My name is Ben, short for Bentley. (“What’s Ben short for?” ”I dunno, he’s just got little legs, I guess.”)
Growing up, I had it in my head that some day I would grow up to be a boy. It just made sense, I guess. I’d asked my parents a million times what they would have named me if I had been a boy. But they did the ultrasound thing or whatever, so they knew the sex of baby me, so they just picked one name. They picked it because they “thought it was pretty.” I figured if I knew why they picked that name, then I could pick a boy name for a similar reason. No luck.
(Side note: They were going to name my sister Sebastian. I’m serious.)
My birth name has a boy version of it, but I knew a lot of jerks with that name. Also, it didn’t fit me.
Since I’m Norwegian, I picked a Norwegian name, Erik. It’s why my Spanish name was Erika, and this was since sixth or seventh grade. Erika isn’t actually a Spanish name. I mean, it’s got a ‘k’ in it, and ‘k’ doesn’t exist in Spanish. But it was on the list, I swear. I have no idea how that happened.
Another thing I had no idea how it happened was how the hell I forgot that I had already picked Erik. Like, years and years ago. But it seems I forgot it. Somehow. I have no clue.
I looked on baby name websites. I looked at lakes in the Boundary Waters. Though, that one didn’t quite work, because most of the lakes are named after women. Because the European men who named the lakes would name them after their sweetheart back home.
What worked best was asking my friends what my name would be if I had a boy name. Quick! Don’t take time to think about it! Twice I got Ben. I figured it was a sign. Also, it works out because the initial doesn’t change. I had a B-name before. So then I could just be B. if someone was having trouble. Or I could sign my name like that. I was putting that on homework assignments for a while, before I came out to my professors.
The reason I had rejected Ben in the first place was that I don’t look like a Benjamin. I’m really not. It’s not me at all. But there was an Isaac Asimov book. The main character was naming his kid. He was a homicide detective in the future with a robot sidekick. He chose the name Bentley. Since his last name was Bailey, he was Bentley Bailey. Which is hilarious. And I remember thinking how much sense it made that the kid’s nickname was Ben. My name ends in -lie, so I have that same sort of hilarious rhyming thing going on, which I like. Also, it’s one of my favorite books.
Middle name was easy. My old middle name was a family name, so I chose a male family name, James. There are so many Jameses in my family. My dad is James. Also, it means I can be BJ.
I found out later Bentley is a kind of car.