that's not my name: avoiding self-gentrification

If names are not correct, language will not be in accordance with the truth of things.
— Confucius

I could've been rich you know. I could've made some quick & easy schmoney. How, you ask? Well... if I quite literally had a dollar for every time someone mispronounced or misspelled my name since the day I was born, I'd have a nice chunk of change stored neatly under my mattress by now. For reals. It happens that often. Funny thing is that my name isn't all that complicated. It doesn't contain an unreasonable amount of letters (or syllables). It's not a name from a foreign land (not that I know of, anyway). It's not a name like "Sonja" (pronounced with the "J" as a "Y"), where you're almost bound to screw it up the first time you utter it. Phonetically-speaking, if one takes just 1.5 seconds to look at it and read it through, my government name is as easy as pie to get right. 

Now... as much as some people get it right, I'd say about the same amount of people (if not more) get it wrong the first time (and subsequent times after that)! And whats more, it seems that I gave up a long time ago when it comes to correcting people on the matter. Often times, when someone who's had numerous interactions with me, still finds a way to butcher my name, I just clench my jaw and glare at them politely (oh but in my mind...)

And then there are times where I'm just honest to goodness amused with the multitude of ways in which some people my name. In those instances, I know those people want to say my name correctly but just can't seem to get their mouths to cooperate with the good intent of their brains. The more I think about it though, the more I become aware that this 'name thing' is a bit of an issue of mine... I sometimes let important things slide that shouldn't. On a scale of 1 to 10, my assertiveness in many social situations is a about a smooth five. Not saying that correcting someone necessarily equates to confrontation - but still, I tend to avoid confrontation-adjacent situations like the plague. Not because I'm a people-pleaser (though perhaps on some level, I must be - yuck), but because these sorts of 'call-you-out-on-your-shit' interactions generally involve continuing to engage with people for far longer than I'm comfortable doing. Yet at the same time, when it comes to something as basic and as significant as my given name... I probably should, like... 'protect its honour' or something, right?

Right. And, a stop at Starbucks is where I came to that brilliant conclusion.

While on at trip to a Chapters bookstore with my niece and nephew this past weekend, I decided to stop by at a Starbucks to get a cold beverage. When it came time to place my order, while holding my tall cup in one hand and a black Sharpie in the other, the smiling barista asked: "Can I get a name for your cup?" Now - for a split second, I thought to myself "Yes. Yes... I'll give her my full first name and somewhat trust that she'll correctly sound it out before branding my cup." But, no - what actually came out of my mouth was one lonely syllable, instead of the two that actually makeup my first name. I just said "JOY" and I left it at that. And as she scribbled the three letters down on my cup, I admit - I felt a bit incensed at myself. My inner monologue went something like:

"JOY? Wtf? You HATE being called Joy... like with a PASSION! Why didn't you just tell her your actual name, weirdo?"

"Why??? So she could just ask me to repeat it, and then spell it out? No thanks, uggggh. Annoying!"

"But, your name is so unique. Why don't you just OWN it???"

"Because!? I don't want to be asked any follow-up questions about it... even if they're complimentary."

"Ummm. Okay... Weirdo :/"

Yup. That's the basic conversation I have with myself whenever I have an opportunity to explain my name to someone or to correct them about it. What struck me the most though, is that as soon as I uttered my 'one syllable half name' to the barista, my niece and nephew were hella-quick to hit me with a Russell Westbrook screw-face, like "Joy? Who the heck is JOY??? Not MY auntie."

Seeing a 5 year old and an 11 year old have such visceral reactions to me telling a half-truth about myself, left somewhat of an impression on me. They don't know me as "Joy", at all. Ever since they were babies, they've always known me by my full first name, and so they didn't understand why I would purposely amputate my name when I had a perfectly fine opportunity to stand up in my ME-ness. And, why should they understand that? Why should I want them to!? 

They both have these amazingly beautiful and unique names; and the last thing I want is for them to feel like they need to "mute" or somehow "gentrify" themselves. I would hate for them to grow up thinking they might need to dim their "unlike the other-ness" just to make it easier for others to 'understand' them. So, I think from now on, I'll have to make a more concerted effort to defend my name whenever I feel it necessary. It's not just for me, it's for them. They'll need to understand that unless you're able to assert your identity, your identity can and will be lost in a sea of misunderstanding, and buried under people's perceptions of you. I want them to feel comfortable and confident enough to call people out on their shit (within reason) if something doesn't sit right with them... especially when it comes to how they are being addressed by others.

Now, before y'all ask... No, that doesn't mean I'll be foregoing my pen name on my blog or on any of my social media channels.

In this day and age, some semblance of online anonymity is still pretty sacred to me.

(Cool points to those of you who get the video reference here.)


Shaolin Says.

Shaolin "J" Style


Creative writer. Professional ranter. Canadian-born. Caribbean blood. Probably the worst introvert you'll ever meet.