Please don't call me Emily

I could turn to Juliet to start. “What’s in a name?” she asks. But, I have a different question: What isn’t?

What isn’t in a name? Well, that’s easy. A personality. A past. Hopes and dreams and plans. So much. When all you know about a person is their name, you might as well know nothing about them.

But wait! There’s more.

I started thinking about this recently on a plane ride. I had struck up a conversation with my seatmate, a nice young man in his last year of med school (who had previously gotten his Master’s in English and just happened to have excellent taste in literature and be quite the fascinating character). Wow, was that a good conversation. We chatted on and off for an hour or so, discussing Aristotle and short stories and religion and reveling in our mutual love of Midnight in Paris. It was great. Between spurts of conversation, he read and I wrote and we had just the loveliest time. As we landed, he called his friends he was staying with and I got a taste of how kind and gracious he was, how much he appreciated their generosity, how he must be such a good houseguest. In that hour, I had come to know this perfect stranger decently well.

Yet he was still a total mystery to me. Why? I hadn’t learned his name. So, as I stood up to retrieve my suitcase from the overhead bin, I told him mine and asked him his. And until I knew his name, there was this crucial piece of his very person missing. Sure, there were many things left unsaid and I would have loved to continue our conversation, but by learning his name I came to know a piece of his identity that couldn’t be revealed any other way, no matter how many states or countries or oceans we crossed high in the sky.

So this brings me to my name. It’s Emma. I know, I know, it’s tempting to add on that extra syllable. It’s a good syllable, very cute. And as much as I love being associated with a wild, prolific poet from the 19th century (see: my last name), I’d rather you not call me Emily. Because it’s not who I am. Neither is “Emma” all of who I am, but I am, indeed, Emma.

Just a side note, if I may: I don’t know if this is just a female thing, but I so appreciate when someone inserts my name (mid-sentence especially) as they are talking with me. It trips this spring of delight in me that says, Hey! That’s me! You see me. And you know me.

God thought of this first. I can’t take full credit. I have called you by name, He says. You are mine. Martha, Martha, He says. You shall be called Peter, He says. He names and renames and claims us as His own. I am Emma, and I am His Emma. So, please, don’t call me Emily.

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