Having a unique name is difficult. It is one of the first things that people learn about you, and is a defining feature of your identity. With a name like Manon in the United States, I grew up with a lot of difficulty, especially around middle and high school.
When my parents were first thinking of names, it never crossed their mind that there would be trouble with my name. Of course, they knew that Americans would have some difficulty pronouncing a French name; however, they did not predict the extent to which I was ridiculed. Although my parents (including my American father) could pronounce Manon, even close family, like my grandparents on my father’s side, struggled with the pronunciation.
I don’t recall a time when it was a problem when I first started school. As a young child, I accepted my name as a fact and so did my peers and my teachers. I was oblivious to the difference in origin, or the idea that my name might be difficult for some people or that they might not be able to pronounce it.
By the time I arrived in middle school, I began to be set apart from others because of my name. I realized that teachers would mispronounce it upon first read, people would ask for my name several times before actually getting it right, others would mumble my name in order to not have any awkwardness in asking for me to pronounce it again for them, and still yet, some completely ignored my aid and mispronounced it despite my attempts to correct them. I began hearing the many variations of mispronunciation and the deplorable bastardization of my name when pronounced as poorly as possible — man on black man. Of course, at an age where boys are immature, they found this hilarious and I was ridiculed for it every time someone “discovered” this way of pronouncing my name.
In high school, it became routine. Correct pronunciations, ignore mispronunciations, introduce myself — by spelling my name, explaining the origin, pronouncing it three times over, reminding people it doesn’t have a meaning it’s just French, pronouncing it again. I became very tired with the process. By the time my confirmation came around, I was seriously considering changing my name to what I chose as my confirmation name: Ava.
Reaching college and studying the field of journalism drastically changed my views. I went through multiple periods of time where I had to introduce myself to huge quantities of people (namely welcome week and recruitment for my sorority). I saw in this time that people remembered me just because of my name. In journalism, being unique in a field where it is very hard to stand out is an amazing thing. I saw that for once, accepting my unique name is good. It may be hard for people to pronounce now, but later down the line the people who are important will learn.
I hope that all of you out there with strange or foreign names will find the beauty in them and accept them as something that makes you unique!
p.s. My podcast released an episode not too long ago where I shared the story of my name! Listen to it here!