The one constant my whole life has been my name. Wow, that was deep, huh? But, seriously, my name has had a huge impact on my life. Sunshine Marie Somerville. My first name was chosen by my mother because Susan Someone-Famous named her daughter Sunshine around the time my mom got pregnant, and my mom liked the name. My middle name is from my maternal grandmother – more on this later. My last name just happens to fit cleverly with my first name to create a reason for people to frequently ask me, “Is that your real name?”
I sometimes get annoyed by this question, but it is also a great conversation starter. I love the fact that I can spark a conversation with almost any stranger just by introducing myself. And if people don’t have some kind of reaction or at least crack a smile, I judge them. Without being reminded, I often forget just how unique it is. I go by simply ‘Sunny’ so often that I forget how odd my last name sounds behind it. (Honestly, it took me until college to realize why my last name was funny at all…as in Summer-ville.)
I now have the rundown explanation memorized. “Yes, that’s my real name. My parents were hippies (or, as Dad explains, they weren’t hippies because they bathed and didn’t have the commitment, but they did think they were cool). My Dad liked my name because of the ‘Hair’ song with the line ‘let the sun shine, let the sun shine, let the suuuuun shine.’ It’s supposed to be a double meaning: Sun-shine, Son-shine. I usually go by Sunny. No, I don’t know Cher. No, I can’t control the weather.”
- My brother’s name is Christian, and one of our childhood pastors found it humorous to refer to the pair of us as “Heathen and Darkness.” When I was in second grade, I found that it was much easier to write “Sunny” on my papers rather than the full Sunshine. One of the first times I did this, the teacher’s aide was doing grading and came across my paper. She was confused as to who it belonged to and asked, “Who is Sunny?” Everyone looked at me, and I still don’t understand her confusion – who else would it have been?
- A friend in high school was fond of saying, “You know, with a name like Sunshine Somerville, you’d think you’d smile more.” This is the simplest way of explaining the irony of my name versus my personality during this time.
- During one of my first days at college, we had a luncheon where we were to meet with our advisor. Unfortunately, my advisor’s table was already full when I showed up so I sat by myself at her second table. I was perfectly fine, but I must have looked pitiful there by myself. This guy came walking over to me (the R.A. for the male side of my dorm’s floor, I later discovered) and asked me what my name was. I sighed and answered. He broke into an enormous grin and told me that he remembered my name from the admission sheets. I forced a smile and continued to eat my food, hoping to be done as soon as possible before anything else happened. But no, he soon hailed over another guy and explained my comical plight. Loudly, I might add.
- Another situation that was particularly amusing shouldn’t be funny at all, but it was. I went home for my great grandmother’s funeral, and my entire family was there. We sat in the traditional front rows, solemnly trying to tolerate the pastor. During the portion of the service where the pastor was listing those who survived granny, I could hear people sniffling in the back. All was going well as I listened to him rattle off the grandchildren’s names. Then came the great grandchildren. “Stefanie, Randy, Fran, Tonia, Mike, Ryan, Angie, Sunshine…That’s a great name isn’t it, folks? Christian, Kylie…” I almost lost it as my uncle beside me started to laugh. It was horrible, especially since I’d just blown up at someone back at college over my name that morning.
- Then there was the weekend when I went home with one of my college friends. Her mother was a very unique individual and extremely…curt. While we were having a pleasant enough dinner, she asked me how I got my name. I answered that my mother just liked it, to which she replied, “Well, I guess it’s something you can learn to live with.” My other friend gawked at her. I ate my salad.
- Once, Aunt ‘Fifi’ came to my college, Cornerstone University. She had phoned and told me to come to her professor friend’s class around 3 pm. I got there about ten minutes early, and as I was approaching the room I hear several voices asking, “Sunny? You mean Sunshine Somerville? Yeah, I know Sunshine.” I then hear my aunt’s voice saying, “Yes, Sunshine. We call her Sunny but…” Deciding to end the confusion right then, I quickly stepped into the room. My aunt had just finished reading to the class, and she stood toward the front of the room. A particularly obnoxious guy who was already amused by my name (okay, so we ended up being friends and I hate that he didn’t even know me but was completely right about my liking weight lifting class) was about to get into a conversation with her about me. I knew easily half the people in the class, and as soon as I stepped in they pointed at me and said, “There she is; that’s her!” as if it was possible there could have been another Sunshine Somerville. I waved.
- On another occasion, some of us went to a movie at night, so we used our college ID to get the discount for students. I laid my ID on the counter; the kid looked at it and then at me and then back at the card. He then proceeded with, “Is that your real name?” I answered with a forced smile that this was so. He said, “Wow, you must have a personality to match, huh?” (Keep in mind I’m holding up the line at this point.) The clerk next to him said, “What are you talking about?” so the kid showed him my card and then the girl clerk on his other side. Once they were all informed of the truth, the kid said, “I’m sorry, I should stop but that’s just so cool.” I swiped my card from his hand, smiled, got my change, and went on my merry way with the kid sending me a parting “Sunshine Somerville. Cool.”
- My name even led to an A in Public Speaking class because I gave an entire speech based around the meaning my name has brought to my life. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for contributing to my college GPA.
- Working as a scout for a model management company, my name grabbed peoples’ attention so that they smiled and were more compliant to listening to me. Of course, my coworkers came up with the usual “clever” jokes, and they found it incredibly ironic that I drove my mom’s bright yellow car. Out in the field (“field” being bars, clubs, etc.), I often skipped trying to convince people of the truth and instead simply whipped out my driver’s license as proof. “Huh” or “Cool” were the usual reactions. One time, my friend introduced herself as “Sophia” and the guy said, “Oh, that’s a beautiful name” before turning to me. I muttered “Oh, boy…” The best reaction was when my boss finally introduced himself to me, I said my name, and he looked back at me without blinking and responded, “If you say so.” One of my scout friends had a part-time boyfriend who, upon hearing my name, came up with the most original response I’ve ever heard – “Sunshine. You should use a nickname like Sunsh.” New, even if not all that bright. But he was a model, so you can’t ask for much.
- Or, at my other job in Clawson, the woman who interviewed me was surprised to see me when I first showed up. She told me that, given my name, she’d expected someone born in the ’60s. One of my coworkers there at People’s Pottery thought my name would be the perfect pop band title, and she looked my name up on the internet to find that an author had my exact same name. I admit I thought, “hey, that’s cool!” for a second before realizing it was me and telling her so. Or, then there was Gavin, the autistic man who wandered Birmingham taking pictures of every one of the young shop girls. Once he learned my name, he was hooked. “Hey, Sunshine. This day rocks, doesn’t it, Sunshine? Are you enjoying this day like I am, Sunshine? I’m glad we have two pictures so far, aren’t you, Sunshine? Well, see you later, Sunshine.” (I’m not exaggerating, and he did this with all of us, though my name seemed to draw the most attention from whoever was in the store at the time.)
- Every bank teller I’ve ever had has felt the need to say something. Possibly the worst: “Oh, when you get married, your husband can sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and it will be true!” One bank teller’s name was Star, and I suggested that we should team up and fight crime. I think she was amused. Another bank teller once saw my name and told me how she’d met one other Sunshine – a little boy of 9. What were his parents thinking?
- While at Panera Bread with Aunt Sharon, I had to say what name they should call and so I went with “Sunshine” only to find the cashier with the usual grin. I turned to my aunt with, “Yeah, people never believe me.” The cashier smiled and said, “Oh, I get it. My sister’s name is Dreary.” I don’t know if he was kidding or not, but I liked him immediately.
- More than once, while watching the weather news, I have heard the meteorologist say “Sunny” and actually looked up at the TV. This happens every time I’m in public and overhear someone talking about my weather condition equivalent.
So it goes. Now perhaps you’ll understand why I smirk whenever I have to introduce myself to people – or, when I just can’t deal with it, I introduce myself as “Bob” to avoid the whole scene. I’ve heard every clever line that plays on my name, and it amazes me that, every time, people think they are original. And, it is true that there are a plethora of songs that can be sung at me anytime. Seriously, I challenge you to make a list and find every song that has anything to do with my name. Take “Sunny” or the full “Sunshine.” So far, my list is at 109.