Monday, May 26, 2008

Embrace your inner Alfred

Yesterday morning I was reading the paper when I happened across the obituary of Alfred "Scotty" Young of Philadelphia.

I knew, just by looking at the first line, that I had to stop living a lie.

Here in black and white was a life lived in denial, a man who told his friends and family that his first name was was "Scotty" when in fact he was an Alfred. Imagine the shock his friends had when they woke up and read Sunday morning that man they had know as "Scotty" was really an Alfred. And he was dead.

Here in the end, "Scotty", your secret is out. Fess up.

You. Are. An. Alfred.

I too have been living the secret life as a non-Alfred and now I want the world to know "I AM AN ALFRED!"

That's right. An Alfred. Like my father before me. The "Fred" is strong in my family.....

When I was born a sort of compromise was made about my name, yes my first name would be Alfred and I would be named after my father as was traditional in Italian-American families but my mother was crafty. She insisted I would be called "A. Michael" and so it was.

My Grandmother said "The kid isn't going to know his name".

But my Mother was smart. She knew that eventually people would tire of the "A." portion and just call me me Michael and that is exactly what happened. I was "Mike" and just like "Scotty" I have been living a lie.

There have been times in my life when I have been forced to embrace the name Alfred but it was never my choice.

In the 10th Grade I had to take Spanish and as is the custom in language classes all over America, the first thing that the teacher did was to give everyone their "Spanish" name.

I was to be "Alfredo".
I did not want to be Alfredo.
I told her so.

I want be Miguel.
She said "You are Alfredo because there are too many Miguel's".
I said I am Miguel.
She said I was Alfredo.

This went on for most of the first semester until I eventually just stopped going to class. I actually became so disheartened at the thought of becoming Alfredo that I actually failed Spanish out of spite. Of course in 1974 I had no idea that one day half of America would be speaking Spanish, packaging would have both English and Spanish and it was have done me some good to buck up and say "si" when Ms Jones called out "Alfredo" but "who knew?". I could be enjoying Telelmundo today if only I had swallowed my pride.

Later the same thing would happen in the Navy with different results.

The very first day, after waking us up by throwing trash cans around the barracks at 4 am and generally intimidating us, the Chief in charge of our Company called my name out as "Alfred" at the first muster.

I enthusiastically and wisely said "present!" instead of "Excuse me, but I prefer to be called Michael or Mike or even better A. Michael". That would have gotten me 50 push-ups and a reputation. The people around me had no idea that my name was Mike and so I just went with it. They could have called me Zed or that day and I would have gone with it.

Little did I know that this meant that for the next 6 years I would be "Al". It was just hard to explain after bootcamp that yes, while you have been calling me "Al" for the last 3 months, my name is really Mike. I became Al.

I felt like I was in witness protection.

Later, after the Navy, one of my Navy buddies called me at my parents. I answered the phone and they asked for Al. I said "I'll get him".

I thought they wanted my Dad and I passed him the call. After an awkward couple minutes, my Dad and my Navy buddy figured it out. They wanted me, not Dad.

Since that time it has been my secret what the "A." stands for. People usually guess Anthony, since I am Italian American. It was a secret until our inept IT outsourcer published it by accident in a list. I thought that my secret had been exposed but it quickly blew over.

Oh, certainly "A. Michael" has it's little perks. For example, unless there is some guy or gal named Aardvark, I am usually first in any list sort alphabetically by first name. This means that in any company directory I am usually the first name at the top of the address book. I'm not sure this would happen if I were simply an Alfred. With auto aliasing turned on if you simply type "a" in the to field, the email comes to me. I am a single character - an "a". It's like being known simply as your first name like Brad, Cher or Maddona.

But now I should embrace Alfred, unless I want a similar fate as "Scotty". I'm just not ready yet.

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