Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Name Game

In a recent post I wrote about going back to GCC for homecoming. After registration everyone received a nametag to wear that identified them to old classmates (which were very helpful to in remembering names to go with faces that had changed or been forgotten). My name tag said "Tango (1) 328". "Oh yeah," I thought to myself, "I went by '1' in college, I had kind of forgotten about that". You are probably wondering how I could "forget" my maiden name. Well, you see, I have had a very complicated name history. Let me try to explain the name difficulties that have kind of plagued me my entire life, or at least my life starting at school age.

I was born "mango tango 1". Since I was born in a foreign country, and at the time my mom wanted to go with the buddhist flow and name me traditionally, I was given mango as my first name, and tango as my middle name. The problem started here. My parents decided to to call me tango instead of mango, which is fine, but they would have really spared me a lot of grief if they had reversed the two names. Because, you see, we now had the difficulty of my legal first name, and my middle name that I used for a first name. I remember distinctly my mom walking me through the doors of school and asking me if I preferred to me called mango or tango. I was completely confused and thought, "Why would anyone call me mango? My name is tango! " I of course knew what my first name was, but it was long, foreign looking, and no one used it. So I went by tango 1 for the next 4 years, until my mom remarried.

When she did that, my parents (that is, my mom and stepdad) thought that in the interest of family unity, my siblings and I would all go by the same last name, "2". That was perfectly fine with me, although they hadn't changed it legally, so I now had a new problem that I didn't realize I was agreeing to take on for the next 12 years. For you that are keeping track, my legal name was mango1, but the name I wrote on all my school papers was tango2. So life went merrily along until anything official popped up, and then I would have to write mango1 on those documents.

That was fine in elementary school, when I didn't have to deal with anything official very often, but when in the last couple of years of high school I was applying for colleges and going to interviews, getting part time jobs-- all things that I would have to fill out mango1 on the form, with no place for tango. So invariably, the person interviewing me would either butcher my name trying to say it, or ask how to pronounce it before addressing me. Then I would explain that I didn't actually use my first name, that I really went by tango. They would sigh with relief before quickly covering up with a compliment on how pretty my name is, and what did it mean, and how do I pronounce it again? Gah! I longed for simplicity in my name, but it was not to be.

Once in college, I faltered in introducing myself. I would start with "My name is tango tw--, I mean one." That of course would bring strange looks as people wondered how I could forget my name. I eventually got used to it, and called myself tango1, but my close friends had heard the story, and called me tango2. This didn't help anyone who was actually looking for me in the college directory though, because there I was still mango1. (I am sure that is why I was dateless that whole first year-- interested parties just couldn't find my number and call me) I even had a friend from high school who wanted to surprise me with a visit, and couldn't find my number, so gave up and left!

So you can imagine my relief when I got married. I couldn't change my name fast enough-- now I would no longer have two last names, but one legal one. In retrospect, I should have switched my first and middle names so that my new name read tangomango328. But I didn't think of that in all the excitement of name changing.

As a result I still run into problems at the doctor's office, with credit cards, or anything that I have to sign up using my first name. Or with new friends. They wonder why I sign my name M Tango 328, and I explain. And so it goes. I guess it is something I have gotten used to, and something I will continue to deal with for the rest of my life. So if you take nothing else away from this, parents, please, please, name your child what you want him/her to be called for the first name. Do not saddle them with a lifetime of explaining their name woes with every receptionist, check out clerk, and random blog readers.

That being said, I do not blame my mom. She could not have known the implications at the time of my naming. It is a pretty name, with a pretty meaning, and it is unique, something I have grown to appreciate. I can say with confidence that I am the only mangotango328 on earth. No one else has my name combination. On a practical note, another positive is that I know right away if the person calling me is a telemarketer. A dead giveaway is when they ask, "May I speak with M-m-mian-joo 328?"

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