I hate Meche.
What’s a Meche, you ask? Well, if you don’t know how to pronounce it, it rhymes with “peachy”, and the correct question is, “Who is Meche?” She’s me. Rather, she was me.
From before I can remember until the spring of 2013, I was Meche. That was the name every single person who knew me, friend, family, teacher, classmate, coworker, boss, called me. You see, it’s hard to have a name that doesn’t fall within the usual category of Biblically-inspired or Anglo-derived American names. Substitute teachers pause and frown when they come across your name on the class roster. Nurses stumble awkwardly over their words when they call you back to an examination room. So, most people who, like me, have “ethnic” names, come up with some sort of nickname that the Biblically-inspired, Anglo-derived populace can easily pronounce and understand. So, I became Meche.
The irony is, Meche is a nickname derived from a gross mispronunciation of my given name. My dad, who gave both my brother and I three Ghanaian names each, an acquiescence my American mother regrets, is from Ghana. In Ghana, there are three main tribes, each with their own dialect, and the umbrella language for this dialect is Akan. In Akan heritage, “Nyame”, pronounced “nYah-may”, is the Sky-God, the head of the pantheon. At least, that’s the understanding I get from the Wikipedia pages that I’ve read. Remember, my name is a constant reminder to me that my dad was too busy working nights and suffering from fervently religious delusions during my childhood to ever teach me even just one tiny fact about my Ghanaian heritage. So, I hungrily glean what I can from the internet. Anyway, my name means God’s gift, and should be pronounced “nYah-may-chay”. I’m a gift from the Sky God! Well, my dad would never worship a pagan deity, and, of course, meant my name to indicate the Judeo-Christian conception of God, but I rather like thinking of myself as a gift from the Akan sky deity. I guess my dad disregarded me and his heritage.
So, as you can clearly see, there are no “Mee” or “Chee” sounds anywhere near my name, but somehow this became the way people chose to address me. Clearly, I had no say in the matter. My mom once told me that my dad hated to hear me called “Meche” and refused to call me the nickname himself, because it was such a botched version of the name he had given me. For my part, I’m in his camp, but I didn’t realize I agreed with him until it was too late. As a child, I embraced, “Meche”. It sounds like something cute and cuddly, doesn’t it? In my defense, though, I didn’t know that I had the choice not to embrace it. People were already calling me Meche before I could walk and talk. I don’t even know who came up with the name. If I did I might punch them in the face to remind them that I am not made up of only cute cuddles.
“Meche” loved peace signs and psychedelic colors as a child. She would have been a hippy if she could’ve. She also loved flared pants, and put smiley faces all over everything before emoticons became a thing.
“Meche” saw her mother’s side of the family once or twice a year. They always praised her quiet demeanor, good behavior, bookishness and studiousness. They never bothered to really get to know her.
“Meche” held herself at tension when other people were around. She wanted people to like her. She wanted to please.
“Meche” had a really awkward phase with her hair in high school. She was one of those black girls who walks around with relaxed hair so pitifully dry, lopsided and fried to a crisp that you just want to drag her to the nearest barber shop and shave it all off. She even let her mom convince her to wear a wig for a little bit, which ended in a disastrous fungal scalp infection when she sweat too much in the wig. When she finally did build up the nerve to cut off the chemically-straightened mess and let her natural hair grow out, one of her coworkers told her that she looked like “Steve Urkel”, and one of her closest friends “didn’t really like how it looked”.
“Meche” yearned to express herself with “Evanescence” t-shirts, Avril Lavigne-inspired necktie outfits and an entire goth wardrobe from Hot Topic, but none of that could be afforded. In fact, a trip to Wal-Mart to buy jeans on clearance was a financial stretch for Meche’s single mom, so Meche satisfied herself with one Avril Lavigne-inspired plaid wrist cuff, dug out of the clearance bin at Claire’s.
In college, “Meche” sat in her dorm room on Saturday nights, watching re-runs of teen dramedies on Hulu, eating cafeteria pizza and realizing that not one single person would call her or find her to see what she was up to, because she had driven everyone away with her social ineptitude.
“Meche” realized that she hated, “Meche”. She began plotting to become someone else. She toyed around with a few different nicknames, “Nya, Nikki, Gigi?”, until she realized that a rough English translation of her middle name would be best. Kuukuwa, meaning “a girl born on Wednesday”, became just “Wednesday”. “Wednesday” felt perfect and comfortable, as if it had always been waiting for her, as if it had always been waiting for me.
Wednesday could be full of woe. She could make dark jokes, that weren’t really jokes, about how much she wanted to die. She could let the people around her experience the fall-out of her depression-fueled self-absorption. She could let cynicism cloud her view of the world until everything seemed bleak and joyless. She could finally stab that “Meche” loser in the heart and be rid of her forever!
Except she couldn’t. Meche will never be completely gone, because for 23 years, Meche lived and loved people, and they loved her in return. Meche spent afternoons in college nannying a fourth-grade girl and sometimes her preschooler sister, too. Meche loved nannying her so much that she became close friends with her family, and they still have dinner and watch movies together sometimes, and they still call her Meche, and that’s okay, because Wednesday loves that family.
Meche went to church. Yeah, she was way more of a goody two-shoes then Wednesday. When things got really tough for Meche, she would meet with the church pastor and talk and pray with him, and a single-mom from the church who had a big heart and had also been through similar struggles reached out to Meche and became her mentor. Later, when Wednesday got into financial trouble and couldn’t mange to support herself anymore, that generous single mom opened her home and a spare bedroom to Wednesday, and that beloved mentor still calls her Meche.
Meche met a girl in fourth grade who seemed a little weird. She was quirky, sarcastic, charismatic and cool. She and Meche became friends and stayed friends through elementary school, middle school, high school, college and the years beyond. This girl and Meche weren’t just friends anymore, they were sisters. When Wednesday sank so deep down into her depression that she truly believed continuing to be alive was impossible, her sister rushed across statelines to be by her side, and this sister still called her Meche.
When I decided to stop being Meche and start being Wednesday, I thought that I was transforming myself. I thought that I could brush off my struggles in life, like lint off a cashmere sweater. I thought I could molt off my years of loneliness and isolation. I thought I could change what people called me and suddenly I wouldn’t feel like an awkward loser anymore. I am so glad that I was wrong, because I don’t want to brush off the special people in my life who love Meche.
I’m glad that I decided to become Wednesday, because I like feeling empowered enough to choose my own name, but I can never get rid of the fact that I was Meche. I have to embrace the part of me that ate lunch alone in the library because making friends was too hard and scary, that wore too baggy shirts with too tight pants, that laughed too loudly at her own jokes. That part of me will never be gone, and I have to be glad about that, because there are people who saw those parts of Meche and loved her despite, or because of, them. Meche loved those people too, and Wednesday loves those people, and those people love Wednesday, and that’s just peachy.