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Recently something happened that got me thinking about my name again. A woman who works in the same building dropped by to pass me a note, and we had this exchange: 

L: I don't think we've officially met, my name is L.  

Me: Oh hi L, my name is Mei. 

L: Is that M-a-i? 

Me: Actually no, it's M-e-i.  

L then rolled her eyes at me. It was subtle, but it happened.  

I can't begin to speculate what is was that offended L, or why she even thought to ask the spelling of my name in the first place. It does seem silly to me to ask questions when you've already decided on the appropriate answer. This makes your question a trap, not an inquiry.  

What I DO know: 

  • I was born in a colony to a coloniser father who had no interest in naming me (if he did, there would be no way I would have a Chinese name). 
  • My mother told me that she purposefully chose a Chinese name that was easily anglicised. So even this part of my Chineseness was contrived to cater to the convenience of colonisers.  
  • I already shorten my name to one "manageable" syllable because (white) people will either a) butcher Mei-ling, b) ask me for a nickname, or c) override me and call me Mei even after I introduce myself as Mei-ling.  

I have no conclusion, only a collection of thoughts and facts that amount to what? That a part of myself was molded and chipped away at before I was even born to meet the approval of people who care nothing for me, who don't acknowledge the lengths me and my ancestors go to contort ourselves to fit their tiny box, and who then roll their eyes at the spelling of my name.