Cherise the Name

In 50 years, I've met exactly 35 people who share my first name. With two exceptions, every time, it has given us a special feeling of kinship. I'm the only one I know who has counted. There were three of us named Cherise in my class in high school, and the other two are the exceptions. Normally, three women sharing a first name isn't a problem, but with a rare name such as ours, it was.

A guy ran up to me in gym class and proudly announced, "I voted for you for Homecoming Queen!"
"I'm not running," I told him.
"Huh? But your name is on the ballot." He smiled at me. "Maybe someone else signed you up!"
"Nope. Cherese ____ is running."
He looked dumbfounded. Cherese ____ and I couldn't look any more different. Literally, black and white! LOL!

There is at least one other Cherise Kelley online. She is blonde and 20 years younger than I am. Kelley is her maiden name, so I hold out hope that perhaps hers will change.

I love my first name, and I'm so glad my parents spelled it right! Cherise translates to cherry from Old French to English. Not cherries, which it does kind of sound like, but cherry. Modern French for cherry is cerise. In 1989, I visited a French friend where she grew up, in Paris. She and her family and friends found my name just as rare there as it is here in the US.

Cherise is my real name. I'm not French, though. My parents found my name in a book of baby names. I grew up before everyday people had Internet access, so I didn't know the meaning of my name until 8th grade Spanish class. I told the teacher my name and he told me my Spanish name was Cereza. I looked that up and it translated to cherry in English.

Nicknames? My dad's parents thought Cherise was too weird a name to call a little girl, so they called me by a name that was more common in my childhood, Sherry. It stuck. My whole family still calls me that, but we spell it Cheri. In French, that is pronounced share EE, and it translates to dear one in English. To my mom and my sister, I'm Cher. I've had odd nicknames, though. Cherries. Reeses. My friend's dad called me Chartreuse.

A black co-worker gave me my favorite odd nickname: Cyd (For Cyd Charisse, the white 1940s actress and dancer best known for the movie "Singin' in the Rain"). He would say it enthusiastically whenever he saw me, "Cyd!" People's reactions were funny. Even in the early 1980s, almost no one remembered poor Cyd Charisse.
 
In the late 1970s, a guy my age told me that from hearing my name before we were introduced, he expected me to be more of a model, more glamorous. When an older lady heard my name in the early 1990s, she said, "Yeah, that's a 60s name! It's pretty groovy!" Yes, I was born in the 60s, so that makes sense.

When I got Internet access in the late 90s, I looked my name up on various name sites that asked people if they liked their names or not. This one Cherise said she liked it, but it bothered her that even though our name is Old French, people expect her to be black.

I like that my name means something. The other day, someone said it's only recently that people have named their children by putting together sounds they find "pretty" or "cute." He pointed out that traditionally, names have had meaning.