What You’re Called

I don’t have a nickname. I mean, I have things not my formal name that people call me, ranging from “hey, when am I gonna get that thing you said you’d get me” to “Mama,” but I don’t have a shortened version of my name. Maybe because my parents didn’t give me one, so I grew up using my full name always, and s0 when I was old enough to notice, I didn’t want one.

Mr. A, when we were dating, called me “Allie” once. Once. I told him I didn’t like it, and he stopped.

That’s what I always come back to whenever the OMG POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS RUINING MY ABILITY TO USE THE WORLD debate starts up again. (Don’t throw the Campus Wymyn’s Center in my face. There are like six of those people, and unlike half of Congress they hurt nobody.) It’s about determining what you want to be called. We ask it a hundred times a day: What’s your name? We abide by what we’re told.

If I don’t want to be called something, and I tell you that, why do you continue to say it? If I say, I prefer you address me as X, why do you say Y? To save yourself the embarrassment of learning? Is your saving face worth more than my name?

To bully? To be mean? I keep reading these stories in which middle class white women who voted for Trump talk about how all the race talk they’ve been hearing makes them uncomfortable and discomfort is the WORST SIN OF ALL TIME and why can’t people just put up and shut up again, now, forever.

Do they not understand how rude they’re being, not calling someone by their name? They’d correct you if you called them Miss and they were married. But correct them that you’re African-American instead of black, Asian instead of Oriental, and suddenly you’re trampling their right to whatever … and I know it’s tiresome taking that argument apart but these are the same types of women who raised you and me to never be rude. Could it possibly be persuasive to talk in terms of politeness? Is that something we might still all understand?

It’s rude not to call someone by their name.

What is your name? Did you choose it? Could you choose it? Has anyone ever tried to call you anything else?

A.

4 thoughts on “What You’re Called

  1. As someone who was given the name “Polly” & have been called “Holly”, “Molly”, “Dolly”, “Paula”, “Pauline” … & when I correct people, I invariably hear, “Yeah, whatever” (especially from men), I can really identify with this.

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  2. Loupy D says:

    I remember a story my parents told me. When I was 4, one of my dad’s coworkers came to our house. I peeked into the living room to see who this stranger was, then ran to my father and his behind his long legs to get a closer look. The coworker said, “Hey little fella! How are you?”
    I just stood there silent.
    “Hi little fella! Come shake my hand!”
    “My name is Lawrence”, I said from around my barrier.
    “Hi Lawrence!” said the coworker, and that’s when I came around and shook his hand.
    Also, the only people in life who I allowed to call me Larry was a girl who I had a crush on in 8th grade and her best friend.

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  3. Duncan says:

    My parents named me “Chari” — pronounced exactly like “Shari” Lewis. I get all kinds of shit for that. It’s really no problem; I understand that it’s difficult to figure out or assume how to pronounce it. However, when you’re a teacher I had for 4 years in high school, and I’ve told you repeatedly how to pronounce my name — and yet you STILL PRONOUNCE IT “CHARRY” INSTEAD OF “SHARI”, I get just the slightest bit riled up. OK, I get livid. (My email addy and commenting moniker come from my deceased kitty, Duncan.)

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