Thursday, November 03, 2005

What's in a name?

It happens at least twice a week, I can count on it. The phone rings and with my own special brand of eternal optimism, I jauntily pick it up and nearly hum “Good morning, Accounting, this is Eileen!” It’s my commitment to customer service, I really DO want to do a good job for that kind, nameless, faceless voice on the other end of the line. I’m THERE for him…I’m his secret weapon at my company. Well, at least until he answers me. “Hi Amy, this is Ted from XYZ Company and…” He might as well stop talking right there, because I’m no longer interested in helping Ted or his stupidass company. Oh I do, because, you know…it’s my job. But the doofus can’t tell the difference between Eileen and Amy…UGH…how can he deserve to live?

I know it’s irrational. I know it’s stupid. And I also know it’s probably my own fault because I don’t hit my plosives hard enough or my voice is too soft or I just have a name that’s too far off center for people to relate to readily. Ok, so that one is my mom’s fault. But it’s not Ted’s fault. And Amy, that’s not a bad name. I have a niece named Amy, a couple of internet friends named Amy, and a Survivor she-hero named Amy who I think are all amazing people. It’s actually a very good name. The problem is it’s not MY name.

I know I shouldn’t care, but I do, and admit it, you do too. When was the last time someone slaughtered your name? Didn’t you silently want to jump on that person’s head? At the very least pop him upside it while correcting him? On my first job (ok, first 9-5 grown up job), I had a boss named Mike who couldn’t remember my name, so he called me Verlene. I called him Mork. The retribution was the only thing that kept me from quitting.

I think about this from time to time. The mother was maybe more of a self-help addict than I am when I was a kid. Then again…I was reading her copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” when I was eleven, what does that say about me? Anyway, in that very book is where I learned life lesson number one…of the ones they don’t teach you in school. “Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I remember this twenty-six years later for a reason. It’s truth.

The fact is the name defines our very essence. There is no other word assigned to that which we are…this amazing intricate package of heaving emotions, writhing pain, blind ambition, explosive love, scattered thought, and tapestries of experience. Everything we’ve experienced, know, care about, and hope for is packaged, albeit uncomfortably at times, in one small word. It can never be as specific as we desire it to be…what could? But it is our own and we can cherish that.
So dear Romeo, the next time some broad asks you to refuse your name, run…run fast, run hard. Rosaline might have been a tease, but at least she knew what to call you when she sent you packing.

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