by ELMER GUARDADO
“Hey Elmer! Wanna go wabbit huntin’?”
“Elmer’s Glue? Ewwwwww.”
In retrospect, the things that frustrate and bring a kindergartener to tears seem ridiculous and harmless, but at the time the statements above felt like unescapable taunts that I’d never be able to live down.
Keep in mind, although most of these kindergartners lacked any real wit or creativity these phrases pushed little 6-year-old Elmer into becoming introverted (hard to believe, right?) and for the lack of better phrase, the playground loner.
Given my father’s middle name, I always felt ashamed and embarrassed of having the most uncommon name in the classroom, and my classmates never let me forget it. At many times during my formative years, legally changing my name seemed like the ultimate goal and the only plausible solution for escaping my own shame.
To be fair, the teasing slowly eased as I hit the third grade and my confidence and sense of self steadily improved, but the confusion and disbelief over my name upon my introduction remains to this day. According to my father, my name (and his middle name) is the “Joe” of Central America, the country where he was born, and knowing a couple of Elmers was common, so he never understood the reasoning behind shame. He once went as far as to apologize for insisting on using the name during my naming process (I would’ve been a Daniel if my mom would’ve stood her ground).
Always having an interest in marketing (in my early years this just meant making promotional posters for the epic fights between my G.I. Joes) I knew that my uncommon name would become the crux for fitting in with the crowd. My name was so different that I feared the worst when I arrived at school on my first day of fifth grade, but to my surprise no one really cared; I remained cautious and insecure for the next couple of years.
The things that make us self-conscious in our younger years usually seem silly upon reflection. When we outgrow old insecurities, we gain new ones, and the process seems never-ending, but it’s important to remember that epiphany moment when we learned that the things we once considered flaws are what makes us who we are.
Sure, every now and then a sub calls me Elmo or someone hears my name over the phone as Alma, but at the end of the day my name is just like any other name, with the difference being that it reminds me of my culture and where I came from.