I have a funny relationship with Mariah Carey.
My name's pronounced the same as hers. But to this day I've never met another Pākehā Maria who says it the same way. There's a Māori name Maraea and I've met a few Maraeas in adulthood and a lot more people with an aunty Maraea, but I grew up in a very Pākehā, fairly conservative neighbourhood, and diversity, even in names, was, at my school a cause for slight contempt.
My name was utterly unusual and no-one had heard of it. People sometimes told me I was pronouncing my name wrong, or spelling it wrong, or being precious and trying to make myself interesting. They were far more used to the pronounciation, Ma-ree-a, popularised by the Sound of Music and West Side story. Ma-ree-as abounded. But to be clear the Marias you read in Shakespeare, and if you have British ancestries, the Marias you see in your family tree from a century or more ago were almost certainly pronounced Ma-rye-a.
Most people stumbled over my name when I said it, not helped by a childhood lisp I had to rigorously train myself out of, where I couldn't pronounce the letter r in a way recognisable to others. It was in my 20s there was an almost overnight shift to people saying "Aaah like Mariah Carey".
Now, I'm not doubting her skill as a musician and business woman, but listening to Mariah Carey's music wants me to hide my head under a pillow and denounce all worldy things. Someone please give me a mountain hut with no broadband and a few decades. As well as all that, her bed-linen-draped cleavage-y music videos are the embodiment of hyper-passive sexualisation that I find mind-numbingly boring, depressing and highly problematic for the gender rules they conform to and project. In short, it feels like only an unlikely co-incidence that Mariah Carey and I occupy the same planet, so the phrase "Aah like Mariah Carey" always feels a bit odd.
It got odder. When I was in the US I travelled briefly with a woman I met in a Mississippi women's camp. She was called Kerry and we looked a bit alike. We were the same height and build, similar colouring and when I needed a hair cut, and the hairdresser I went to didn't speak English, I just pointed at Kerry. We would introduce ourselves, Maria, Kerry in our identical short short hair cuts, old jeans and op-shopped shirts. We were like the the anti-Mariah Carey doing a weird twin comedy act. People thought we were taking the piss – however that translates into US dialect.
So now, to top it all off, Mariah Carey, who annoyed me, by making my name famous before I had got round to it, is releasing, on my birthday an album called, Me, I am Mariah. The subtitle is The Elusive Chanteuse. It all seems a bit Bianca Castafiore and The Milanese Nightingale* to me but myah maybe she's playing with that. The picture at the top of this post is the back cover of the album – a precociously good self portrait captioned Me. I am Mariah. She did it when she was three and a half. I guess that's kind of lovely but this image, on the other side, makes me want to barf.
I rather think Mariah as a toddler had a way more interesting vision and ambition for what girlhood and womanhood could be about. You know wearing actual clothes and stuff. She looks joyous and self-possessed, rather than the 2014 Mariah, who just looks like a possession.
Anyway, in the face of such provocative clearly pointed proclamations, I just needed to raise my chin and throw a steely self-possessed stare and say
Actually it's me. I am Maria.
(C) Copyright 2012, Mrs Loolupants, All Rights Reserved.