“Hi, good afternoon (sir or ma’am),” I say as the salesperson answers the telephone. “My name is Chardonnay Needler; I’m a representative and the business manager of a local student-run newspaper called the Octagon . . .”
This is how I start phone calls to Sacramento businesses in my quest to get more ads.
If I’m lucky enough to nab any interest, I’ll occasionally get, “What?! Is that really your name?” But usually it’s no more than a “Can you repeat that?” accompanied by faint chuckling.
And, yes, it is very original for them (and possibly you) to point out that it is just like the wine.
Even the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma (whom I met backstage at a concert) couldn’t avoid the easy gag of replacing my name with another wine: “Oh wow, really? Well hey, Pinot!”
Ever since I was a kid, my name has brought me unneeded attention.
Yes, fellow second grader, I knew that my name was also a kind of white wine even back in lower school!
And, no, before you even go there, my parents don’t love white wines – they prefer reds and beer.
I’m named this because my mother wanted me to be individual; were I a boy, she was considering Wolfgang.
And when I was younger, I embraced my unique name. To this day, I don’t think there’s anyone else in the world named Chardonnay Needler.
But so what?
People make assumptions the minute they see your face and hear your name, and in a world that is rapidly finding new ways to do business without meeting in person, a name is more important than physical appearance.
Even stats show it!
I did some research to see if names really affect people’s lives and, lo and behold, having a common name means being more relatable and hireable in the corporate world.
And just as Sharon is associated with strippers in England, Chardonnay is associated with lower-class “chavs” in both the U.K. and U.S.
I now envy the everyday Emilys, Sarahs and Olivias of the world.
And my name isn’t just something outré like Stargazer, Apple or Blanket; mine’s associated with alcohol.
It’s not like I can just tell people to address me by my middle name (Summer Rose), either, without raising suspicions that I might be some stoned ex-hippy’s child.
People might pretend they don’t judge, but they do. A friend’s father once assumed I was black because of my name (and this family is slightly racist towards the African-American community).
Although my Chinese name (夏慧彤 xià huì tóng) isn’t common, it has a good meaning, and I love it. I don’t use it much, knowing that there is a part of my identity that is normal and not associated with alcohol (which I incidentally abhor) makes me feel a bit more like everyone else.
Being called “Char” is the closest I get to this, but “Char” is clearly a nickname, so someone will eventually ask what it stands for.
I don’t know whether or not I’ll change my name when I get older (I like Cynthia), but I hope that other kids like me can teach future parents that children’s names have consequences.
Individuality comes with a price.
—By Chardonnay Needler