Call me by my name


Thora Pearson

As miniscule as it may seem, there’s a feeling of belonging when a person carries something that distinguishes them as otherwise different.

I like hearing my name said aloud.

No, not because it sounds like my parents threw together a couple sounds in the waiting room of a hospital 17 years ago or because it’s “difficult to pronounce.” It’s also not quite due to the fact that I enjoy when adults ask me to repeat myself for the fourth time upon an introduction, or because I laugh when the sub in English is taking attendance and pauses — squinting long and hard in the middle of the ‘G’ last names.

“If I butcher this one, just correct me,” they say, while the heads of my classmates do a 180 toward my seat. “Is it…Mul-lee-cyah?”

Truthfully, I don’t care, and for that block period, yes, I will go by something that sounds like a character from WALL-E.

Let me clarify: it’s actually not my name that I like, but it’s hearing someone say it, knowing they have a reason to address me. However, this doesn’t stop at myself: it’s human nature for people to like when others say their name. It adds to a sense of individuality, if you will. As miniscule as it may seem, there’s a feeling of belonging when a person carries something that distinguishes them as otherwise different, like a birthmark or scar or place they grew up.

Whether it’s my physics teacher who hasn’t had me in class since freshman year saying hello in the halls or a hostess at Dewey’s calling my name off the waitlist to inform me that my party of four is ready to be seated, I must admit, I feel a strange sense of pride. 

Similar to making eye contact, saying someone’s name is a sign of respect. While I may not always tune in to other people using my friends’ names, because of the Cocktail Party Effect — the reason behind why our ears perk up when we hear our own name — I am allowed to recognize when people use mine. (Side note: We should especially try to remember the names of our friends’ parents. If your mom is anything like mine, asking you, “Honey, what’s so and so’s mother’s name again?” before going to the PTO trivia night, you can save her, making that exchange a little less uncomfortable for everyone).

A couple weeks ago, I spotted a familiar face in the homegoods aisle of Target. It was an old CYC lacrosse teammate’s mom. I knew exactly who she was, but hadn’t seen her in years. Do I say hi? Do I not? Would she even remember who I am? Questions ran through my head as I awkwardly pretended to browse for a pair of socks. Ten minutes later, I sensed a presence approaching me.

“Malcia, it’s good to see ‘ya.”

Just like that, my anxieties vanished. Not only did she use my name, she used it with confidence. Here I was, thinking my friend’s mom may be no different than my coaches, some of whom had me as a player for the entirety of middle school and occasionally still struggled to call me anything other than the peeling number on a washed-out jersey.

As a whole, I feel as though some fail to recognize the utter significance behind names. They’re one piece to the puzzle of shaping our identity. You may have that childhood nickname that you just can’t shake or maybe you like to use your First Watch’s waiter’s name at the end of your meal, thanking him after he tells you to have a good one, even when you suspect his own afternoon has been spent with hellish, hangry customers. It’s the way you make those tongue-in-cheek digs at your friends (that they’ll glady return, might I add) and everything in between.

Come to think of it, name-calling isn’t the worst thing in the world.