Naming The Importance Of Identity
Wednesday - March 30, 2005
What’s in a name? According to Shakespeare’s Juliet, that which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.
You’d think the same would apply to men. But it seems I’ve spoken too soon. Apparently a Sebastian, by any other name, is not the same Sebastian at all.
Our names are extremely important to us. It is our life. It’s how we identify ourselves and how the world identifies us.
So the other night when Sebastian and I were enjoying a nice romantic dinner and someone referred to him as “Mr. Young,” it was quite upsetting.
Here’s how the story goes: I had, in fact, made the dinner reservation. The manager of the restaurant already knew me through my job and wrote down my first and last name on the reservation log.
This being a classy establishment, the wait staff is required to address the patrons by Mr. or Ms. So-and-so.
So … when it came time for the waiter to pour the glass of wine, he let Sebastian taste first.
“It is to your liking, Mr. Young?” the waiter asked.
Neither Sebastian or I spoke for a moment, we just looked at our plates and then each other. I was trying to read Sebastian’s face to see if I should correct this nice gentleman.
“Ummm …” I hesitated, “I’m Miss Young, that’s not his last name.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the waiter said and scurried away.
Sebastian and I laughed it off and got back to the meal.
Not five minutes later, waiter No. 2 stopped by and asked, “Mr. Young, are you done with your plate?”
At this point, we figured Sebastian had been branded “Mr. Young” by the entire restaurant staff, who were apparently in cahoots to give my man a new identity. So we decided to just let him be Mr. Young for the rest of the evening.
I got into the spirit of things by calling him “Mr. Young” all the way home. We both laughed about how funny it sounded.
It was funny, that is, until more and more people started calling Sebastian “Mr. Young.” It was reaching epidemic status. Telemarketers on the phone called him Mr. Young, delivery guys dropping off packages at the house called him Mr. Young. At events for work, acquaintances of mine called him Mr. Young.
Finally, Sebastian had had enough. “This is getting irritating,” he told me.
“Why?” I wanted to know.
“You don’t want to be related to me? I think it’s kind of cool.”
“But it’s not my name,” Sebastian explained.
That’s when I finally got it. Most of us spend our whole lives attached to the names our parents gave us. Some names carry information about our roots and others are bestowed upon us because our parents thought we looked like a “Kathrin” or a “Thomas.”
We don’t choose the name, it’s just who we’ve always been and who we always will be. Aname is a way to distinguish one person from another without having to yell out, “Hey, tall guy with the brown hair and green eyes who’s a firefighter” every time we saw them walking down the street. Instead, all of that is already encompassed because of our connection with the name.
Without even thinking about it, we work from the time we’re young until we’re adults to create an association for our names that people will respect — it comes from the kind of person we are and the careers we build for ourselves.
For a long time, I fought to be out of the shadow of my parents, who were both wellrespected in their chosen professions. I wanted my name to carry its own worth beyond just being the daughter of someone who was accomplished.
So now, when someone says, “Oh, you’re Katie Young.” I feel proud to know that there’s an association and a recognition behind the name my parents gave me. I’m Katie Young, the journalist, the columnist, the freelance writer. I’m the girl who was in the Cherry Blossom Festival and a dancer who went to the Merrie Monarch. Those are things I’ve accomplished for myself. I’m also Pono the wiener dog’s mom, I’m the friend, the girlfriend, the daughter. All these things are behind my name.
Sebastian has worked equally as hard for his own name. There’s pride not only in his personal accomplishments but also in the legacy his father has created as a firefighter in the Honolulu Fire Department. So I could understand where he was coming from.
While Sebastian joked that by taking my last name at least it automatically made him brothers with one of his best friends Keola Young, the bottom line remains — a Sebastian by any other name, is not the same Sebastian at all.
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