What’s In A Name

Zarrin-Taj.

I like my name but it has always been heavy and conspicuous.
Like lugging a suitcase through a party where everyone else is carrying discreet shoulder bags.

The other day the amazing Vanessa linked me this article by Durga Chew-Bose and it resonated. Part of me was pleased, the way I always am when I find something I can relate to, but I also felt messy, flushed, like I had been caught doing something shameful.

Mostly my name is something I forget to think about. It just is what it is – except for when something like this reminds me that because it is not the same as other people’s names that it isn’t. It has always been a thing. Similar to how having a cold or needing glasses are a thing. Bits of life that circumstance forces you to confront. 
People are kind and tell me that it my name is amazing! Unusual! Exotic!

But sometimes I think exotic, when from the point of view of someone who is not, is a romanticised concept.

Maybe it is unusual but what does that really look like? It is ridicule from a cruel relief teacher, it is raised eyebrows and painfully extended conversations and an instant presumption that I too must be interesting and different.

I’m not – but I am shy and I didn’t want to stand out with a name that no one knew how to swallow.

In my life I have become not just my name but every mispronunciation of it – because when you are quiet kid with a quiet voice then that is easier than having to speak up every single time you meet somebody new (and it’s not just once, it is maybe the first five or six or maybe twenty times that you see them).

So I changed it, I took my nickname as my own and that has become the identity that I understand myself inside of.

My preferred name (and this is official, according to all the ‘preferred name’ boxes on my bank forms) is Zar. I introduce myself as Zar, I answer as Zar. It is a name people can say and it is a name people remember. I will answer honestly when people ask what it’s short for, and I appreciate the remarks on how Zarrin is beautiful because it is, it’s a beautiful name, but also I have no time for the people who refuse to call me Zar because ‘they are sure they will be able to pronounce it.’

You never pronounce it right.

Literally nobody who has said ‘I can pronounce it right,’ has pronounced it right.

Also, more to the point who gave you the right to decide what you will call me? It’s my name.

It is my name that I began to speak as a question and then later an apology. My name that meant I learnt to anticipate where I fell in the class roll I could say ‘present,’ before they had to struggle to trip over the letters. I was the one who got a nod of gratitude for doing that. I am the one that is guilty of disassociating with something precious that was given to me at birth. It was me who made the choice to redefine what I was named so the people who take my order in a café or interview me for jobs can process me without a pause of surprise.

I don’t care that you like it or want to use it – if I can’t then you don’t get to either.
(unless you are the ones that named me or somebody who I love in which case, it’s alright).

When my family speaks it I try to hear the love in it the gentleness in how it should be pronounced, with the warmth of the a stretching over the double r’s and falling softly over the macron that sits invisible above the I. I think of the meaning behind the words. I think of the woman who shared my name who gave her life rather than compromising her beliefs.  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful – and still mine. Just, not yet. I haven’t grown into it.

I feel like this is a really weird post but I liked what I read and it is something that matters to me. I don’t dislike my name, I am no longer embarrassed by it – It is what it is and what it is isn’t the worst –but it is something circumstance makes me think about and so I thought I would chuck some words down to clarify my own thoughts for myself.

I suppose my biggest advice is to call people what they ask you to I think. Respect that sometimes a name carries more weight than you think and it is kind to lighten their load.

This month is flying and the patterns of this year are falling sweetly into place. I am so grateful and so tired right now, my calendar is exploding with things but there is still time for a cup of tea, for a few hours in the sun and to go dancing with my favourite people – which as it happens is what I am about to do right now.

I love you x

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One Comment Add yours

  1. I love this post. I have a nickname too which has become my adopted name since a very young age, and still people can’t pronounce it correctly 🙂 But I love my name, it is me – Anli.

    Liked by 1 person

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