Hello, my name is…
We’ve all been through situations where we are forced to describe our lives with minutes’ worth of words. Whether it’s tailored and trimmed to showcase your suitability for your dream job, or embellished for the devilishly gorgeous girl that you met at the bar. Thankfully, I’m neither applying for my dream job or stammering my introduction to the perfect gal, so here’s my introduction, told the way that my dad would tell me his story over wine and steak at Becco (where I’m actually working right now, but that’s a story for later).
My name is Erfu Wang, and I doubt more than a handful of people has pronounced it right since I left Shanghai, China in sixth grade and moved to an apartment off the Hudson River in Edgewater, New Jersey. There’s really no one to blame except for the enormous difference between the Chinese and English languages.
Most people I’ve met have asked me the question, “what does your name mean?” And I always chuckle before answering, “It doesn’t really mean anything.” And it doesn’t, not really. Unlike some Chinese names like ‘Shiyu’ (Poetic Rain) – a very common given name for Chinese girls, my name was given simply because ‘it had the right number of strokes’ when written in its traditional form (王而夫). And the way that it was written has also been in debate since I was born, because my mother’s family wanted it written the way it is now, and my father’s family wanted it written as (王尔夫). They’re both pronounced ‘Erfu’, but the former means ‘And Husband/Man’, while the latter means ‘Your Husband/Man’. Obviously, my father’s family preferred the more literal meaning while my mother’s family preferred a more lucky number of pen strokes. My name was written the way my father wanted it to be, until my mother filed for divorce and gained my custody, and changed my life, including my name, forever.
But that’s enough about my name. Exactly sixty-six years after Hugh Hefner, twenty-nine years after Marc Jacobs and two years after Kirsten Stewart was born, I came into the world on April 9th, 1992, in one of the many hospitals (I was never quite filled in on exactly which hospital) in Shenyang, China. My mother claimed that she heard ‘bells chiming and parades cheering’ the morning of my birth, but I’m sure that it was way more likely that she had simply heard one of the many street vendors’ morning routines of screaming, “Dou fu, xin xian dou fu, wu mao qian dou fu!” (Tofu, fresh tofu for fifty cents!), while slowly riding around the city and clapping the top of a pan (or a piece of broken brick if pots weren’t handy that morning) to the metal hand bar of their tricycles, modified to carry hundreds of pounds of food in a huge cabin area behind the rider.
Oh, something else that I forgot to add about my name. I’ve had a couple of other names throughout my life (thanks to my constant moving). My first English name was ‘Jacky’, because it was the first name that popped into my head after I was asked the question, “What’s your English name?” by the teacher of the after-school English class that my mom enrolled me into, in preparation of the lingual transition from China to America (and I should add that neither the after-school English classes, nor the balding American teacher that my mother hired to teach me English one-on-one, or the bilingual school that she enrolled me into in Shanghai, or even the blocks of text that she forced me to memorize daily before I could sleep, helped me in any way.
In the end, I learned more English in 3 months in the States than I did with 7 years of force-fed English teaching in China). And regretfully, I have to admit that Jackie Chan was nowhere near my mind when I spurted out ‘Jacky’ to my teacher. Either way, she spelled ‘Jacky’ with a ‘y’ instead of ‘ie’, and that’s how I’ve been spelling it ever since. I stopped using Jacky as my name in the second year of High School at the Bronx High School of Science, mainly because there were also quite a few more girls who were named ‘Jacqueline’ or a derivation of Jacqueline, who all shortened their name to Jackie, so switching my name prevented confusion (mostly on my part, because nobody really knew me for the first two years of High School) whenever someone shouted ‘hey Jackie’ in the hallways. So I was back to being Erfu and was subsequently granted the ability to say ‘f u’ to a teacher whenever I was asked to spell my name.
More recently (as of last month, actually), I adopted the name ‘Miguel’ when I started working at Becco (which is again, a story for another time), and found out that most of the fellow workers there, who are mostly from Latin American countries, couldn’t really remember my name, and those that remembered it couldn’t pronounce it if their life depended on it. So I adopted the name ‘Miguel’, which is a name that I’ve liked for a while, and it’s a lot easier to remember than Erfu.
These are but a handful of facts and stories out of hundreds of thousands that forms my life, and to tell these stories before I forget them, as well as attempting to get other people to think back, remember, reminisce and put their life into tangible words, is the main thing I’m hoping to achieve by this blog. We have to remember the little things, the little facts that maybe only a handful of people knows about us, if not less, and give them some permanence in the forms of written words or spoken sounds, before we forget the stories of who we are.
The best conversations I’ve had with my dad (my step-father, not my biological father, and again, that’s a story for another time) were about his life, about how he came to be the man he is today after two divorces, sixty-some winters, a life as a biker that eventually turned into a life as a CEO.
So I urge all my readers to think back, dig through all your old pictures, and reminisce about your old selves before you eventually lose track of how you became the way you are. I would love to read about yourselves (and I’m sure other people will), so if you would like to share your stories, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with a related subject line, and I’ll feature the best stories in my next blog post! Of course, your anonymity (if desired) will be honored. And if you don’t wish to be featured at all, that’s entirely your choice.
Tell your story, because nobody else will.