I started changing my name when I was 10. My name is NOT EVAN ONEILL. That is a stage name. Come on, Guys, it rolls too easily off the tongue to be real.
In actuality, Evan ONeill is the fourth name Ive used in my life. My birth name, the one that used to be on the birth certificate is Susan Etienne Sturhahn. Quite a mouthful. My middle name is french (Et-i-ann) and was all the rage back then.
Everyone called me Sue, (my parents only used the long version when they were mad.) SUSAN. I did not like myself as a child AT ALL. SO I hated my name. It sounded boring, and clumsy. Sue...blech. Especially when you compared it to my sisters name, which was Michaela (very popular now but very unique then ).
From the first day of school, there were always multiple Susan's in my class. And at role call, they had to call out my last name, which NO ONE could pronounce right. Its German. Stur-Hahn. The second h is silent. It trips everyone up. I hated having to correct the teacher, or the snickers that would occur after the teacher would say "SUSAN STER....STEER..STURHA.....?" And of course the Sir-Han Sir-Han jokes were legion.
To this day, I still call myself a fat kid. That is how I felt. I felt ugly and disgusting, being fat, and having no will power because I ate too much. I remember diets and food restrictions and my mothers favorite saying, "you're going to be as big as a house one day". That one is drilled into the brain pattern so well I still believe it at off times.
But the pictures I have of me tell my brain something else. I look chunky but not fat. NOT by any stretch am I fat. The experience I remember (I have 92 percent recall) is that I was called FAT. I was beat up because they called me fatty. Everyone around me, especially my relatives would always ask how the diet was going.
So Susan, to me, is a fat name. I was FAT SUSAN in my head and on the planet until 6th Grade.
I don't know where I got the idea, or how I grew the balls, but in the second week of school, I walked up to my teacher, Mrs. Rowles, and told her I wanted to have a different name in the role book.
I wanted to be called Anna. No one asked why, no calls to Dad. She simply said ok.
I guess Marin County had something to do with it, as well as 1974....but it was easy. And I got everyone in the class to do it, then everyone in school. Susan was gone and it took less effort than figuring out a math problem. I was some one else! HAZAA.
I was still fat, but at least I was NOT SUSAN.
By Christmas break, I was sick of Anna. I now wanted be called Julie. Mrs Rowles said ok, and I got to be Julie for two months before Amanda started to sound better. Mrs Rowles said ok. My 7th grade teacher told me that he was not going to change the role book every three months, so I should find a name I really liked and stick with it. Jaimi (Jamie) Sturhahn became me and I became her.
For the next 8 years until I moved to NYC to start Professional Acting School, I was Jaimi. Or James to many. I only heard the name Susan or Sue in my house from my family and there was little time with family anyhow.
I am still called Jaimi by most of my friends up north. They have offered to call me Evan, but it sounds strange to my ears. I just went to my 30 year HS re-union and some one thought my name was Jes because back then I used my initials at times for variety. I had completely forgotten that one.
When I moved to NYC, I enrolled in Neighborhood Playhouse Summer session. The first day of school, and the teacher calls out Susan Sturhahn. Holy shit balls! Do I have to do this again? DO I want to give a whole boring story? No...quick on my feet, I said "No, that is a misprint. My name is Suzanne." Out with the old, in with the new. I was now Suzanne.
In the beginning it was fine, but to my horror, people started to call me Sue. Not good.
I was gorgeous and thin by now, but inside I still felt insecure. I still felt very imperfect. I knew I was pretty, but I never felt gorgeous.
But I could not be Sue....so after I got dumped by the one who got away, I became Evan ONeill. Technically the name on my Social is Evan Rachel ONeill. I knew I needed a feminine name in there to avoid casting problems, but when Evan Rachel Wood became famous (Goddamnit, she stole my name, but thank God she is good enough to be worthy of it) I dropped Rachel.
I have been Evan ONeill for 25 years.
Two years ago I took a trip to NYC. I was strolling down a little street in Soho..it was deserted of business' save a lone placard that hung above a door about two thirds down to my right.
X U I - Z E N
It was printed simply in black on white wood with a lot of space between the letters.
I started to sound it out in my head. I assumed it was Asian and Im a dumb american so I first sounded it out Shu-zen. But then I corrected myself and said...no..it would be like the word sue...SU-ZEN. ..".Oh...God", I thought to myself, "that is the most beautiful word I have ever heard". and I said it out loud." SU-zen". How perfect sounding. Like a second name for the word beautiful. I started to try and figure out what it could mean and then I literally stopped walking AS IT HIT ME.
SUSAN...That was MY fuckin' name. Spelled differently and hitting my brain from another direction all together it was like hearing music. The name I despised
I didn't like it on other people either, and one of my best friends is Suzy (and the z saves her!) . I even make comments that no one is called Susan any more because it is a fat name. In my mind, the 5 letters put together spell FAT.
All I had to do was replace the letters. It was an astounding revelation.
SO simple and yet I had jumped and dodged and weaved around a word, that had been beautiful all along. I just couldn't hear it.