Hi, My Name Is…
Me: Thank you for calling customer service, this is Ordale A. May I have the subscriber ID number that you’re calling about today?
Person: What’s your name?
Me: Ordale, last initial A.
Me:Or, like truth OR dare, and then Dale like Chip and Dale.
Person: Or-dale. Well that’s a new one.
I would like to dedicate today’s post to everyone named John, Chris or Mike. Actually, this is dedicated to anyone with a common name that doesn’t require repeating during introductions. I’m currently reading a book where the main character has a brief internal dialogue where she wonders how different her life would be if she didn’t have a unique name. It got me to thinking: If you add up all of the times I was the new student, employee or in some workshop, how many hours of my life have been spent explaining my name?
People with common names don’t have the faintest idea of what the hell I’m talking about. Let’s say your name is Robert. You start school, work, rehab…whatever…and they ask you to introduce yourself. You stand up, “Hi, my name is Rob/Robert/Bob.” Everyone says, “Hi Rob” and things move along. No one asks you to repeat it. They don’t ask you if it means something. No one repeats it back with extra syllables, consonants or accents. Introducing yourself to someone takes all of three seconds and it’s so fast that you probably don’t even think about it.
Well lemme tell you something Bob. Us “strange namers” go through hell. At least I do. I prepare for introductions the way an opera singer prepares for a solo. I make sure my mouth isn’t parched, clear my throat and do those weird lip exercises to aid in enunciation. Then I brace myself for all of the followup comments, keeping in mind that people usually don’t mean any harm. I let the sardonic tones slide as people repeat my name and I feign a smile every single time someone tells me that they’ve never heard it before.
My name isn’t that complicated. Or-dale. I went to school with quite a few Africans andthose are some tongue twisters. My heart goes out to them, because if Ordale throws people off then I know that the Temitopes and Olufemis out there just bring meetings to a screeching halt. People ask me if it means something. They assume that I’m only half Black and mixed with something else. I’m like a roasted pecan color and I’ve had numerous people ask me if I was half-white. Go figure.
Sometimes I make light of it and joke that my name is the result of giving hallucinogenic painkillers to someone during labor and then empowering them to name something. The truth, however, is always stranger than fiction. My mother was considering naming me Dale or Gale. She couldn’t decide. In going over the names aloud she said, “Should I name him Dale or Gale? Gale or Dale? Gale OR Dale? OrDale.” My name is the combination of Dale and the conjunction, “or,” immediately preceding it during that thought process. That’s it.
I lived in the principal’s office in elementary school, so I came to hate the way my name sounded when said aloud. “Ordale Allen report to the office IMMEDIATELY!” I started using my middle initial in junior high to give it a different tone: Ordale J. Allen. It had a nice ring to it like Michael J. Fox, John F. Kennedy or Samuel L. Jackson. It sounded professional and went well with the fact that I used to wear suits to school once a week to hide the fact that I didn’t have a week’s worth of school clothes.
But that had unforeseen consequences. People started wondering what my middle name was. “If Ordale is your first name, what the hell is your middle name?” So then I’d tell them.
Well actually that’s his dad, but yeah, my middle name is pronounced Jor-El. My mother really liked the Superman movies and I think she had a crush on Marlon Brando or something, so she named me after his character. She just didn’t know how to spell it, so I ended up with Jorrel. You’d think being named after Superman’s dad would get you some cool points with kids, but it doesn’t. Instead they point out another obvious fact.
“Your name rhymes! (Insert laughter) Or-dale Jor-rel!”