Dear Young Man in the Orchestra,
I found it odd as TB walked out of orchestra practice that you were yelling at him. “Tyrese! Tyrese!” you hollered. I wondered who Tyrese was, although you clearly were referring to my son.
His name is not Tyrese.
TB laughed as he got into my car, and I asked him what all the yelling was about. Apparently you were unable to pronounce his name, so you decided to call him “Tyrese.”
I reiterate – his name is not Tyrese. Nor is it anything like Tyrese. His name doesn’t even begin with a “T.” Or even a “t” sound, if you’re thinking he might have a tricky name like “pterodactyl,” with its silent “p.”
His name is not Tyrese.
If I weren’t certain the reference would be wholly lost on you, I would insert a clip of Whitney Houston singing “My Name is not Susan,” but as that is not one of her more famous songs, I assume you wouldn’t be familiar with it. This is my nod of acknowledgement that you are a child, as is, to be perfectly honest, the evenly modulated tone I’m taking in this missive. In case you’re wondering if I actually realize you’re a child since I’ve dropped a few SAT words, why yes, yes I do. I don’t reign in my vocabulary when I speak to my own children, so I won’t do it for you.
I’ll return to my incessant refrain instead. His name is not Tyrese.
And who are you to determine that your inability to pronounce his name gives you the right to rename him?
I find that offensive. He didn’t. He didn’t really think it was funny, although he laughed to play along, but neither was he offended. I, however, am offended on TB’s behalf.
I am offended that it wasn’t worth it to you to try to learn how to pronounce TB’s name. He’s used to people stumbling over it every now and then. But trying and stumbling is better than not trying at all.
I am offended that you chose a “black-sounding” name to call him. I’m not bothered by names that seem stereotypically black; I don’t mind them one bit. I have a name that a comedian once quipped was ghetto, so I’m in no position to decry someone else’s name. I found your name choice offensive because out of all of the false names you could have chosen for him, names like Blake and Connor and Hunter, you chose one that immediately identified him as the ultimate other – racially, socioeconomically, and even linguistically.
I am offended that you thought it appropriate to follow my son out of a building, down the sidewalk, and past the vehicle of your waiting guardian, shouting, “Bye, Tyrese! See you Tyrese! My man, Tyrese! That’s what I’m about, Tyrese! Tyrese?!” Is that how you treat everyone you know? Do you follow everyone down the sidewalk trying to get them to accept a fake name? Let’s forget about the fake name, for a moment. Do you really follow people out of buildings walking right past your guardian’s parked car, yelling anything at them? Do you typically follow people? This is an unnerving way to treat people, and adding in your insistence that TB respond approvingly to this pseudonym of your own creation, heaps on an additional layer of offense.
I am offended that you seem to think it’s your right to exert a level of power over someone that allows you to rename them, stalk them, and yell at them with impunity. No one should exercise that type of power, but as you seem to feel it’s yours to wield, I am not only offended but also concerned.
I am concerned that as a child, your worldview already allows you these types of liberties and sees them as rights.
But I’m also hopeful, because you are a child. You are still learning and growing and testing your boundaries. That’s your job; that’s what children do. And I must remind myself that some people’s sons are allowed to test their boundaries in ways my son is not.
So just as you chose to give my son a new name, I choose to be hopeful in spite of the offense.