What is in a name, after all? Shakespeare had the right idea by asking these questions in “Romeo and Juliet.” Names are tricky, complicated things. A name carries baggage with it, interpersonal connections and backgrounds and inspirations and histories and school peers and more. But a name also has personal meaning, as, when you think about it, no person has had authority to give themselves their birth name (or dead name.) Names are thus thrust upon us by someone else; we bear the titles that others have decided we are worthy of, without our choice in the matter. It’s interesting to look at people in the media through that lens.
As for myself and my personal demons, I struggle with saying people’s names in conversation or in general greetings. It’s a weird struggle to have, and yet it exists regardless of how weird it sounds. Sometimes we are given cruel gifts in life.
I noticed it for the first time a year ago, when I didn’t know how to refer to Alex’s mom. Do I call her Ms. Costa, or do I just say her first name? What’s the most appropriate, respectful, and polite way to refer to a person you’ve only met a few time, without causing awkwardness or rudeness? These questions are in my head as I think about social cues and rules, and remember how deeply anxious I am when it comes to navigating the complexities of social situations. Nothing ever comes easily, and without generating dozens of questions first. At least it provides for good writing material, and by writing about it I feel like I am slowly conquering my anxiety, piece by piece of it.
I thought of this issue in the car today, as I remembered that I will be traveling to Alex’s home state of Michigan soon and will have to confront this specific issue of naming once again. Hopefully all goes well, although I tend to just ignore saying people’s names entirely under stressful situations. It’s a choice I choose to make, although I regret it almost every time.