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A World Full of Amys

[whitespace] Amy Stewart
Robert Scheer

Amy Me Me: There just could be another person around the corner doing things in your name.

One woman's quest to discover all the people sharing her good name

By Amy Stewart

WHEN I WAS A KID, my father met a music producer named Charles Stewart. He had named his kids Amy Nicole Stewart (my name) and Jason Stewart (my brother's name). It worried us, as children, to know that there were two other kids about our age running around town with our names. What if they got in trouble, we wondered, and we were blamed? Who would believe us if we insisted that some other Amy and Jason Stewart had shoe-polished the neighbor's car or rolled all the trees in front of the junior high?

I didn't think about the other Amy Stewart for years, until I went back to Texas recently and got together with some old friends from graduate school. Over drinks in an Austin bar, my friend Jim told me that he got married a few years ago. When I asked his wife's name, Jim paused for a minute, giving me a strange look.

"Actually, her name is also Amy Stewart."

I gasped. "Oh, no--not Amy Nicole Stewart?" It was true. Jim had married the other Amy Stewart. I wondered: Did acquaintances see the wedding announcement in the paper and think that I married Jim?

Did any gifts arrive, perhaps from long-lost school chums, that were intended for me?

Did the other Amy Stewart ever find herself trapped in the legacy of my radical-feminist-college-activist career? Or was she out creating a reputation of her own that I could never live up to if I moved back home?

When Amy went into the hospital to have her baby, only a mile or two from the neighborhood where I grew up, I envisioned the nursery full of tiny, wrinkled newborns. I could just picture the signs attached to each crib, identifying the babies. "Mother: Amy Stewart," one of them would read.

Gulp. Amy Stewart? A mother?

Like a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, I saw an alternate life for myself, one that involved a safe marriage in my old hometown, a daughter born at my neighborhood hospital, maybe another kid on the way. This could have been me, I realized.

I started wondering about all the other Amy Stewarts of the world. After all, neither the first nor the last name is very unusual. There had to be more of us out there. I typed my name into a "People Finder" Web site, and a list containing dozens of Amy Stewarts scrolled across my screen.

From the scant information that I could find, I learned quite a bit about these other Amy Stewarts. Some had their own Web sites, complete with wedding photos or advertisements for their start-up businesses.

Judging from their email addresses, many appeared to be in college. Several lived in California.

But I wanted to know more, so I decided to get in contact with some of these women. I wanted to know what they were doing with the name. Was there a Dr. Amy Stewart out there? Justice Amy Stewart? Pulitzer Prize-winner Amy Stewart?

The responses rolled in almost immediately.

We Amy Stewarts, it seems, are eager to talk about ourselves.

Too Sweet, Too Dreamy

RIGHT AWAY, I LEARNED that Amy Stewarts are very particular about how people spell our name. I remember that when Amii Stewart recorded her disco version of "Knock on Wood" 20 years ago, I was appalled at this frivolous spelling of the name. One Amy reported that she once left a message at a law office and the receptionist asked, "Amy? Is that spelled A-i-m-e-e?"

Another Amy is outraged at the number of people who can't spell Stewart. "I get people trying to spell it 'Stewert,' which always makes me say, in irritation, 'Nobody in the whole world spells Stewart that way!' "

I wanted to know how other Amy Stewarts liked their name. I always thought the name "Amy" was a little too sweet, too dreamy. It needs a good, solid, no-fuss surname like "Stewart" to anchor it. A surprising number of Amy Stewarts felt that the name lent itself to a creative personality, perhaps something "in the entertainment industry."

Everyone agreed that no Amy Stewart could ever hope for a political future. There could never be a Defense Secretary Amy Stewart. The name just doesn't lend itself to warmongering or high-level security clearances.

I am pleased to report that every Amy Stewart I contacted described herself as artistic. We are musicians, painters, writers, gardeners and great cooks. And, surprisingly, we are all entrepreneurs: Every one of us either owns her own business or would like to be self-employed, from the Dallas Amy Stewart who runs a small design firm, to the Lincoln, Neb., Amy Stewart who is just starting out as a wedding coordinator.

Now for the frightening part: The hidden Amy Stewart secret that I was horrified to discover and that I am ashamed to reveal. Lean very close to the page so no one can look over your shoulder. I don't want this next part to get around.

Every Amy Stewart I surveyed secretly worships Martha Stewart. We all have her books. We have all tried at least a few of her craft projects. One Amy Stewart boldly declared, "My goal is to be the next Martha Stewart."

As for myself? I may have the tiniest obsession with Martha. I could have just a few of her books and magazines around. I might have even visited her Web site a time or two to discover such important tidbits as the names of her Himalayan kittens (Vivaldi and Verdi), and the brand of skin-care products she prefers (Mario Badescu, New York).

I can't explain this common devotion to Martha, but I think it goes deeper than the shared last name. We, the creative, entrepreneurial, correctly spelled Amy Stewarts, share a love of palatial gingerbread houses and homemade lavender sachets that surpasses mere surnames or the common ancestral roots they suggest.

One final word about Amy Stewarts: We all owe a great debt to our mothers. Many of us were almost named something horrid, like Rebecca or Chelsea. At the last minute, though, our mothers came to their senses and gave us a name that is "graceful, short and pretty," to quote one Amy Stewart.

As another one said, "I can't imagine myself with any other name."

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From the February 19-25, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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