This one is for the MOMocrats.
We here at MOMocrats have decided to make today an impromptu “Just Call Me Hussein” Day in response to people like Bill Cunningham who is obviously still seven-years-old.
Bill needs to learn how to use his words so in order to remind him that making fun of people’s names is not polite, we are using our powers as mothers to teach this naughty little boy a lesson. Today, for “Just Call Me Hussein” Day, we are sharing stories about how childhood bullies—because they are bullies—tried to make us feel bad about ourselves by mocking our names.
Bill Cunningham and others like him who try to imply that Barack Obama is a “terrorist” because of him, consider yourselves in a time out. No, more than that: You’re Grounded!
If you’d like to participate in MOMocrats’ “Just Call Me Hussein Day,” simply title your blog posts like I did above and either link back to this post in yours, or leave a comment with your link below. We will find you and link you!
Kids can be jerks sometimes. We remember that. To be honest, sometimes we were the jerks ourselves. And much as we hate to admit it – and we try to raise them to be “better than that” – sometimes our kids are too. Some kids outgrow it, and apparently some don’t.
The MOMocrats decided to respond to recent comments emphasizing Barack Obama’s Arabic middle name, implying an association with “the terrorists” (made at a campaign event for John McCain, who distanced himself quickly), by recollecting some of their own experiences being teased, laughed at, or unpleasantly singled out because of their unusual names – or some other personal factor. Some kids have a laser-sight for weakness.
If you don’t think a short, skinny (back then!), four-eyed, frizzy-haired bookworm with an oddball name like Florinda got picked on for numerous reasons, then you grew up on a different planet than I did. Any of those physical attributes (?) was certainly plenty of cannon fodder on its own, but the combination was, shall we say, not pleasant. My attempts at smart-aleck rejoinders tended to backfire on me, as well.
But the name. “Florinda Elizabeth Lantos” was a pretty big name for someone as small as I am, and the ways that “Florinda” can be mangled are quite creative. “Florenda,” “Felinda,” “Lorinda,” “Florlinda,” “Dorinda,” “Florina,” “Florida”…and I’m sure there are others I can’t remember. Most of them are perfectly nice names – except “Flo.” The lazy people would give up on trying to pronounce my name at all and just start calling me “Flo.” Don’t do it. No disrespect to any Flos or Florences, but the name will always signify big hair and “kiss my grits” to me, and that is just not my style or image in any way.
My last name was of a not-very-common ethnicity, and frequently was altered to “Lamppost” by my grade-school classmates; that was one reason that I was happy to change it when I married for the first time, especially since the new last name was pretty WASP-y. I wasn’t unhappy to change it when I married for the second time either, but now there’s a different ethnicity question. Tall Paul’s last name actually sounds like a better fit with my first name than any of the others I’ve had, but I’m concerned that people will encounter it and assume English isn’t my first language, which would be a problem, since no hablo Español.
An unusual name will make you stand out, like it or not, and as a kid you might wish your parents had been a little less creative. I’ve never thought my name particularly suited me – it’s a bit too exotic – but I’ve grown into it (so to speak), and I can’t seriously imagine being called anything else. My experiences have taught me the importance of respecting and acknowledging people’s names, and getting them right, and addressing people as they want to be addressed. And as I’ve grown into my name, I’ve outgrown people who would pick on it, or on me because of it. But this week’s news events make me think that not everyone does outgrow such things. It wasn’t funny then, and it’s really not funny now.
So call me “Florinda.” Florinda Elizabeth Lantos Pendley Vasquez. And just for today, call me “Hussein” if you want to. Just don’t call me “Flo.”