My parents named me Monica Melanie. I used to hate the alliterative mouthful, and would complain about how long it was. Then I grew up, had children, and gave my own girls long names (Briana Camille, Valerie Katherine, Natalie Caroline) and figured I couldn’t use that as a reason to dislike my name any longer.
I was born 8 weeks early and weighed 3 pounds. Baby pictures show me as a scrawny, scrap of a thing with translucent, wrinkly skin and an oversized, oblong noggin. Mom tells me that I was too little to be called Monica, so she decided to call me Niki. It seems to baffle everyone. “Niki? From Monica?” Sure, it isn’t traditional, but is it really all that hard to figure out where it came from? It’s mo-NIC-a, after all…
She has called me Niki ever since. The only time Mom called me Monica was when I was in trouble, and she generally used my middle name along with it. As in, “Monica Melanie, quit pinching your brother!”
We lived in Des Moines when I went to Kindergarten, and Mom told the teacher that I went by Niki. So I was Niki in school that year, but there were apparently two other Nikis in the class. I’m not sure if that bothered me, as I can’t remember a single thing about Kindergarten, but when we moved to a new town in first grade, I went by Monica.
And so it began, my life with two names. My name was Monica at school and Niki at home. Dad began to call me Monica, and as a result, my paternal grandparents started calling me Monica as well. (I remember feeling a little sad about this because my Grandma Viv used to call me “Nicodemus” and I thought that was an awesome name.)
When I went to college, I decided to go by Niki. I wanted college to be different from high school. In high school I was smart, obedient, church-going, which translated to my eighteen-year-old self as boring. College was to be my big adventure, and I fancied myself a completely changed woman. I colored my hair blonde, I lost some weight, and reinvented myself. Niki was fun, confident, and carefree. (Niki also made some choices that weren’t in her best interests, but that’s another story entirely.) Monica was in the past.
When I graduated, I thought I’d keep the name Niki in my professional life. My first job after college was a clerical position in the underwriting department of a large insurance company. I was a clerk to a group of nurses who underwrote health insurance policies. The job itself was terrible. I did filing, stapling, and copying. But the women I worked with were warm motherly types and it didn’t seem strange for me to have the nickname of Niki. I left that job after I had Jakob and took some time off to stay home with the kids. When I was gaining re-entry into the workforce, I was determined not to have a clerical job. In an effort to define my image, I decided that I would no longer be Niki, but I’d go back to dependable, smart, and successful Monica. I landed a professional job as Monica, and she has taken me on a respectable career journey ever since.
Because I met my husband in college, he has always called me Niki (or, Nik, rather) and so has his family.Occasionally he refers to me as Monica, if we are interacting with work friends or parents from our kids' school. It sounds weird coming out of his mouth. Almost as if he is talking about someone else. I have two sisters-in-law on Dusty’s side of the family. Their names are Nicole and Nakia. We make the three musketeers: Niki, Nicole, Nakia. Dusty's cousin also is named Nikki. She shares a last name with me, so there's often confusion there as well, especially when we were both new on Facebook. Since I use Monica as my Facebook name, some of my in-laws call me Monica now.
Oh, it's just all so confusing. People will ask me what I prefer to be called. Although it would feel very strange if a work associate were to call me Niki, I like when my family and friends do. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. I answer to both. My Grandpa Bob saw humor in everything and he liked to call me "Monniki." He passed away in December, so it makes me smile to think that he’s the one who coined the online moniker I use so much these days. (A moniker of ‘Monnik’ – how great is that?)