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Becoming Oakley

Given name

The moment I was born, I was named my nickname, “Oh” (Oh+). In Thai language, this “Oh” can be pronounced with 5 different sounds and they mean different things. My “Oh” means to console a crying baby. (Kind of like “Awwwww” in English. )

I was the baby girl with 2 older brothers. My dad always wanted to have a daughter. He said that he would have kept having babies until he had a daughter. (And I think he would have done it too!) So, my birth name which eventually becomes my Thai nickname, “Oh”, fits perfectly with how I was treated–spoiled rotten baby girl!

Then of course, the baby must have a full name. A friend (or was it a relative) of my Princess Grandmother’s gave me my long and elaborate uncommon full name. As far as I know, I AM the only one with my full name. The V. in V. Oakley Boren.

Search for an English name

I have the ability to distinguish someone calling my name from a generic English “Oh!”. So as I grew up meeting my dad’s English speaking friends and colleagues and eventually making my own friends as I traveled solo, I never gave a second thought to “Oh!” being confusing.

The first English name that I had was from a friend of dad’s from Hong Kong. He called me “Christina” because he said I look like Thai pop songstress Christina Aguilar at the time whose hairstyle I copied.   He was the only one who called me that. It didn’t really stick with anyone else.

Here’s a karaoke video of one of Christina’s early hit just to give you an idea of the haircut and determine resemblance. Personally I saw none.

When I landed in Whittier, California, in 1993 to spend 2 months in English immersion program, I stayed with a host family.  Here, no one seemed to have any trouble with me as “Oh”, except my host dad.  After the first night in the house, he sat me down and expressed that he couldn’t handle everyone saying “Oh!” without thinking they were calling my name. He decided to come up with an American name for me. His youngest son helped.

We went through names that were close to the V name like Vera, Viera, Vicky. Nope. None of those.

Then we tried for something closer to “Oh” — Ophelia, Olivia, Odette, Audrey, Aurora, Aurelia, Ohio… Um. No. No. And no.  Looking back on it now, I might’ve taken Olivia. But can you see me as an Olivia though?

Then the light bulb lit up.

“How about Annie, like Annie Oakley?”

“Who’s Annie Oakley?” I asked. He told me she was the most famous cowgirl/marksperson of all time, and I should go look her up then make my decision.

Having this girl who could kick anyone’s butt when it came to shooting, who loved and excelled in her craft, devoted her life to improve women’s lives, and became a legend as my namesake?

Hell yeah, I’ll take the name!  And instead of taking Annie, I took Oakley.

The funny thing was that the only person who called me Oakley at the time was my host dad. (See a trend here?)

It’s almost like “Madonna” or “Oprah”

Oakley hasn’t become my unofficial American name until I decided to come to the US for 11th grade for good. I claimed Oakley as a name to go by because I didn’t want to be teased in a very white, suburban American high school with no other international student, by the way.  I already cringed at the prospect of roll call with my full name on the first day of class.

Fortunately for me, my host mom was a counselor at the school.  She arranged to have me meet with all of my teachers before hand and we warned them about my name.  Most of them remembered to just call out Oakley and asked on the pronunciation of the last name.  Others started to struggle with the V. when my hand shot up, and then they remembered.

First day of each semester was always a struggle. Many classmates by this point already know so they’d pipe in as well.  Kind of funny, actually.

But then, because Oakley isn’t a common name, all of the sudden, it became my ONLY name, my trademark. You don’t ever have to ask “Which Oakley is that?”, and you don’t even need to know my last name because there is only one Oakley!

When I got to USC, I just threw Oakley in as my middle name.  All my school records and even on my diploma has Oakley in it. So when I got married, I decided to make the middle name legal.

So here we stand with V. Oakley Boren.

Holding true to my namesake, if you’re wondering, I do shoot.  I’m plenty accurate with our air rifle hunkered down and can make a nice little cluster around 4 o’clock of the target with a 9mm. Always right and low with the Glock, I don’t know why.  Someday, I’d like to try an AK-47, but definitely on my bucket list is 10 seconds behind a minigun.  But I digress.

Most of the time, though, I shoot with a different instrument altogether.  And I’m not too bad with it either.

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