You know that first day in class every semester when the teacher runs through the attendance list of students’ names to make sure that everyone’s present? Well that first three minutes of class every year for as far back as I can remember, I sat in my chair nervously waiting for the teacher to reach the bottom of the list. They would stare at my name for at least one solid, very silent minute, debating in their head how exactly to approach saying it. The general response was, “Is it Kally or Kelly?” (Although once, a professor in college actually asked if my name was “Kylie,” and he never really figured it out.)
Every year I sat in my desk and explained that it’s actually pronounced “Kay-lee,” it’s just spelled weird, followed by “I’m sorry. My mom thinks she invented my name.” Normally, they would make some mark on their paper to remind themselves how to pronounce my name, and sometimes, I would have to correct them in future classes. Since I went to such a small high school, this wasn’t really that big of a deal after freshman year, especially since everyone knew my older brother.
Sophomore year, however, I was taking a math class with the football coach. The football coach whom my brother idolized and at least 95% of the female population spent their time gawking at (this, I’m certain of). There were only 6 of us in the class, 6 students who all knew each other very well, most of whom had been in school together for the last 10 years. We all sat in our desks on the first day and waited for him to read our names off of the list that was sitting on the podium.
He got to the bottom and said, “Kally Welsh?”
“Here!” I shouted. Instead of correcting him and telling him how my name was actually pronounced, I just said, “Here!” That’s it! Then, I just sat there smiling like a dork with my face turning a bright shade of radish red.
When we left class that day, my best friend made fun of me for not correcting him, and I decided to make a game plan. How was I going to tell the football coach that I was so ignorant as to not correct him in class when he pronounced my name wrong all because I was nervous to be in his class? But it’s OK. I had it figured out; I wasn’t going to correct him, ever.
I continued to let him call me “Kally” and never said a word. I just sat in my embarrassed seat with my 5 other classmates sitting around me silently making fun of me, every single day of class when he said my name. That is, until he somehow found out how my name is actually pronounced (I’m still a little upset with whoever outed me). A few months into the semester, he was sitting at his desk in the back of the classroom, and everyone was doing homework when he interrupted the silence with, “Kally? Is your name actually pronounced ‘Kay-lee’?”
That’s when I had to fess up. I had to explain that I was so nervous to be in math class with the football coach on the first day that I just blurted out “Here!” without even thinking. He laughed and joked about it, and it was pretty much one of the most embarrassing days of my high school career (or months if you consider the previous two months in which he referred to me as “Kally”).
I thought that was a one-time problem. I never in a million years thought that this would be an ongoing habit, but unfortunately, it is. Now, my current boss walks around saying that I live some place called “Vashon Island,” which is, in fact, not at all where I live. Actually, I’ve never even heard of it and have no idea where it is, but since I didn’t correct him on the first day, two months ago, how am I supposed to do it now? Coincidentally, everyone else in the office also thinks that I live on Vashon Island.
I’ve even pretended to be my sister at church before because when I go home, people think that I’m Reilly, and it’s just easier to play along. It’s easier to stand there and pretend to live in her 15-year-old world, than to explain that I’m actually the older sister that lives 1800 miles away.
I haven’t figured out why I’m so afraid of correcting people, but apparently it’s a habit that’s here to stay. Maybe I’m worried about embarrassing the other person, or maybe it’s easier to just pretend my life away, or maybe I’m just too shy when I first meet certain people. Either way, I sure hope that there are other people out there who let everyone call them the wrong name all because they’re too nervous to speak up and correct them.
Excuse me while I go introduce myself to more people who will probably never understand how to pronounce my name.