Roadblock. One evening, one or two years ago (cant really remember, I have a fried brain), somewhere between my workplace and home, around 4 AM. One policeman holding my Driving License, flashlight brightly shone on it, and he said to me, ‘If you can pronounce your full name, you can go”. My mouth opened. “I was joking Ma’am. Drive safely, here’s your card”.
Fast forward to one Sunday evening. Bedroom, few minutes after midnight. I was laughing and crying at the same time, reading this post on computer about someone called Doo-doo Bop-bop-bop got arrested (go google it yourself). I got to the point where my beloved hubby got up, mumbling “I have to get some sleep. I have to wake up in 4 hours”. Gotta tell you, belly laughing-wiping tears off your check is something you cant do every day… but being in local channel after your sleep-deprived hubby chokes on you isnt really in my plan either (Oh hunny, I am just joking. I know you wont do that).
You know what we have in common? Mr. Bop and me? We both have a mouthful of name to say.
Growing up, I never liked my name. It’s so overly common in Indonesia and the first impression would be a name for mbok jamu, a street vendor lady that carries a big basket of herbs drinks on her back, selling drinks in her traditional clothes. Noooot really what I had in mind to see myself in the future. I started having preference being called with my nickname, or my middle name. Anything but Sri.
Once in awhile I got a kick outta it. Think dentist office. Think a lady that look at my name, try to say it and hope she gets it right for the first time so I wont get offended (I wont, but she doesnt know, does she?)
Then there’s a pain-in-the-butt, shaking-head time. Think conversation over the phone. “What’s your name again? Tree? Ree?” “It’s Sri, Sir.” “Oh, sorry, Lee”. “It’s S-R-I, Sir”. Cricket in the background. All the mispronounce, mispelled moments. Like a lady that I know from my son’s school that still calls me “Shray”.
It crossed my mind once or twice to change it. Well, not to Doo-Doo Bop-bop-bop, but something universal. Like Betty. Everyone knows how to say, write and pronounce Betty. It sounds so… south, so local. My home for almost 10 years. Not that I particularly like the name, it’s just something I can get away with, done with all the hassles. Any simple names will do. Doesnt have to be Betty. Well you got my point.
Now, at the other side of the earth. I am still called Sri. Tried to fight back for awhile, then I gave up. It’s just going nowhere so I start to accept it. Then American tongue gives some twist, an accent to it. Now it doesnt sounds like a name of mbok jamu anymore. It sounds… ethnic. A name from faraway land (it is, doh!) Now it sounds like ‘Sh-ree’ . Little bit longer and has an ‘h’. Hey you know what? It doesnt sound bad after all.
How come something as simple as name can be as amusing and a hassle at the same time? How come one name that I disliked actually can bring an arch up in the corner of my mouth? Bringing a lot of works for me and others but also teach me how to be patient and empathy? Was I bullying my then-husband-to-be when I asked him to fully spell my full name before he could marry me? (Later down the road he confessed he had a piece of paper with him with my name written on it).
And how come that it took an ocean to cross and an American accent to listen to, to actually fully grasp that my name, a name that my parents gave a lot of thoughts, is a fine name?
I am writing this not to defend any stupid names out there. Think Orangejello or Clamydia. Or if you are Indonesian, long time ago I once heard a name Korek (which means litterally a match to light a fire) and Mesyes (sprinkles on top of your cupcake). I am writing for my own sanity, a self-peace making moment you can say, after years of disliking something that was all right all along. I was making a fuss out of nothing. Nothing wrong with name Sri. Something was wrong with me for not accepting it. And now, at the other side of the pond where I am almost certain that most American doesnt know any other friend name Sri, well, I’m happy I’m their first Sri. And all the tongue-twisting moments, well, the credit goes to my parents.