Think over the many human acquaintances in your life, deep and shallow: all the people you've known, or sort-of known, or known about.
Across the great distribution of names that have floated in and out of your experience, perhaps some patterns emerge. A string of people share a few remarkable characteristics, you notice, and they all happen to have the same first name. You find yourself, consciously or not, developing a sort of personal name-based astrology, a grouping that tells you what a person might be like based on his or her first name.
It's not, of course, fair. You know there are probably plenty of people in the world who would not fit your perception of the name Susie, for example, and that "Susie" may call up a whole different set of associations for someone else. But a few Susies have defined the bunch for you, and there's nothing to be done about it.
I confess that I am predisposed against people named Dana. My Dana experiences have not been good. If I see or hear the name, before I can even stop myself, the lookup function in my brain produces the result: "a dangerous, possibly two-faced person who thinks she is more special than anyone else."
The most prevalent Dana in my life was someone I met in my sophomore year of college, when we were both admitted to a singing group at the same time. Dana, who had a disconcertingly intense relationship with cosmetics, left the group after only a few weeks because she wasn't being given enough of a chance to "shine," as she put it. She absolutely hated for anyone else to get attention, an unfortunate trait for someone who joins an ensemble performance group. When she sang, she had a tendency to push both of her hands out from her face in a starburst-motion, and if you say the name Dana to anyone who was in my group at that time, that is the gesture you will see.
Another Dana I knew was one of the people my best friend fell in with after she left our public high-school and transferred to a tony private school. This Dana acted as if everyone (including me) outside her private-school coterie was beneath notice or charity, and even when we ended up at the same college together freshman year and she turned into a nice person, she was still a Dana, and nothing could change that.
Then there is the sad shadow of a Dana I never knew, a woman who stalked her ex-boyfriend and tried to get him back, which I wouldn't have cared about, except I happened to be dating that same guy at the time. I only got his side of things, of course, so I only knew her as the psycho ex who treated him poorly when they were going out and then wouldn't let him go when he broke it off. She didn't get him back... and then within two years, word came that she had killed herself, causing my guy even more pain and making the whole story even more terrible.
Now, all of these associations make me feel bad when I think of a person such as the late celebrity spouse Dana Reeve, who by all accounts was a wonderful, courageous lady. But I didn't know her personally, so my Dana prejudice stands.
I have other ridiculous conceptions about certain names: Bens tend to be irresistible guys who can't help but break the girls' hearts. Alisons of all spellings I'm inclined to favor. My Bills have been lovable, great guys who are often emotionally underdeveloped in some critical way. My track record with Lauras is mixed at best, but I never met a Matt I didn't like.
Maybe there's a Dana right around the corner who will turn it all around for me. Does anyone have any name associations, positive or negative, to share? Please don't mention Christinas unless you find them to be universally fabulous.