My Name Necklace

I wear my name around my neck rather often.  I descried it among the many selfies and photos I have, and I began to ask myself: is this a form of hubris? Why must I wear my name? What does this symbolize and why does it need to be stated?

As a child, I remember walking in to rest stops across the country while traveling with my parents. The attached convenience stores bore sundries and tempting turn styles with attractive toys and gifts.  I can remember seeing arrays of necklaces bearing names, girls’ names – to appeal to the most likely purchaser of such jewelry. Mackenzie, Susie, Lauren and what not. But an East Indian girl would be hard pressed to find her name nestled among the Western options. I do not believe I let it bother me. But I do believe I foolishly searched, just in case somebody’s unfamiliar name made it in the mix and changed the focus from Western to, well, other.

I revel in personalizing necklaces whenever an alluring ad flirts in my feed. And I have begun purchasing eponymous necklaces for my daughter, Divyana, as well. I do not want my beautiful girl to ever believe that she needs a turn style to affirm her name and its relevance. I do not want her to fruitlessly search convenience stores, for I will have furnished her with such namesakes well in advance. May she never feel an iota of shame or longing as I might have.

A name is sacred.  Say it with pride. Spell it with dignity.  Make no apologies and accept none either. Render your name with honor and invite the recipient to learn your name, its proper pronunciation and its relevance.  Like jewelry worn delicately across one’s chest, allow your name to dangle with beauty and with brilliance.

This seems like such a trivial topic. Why even discuss it? In a word: representation. When I look at models of beauty, leadership or voice, I look to see if they resemble me. When I dine out, I am acutely aware of whether I am one of, or the only one. And when I offer forth my name to the kind young man at Starbucks, I wait for him to say: “I’m sorry” when prompting me to say my name once more. I have taken to subbing my son, Sid, for all my orders to avoid the uninvited apology.

I ask you to reconsider when you ask someone to restate their name, rather than say, “I’m sorry.” “Could you spell that for me.” Let us ponder some alternative prompts that might feel cordial and sufferable. One could ask: “Would you please say your name for me once more, so I have it right.” “I love your name. Please spell it for me so I type it correctly.” And show them the cup or the order name. Offer me some alternatives to this quandary so I may also get it right, and learn, rather than impose, your truth.

A name is often the first gift that is bestowed upon a child. Ask Isabel Wilkerson, the acclaimed author of Caste. She spoke of African Americans sometimes naming their daughters Princess or Queen, so she might have a chance at a respectful moniker when summoned by her first name. The deliberate choice of a name as rarefied as that befitting royalty meant one’s daughter might be accorded with a shred of dignity since she would never be addressed as Miss or Mrs.

I love my name. And I took great heart in selecting the names of my three children. They all bear personal and emotional significances to me. While they may certainly truncate their names or pronounce them in a Western manner, I know what I meant to do. As their Eastern Indian first-generation parent who has code switched between Eastern and Western mores, I have likely struggled in a manner that my children will not have as a generation removed and more American than hyphenated as I have been.

A name is sacred.  Say it with pride. Spell it with dignity.  Make no apologies and accept none either. Render your name with honor and invite the recipient to learn your name, its proper pronunciation and its relevance.  Like jewelry worn delicately across one’s chest, allow your name to dangle with beauty and with brilliance.

6 replies
  1. Rev. Dr. Kathy Bird DeYoung
    Rev. Dr. Kathy Bird DeYoung says:

    Thank you for this! As a child (white-in the white suburbs of Detroit) I was bullied with my last name (now maiden name) Bird. As a child I felt ashamed of my last name. I grew to love it and when I could have dropped it when I married-I chose to keep it.

    Than you!

    Reply
    • Abha
      Abha says:

      Dear Rev. I thank you so much for your response. Ridicule is a ubiquitous and pervasive form of ignorance. I am so very happy that with time, reflection and maturity (that the frontal cortex also allows us) you have come to embrace your history and your roots. 🙏🏾

      Reply
  2. Lacresha Scott
    Lacresha Scott says:

    I too looked for my name in gift shops etc. I even made it easier for the world and made it ok to address me as “Shawn” which is a shortened version of my middle name. When using my real name know I mean business. But why is that? At this big ‘ol ripe age of 44 I’ve finally decided if you want to get to know me…Hello, my name is LaCresha.

    Reply
    • Abha
      Abha says:

      Dear Rev. I thank you so much for your response. Ridicule is a ubiquitous and pervasive form of ignorance. I am so very happy that with time, reflection and maturity (that the frontal cortex also allows us) you have come to embrace your history and your roots. 🙏🏾

      Reply
  3. Molly
    Molly says:

    It was so nice meeting you, and Kona, while you picked up your coffee Saturday! I didn’t forget about finding your blog and this article. I will remember these words and remind my Sonora of how her name is important one day as she searches the turnstile for her name 🙂

    Reply

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