After two and a half decades of difficulty finding them in Coke bottles, keychains, and coffee orders, I have accepted that people will always get my name wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, it has its perks. For one, I don’t have to wait an extra week to get my NBI license because someone with the same name as me has a police record.
And… that’s about it.
It’s that extra h in the end, which must be a Filipino name giving thing. Some get it in the middle, like Jhun or Jhemerlyn. I could simply say that it’s silent, like the m in mnemonics, to make it fancy. I could use my second name, which is French variant of a Celtic word that means ‘sea’ or ‘bright’, but it’s too late for that. Some people even get too lazy to say the second syllable and just call me Ai. But yes, I have accepted my fate and the doubt that comes with having it.
It’s not so bad right? My mother said she first thought of naming me Antoinette, which would have been mortifying for two reasons: one, combined with my family name, it sounds redundant. People would probably think my parents were trolling me. And two: it’s pretentious as fuck. As glamorous and remarkable as it is, I don’t want to be named after the model of the excesses of the monarchy that tells people to ‘eat cake’.
But a name, after all, serves one big purpose: identity. The name is associated with a face, then the face is associated with the history. It is the name that endures in epitaphs, obituaries, yearbooks, etc. And when it’s constantly mistaken or confused, it can invalidate the person. We all know this to be true. If your identification card is wrong, you cannot get, say, your cheque when you win the lottery. Why? Because it’s not you.
So is it a big deal? To some yes, because it must help them feel validated. But maybe, and I’m speaking for myself here, it doesn’t have to be.
When Freddie became part of Queen, he changed his family name to Mercury. Edson Nascimento became Pelé, one of the most famous football players in history. Hedwig Kiesler became Hedy Lamarr, the actress who helped invent WiFi.
Names are just a mixture of letters that they associate to what you are, but it does not dictate it. It is the actions that you do, the mark that you make, that will affect your life and others. Names can be changed, but words, actions, and time cannot.
So sure, you don’t have to spell my name right. No pressure. You can call me by my second name, too. Call me names for all I care. But will it affect my life? Meh.