It’s come to my attention that my name is a mystery to Italians. First off, most of them have never heard my name before. Then to make matters worse, the pronunciation is also ridiculously hard for Italians: Shelby ends up sounding more like Shal-bee-uh or Chel-vee. Due to this unfortunate pronunciation, I’ve decided to adopt an Italian name, because perché no (why not)?
My Italian name is Antonella Valente; it’s not as arbitrary as it sounds, lo giuro (I swear). Prima cosa (first thing), Antonella is much easier for Italians to say, it just rolls off the tongue so beautifully. Also, my middle name is Ann, as is my grandmother’s and my Italian great-grandma’s first name is Antoinette or Ann, for short. As you can see, the name “Ann” has roots that run deep throughout my family history, so I just took part of my name and Italianized it to the name that either me or someone in my family would’ve had if we actually lived in the part of Italy where our family is from in the South, more specifically, Trani in the Puglia region. Also, one my Italian family’s last names is Valente, (which means valiant and also is the name of a former Roman emperor) so I just used that to complete my new Italian identity.
It’s actually really liberating having an alias, especially when you go out to bars or clubs and some creepy guys try and find you on Facebook. It’s so great, because they can’t find me, because I technically don’t exist. Ha, I win!
However, having two identities is not all rainbows and lollipops. Sometimes it’s hard to remember who I am that night. Also, it’s difficult explaining to the whole fake identity story to people, once they find out that my name isn’t actually what I said it was. I actually think that at one point I’m just going to add Antonella to my name on Facebook, so people that I actually like can find me.
It’s also kind of sad not being able to use the fun nick-names that go along with Shelby, like Shelbs, Shelbster or even just Shel. Luckily, my American friends here still can say my name without butchering it, so that’s nice. I’m not the only one who has had to Italianize their name, my friend Payton changes her name to Patrizia, because Payton is even harder for Italians to say than Shelby is. It’s also just kind of fun to have an Italian alias, so a few of my other friends here have adopted Italian names, just for kicks.
Another really weird thing that I never really thought about before I came here is, that I’m kind of ethnically ambiguous.
In Italy, people generally just assume I’m Italian until I open my mouth and they can tell that I’m not a native speaker. More recently, I’ve been getting Spanish, multiple times actually, which is strange, because I have so many ethnic origins in Europe, because I’m a mut, but Spanish is probably not one of them. Unless I have some traces of Spanish from my Filipino family, because the Philippines were conquered by the Spanish for some insane number of years, like 500 or something…
So basically all you need to know is that I’m a mystery. I have an alias and an ethnically ambiguous facade. All I need now is some super cool ability like mind-reading, so I can get my own TV show.
Ciao for now ❤