25 August 2015

The Naming of Things

It is a strange truth that, at age 31 (I know, I still cry about it sometimes), I'm still as self-conscious of my name as when I was four years old.

My name, Adib, means scholar in Arabic—which is interesting, since I'm actually half-Iranian. Iranians speak Farsi and use the Persian alphabet, but due to the Islamic conquest of Persia many centuries ago, the two languages and alphabets are closely intermingled. So, even though my sister has a Farsi name, mine is Arabic, and that's cool, I guess.

But living in America—the Midwest, no less—it's not always easy to have a name like Adib. When I introduce myself, the general response is "huh?" or "what?" or sometimes even "Steve?" if the person has a hard time discriminating voiced and unvoiced consonants.

My middle name is Kevin, which is fairly innocuous, though the last name negates that. Should I have gone by Kevin growing up? Maybe. I didn't actually know there was such a thing as Going By Your Middle Name until I was in fourth grade or so, at which point all my classmates already knew me and it was far too late.

So now, today. I'm fairly self-confident, at least as much as a bald guy who used to be a hundred pounds heavier can ever really be. I'm decent at being a grown-up adult. I have a pretty strong sense of humor, even if it's a little weird at times.

So why do I still feel weird when I have to give my name at a Starbucks?

Well, not really a Starbucks, because no one comes out of Starbucks with their name on their cup. But other coffee shops, or restaurants, or even just shaking someone's hand. Why do I feel so self-conscious?

I heard a joke a few days ago, in reference to San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Baumgarner, the bane of the KC Royals (GO ROYALS! GO SPORTSBALL!):

Which statement makes more sense:

"Madison won the World Series" or "Madison's mom is bringing orange slices today"?

Names affect how we perceive people. So maybe the problem is I'm not sure if my name fits how I want other people to perceive me.

I'm not saying I want a different name. I like my name. I think it fits me fine.

But I wonder if the me I see when I hear my own name is the same me that other people see when they meet me.