My name is Phoenicia Hebebe Dobson-Mouawad. No, I’m not kidding. This is the name my parents chose for me 19 years ago and it is the reason I don’t go to Starbucks. Choosing a name for your baby can seem like a way to determine what type of parents you will become – many aim for trendy rather than traditional. However, faced with the resentment of your grownup offspring, who have endured a childhood of being embarrassed by their unusual name, you may wish you could turn back time.
My experience of living with an unusual name has been, to put it lightly, difficult. There has not been one occasion when making a new acquaintance has not resulted in a remark about it, or some degree of confusion.
Faced with an uncommon name, people think they have the right to voice an opinion. The worst is when a stranger feels it necessary to comfort me, having assumed (correctly) that my name is an affliction. “Oh, that’s different,” they say, or “How original.” I’ve learned that what people really mean by this is that they have no idea how to spell it.