Now, I didn't intend for this post to be a restaurant review. I'm mentioning the fact that we dined out because of something that happened when we arrived.
My father made a reservation in his name. That is to say, his first name: Nick. When we arrived, we were greated by a warm, effusive man whom I believe is the owner. Anyway, he looked at my father and declared, "You must be Nick. And you're here with two lovely ladies."
I didn't have an immediate reaction: I haven't responded to that name in a long time. That's ironic when you consider that I kept "Nicholas", my former first name, in my current name. Actually, I always intended it to be part of a hyphenated name: Justine Nicholas-Valinotti. But, it seems, everyone forgets the hyphen so it becomes a sort of middle name. In a way, I don't mind: In some cultures, some women's middle names are those of male saints, relatives or other figures. And, in many Catholic countries, especially those in which Spanish or French is spoken, some men have their language's version of "Mary" as a middle name: think of Eugenio Maria de Hostos and, ahem, Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Anyway, I kept "Nicholas" partly out of respect for my parents and because, I realized, attempting to deny or whitewash my past would be futile, and probably unhealthy. On the other hand, my old nicknames (If that isn't a pun, it should be!) of "Nick" and "Nicky" have all but disappeared from my normal consciousness. I have long since stopped turning my head when someone mentions or calls out either of those names--although, I must admit, I probably paid more notice than I otherwise might have to a student I had last year whose name was Nick Valenti.
I'll admit that, in recalling that encounter in the restaurant, I was very happy that when my mother, father and I entered that restaurant, there was only one Nick, and he wasn't me. I wonder, though, whether it was bittersweet, or possibly even a little sad, for my father.