My black girlfriend, who I both like and love, has one of those crazy made-up “hood” names (her descriptive phrase, not mine) that defies any initial attempt to pronounce it correctly , has a hyphen in the middle of it, and of course, an accent on the end for no apparent reason. Yes, her single mother pulled out all the stops when she named her very special baby girl.
The problem? Every time I say it or see it, I grind my teeth a little. It’s just so messed up and stupid-looking and stupid-sounding. and she is so smart and beautiful. I thought I would get used to it, but it’s been 18 months now, and I just CANNOT get used to it.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m shallow. I’m a bad person. I am completely superficial, I should be focused on more important things, etc. I have the same back and forth in my head. But I am thinking about asking her to get married, and I can’t take that name for the rest of my life. I just can’t.
Here’s the question: Just how angry do you think she would be if I asked her to use her middle name from now on? I love her middle name (it was her great-grandmother’s), and it’s one of those wonderful old names that women don’t have anymore. Think Clara, Jane, Alice, Daisy and names like that.
Should I even chance it? Or, should I just keep trying to get used to her first name? I love her. But, my god, I don’t love that name. It is unbelievably ridiculous.
Okay, here are more details so you give me a more informed answer – she has no idea I feel this way about her name, I’ve never said anything, ever. So this will come as a surprise to her. And her feelings will probably be hurt that I’ve kept this to my self since we’ve known each other. As far I know, she has no problem at all with her name, if she thinks about it all, she thinks it’s just of weird and amusing. She doesn’t like her middle name very much, she thinks it’s “old-timey”. Last, and most important, as a side issue, she has told me many times that she frequently feels intellectually inferior to me because she has a GED and has been working her way through college for 9 years now (I’m paying her tuition as of last semester), and I have a masters and I read a lot. I think that kind of does it. No matter what I do to point out to her how smart she is, she just won’t accept that fact. So I’m thinking this might hook into that somehow, you know how women are.
And, don’t even start on me about what do I care about what other people think of my (future) wife’s name, because I don’t care what other people think, this is about what I think. I’m the one that can’t take it. This is all about me, I guess. All about me being an unselfish, uncaring, insensitive jerk maybe, but still all about me, not about other’s opinions.So just how mad do you think she will be?
Whew this is a biggie, Aaron. But before I answer I need to give you a bit of background on American black history. Many of those “crazy made up names” originated during the Black Power Movement in the 1960’s. It was an attempt by some blacks to emancipate themselves from names and labels that were given to us by the original captors and slave masters that started the ugly history of slavery, segegation and dehumanization of blacks. Some of the names people began to use originated from African or Arabic names (think Jamal or Khadija) that actually MEANT something. But then you had a whole ‘nother camp of black folks who decided they wanted to name their kids any old thing, like after their favorite alcoholic beverage (Alizé). I have a cousin named “Celica”, as in Nissan, her mother’s favorite car at the time. And let’s not forget the double combo whammies Boom Qui Qui or Lamont La’ndrea Prince Leroy. These made up names are more commonly seen these days amongst lower-class black people–not putting anyone down, it’s just a fact. The problem is that parents who name thier children these outrageous names often doom them to forever being stereotyped both personally and professionally. However, the whole anti-European naming of black children did start from a positive place. You should understand that.
Short answer, you can’t make her change her name, and you shouldn’t insist she should unless you no longer want a relationship. I think a good compromise is that you give her a nickname or a pet name. You don’t have to tell her you’re calling her “x” because her “Boom qui qui” ghetto name grinds your nerves. You’ll want to keep that to yourself.
UPDATE: “Aaron” asked his girlfriend to marry him this weekend, and she said “Yes.”