Lately, I have had the joy and most nerve-wracking liberty of meeting new people.
I’ve been introducing myself a lot, shaking hands, making eye contact while saying, “Hi, my name is Aileen” through a crooked smile.
To me, my name tastes ugly, and it is awkward to say as it tumbles clumsily down my tongue. It doesn’t seem natural to me– the vowels are all wrong, there are no harsh consonants to cling on to so it spills out in a soup of letters. I often articulate my name slower, as I am afraid to mispronounce it. The word itself is alien in such a familiar sentence.
Yet when people repeat my name to cement it in their memories–“Aileen?”– it sounds beautiful. I don’t quite understand it, but I am overjoyed whenever someone says my name, calling me by something that identifies me– makes me distinct. It sounds velvet and at times I envy how natural it sounds spoken in their language, and not mine.
It makes me wonder if it is the same for my appearance, my gestures, and everything else I over-criticize about myself: if I looked through the eyes of someone else, if I said my name with another tongue, would I love how it sounds?
Would I learn to believe how beautifully human I am?