My first name is Beatrice. My second name is Alexandra. But, I go by Xandra. Always have.

I didn't choose my name. The youngest of three children, I seem to have generated my name from the ether--this shortened from of Alexandra. Naturally and gradually it arose at a very early age. No one in my family seems to know exactly when it started.

I am very proud of the fact that I was named after both my mother (Beatrice) and grandfather (Alexander). My mother also goes by a shortened form of her name, "Bea," and my grandfather went by "Alex," or "Alec," as my grandmother called him.

Xandra expresses a sense of individuality, and that suits me fine. There were NO Xandras when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s. Now, there are all sorts of unusual names, but at that time, I lived in a Lisa-Jennifer-Sarah kind of world. Thankfully, I have lived up to my name by leading a creative life. I have made my own path, but I wonder if my life would be different if I had been called Alexandra or Beatrice?

On the other hand, whenever I tell people my name or they read it from a list, it is not unusual that they will ask me to spell or pronounce it for them, respectively. And, often, when I am being introduced as Xandra, a friend or colleague standing nearby will exclaim, "With an X!" inducing a slight cringe on my part. Can I help it if I feel uncomfortable drawing attention to myself for a reason that, frankly, is not that interesting? I have also been mercilessly teased, by boys and grown men, because of the racy connotations of the "x." And, finally, I have actually had people question my authenticity because of my name. Clearly, they think someone named Xandra should look or act differently than I do. This type of situation has only happened a few times, but it is quite bizarre.

There have been a few occasions in my life when I tried to change my name back to Alexandra, but Xandra just seems to stick. I am glad that in today's world, my name is not seen as so unusual. Even so, I still think about changing it sometimes, but I don't know how or when that could ever happen.

-Xandra, Greensboro, NC