First off, Happy Birthday to my nephew, Goose. I think he has a new Internet handle suitable to his advanced years, but I’ll just use his kid nickname.

Don’t ask me how that became his parent’s nickname for him. I remember thinking it was kind of cruel of my brother to give him the same call sign as Tom Cruise’s doomed co-pilot in Top Gun, given his tragic end and all. But apparently that’s not the origin. Or so my brother tells me.

My nickname growing up was “Missy.” I am telling you this because recently someone who has known me from my childhood church parish came to a book event and outed me on this. It was just the cutesy name my parents called me, and “Rosemary” was such a grown up name for a little knock-kneed waif of a girl that it sort of stuck. I started using Rosemary when started high school, confusing people who’d assumed my name was Melissa, and suffering accusations of pretension (which is probably why I avoided using my full name until then).

The problem with nicknames–names in general–is that there IS no name safe from teasing or mangling or corruption into something unpleasant. I liked “Rose” but inevitably when I tried to go by that, it turned into “Rosie” which is not at ALL acceptable. Or “Ro” which was (and is) not me at all. Maybe I’m just not a single syllable kind of gal.

Which is ironic, because after reading Little Women in the third grade, I swore I was going to change my name to Josephine and go by “Jo.” How this is different from being Rosemary and going by “Ro” I don’t know, except that Jo March is made of awesome and prickly-pear rainbows. (Seriously. My favorite thing about her, as well as Meg Murray, is that they were so grumpy, but so soft inside. I could relate to that.)

Recently, I came across a British Rosemary (the name doesn’t have the same nerd stigma across the pond, and I met more Rosemarys in my two weeks in England than I have my who life in Texas) who went by “Romy.” I find this utterly charming, and if I was thirteen again (Not that I would want to be *shudder*), I would adopt it in a heartbeat.

That is a luxury of being young– and I think this is why I love writing for the young adult age group. You have the opportunity to reinvent yourself as you step from one stage of life to another. I did that several times, not just by changing my nickname, but going from shy nerd to drama geek, to honors student nerd, to Star Wars nerd, back to drama nerd…

Though really, I was always the same person inside. The name changes, the clothes or image may change. You may alter what part of the cafeteria you sit in, but always stay the same inside. I think that as you grow older, you stop worrying about what people call you,and stop picking and choosing which “you” people see.

That’s the luxury of growing up. We become confident enough to let our outsides match our insides.

No matter what name we go by.