Flushed Grapefruit

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about how silly things can be so profound.Today, there’s another substitute in English class. He’s a tall, balding, middle-aged man, who is yet to be another one of my victims. Once the tardy bell rings, he begins calling roll.”Rachel Baker… Stephanie Carson… Uh, Di-Din–“Here we go again.You see, it’s my name — Dingyun. Dingyun Chan. My name plagues my whole existence. It labels me unmistakably as an Asian and singles me out wherever I go. My name alone creates a world of stuttering substitutes. It is an automatic, never-ending generator of ridicule and nicknames: Ding Dong, Dig-a-noo, and Dingyay, just to name a few. My name is universal — it can be pronounced in absolutely every way that you please.It all started in middle school when I found myself constantly dreading a teacher’s absence. My stomach would twist and churn when the substitute began calling roll. I would flare up with a hundred and ten degree fever. Large beads of sweat would gush from my forehead. The back of my head would burn from the silent stares of my classmates. What new pronunciation would I discover today?”D-Den-yuen…”My face flushed into a seasoned grapefruit.”…Here.”An explosion of snickers and giggles and murmurs reverberated around me. “Sounds like a doorbell!” my classmates whispered. Tears pocketed my eyelids. I felt like an outcast — a specimen pinned to the wall or scrutinized underneath a microscope. One of those bizarre bugs with the Latin name that no one could pronounce in science class. I secretly cursed my Chinese parents. What were they thinking? I’m born in America, on American soil; why name me otherwise?I spent nights tossing and turning, wishing my name was Jessica or Ashley — something American and simple. Soon, I became obsessed with a sort of all-around nomenclature and only one thought pervaded my existence: what’s in a name? I appealed to Mr. Webster:n. 1. a word or a combination of words by which a person, place, idea, etc., is known or designated. Still, I wasn’t getting the picture. If a name is just words stuck together — a label — then where’s the meaning in all this? Napoleon, the Holocaust, and Barney would otherwise be meaningless syllables, devoid of the thoughts and emotions that each person associates them with.I had known for years that my name means “levelheaded” (Ding) and “hardworking” (yun). Prodded by disgust for my name, I gave my parents every reason to wish they’d take it back. I threatened to run away and live under the whirly slide in our neighborhood park. I threw random tantrums and refused to finish my peas. But, after a while, all of this was so tiring that I gave up. I turned to other solutions. However, when I Googled, I found out — to my utter dismay — that a legal name change was well beyond my allowance.Barely eleven years old, I grudgingly withstood the weekly ridicule and turned a blind eye to my identity. However, as time passed, I found myself evolving, so to speak. And evolution is by no means quick. By learning about others with equally ethnic names, I slowly began to see that I was not alone in a fight against the wraths of “fresh-off-the-boat” parents. However, as I unearthed more and more about my cultural background and the conflicts my family faced during the Cultural Revolution, there was no longer any “fight” to conquer. It was no longer an issue between being either an egg roll (entirely Asian) or a banana (white on the inside, yellow on the outside). I am a fortune cookie — made in America but as Asian as one could get. I have come to see my name as a mark of staying true to one’s culture, my family’s endurance, and its pride in being the lucky few to make it to America. I am no longer afraid of substitutes. No longer afraid of ridicule. No long afraid of saying, “Here.” Or of those muffled laughs. Or of my name.My friends and family know who I am — not as two words but as a person — and that is all that truly matters. In these years of embarrassment, my name has given me more than just a few nicknames, a title, or a Social Security number. It gave me character — made me who I am. Through humiliation I gained modesty and the ability to withstand pressure. Through time I gained an appreciation for my name, both as an identity and as a culture.Now I understand Mr. Webster’s definition at last. In fact, a name is just a label and, in a way, a superficial accessory. But, this definition is also not enough. A name is unique, an idea, a collection of memories and thoughts, the link to a person, and holds meanings specific to each person who has one or knows another.Finally I ask, who am I? I’m Dingyun Chan. I’m the funny, wacky, silly, smart, sharp, thoroughly-Asian, loud, dramatic, intelligent, crazy, hardworking, and levelheaded girl that I am. Thus, sitting in English class, I raise my hand and proudly (and loudly) say, “Here!” With that, there’s only one of me — both beyond the name and with it — in the whole world.Thus, with this newfound self, I was ready to face the next slice of life, the trauma and exhilaration of high

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