I hated my name growing up as a kid. I always knew that someone would inevitably say my name wrong. I have been called every name that you could think of but the name my daddy gave me. I have been called “Charisma” (Cute and charming but just not my name), “Charr-issa”, “Clarissa” (I absolutely loathe this one. Do you see an "L" in my name?) and “Crisco”. I am sure that someone was just being nasty with that one.
I remember an elementary school teacher telling me that my name was spelled wrong. That teacher decided my name was “Charr-issa”. I wasn't brave enough to tell her that the Ch in my name sounded like the Ch in Christopher, Character or Christmas. Although the teacher mispronouncing my name was annoying, the fact that she looked at the name and attempted to sound it out let me know that she did at least put forth some effort. Adding letters to my name, however, was still wrong.
My mother told me a story about how she got the name ‘Margaret’. She told me that the name that her mother and father had chosen for her was Marie. Marie was the intended name to be put on her birth certificate. My mother was born in Mississippi when Jim Crow was still alive and well. Turns out that when Grandpa Bates told the nurse that the baby's name was to be Marie, she made an assumption that he must have meant Margaret. The nurse did not consult with my grandparents, she just ran with an assumption! I cringe a little when I hear people call her Margaret. I am positive this bothers me more than it bothers my mother. She grew up at a time when there were far greater things to be concerned with. But my mother's name is Marie. Say her name!
It was not until I became and adult that I truly began to appreciate my name. I was a bit more eager to help others pronounce it correctly. Later on, I had a really weird experience. This experience showed me that my name was definitely a sensitive subject. It had such an impact that I still have the dialogue saved from the encounter.
I was living overseas and had been asked [by whom?] to write or a paper from my hometown in Michigan. This was a huge opportunity for me. We met years ago when she came to a play I was in and interviewed myself and other cast mates. As a positive role model in the community, she had already been on my radar. I decided that I wanted to invite her to attend my ladies get together dinner to benefit battered women. She was a very intelligent woman and I know that I could a lot from her. We hit it off, and, to my surprise, she asked me to write a column in her newspaper. She fast became a mentor whose advice and critic I came to value.
Once I began submitting articles, I noticed a consistent pattern of misspellings of my name. Although I was green in this new role, and had no desire to rock the boat in any way, I had to wrestle with the editors over and over again to correct this in spite of the friction I risked creating.
I still have the inbox message dialogue saved to remind me that if we never acknowledge how badly we are irritated by a thing, we will just brew until explosion and that’s not cute for whoever may be dealing with you at that time. I transformed what was at first a nonchalant attitude of regarding the misspelling of my name to a deeper conviction and understanding that a passive character opened to door to disrespect. And that is simply unacceptable! When I look back at the text, I see all of the break down in communications and I do own my part in that.
I had never really acknowledged how important feeling respected and others getting my name right impacted my interpretation of a situation or verbal exchange. That experience, coupled with my mother’s birth name mix up encouraged me to make every effort to ensure that my name is acknowledged correctly. I would afford others the same honor as well.
Say my Name Loves,