Why I Changed What People Call Me

Victoria. That’s my ‘real’ name.

From what I can tell there’s no significant reason I was named that, except, in the tender loving words of my father:

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To break it down: “Classic name. (Fair). Unusual while not being unknown (sorry Kunigunde). (Yes they considered naming me Kunigunde. Another story, another day). Not trendy – stood out among the plethora of Tiffanys, Ambers, and especially Haleys (and all the perturbations of that name) that were popular at the time. (Sorry Hayley, Haley, Hailee, Hayleigh, and Haylee). Plus, it’s got “victory” right there in it. (Score!). Plenty of good historical Victorias. (Queen Victoria. OK. Aside from that .. Victoria Beckham. … Victoria (Tori) Spelling .. Mmmmm ……).”

All of this is more information than my mother offered:

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“I gave birth so I won.” Checks out.

(Now, to be fair to my parents, I’ve never been tasked with naming a child. I suppose if you handed me an unnamed child right now and said, “Name this,” I’d probably nervously glance around the room and blurt out the first thing I saw. “Stone,” I would say, as I look toward the door prop sitting near my front door, “Yeah, Stone.” And while it appears that my parents made more effort than that in choosing my name, it’s still to no fault of their own that I grew up into a human capable of free, independent thought and will, and decided to change it.)

There is a strict divide in my life, between people who call me Victoria, and people who call me Tory. My whole life, until I left for college, I went by Victoria. It was kind of before I realized I could call myself whatever I wanted, and honestly, it was before I knew enough about myself to make such a decision. I was Victoria. Vic or V on the soccer field. Icky Vicky if you were my brother. Toria if you were Michelle. V-Hoff if you were Kayla.

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DO YOU EVER SEE PHOTOS OF THE QUEEN WITH HER SOCCER BALL? #Prom2009

I would tell people that the Queen was named after me, as were the waterfalls in Africa (which were named after the Queen). But it was exactly those connotations– beauty, elegance, a prim feminism– that repelled me from the name. I wasn’t beautiful. I wasn’t elegant. I wasn’t feminine. I was far from all of those things. I played sports with boys and I was the opposite of graceful. I clodded around and bumped into things that stood in my way. I wore sweatpants, snapbacks, sneakers, and my hair was in a ponytail all the time. I was far from being a Queen.

When I left for college, I made the decision to go by “Tory.” Not “Tori,” but “Tory.” Tori with an ‘i’ was too girly, too playful, too cute (what, should I dot the ‘i’ with a little heart?). And although Tory with a ‘y’ loses most of its connection to ‘Victoria,’ I liked the androgyny of it, plus the ‘y’ was fun to write (#GraphicDesignerProbs).

When I tell people I’ve met since then that my full name is Victoria, it’s always, “Oh my gosh, is that really your name?” I always hear “I couldn’t imagine you as a Victoria!” People like to say, “It’s such a beautiful name!” And then they quickly make up comparisons between my name and what I look like. But I’ve never thought of myself as “beautiful,” and in all honesty, I’m much more comfortable not having to. I’ve never had an unusual lack of self-esteem, but complements have always made me uncomfortable, especially when people are seemingly trying to correct themselves for complimenting my name instead of me personally. Victoria is a beautiful name, and it’s that detachment I always felt from it that drove me to change what people called me.

And I’m more than content as a Tory.

I don’t conform to a rigid set of social standards; I create exactly what I want to see in the world.

I’m not something to just look at and admire; I’m a work of art that inspires thought and feeling.

I’m outstanding in my ability to disturb the universe, not my ability to ‘grace’ anyone with my presence.

Sure, when I tell people my name is Tory, they almost always write “Tori.” I get my fair share of email replies addressed to “Tony,” or referencing me as a ‘he.’ I’ll have to live with the few history buffs constantly asking if I still pledge allegiance to the motherland. But for me, it’s worth it, because I’m much more myself as a Tory than I ever was as a Victoria.

Plus, it’s been 24 years and I still don’t know what my secret is.

3 Comments

  • McKenna says:

    Or on those extra special days you get TROY.

    Well said, speaks nicely to those who never felt attached to their names (cough cough my name is mckenna, like what?) but goes to show that you can use it the way you want it to be used!

    Thanks Tor!

  • Judy says:

    You are beautiful though, whether you recognize that or not.

  • G'ma says:

    Soccer ball picture still one of my favorites. It is always visible in our home.

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