No matter where I go these days, it’s the same question whenever anyone sees my name. From the teller at the bank, the nurse at the doctor’s office, the cashier at the store: “Oh wow! Have you seen ‘Schitt’s Creek’?”
It has happened. My very Irish, vowel-laden, never fashionable first name has become a thing.
After decades of spelling out my name, patiently smiling when it’s mispronounced, knowing it’s my turn at the DMV when the person reading names hesitates for a long time, and answering the same questions over and over (it’s a Gaelic form of Mary, if you’re wondering) — actions all-too-familiar to those who join me in the unusual-names siblinghood — “Moira” has, unexpectedly, entered pop culture.
And it entered with a glorious swagger, in the hands of Catherine O’Hara, who plays Moira Rose on “Schitt’s Creek.” This Moira, a woman of a thousand wigs (each of which has a name and a lovingly maintained storage area), dresses in avant-garde black and speaks in an unidentifiably wandering accent; marching through her sentences like she’s not quite sure where she’ll end up, but wants to arrive there with her head held high. She’s hilariously self-absorbed — this is a mother who’s not sure what her daughter’s middle name is — and yet wonderfully loving, in her diva-ish way. If you have watched “Schitt’s Creek” and gotten past the unpromising first few episodes (seriously, this show doesn’t get started until Season 1 is almost over), you know Moira, and you probably adore her. She and I share a name, a fondness for high heels, and a taste for drama.
O’Hara’s performance won her multiple awards in the show’s final season, including an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award. But, as I made my way through the six seasons of “Schitt’s Creek” last year, I kept being distracted from her skill by the simple fact that people on that show said my name all the time. And pronounced it correctly! Like it was nothing! It was as if Eugene Levy’s Johnny Rose, every time he tenderly told his Moira to get a grip, was talking to me, and I was startled every time. For someone who was brokenhearted every time Robin Williams mispronounced “Moira” in “Hook” back in 1991 (it was his character’s wife’s name! How could he not know how to say it? What was Steven Spielberg thinking?), this was heady stuff.
My weird little name took me many years to fall in love with. As a teenager I wished I was called Heather or Michele or something; a nice simple pretty name that everyone would know. But as I grew up and became myself, I realized there was something musical and unique about “Moira,” and that I would own it, because it was mine. (Besides, it looks good in a byline.)
Maybe, thanks to O’Hara and “Schitt’s Creek,” “Moira” is set to be the next trendy name; I was charmed and startled to see it in a recent advice column on Slate.com, as a random example of a desirable baby name. Maybe, in a few years, kindergartens will be full of Moiras, wearing chic little outfits and imperiously ordering the other kids around. Maybe I, in my twilight years, will be seen as an early adopter. Or maybe not. In looking up an O’Hara interview (in which she delightfully shares that Moira’s accent comes from “oral mementos of her world travels”) on People magazine’s website, I notice that throughout the story, she’s misspelled as “Moria,” a variant I get a lot. Ah well; a name isn’t built in a day.
“You’re my first real-life Moira!” someone said to me last week, after enthusing about “Schitt’s Creek.” It’s an honor.