My parents set me up for confusion when they named me: Mom wanted an unusual name that would mark me as unique; Daddy wanted a common name that wouldn’t draw attention. They both loved the character “Melanie” in Gone With the Wind, a kind and forgiving soul with a powerful inner strength.

Mom grew up in England and had never known a Melanie. Daddy grew up in Texas where Melanies were as common as tumbleweeds. Hence, I am who I am.

My middle name is Lynn, my parent’s gift to my six-year-old brother who wanted to honor his kindergarten crush.

I’ve always liked those two names together, I think they sound musical. That’s probably because my mother used to sing them to me over and over: Melanie Lynn, Melanie Lynn, Melanie Melanie Melanie Lynn.

My last name is another story. I never cared for Griffin; I thought it sounded too masculine. And my best friend called me Griff all the time we were growing up, an awful moniker for a big, clumsy girl who wanted so much to emulate her long, lanky, gorgeous big sister.

I used to imagine I would get married and change my last name, but hold on to the family heritage by naming a son Griffin.

Dragons and Ancestors

Right after I graduated from college, I traveled to Wales, home of my father’s ancestors, where Welsh dragons adorn everything from street lights to war memorials to pub napkins. 

Welsh Dragon

Welsh Dragon

The creatures are obviously related to mythical Griffins, which have the hindquarters of a lion and the head, wings, and breast of an eagle. They portray intelligence, strength, and leadership. When I was a child, I saw these as masculine attributes, but after communing with Griffin ancestors and red dragons in Wales, I began to embrace my full name. I now see Griffins as graceful but strong, lovely but bold.



When I returned from Wales, I received my college diploma in the mail, a moment six years in the making because I’d had to work full-time to cover tuition and rent. I remember stroking the embossed words Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies (an interdisciplinary degree I’d designed with the intention of becoming an environmental lobbyist, and which I’d had to defend against strong objections from the conservative Dean of Biology) and saying “Melanie Lynn Griffin, Melanie Lynn Griffin.” It still sounded musical, but now I could hear the booming base notes of Beethoven beneath the lilting sonatas of Hayden.

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Thanks to WordPress for today’s writing prompt: “Write about your first name: Are you named after someone or something? Are there any stories or associations attached to it? If you had the choice, would you rename yourself?” To answer their question: No, I would absolutely not rename myself.