I was born Bonnie Athene Gillespie. I’ve been called Bon, Bon Bon, Bonathan, Bonifer, Bonalyn, Bon Boneri, Bonifred, Bonular, Bonuelo, Bonita, Bonissimo, Bonnarie, Bonnalie, Super Bon Bon, and Bon Bon Jovi, just to list a few.
I’ve always liked my name, just different parts of it at different times in my life. In high school, I liked that I was the only Bonnie in 1,100 students. Everyone knew who you were talking about when you said “Bonnie.”
Bonnie is my great aunt. My mother’s mother’s older sister. I love her dearly and am proud to have her name. Athene was my mother’s best friend’s name. She was angry that I shared her name. I can see why. I love the uniqueness of “Athene.” Not quite Athena, it’s still derived from the Greek Goddess of Wisdom. I have never met another Athene.
When I began pursuing acting professionally, I became Bonnie Athene. No one ever included the Athene when they heard Bonnie Athene Gillespie. It’s such a long name, and Gillespie somehow always gets misspelled or mispronounced (I’m baffled at this). So, Bonnie Athene was born. She still gets fantastic credit card offers (of course! She had a checking account, paid rent, and maintained utilities with no debt… her evil twin, Gillespie, on the other hand…).
Three years later, after earning a Master’s degree, Ms. Gillespie hit the scene. I was a teacher. Most of my students had never heard of Bonnie Athene. To them, I was only nicknamed Ms. G. See, that name’s just too problematic to most people!
So, who am I? I do not know. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking on my mother’s last name: Simonds. It is unusual (not Simmons, but sigh-munds). But I’m not sure that it resonates with me.
And shouldn’t that be what our names do for us? Our last names usually belong to our fathers’ fathers’ fathers. That’s not what defines us. So what is? I guess that’s up to each of us. And we can always change our minds.