Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dana? Really?

The boy's name Dana \d(a)-na\, also used as girl's name Dana, is pronounced DAY-nah. Its meaning is "from Denmark". Also possibly a place name referring to an English river. Also variant of Daniel or Dane. Surname first used as a boy's name in the 19th century.

A partial conversation I have on the phone at least once a week, every week:

Person A: May I speak to Miss Dana Constance, please?

Me: You're talking to him.

Person A: Him? Really?

Me: Yes.

Person A: Is that spelled D-A-N-A?

Me: Yes.

Person A: And you are Dana?

Me: Yes.

(Awkward silence)

Person A: Did you know you have a girl's name?

I am sure a fair amount of the people reading this blog have harbored this thought at some point. My name is Dana and I have been a male since the moment my parents decided to name me after my dad's best friend, who also happens to be a male. The ensuing fallout of awkward looks and questions from clerks, salespeople and new co-workers have been following me ever since. To make matters even more odd for me is that my surname, Constance, also happens to be a female first name. Now this is not the original family name and the story behind that varies depending on who you talk to, but that's for a different post...

Dana is a name that was popular for both genders and, at one point, more popular for boys. In the graphic above you can see a chart tracking the progression of the name Dana over the last 100 years or so. It shows that the name peaked in popularity in 1970, the year I was born and then drops dramatically for boys soon after. Just my luck that my parents bought at the height of price in Dana stock before the market crashed. I feel like stock in cargo shorts...

Now, growing up this did not bother me one bit. New England seems to be a haven for males named Dana. I remember a very popular television host named Dana Hersey (The Movie Loft on Channel 38 for my Plymouth/MA homies) and had a few XY schoolmates with the same name affliction. Not often was I ever called out for having a cross-gendered name. In fact, I remember a schoolmate once saying to me "Why does that girl on Diff'rent Strokes have a boy's name?" This would be Dana Plato for you young people...

Life was good for XY Dana. Then, I moved to California.

Here in California, the name Dana seems to ONLY be a female name to the mass collective. Even in the "open-minded" Bay Area, people can't get over this. When I mention Bay Area native Dana Carvey (male, comedian, SNL, Wayne's World) or former SF 49er football great Dana Stubblefield (I wouldn't call him a girl to his face), people react like they had never realized that, wow, those are men too...

I first noticed that Latinos, who are quite prevalent in the state, could or would not say my name to my face. I've been called Danny, Damio, Dano, Dino (my favorite) or Dan by many people. I soon learned that the Spanish language adds an "A" to anything feminine and an "O" to the masculine counterpart. I am not guapa, I am guapo but I cannot be Dana. I have learned to live with this since it is the rules of a language and I doubt an edict from Madrid is going to come down making an linguistic rule just for me. Besides, I really like being called Dino as I imagine being a sauced crooner or a cool Italian ski instructor...

But as for the rest of English-speaking America, I am shooting pointy things out of my eyeballs at you...

A couple of years ago, I co-wrote a play, Release The Kraken, with my good friend Bryce Allemann, which was produced here in San Francisco. It was a pleasant little comedy mixing a Kevin Smith-type mall world with the ancient Greek myth of Perseus. As part of the promotion of the show, which was independent in every aspect, we were asked to do a podcast interview with an aspiring journalist, Michael Rice, who seemingly fancies himself the hip-hop voice of live theatre. Yes, I am quite serious. Needless to say, there was not much prep for the interview and we were quite shocked at the interviewer's sudden persona when the tape started rolling. Even more surprising was his obsession with my name. Below is the link to the podcast and a fair amount of the his name obsession has been edited out, which is scary since there is still a lot of time committed to the subject...

Please note that Bryce and I were completely put on our heels by Michael as he had barely spoke ten words to us before the questions rolled. I'm such a dork...

But I am a pant-wearing, face-shaving, testosterone-driven dork!


  1. I always knew you were a girly-man and other such cliches!

  2. Don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful...

  3. I really like your name and never even gave the gender thing a thought. Of course, one of my best friend's name is Lynn and he is very male as well. Donna

  4. Rock on brotha, I am a male Dana too.
    Anyone that would tease or question a male Dana's name seriously needs to get a life.

    The world doesn't need another faceless Tom, Dick, Harry, John, etc.