Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the concept of “name.” I think it came up most recently when we were trying to come up with a name for the blog, but it has been a consistent theme throughout my life.

Exhibit A:

  • Born Jeon Hyang-Ok
  • Changed to Whitney Hyang Lee Casey upon adoption
  • Reunited and renamed Jeon Hyun-Ah when Hyang-Ok was deemed too old-fashioned
  • Married and took Fritz family name

Geez! At this point, I will answer to just about anything.

There are lots of examples of the significance of a name everywhere you look. Have you ever been quickly corrected when you called someone by the wrong name or accidentally misspelled their name? Why are people so easily offended by that? Or when you feel immediately special when someone you met just once in passing remembers you months later and calls you by name.

What is behind the importance of a name? Why do we find so much meaning and significance in that combination of consonants and vowels that we answer to?

IMG_3151 (1)It seems to be innate. I can remember being engaged to be married to Lee and constantly pondering the idea of becoming a Fritz. It was overwhelming. By taking on that name, I was taking on his family’s heritage. It was a gift and an honor to be welcomed into his family so openly…that I, too, could answer to the Fritz name! In the same way, though I was not aware of it at the time, when I became a Casey at 6 months old, I received such a gift from that family. Lee constantly teases me about “not shaming the family name,” but it really is a lot of pressure, isn’t it?

We have mentioned before that the name Lee causes some trouble for us at times. We have taken to going strictly by Lee when we make reservations or book appointments because it is just so much easier. If two Asians give the name Fritz, the reply is, “What?” If we say Lee, it’s “OK, got it!,” with a look that says, “Of course, obviously your name is Lee.” It’s always frustrating to me but makes the daily interactions quicker and easier.

When we married two summers ago, we took a two-part honeymoon: a Caribbean cruise + a little place in the Shenandoah Valley. One day for lunch, we traveled to a restaurant in Virginia that had been visited by the Food Network and multiple food magazines and was renowned in the region. The line was always long so we just added our name to the list and waited for our turn to be called. (We had not yet learned the Lee trick yet, so we had given the hostess the name Fritz. Couple of rookies!)  When our name was called, we made our way to the hostess stand to be seated. Out of nowhere, a hillbilly jumped up and started causing a scene, yelling in the waiting room, “There is no way those two are Fritz! They’re cutting! They’re taking somebody else’s table!” Can you imagine?! It was mortifying 1) to be called out like that and 2) to watch the idiot make such a fool of himself. To everyone else’s credit, they just ignored him and after he was unable to get the masses rioting, he sat down and felt stupid.

He started yelling, “There is no way those two are Fritz!”
I was mortified.

That experience has stayed with me the past couple of years and I think of it often. I am not easily offended, but that left a wound that I will forever remember. I am painfully aware of the ignorance that exists in our world, but somehow I am always stunned + amazed when I experience it in such a bold, first-hand way. I don’t know if that memory stays so prominent in my mind because I had already tied so much emotion into the name of Fritz. But I somehow don’t think so.

Have other adoptees experienced this type of thing? How do you deal with these tough situations?
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