About me

 

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Beth Hochman, Inigo Montoya Curtis, Frank E. Curtis
(Photo by Meredith Faulkner)

 


Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning and, for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.

Alan Moore — V for Vendetta


Initial (“E.”), Please

My wife doesn’t call me Frank, but that isn’t the only reason I ask that you remember to include my middle initial (“E.”) when writing my name.

I was born Frank Edward Curtis on September 29, 1981, in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA. My parents lived in North Salem, New York at the time, but two weeks before I was supposed to be born, they decided to take a vacation to an inn in Vermont. After a big meal and a few games of pool, I decided to arrive a bit early.

They had some other names for me in mind, but, when the time came, they decided to name me after my two grandfathers: Frank Curtis and Edward Knapik. My grandfathers were great people, for sure, so it is an honor to be named for them, though these events do reveal that my family is not the most creative when it comes to naming. After all, I’m the fourth Frank in a row! (The only reason I don’t have IV at the end of my name is because I’m the first with Edward as my middle name.)

This is all well and good, but perhaps the most interesting part of the story is that I didn’t know my real name until I was almost 8 years old. Part of the bargain struck by my parents was that, while I would be named Frank Edward, I would go by Eddie. So, throughout most of my childhood, Eddie was all that I knew. My family called me Eddie, my friends called me Eddie, I wrote Eddie on all of my schoolwork… I was Eddie.

But then came my 3rd grade teacher, who apparently hadn’t been informed as my previous teachers had been. At the start of school, she was taking attendance and said the name that would have ripple effects throughout my entire life: “Frank Edward Curtis”. Who was that? I certainly didn’t know him. It was soon clear, however, that I was whom she meant. And you can imagine the amount of ridicule you would get in a room of 8 year olds if it were revealed that you didn’t know your own name.

I stormed home and demanded an explanation from my mom. Frank was my real first name, she said, but since my dad’s name was also Frank and since she always wanted to call me the same name as her father, they always called me Eddie.

Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back on it now, perhaps things would have been simpler if I had simply accepted that explanation, waited for the ridicule at school to pass, and lived my entire life as Eddie. But, instead, I made the rash decision then-and-there that, henceforth, I would be known as Frank. After a brief “negotiation” with my mom (which was no real negotiation, as she absolutely refused the idea that I would be called Frank at home), it was decided: I would be Eddie at home, but Frank outside.

I don’t remember the adjustment at school being painful at all. Of course, there were the few friends that continued to call me Eddie, but everyone else adapted to the new name quickly. And, when I grew a bit older and adopted a new set of close friends, Eddie had been relegated strictly to my life at home. There he remained, and all went along as if nothing strange had happened. Indeed, in my adult life, most people never knew that Eddie ever existed.

That is, until I met my wife.

It was easy to keep Eddie a secret as an adult, since once I moved away from my parents’ house, I made my new acquaintances by myself. “What’s your name?” “Frank.” Simple. But, when I came to New York for my sister’s wedding and met her friend, Beth, I didn’t introduce myselfMy sister introduced me. “Beth, meet my brother: Eddie.”

Uh oh.

Eddie had broken free and he wasn’t about to look back. Soon I was meeting all kinds of new friends as Eddie, while continuing my parallel life as Frank. Since Beth was living in New York City at the time and I was still attending graduate school outside Chicago, there was a time when Eddie’s world and Frank’s world remained separate—Frank in Chicago and Eddie in New York—but as things progressed further and I moved to New York City, world’s collided. I was Frank one day and Eddie the next. Sometimes I was Eddie at breakfast and Frank in the afternoon. “What’s your name?” “(Pause for a minute so I can remember under which name I first met you…) Uh, Eddie. (I think.)”

I don’t claim that I’m the only person with two names (without a dissociative identity disorder). I know there are a few of us out there. However, I can’t say that I’ve met someone whose story is exactly like mine. If I were to meet someone like that, then the one question I’d ask is if they keep everyone straight in their minds the same way that I do. Personally, what I’ve learned is that I cling to associating people’s voices with the name that they call me. For example, if someone knows me as Frank, then I’ve tagged their voice with the name Frank; i.e., if that same voice says the same Eddie, then I know they’re talking about someone else. And, once I make this association, I do not break it, and it’s not OK if they try to!

Indeed, there’s only one person that I’m OK with calling me by two names: my wife. This may sound strange, since isn’t she (inadvertently) responsible (along with my sister) for Frank and Eddie’s worlds colliding?! Yes, but, at the same time, she’s also the one responsible for setting Eddie free. And now, as someone who has lost both of his grandfathers, I can look back and see how great it is to carry both of their names with me. Maybe the right answer is that I should have never tried to choose between them. I should have kept them both the entire time.

So don’t just call me Frank Curtis. Not only does that sound like my dad’s name; it doesn’t even sound like my name half the time. It’s Frank E. Curtis, please. (Or Frank Edward Curtisif you’re not into the whole brevity thing.)