Archive for Personality

What’s in a Name?


The gal who cuts my hair and I are giving one another new names.  Her name, Tia, is actually perfect for her, but mine is boring beyond belief, so I am very happy to be considering new possibilities.  When I mentioned this to my poetry group, one of the women said she changed her first name when she re-married and her “new” husband of now 25 years still calls her by the new name.  Others in the group admitted they had changed their names, too:  a little, a lot, previously, now.

My last name changed, twice, because I changed it both times I married.  I kept my married name from my first marriage until I re-married.  So from age 26 when I got divorced to age 39 I was using someone else’s name.  When I married my current husband I changed my name to his, which was kind of a joke because he was adopted and the name didn’t really belong to him, either.  We were a good match!

I didn’t change my name in part because I did not like my maiden name.  My married name was nothing special at all, but I had used it at work for ten years and people called me by my last name.  I don’t recall why…I was a supervisor and I guess my “subordinates” found it more appealing than using Ms. or Mrs., which would have been bogus anyway.  I was happy to get rid of it especially after I learned that there was another woman by the same first and last name who had unpaid bills, unreturned library books and various run-ins with the police and ex-boyfriends, which explained some very weird and nasty phone calls late at night.

Then three years ago, my husband and I went for flu shots and the gal checking us in had us at two different addresses.  Well, not yet, I said.  So I learned there is another Mary R. with a very similar birth date.  Now  I always double check the address whenever I deal with that clinic.

My husband’s initials are RLR, our cat is Rio and when we married, I thought I should change my first name to an R as well:  Renata, perhaps, or Rita.  Actually, I kind of like my current initials:  MCR.  Like McR, the Irish poet.  Ha.

So, I named Tia “Sidney Louisa.”  I like how that sounds, but when I told my husband, he said, you mean like Sid?  Isn’t that a guy’s name?

Tia named me “Claudette Amalie.”  Very French; very pretty.  She said that Claudette sounds sophisticated.   Or mature.

I going to see Tia next week and I am working on an Italian name for her.  Here are some names I picked that I like and what they mean:

Chiara – clear, bright

Elena – from Greek H elena, meaning torch

Felisa – happy, lucky

Luisa  – famous warrior

Natale – Italian form of Latin Natalia, meaning birthday

Noemi – my delight, my pleasantness

Milana/Maria Elena

Simona – harkening

Violetta – violet

My choice:  Chiara Elena.  The Ch is pronounced like K.  It sounds sexy to me and a little musical, almost poetic.   H’mmm…maybe it should be mine.


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Powell Garden, Kansas

Powell Gardens, Kansas

I just returned from a long weekend in Kansas City reunion-ing with six high school girlfriends.  A big topic of conversation was whether our high school education was good.  We grew up in North Dakota.  Only a group of NDak-ers would even ask such a question.  Can you say, “Insecure?”

In the Fall 2012 issue of Prairie Schooner (a University of Nebraska publication) Brian James Schill wrote an article titled, “The Superego State:  A Lover’s Reply.”  Schill teaches at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.  His essay discusses the two halves of North Dakotans, the helpful, even Socialist ones who promote things like the State Bank of ND and the “Can’t we all behave?” North Dakotans who put up billboards that say things like, “Be Kind” or “Be Polite.”  When I am overly the latter, my husband just rolls his eyes and calls me “Dakota.”

The most interesting reference in the essay is to Peter Rentfrow a Cambridge University psychologist who studies the effect of geography on people’s personalities.  Rentfrow found that psychological traits do emerge in geographical regions and that such traits are correlated with behaviors such as crime, religiosity, health, etc.  According to Schill, North Dakota led the nation in two of the five measures, sociability and affability.  North Dakotans ranked first in extraversion and agreeableness and very low in neuroticism.  Schill says that North Dakotans are exceedingly nice and “we impress such behavior on our children and colleagues.”  

Oh. for a dime for every time someone, usually male, said to me:  “Smile, Mary.”  It is not possible to live as a happy introvert in North Dakota.  People simply will not leave you alone.

Rentfrow also found that North Dakota ranks fifty-first in “openness” and near the bottom in “creativity.”  Schill says, “Even if we are sociable…it is only reservedly so, among ourselves.  We bristle at fresh faces, dismiss novelty and kitsch, loathe to be seen as needing others, and tend to ‘make do’ with our bleak surroundings, considering complaining and blasphemy synonymous.  We’ll talk to you for hours but not say a thing.  Add to this lack of openness and creativity often paralyzing feelings of inferiority…”

So, back to education.  Let’s ask first what the purpose of education is.  To my mind, it is to enable the students to think for themselves; the girlfriends mentioned “critical thinking” as one thing they got out of their education.  But how can one learn to be a critical thinker, which requires openness and consideration of alternatives when one is educated in a state that does not value openness or creativity?

Not everyone in ND is an overbearing extrovert.  I only recall one particular teacher who gave me a lower grade in a science class than I deserved so I would “try harder” the next semester.  Funny thing was, I didn’t.

The girlfriends would surely say that we are all good critical thinkers in our adult lives and perhaps even one or two of us have a creative flair, though nothing too wild, of course.  So we were not badly educated.  But I don’t think I could say we got a good education given the limitations of the environment.

I had a friend who stayed on for years and tried to change things by confronting the hypocrisy and willful lack of awareness of the population.  I left.  It was simply too much work.

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Do you read your horoscope?  I used to read mine all the time, especially when I was working.  Horoscopes seem geared to working people looking for a better job or more money and to singles looking for love.  Sometimes the horoscope was eerily prescient.  I guess that’s what kept me reading it. 

Now I read my horoscope when I feel uncertain about something, or when I want an intimation of the future.  Last weekend with the girlfriends, I read it right away, the first morning we were together.  Here it is:

There is no need to worry about your public perception.  You are seen in many different ways by many different people, and you have little control over it now.  The happier you are the more effective you will be.

“…little control…now.”  Interesting, that word now.  As though sometimes you can control people’s perception?  Well, try to, I suppose.  Anyway, I took to heart the message to be happy.  You can’t go wrong with that advice, no matter what.

I have a cartoon I cut out from The New Yorker that shows an editor leaning over the desk of the resident astrologist exclaiming, “You mean all this time you’ve been making up the horoscopes?”  I sometimes feel that way about Rob Brezsny’s horoscopes. 

Brezsny’s website is at  He writes a weekly newsletter that includes a bit of his philosophy of “Pronoia” and, of course, horoscopes.  My horoscope for the current week includes the following prediction:

Speaking as a poet, not a scientist, I speculate that
those two luminaries, the sun and moon, may also generate a lurching but
medicinal effect on you sometime soon. Are you ready for a healing jolt?
It will relieve the tension that has been building up between two of your
“tectonic plates.”

The line breaks are an accident of WordPress, but I like them.  Brezsny also quotes this week from his book, Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia, saying “poet Kay Ryan told the Christian Science Monitor how she cultivates the inspiration to write. She rouses the sense of a ‘self-imposed emergency,” thereby calling forth psychic resources that usually materialize only in response to a crisis…. She visualizes hypothetical situations that galvanize her to shift into a dramatically heightened state of awareness.”

Somehow I think that poets will not need to visualize a self-imposed emergency soon.  There have been enough shocking events this year to keep us busy for years.  However, it is possible that a healing jolt to my tectonic plates may well lead to a heightened state of awareness.  I am open to it and I can’t wait to find out so I can write about it!  Until next week’s horoscope, that is.

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Seven Up

Several years ago, British television showed a documentary series that followed children from age seven…up to age 35.  The object was to determine whether children have personality characteristics that follow them into adulthood.  The program was later criticized for “editing to the desired outcome,” but in my, albeit limited, association with children, I often see the future accountant in a ten year old, or the nurturer or the one who will cheer you up.  Not always, but sometimes, the future person seems uncannily predictable.

I spent this past weekend with six girlfriends from high school.  It is more difficult to be objective about such close associates – or even to recall who we were so many years ago – but I am sure that among us, the seeds of our adulthood were there all along.  We probably all became exactly who we were intended to be from the start. 

Sociologically speaking, we…

All married

Five of us divorced

Two re-married

Three are childless

Two are grandmothers, so far

Five were teachers or taught at some point

No one stayed in our home town

Several of the girlfriends were familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test that measures how people see the world and make decisions.  It’s an expensive test but there are free tests on-line that give you the same kind of feedback about your personality type.   For instance, today I took the Jung Typology Test (TM) at

Turns out I’m an INTJ:  an introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging person.   Hillary Clinton is an INTJ.   The least flattering description of an INTJ might be:  arrogant, perfectionist, disregards authority, judgmental, and lacks social skills.  But, all that actually translates into a MASTERMIND!  You’d have to read it to believe it.  (The INTJ type actually sounds like author Daniel Silva’s description of his series character, Gabriel Allon, an Israeli spy and assassin.  Yikes!)

Anyway, I suspect that whether I took the test today, last year or twenty years ago, the result would not be different.  I am just more certain about my answers.  Yes, it is in my nature to assume responsibility; yes, I trust reason rather than feelings; no, I am not more likely to rely on improvisation than careful planning; no, I do not spend my leisure time attending parties, shopping, etc.; yes, after prolonged socializing I feel I need to get away and be alone.   And so on, and so on, until you start to see the most predominate personality characteristics. 

The only thing is, though, I really do enjoy shopping.  I just like to do it alone.

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