I have strong feelings about my name. I like my full name. My first name has a wonderfully beautiful story behind it and my second name holds the legacy my grandfather made. Both mean something to me. Over the years it has become a massive pet peeve of mine if someone gets it wrong. So when I came across Yewande’s allegations against Lucy my heart broke for her and it made me look a little deeper into my own relationship with my name. In particular how my name could be used as a weapon against me.
Imagine this, you send a polite email to someone with a nice neat signature as a sign-off. Your actual email address contains your name yet you still get someone replies to you either misspelling it or getting it wrong completely. this is irrespective of the fact they can clearly see my name they decide to not try and pronounce it or spell it. I don’t know about you but if I am unsure about a name I double-check it before sending an email or if I am with them in person I will ask them how to pronounce their name. Not doing this is an active decision you are making.
When I was younger, I was bullied by a group of girls and well teenage girls can be mean. One of the things they did was talk about me while I was there but they switched out my name and pretended they were talking about a girl called Natasha. They effectively gave me a British version of my name. I love the name Natasha and have nothing against it or these particular girls. (We all grow up)
Take the name of this blog Naffy, a shorter version of Nafisah. Cute right? Did you know I prefer Naf? I hated the word Naffy. However, an old friend of mine started calling me Naffy. It irked me the first time he said it. Looking back I wish I had the ability to communicate with him that I didn’t want to be called that. Instead, I am pretty sure I just nodded, reassuring him it was ok to call me that and it stuck to the extent I incorporated it into my blog name and social handles.
This goes back to my reaction when someone calls my name. I have lost the number of times I have said someone ‘oh don’t worry I answer to anything’ simply to put them at ease. I want people to be comfortable around me and growing up this included them to call me anything they wanted to. Even within the last two years, I have said you can call me anything while silently hoping they would resolve to call me by my name. The name my parents gave me.
I can hear some of you wondering why I just didn’t speak up. On the surface, I am a people pleaser I don’t like making things awkward. I was afraid bringing it up would hurt someone’s feelings. Ultimately though as a person of colour and a woman I was subconsciously fed the narrative to be quiet and not be the focal point of any conversations. It was better to internalise these feelings rather than share them with anyone. It was only when I grew up and spoke to others from ethnic minority backgrounds did I realise and unjust it was.
This is just a reminder that names matter, how you feel about what you are being called matters from nicknames to your actual name.