It's Not Easy Being Irene
Metro resident tells what it's like to share your name with a popular hurricane.
I know millions of people will be glad to see Hurricane Irene go. I'm one of them.
Personally I'm terrified of its fast winds and rains, not to mention the flooding and destruction it might leave behind. Having loved ones scattered up and down the coast throughout it's projected path, I might be more afraid than most. But no matter what happens when it finally does leave and the media coverage dies down, I'll be glad of at least one thing: I'll have my name back.
If you don't understand where I'm coming from, just think about how many times in your life you've actually used or heard the name “Irene.” My guess is not much at all. After all, “Irene” isn't the most popular name in the world. In fact, according to several baby-naming websites, it reached its peak about a hundred years ago.
Which brings me to my current predicament. For the moment, at least, “Irene” is uber popular and since I'm the only one anyone knows, the jokes are never ending. I've heard them all, from the many people who asked me, “Irene are you going to hit us this weekend or leave us alone?” to a friend in New England who texted “Looks like you're going to be visiting me very soon.” Just today my mother told my brother not to mess with me because I was “a hurricane” and that I'd “blow him away if he messed with me” Not to mention my personal favorite, “Irene, I thought you were pretty calm, why are you tearing everything up?”
Last week I thought nothing of falling asleep with the TV or radio on. But just the other night I woke up petrified after I heard a man in a soft compassionate, almost sensual voice saying “Irene may have our eyes on us, but we have our eyes on her.” Luckily it was just a tease from WJLA, but it was enough to keep me up for a couple of hours.
I love music, but I hate most songs with “Irene” in the title, especially “Goodnight Irene.” For some reason more than a few people I have met in my life like to sing that song to me when they meet me. I'm even told the doctor that delivered me sang it while my mother was in labor. I hate that song so much, he probably helped my entrance into the world come a little faster. In the past couple of days I see that song title whenever the news shows coastal areas from the Carolinas to Maryland. It gets stuck in my head. Imagine walking around with the most annoying song stuck in your head for days on end!
Irene means peace. Usually that's just what it is—peaceful. Six years ago Irene turned out to be a category 4 hurricane, but quickly faded and never threatened land. It was the calm before Hurricane Katrina. Hopefully with this Hurricane Irene no one will be harmed, and the damage will be minimal. Maybe it will be the calm before something bigger. Hopefully that something bigger will be clear skies, good temperature, and a wonderful end to the summer. In that 1919 long-running broadway play, Irene, the title character sang “I'm always chasing rainbows.” I hope the Hurricane does the same.
My name was very popular at the turn of the century, right around the time of the play. That's understandable, considering two of three famous people with my name were born around that time—Irene Ryan (Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies ) and Irene Dunne (famous Hollywood actress of the 30s and 40s).
The name had a bit of a resurgence in the 1950s (maybe parents were naming their children after their mothers and grandmothers, who knows?). But it makes sense because the third famous “Irene,” Irene Cara was born in 1959.
So unless your grandmother, great-grandmother, or an aunt is named Irene, you've probably didn't know the even name existed a few weeks ago. In fact, most times when people learn my name, those are the people they usually associate it with.
That being said, put yourself in my shoes. Hardly no one has my name. When I'm in public and hear “Hey Irene.” or “How's it going Irene?” or just “Irene!” I react. Only once in my life have people been calling out to someone else.
I used to hate my name because it's so old fashioned, but now I like it because it's so unique and personable. I can imagine if you had a name is James, John, Mary, or Patricia (The most popular names in the country you might end up feeling slightly anonymous at times. But if your name is Irene, never!