May 2, 2010

Finding Myself

May 2, 2010

Several times this past week, my Facebook home page has instructed me to add myself as a friend. After all, the two of us have so much in common, including an identical list of mutual acquaintances. In the next breath, it has also informed me that it’s my solemn duty to  make contact suggestions for my husband—and more than once!

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. Thanks to Mom, who came to Ohio from Hungary right after World War I, and Dad, whose family immigrated to Cleveland from Russia only a few years before he was born, I have a simple first name, Terri (not Theresa). Both of my parents ardently wanted their children to be American. So they saved the funny business for our Jewish names. Mine is Vilna, after my father’s father William. I’ve been told that my mother, staring at her ever-growing belly with me inside, considered calling me Wilma for a brief moment before sanity prevailed. I’ve always been grateful.

Many years ago, on my first day at a new job at Iowa State University, a woman walked up to me in the English Department office and said, “You must be Terri Paul. Love your name. It’s so compact. I couldn’t wait to meet you.” Ever since, she and I have been like sisters, though we’re not related by blood. So my name brought me face-to-face with one of the very best friends I’ll ever have in this world.

Still, you’d be surprised how many times people mangle it. “Teri Puhl” or “Terry Haul” or “Tery Caul,” they write on envelopes or in emails. It’s gotten so bad that, when I’m making a dentist appointment or scheduling a haircut over the phone, I very carefully spell things out. “‘T’ as in Tom,” I say, “‘erri.’ ‘P’ as in pop ‘aul.’” Even then, most people don’t believe me. “Thanks, Ms. Fall,” they’ll reply. “See you next Tuesday at three.” Or, “Sherry, that’s with Dr. Smith on May 15 at nine. Okay?”

I’ve discovered, too, that I’m invisible on the Internet, especially after having created several web sites to describe and advertise my writing to the world. As a programmer, I’m very aware of the importance of keywords, and I’ve used tons of them to get Yahoo and others to pay attention. No dice. Whenever I google myself, I usually give up after about five pages of other Terri Pauls, some of whom aren’t really Terri Pauls at all, but rather Terri Glasses with a brother named Paul or Paul Stones with a sister called Terri and so on.

That’s why I’m particularly touched that Facebook has not only found me, but also cares enough to worry about whether I’ll “friend” myself and my friends. Maybe it thinks I need to know myself better and to expand my horizons so that I’ll be happier and even, by some small miracle, have more to write about.


  1. Dear Kerri,
    Loved this! And appreciated the challenges of having a name that people just don't get the first time, since my maiden name was "Amy."

  2. Lovin' it , Terri...I'm Favorite Placing you ....( sounds dirty !)