What's In A Name?
Plenty if you have mine!
I have always hated my first name. Laurene never sounded right to me. It never sounded right to anyone else either. People who evidently didn’t understand it called me “Laverne, Doreen, Laurenia, Lavinia, or, my favorite, Laurence” When I complained to my parents it fell on deaf ears. My mother told me cheerfully my name came from a character in the movie “From Here to Eternity” I later found out that it was the name of the prostitute. Well, the actress won an academy award for it. It worked for her. Unfortunately, not for me.
I renamed myself “Laura” to try to avoid problems. When my father heard people call me that he ranted and raved like a lunatic. It didn’t stop me. I hated people telling me “That’s a funny name” after they snorted with laughter. I always felt it was said with a sneer. Or worst of all, calling me “Laurence”, which would send everyone into gales of glee. I graduated from an all-girls Catholic High School. I had to get my diploma reprinted. You guessed it. It said Laurence.
When I testily asked why my name was misspelled, I was told:
“Oh, we thought there was a mistake.”
I responded, “Did you notice that "female" is ticked off in the gender section?”
The worst time I ever had with my name was after I was married. I sent a resume for a High School Religion teacher position. I was so excited to get a reply to report for an interview. They sent it to “Mr. Laurene Corbino” I didn’t think anything of it. I thought the secretary probably typed it wrong. On the day of the interview, I was ready. I wore a professional outfit, that was chic, yet demure. After all, this was a prestigious Catholic boys’ high school (that shall go nameless). I needed to look sharp, intelligent, like a team player, God-savvy, etc. You get the picture.
As I sat down in the office waiting area, there were other people waiting for the Headmaster. As I covertly spied them, I realized I was the only woman there. “Boy, I must be good,” I thought gleefully. “I’m the only girl here. If I play my cards right, I can nail this.”
This job also included getting my PH. D for free because it was connected to a university, so I was determined to get it. And why not? I’m cute, smart, and witty. What’s not to love?
I was the last one called after all the others had been seen. I was ready. Saved the best for last, I cackled to myself. “Mr. Corbino?” the headmaster called, looking around the office. I stood up and walked over to him as I raised my hand to shake his, with a big smile on my face. He had a very weak grip, I thought.
“I’m sorry, who are you?” he asked, nonplussed. “I’m Mrs. Corbino,” I assured him. “I’m very happy to be here.”
“Where is your husband?” the Headmaster asked nervously. “He’s at work, sir,” I answered, beginning to get a sick feeling.
“He’s Chairman of the Music Department at St. Francis.”
“What is your name?” the Headmaster slowly asked, beginning to look gray. He was looking sicker than I did at this point. “Mrs. Laurene Corbino, but my friends call me Laura,” resisting the urge to ask if he wanted to be my friend. I guess he was no "Mr. Rogers". Actually, I think he was looking for a hole to jump in.
The poor man ushered me to his office and had me sit in a chair across from his desk. It was a nice office, all wood paneling. It made me think of Winston Churchill’s office. After a few minutes of smiling at each other, another Brother entered the office. “Sorry, I’m late,” he said breathlessly. He looked at me confused.
“I thought we had an interview with (looking at his folder), “Mr. Corbino.”
“This is Mrs. Corbino” the Headmaster explained testily.
“I thought it was with Mr. Corbino,” the Brother asked, looking at me, beginning to sweat. I have such an effect on men. They get chills meeting me.
“No. Husband -music teacher. Wife- religion teacher” I brightly said.
Brother shakily took a seat next to the Headmaster and then for the next few minutes we smiled at each other. My cheeks were ready to crack from all the smiling at this point. Finally, Headmaster broke the stalemate and wiping his face with a tissue said, “I think we have made a terrible error."
“Let me guess, you read my name wrong and thought I was a guy,” I finished for him. “You didn’t want a woman for this position."
“Would you like some tea?” The Brother asked to change the subject, reaching for the phone.
“Sure, feel free to put a blast of bourbon in yours,” I quipped. When I’m nervous, sass comes out of me. When the tea came, I cheerfully poured it, telling them I’ll be "mother." (Pays to watch old English movies.)
The Headmaster and Brother, who turned out to be the Chairman of Religion, just held their cups, weakly asking me questions. - I knew I should have added bourbon. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Look, lets end this,” I rose from my chair. “You didn’t expect me here, and I can’t bear to watch you guys suffer” I offered my hand to them with what dignity I had left. “Don’t worry, there’s an ice cream soda with my name on it waiting for me at Bloomingdales. That’s how I drown my sorrows."
After I closed the door, I heard screams coming from the office. I never knew religious people could curse like that. It sounded like the windows would shatter at any moment. I was knocked over as the secretary rushed past me to get in the office. Somehow, I think she was in trouble too. Well, my job was done. I caused enough havoc for the afternoon.
Sitting on the train home, I promised myself never to use “Laurene “again on resumes. I also realized something else. It’s not easy being me. I’m just too unique!
Laura certainly is unique! I love her story because it just goes to show that you never really should judge a book by not just it's cover but also, by it's name! She has been a faithful member of our church for many years. We have come to love her dearly and makes us laugh, frequently. She is married for 42 years to her husband and they have 2 adult sons and 1 grandchild, a sweet 14-month old just beginning to walk. Laura enjoys writing witty short stories for the Staten Island Advance, The Nursing Spectrum and has won the Rider's Digest 2019 award. A midwife for 35 years in Brooklyn, she delivered over 1,000 babies during that time.