Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Story of Benjamin

As far back as I can remember, people have called me Ben, Benny, and Mr. B.  It might seem odd since none of these are my name.  I was born Jose Benjamin, but my mother had that changed to Joseph Benjamin quickly after the divorce.  I was not involved.  They say going with my middle name was my idea, and I believe it.  I've always hated being called Joe.  But did I choose Ben over Benjamin?

I remember when I was young I considered changing my name to Miles.  Not that I loved the name, but I thought people might actually call me that.  I gave up and resigned myself to being called Ben for most of my life.

Then about 10 years ago, I was talking to a very blunt acquaintance.  Some other Benjamin from a book or history had come up, and he asked me, "Is Ben short for Benjamin?"  I told him it was.  He thought about that, and decided, "No one would ever call you that.  You're not cool enough."

I was mad.  Mad for days.  I was mad long enough that I needed to evaluate why I was still mad at him.  I knew he wasn't trying to offend me.  He was just socially awkward, like I had been.  I had to face the truth.  I was mad because I agreed with him.

I decided that day, I deserve to be called by my name.  I told my friends and family.  The next time I applied for a job I insisted my name was Benjamin, and corrected everyone every time they called me Ben.  It was like pulling teeth.

I can't tell you how many new people I've met that started:
"Hello, my name is Benjamin."
"Hi Ben, bla bla bla."

As for my friends and family, I've said something a couple of times each, but I haven't insisted, and they all call me Ben except for Walter and our friend Wojciech.

But I've decided to try some more.  I told my roommate a month ago that now that we will be living together again, I'm going to remind him to call me Benjamin every single time.  And one month in, he's called me Benjamin zero times.  I think I've corrected him at least 50 times, and he's self corrected 2 or 3.  And it has been... amazing.  I've felt great standing up for myself.

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