Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Problem with Introductions: Saying My Name

After all these years I still feel awkward when telling someone my name. In fact, it doesn't have to be an actual person. I feel just as uncomfortable telling a machine my name, like when the teleporter asks me to state my name and business before teleporting me. Weird, huh?

I don't know what it is. Maybe it's based in the ancient beliefs that a person's name has power. I bet that's it. I bet some primitive part of my brain hears the question, "What's your name," and responds with the urge to cast a hex on the person who's asking. The golem in me hisses and recoils, lashing out with clawed fingers, whispering magical spells of destruction, laughing manaically, prompting me to NOT tell them my name.

The normal part of my brain laughs, though I notice a choked feeling in my throat as I lean forward and whisper the syllables. That never goes over well, of course, because they can't hear me and then I have to say it again. So I've learned (at least I've done that) that it's better to say it confidently and loudly. For the entire room to hear. Usually this approach earns me suspicious glances. But at least I don't have to repeat my name several times over.

Oh, but I do. The cafe where I spend my lunches has a surprisingly high turnover. Over the past few years I'm sure I've shared my name with enough people to rival only my years in college. As we all know, the most common questions heard around a university are "What's your major?" and "What's your name?" The former never felt so awkward to answer. A major is merely a shirt you put on every day, while your name is as good as your underclothes. Sharing it, you might as well be handing over the last bit of your dignity.

"Oh, you want to know my name? Here, why don't I also tell you about the time in elementary school when my so-called friends de-pantsed me on the playground. While I'm at it, let me describe the horror of having my love poem about Mark Smith read to the entire fourth grade class*."  

I know, I know, telling someone my name isn't as bad as getting pantsed at school. It shouldn't be anyway. I'm simply using it as a metaphor to express the vulnerable feeling that comes over me any time I'm asked to share it.

I'm thinking about hiring someone to follow me around, an entourage if you will, who can chime in any time someone asks me to tell them my name. They will speak for me when necessary.    
"What's your name again?"
I nod over my shoulder, cueing my entourage.  
A chorus of voices, "Nicole. Her name is Nicole." They could even say it kind of sing-songy if they want, like the choruses of the ancient Greek tragedies.
I smile confidently** and wink. The person who's just been bludgeoned with a chorus singing my name blinks repeatedly, dumbfounded at the large entourage of robed actors behind me (notice how my entourage continues to swell and transform more and more into a Greek chorus. Soon they'll be wearing strange makeup and sharing secrets to help the audience understand the drama and inner workings of my soul.)   

It would be so fantastic, you know, to never ever have to introduce myself again. I know the obvious answers to my problem are to never meet anyone I'm not already familiar with or to begin wearing a name-tag. Another solution would be to become extremely ridiculously famous OR infamous, whatever comes first.  

But I'd rather have a Greek chorus following me around.  I might even discover some newfound confidence about how awesome my name is due to hearing it sung as I stand in the midst of a large mass of chanters.

The chorus would come in handy in so many settings, like when I'm trying to order food in a noisy restaurant. That way I also wouldn't make embarrassing mistakes like accidentally ordering the shrimp when I hate shrimp. This happened--I must have been thinking really hard about what I didn't want. As in, I hate shrimp. Why would anyone order shrimp. It's horrible. Never. Never EVER will I EVER order shrimp. "And for you?" the server asks. "Um, I'll have the shrimp."

If I had a chorus with me, I'd merely have to nod at them when the server arrives to take my order. They'd know all my desires, being privy to my thoughts, and most likely they wouldn't accidentally order the shrimp (thought they COULD since sometimes I think of fanciful things I don't really want, like an entire cheesecake).  

A chorus would also be really perfect in a conflict. I imagine they'd chip in when it began to look like I was losing, and then I'd win.  

The possibilities are limitless. And this is what comes from struggling to share my name with people: I end up with a Greek chorus trailing me. Beautiful.

*This never happened.  Mark Smith is a generic name I made up.  
**Confident because I didn't have to say my name, which always weakens me a little.....            


Buxom Scientist said...

Just tell them Puddin' Tain.

Aries327 said...

Is that a clever movie reference? I don't know this Puddin' Tain you speak of. :)