It goes like this. Almost every time I meet someone new.
“Hey! What’s your name?”
“John-Pierre Maeli!” Shakes hands.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you John.”
“Um, actually, it’s John-Pierre. Like, the whole thing.”
“Yeah, it’s my first name.”
If they’re a little bold.
“Well…can I just call you JP?”
“Because it’s not my name.”
“But your name is so long. You can’t expect me to say that every time?”
“It’s my name. Deal with it.”
“How about John?”
I can’t tell you how often I’ve experienced this. I heard it from other kids and adults. Rarely does anyone get it on the first try. They must be corrected, retold, and constantly reminded. It is too hard for some people to get.
When someone said my name correctly I used to congratulate them. “Hey! You said my name right. Few people get it the first time.” They would be appreciative, maybe surprised. Nowadays, I don’t congratulate. It’s my name. Pay attention.
Suggesting I go by something else, after meeting me for the first time is a form of dominance. It is a subconscious attempt at erasing my agency. It is a power-play. A sign that you have the confidence in this encounter. It is like propping up your shoulders, or squeezing my hand in a handshake. It is all for the optics.
I could blame it on stereotypical Americans. Ignorant. They’ve never met anyone with an unrecognizable name. If all you’ve met are Jack’s, Steve’s, John’s, and Patrick’s I guess you’d expect the same. Especially if your community is a suburban sprawl.
Have you ever been pushed aside? It feels like that. Add some belittlement, and you are set. It is like talking down to someone who only wanted to make a friend. I only wanted to meet someone new. I don’t need a name altering.
He towered over me. Expressed interest, only to morph it into my subservience. To have it taken away, his interest was a joke. I wasn’t good enough. My name was a joke to him.
Maybe I should just shoulder all the responsibility. I am responsible for correcting. If that’s how I want it said, I should clarify. Don’t blame them, they don’t know. Remove their agency. It is not a judgment of their self-awareness, selfishness, or ignorance. It is a reality I should live with. But at what point am I living with other people’s shit?
How does it feel to have yourself dragged through the mud? All because of your name.
Say my goddamn name.