how old I am?!

  20. BWoP says:

    It never occurred to me that your real name was spelled the same as a French dude’s name.

    And you were *supposed* to be a boy.

    So you’re not really a Latina after all?

  21. Mary says:

    Funny how when the web started gaining traction everyone was so careful to hide their identity – that’s how I decided to use “mad” as my email name, it didn’t give anything away like “mary” would.

    Now it seems like everyone is perfectly happy to let it all hang out – names, phone numbers, where you are at exactly this moment, etc.

    Anyway, great story, looking forward to more of the Stephane memoir.

    • Sinan says:

      Should be worth a listen. Did you noicte the feelings about May after the one last night? one percent. The Greens always sound like a up and coming group but it’s been a long time even becoming heard. She was heard,and dismissed. Steve Boy had a few problems and Dionne took him. Now if we all had laptops we could join in. I figure I’ll be back and forth checking the US VP debate. And right in the middle King Gordo calls two byelections which he claimed he wouldn’t do till after the fed are done, but being Gordo it’s just one more time that he has changed his mind.The guy doesn’t stay focued for very long.

  22. MissusB says:

    Next are you going to admit that you aren’t a lawyer and that you drive a Pinto?
    And I have to admit that the stories of your adventures have made me laugh out loud on a fairly regular basis. We should all be so adventurous to jump in with both feet before contemplating the consequences! 🙂

  23. Rana says:

    Best. Story. EVAH!

    • Upin says:

      A psychiatrist is a paisicyhn who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. I have a bachelor’s degree in the social services field. For several years, I have worked with children who have been diagnosed with mental disorders. It is upsetting to see children victimize at an early age and even more disturbing to see them as predators as early as 5 years of age, however knowing that I am doing my part to assist them in becoming functioning youths and adults is rewarding. The empathy, confidentiality and maturity of a medical assistant are definitely needed in this area. I enjoy establishing a rapport with these clients and helping them to find adequate coping skills to deal with their disorders, therefore I would like to work for a psychiatrist.I would not like to work for an emergency paisicyhn for several reasons. I will explain a few. Patients who come to the emergency center typically have serious injuries or trauma. I would not like to have my mind constantly focused on who is coming thru the door and how sever the prognosis is. Knowing myself, I know that would be my focus and I would not be very productive. Also, in the emergency room the staff has to be prepared for anything, I would prefer an area that focuses on a particular specialty. Most importantly, I do not wish to see excessive amounts of blood loss on a regular basis. Actually, not even a minimal amount of blood loss on a regular basis. Giving my opinion and thoughts about this specialty, I would not be an effective employee.

    • An intelligent point of view, well expressed! Thanks!

    • Ionut says:

      True, the leader shuold be loyal to the country. Whether that was the case with all of the liberal candidates is a fair and reasonable question. Your second and third points does depends on the person. Anyone who runs for the leadership, professor or not, had a specialty at some point in their career. Whether they can step out of that as much to do with their personality than their profession. You’d hope that professors are fans of the scientific method, prepared to embrace the null hypothesis if the experiment fails to produce evidence supporting the hypothesis. That’s not a bad model for governance (although one the current US leadership seems loathe to learn!)

    • Klinsmann says:

      Dart, you’ve got a strong point when you say Dion has a rsebonsipility to be as electable as possible. You give me good pause.However, I still feel Pat Martin has handled this wrong – it should not be incumbent upon any leader to voluntarily decide on his citizenship: it should be the law or it should not. In the US, it should have been law to restrict the President to 2 terms, or it should not have been: it did not work out as they wished it to when Roosevelt became President. If Martin et al feel so strongly about this, they should move to change the rules, and not Dion’s status.I think the best thing here for Dion to do is to introduce his own legislation, stating that in order to be PM, you must be solely Canadian in citizenship. Once the bill is passed, he would renounce his French c.ship. If the bill does not pass – then it doesn’t pass.Just my further two cents on this.

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