Written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black 4 November, 2013
Bettina Bryant was her name, but everyone seemed to call her Cat, Kitty, or some derivative, eventually. She was never certain as to why they called her this, but it happened everywhere, school, home, even church. Her mom’s nickname for her was “Kitten,” her dad called her “Puss.” The kids at school called her “Kat,” spelling it with a “K” to make it cooler.
She was gymnastic, like her pseudo-namesake. She walked upright like the martial artist that she was, a practiced brown belt in Tae Kwon Do who’d studied for over seven years, with poise, strength and agility. These physical traits could add to a mystique to present her the nickname, perhaps, but this alias predated such athletic pursuits.
Her friend, Katherine O’Rylie, was despondent. She tried to lay claim to the nickname of “Kat,” reasoning that it made much more sense for her first name. “How does Bettina become Kat?” Bettina had no answer. Luckily, their friendship was strong enough to endure Ms. O’Rylie being called “Kathy” instead.
When she went to the State University, no one knew her. She introduced herself as Bettina and was as nervous as all incoming freshmen. However, she joined a parapsychology group on campus to make some new friends interested in something that she found fascinating, and to her surprise, one day, they were calling her “Kat.” “Why did you call me that?” she asked. Laney and Joe looked at each other and shrugged, but the name stuck.
One of the experiments conducted by the State University Parapsychology Association, or SUPA, involved suspected psychics and an Ouija Board. To Bettina’s surprise, although she introduced herself by her given name, all ten of the psychics called her “Kat.” Worse, the students using the Ouija Board complained that the “spirits” communicating insisted that they talk with “Kat.” Bettina quit the SUPA the next day, but the damage was done. Even the stuffiest of professors, instead of calling her Ms. Bryant, began to refer to her by this name.
In a campus multi-cultural club, Bettina made a friend name Conner who believed in soul names. When he and his wife had a baby, the couple whispered into the newborn’s ear a secret name, different than the name that was given on the birth certificate. He explained that the soul name needed to be protected, because it somehow held power. Bettina pondered this thinking.
In a couple of years, Bettina earned a degree and moved a long way from home to pursue a professional career. She moved up the corporate ladder quickly, as competent, intelligent, and ambitious people inevitably will. She was surprised to discover that her team secretly called her “Cat woman,” apparently convinced of her prowess and strength and more than a bit intimidated by her mysterious busy savvy and intuition.
Years later, Bettina met, fell in love with, and married a man named Liam Wilson. One night, he used the endearment “Kitty.” When she asked him why he chose this familiar term, he could not truthfully answer. “It is just a name. It seemed to suit, y’know?” he replied in his Texan accent. With a frustrated shake of her head and furrowed brow, she walked out of the room. Liam chuckled quietly, confused as ever by his occasionally aloof wife.
The clincher for Bettina, when she at last conceded, embracing this moniker, was when her toddler, at the age of two and a half, decided after a bout of creative play, to call her “Kitty” instead of “momma.”