21st Century Brontë #2 by Brontë Bettencourt
What’s in a Name?
In elementary school I had a best friend named Sarah who was also Guyanese. She always wore her curly hair in braided pigtails while I preferred a ponytail, but we were usually mistaken for one another with good reason. We constantly slept over each other’s house, playing videogames and reading Harry Potter aloud, alternating narrators whenever we reached a period in the text (even with names such as Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, which we thought was hilarious).
Yet the bullies of our school seemed to differentiate between us just fine, since I was picked on significantly more. So one Saturday on the way to Publix, I asked my mom if I could change my name to Sarah.
“But then there would be two Sarahs, and you two are different people. Brontë is a unique name,” Mom responded.
It took me a while to embrace my own uniqueness. Instead of coming up with my own crayon scribbles, I copied the girl’s next to me, which the teacher scolded me for. I can’t just copy. I have to come up with my own ideas and my own identity, and my own crayon scribbles.
So what does it mean to be a Brontë, this unique mystery of identity? This weirdling?
As a child, I thought that if I ever encountered another Brontë, we would have to fight to the death, winner posing triumphantly over a mangled corpse. I used to imagine this hypothetical Other Brontë leaping from the bushes, her hair parted to the right instead of the left.
When I tell my friends that Gabriella was originally going to be my name, they respond with, “Nah, I don’t see it. You’re totally a Brontë.”
In what way is that classification justified: by appearance, or personality?
If one looked up a documentary of a Brontë in her natural habitat, who would be there? Couldn’t a Gabriella be wearing skull jewelry and drawing stylistic anime on the side of a volcano, too?
Of course, I am named after the Brontë Sisters, three writers in the early 1800s.
Out of six siblings, these three were the most successful despite being women in a deeply patriarchal world. Their novels were daring.
One of the first statements that often gushes forth fafter I introduce myself: “I love Wuthering Heights,” as if I wrote the literary classic.
Does my shadow in the Florida sun look like a wooden silhouette shaped like a Brontë, which I imagine being ten feet tall and wearing the 19th century fashion?
Then again, I doubt at the time that any of the Brontë Sisters suspected that their novels would still be highly regarded and studied as far forward as 2016. Before they were publishing, they created and collaborated on fictional worlds while drawing inspiration from people in real life. This occurred as early as adolescence (if not earlier). Kingdoms such as Gondal and Angria came to life as maps were sketched, and Charlotte Brontë even drew the siblings stationed around the creation table, with their ideas framing the images.
To think, before the literary familial powerhouse came to be, they were surrounded by books, writing, and, well, roleplaying!
As for me, a more modern take I guess would be spending hours on the phone and online, hammering out goofy and elaborate scenarios derived from awesome shows like Yu Yu Hakusho, Fullmetal Alchemist, and South Park. I have hundreds of pages of role-play accumulated and salvaged through multiple hard drives, which will never be found by mortal eyes (I am doing humanity a favor). And maybe I do have a story with characters created over the course of my life, and that currently run amok in my Dungeons and Dragons 5e campaign.
So maybe I am Brontë-ing right.
Or it could mean absolutely nothing, because my life isn’t meant to exist for some grade, or another’s approval. Who seriously took the time to create an instruction guide for Brontës anyway? I have to keep in mind that the value of my craft shouldn’t solely exist in the monetary reward.
But it is nice to bask in the predetermined idea that a Wuthering Heights happened to exist within the store that my mom happened to walk in. A mere month before I was due, on a car ride from New York to Florida, she happened to be reading it.
Thanks Mom, for not naming me Gabriella, and thank the greater force at work who gave me the distinct X chromosomes, or else I would’ve been named Britain.
Really dodged a bullet there.
Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.