Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Unheard but not unspoken: The plight of an oppressed minority

at 6:30 PM
I don't often use this blog as a podium to make civil rights stands, but real life friends know me as something of a political activist. My motto is "there's no cause too small for action". That's why today I wanted to bring your attention to a form of oppression that has run unchecked in our society for decades because its victims are simply too ashamed to speak out. As one of those victims, someone personally affected by this cruelty on a daily basis, I've decided it's time to take a stand. It's time for us to come together as brothers and sisters and cry out as one:

"IT'S GREG, NOT CRAIG"


In these days of "unique" names and foreigners, the national news and blog articles are filled with pleas for sympathy for those whose names get mispronounced or misspelled often. Because of these higher profile, more glamorous afflictions like "bad name choice", we Gregs have long suffered in the shadows, tormented by those with bad hearing or poor vowel enunciation. As such a well-defined group, we don't draw much empathy - unless your name is Greg, you really have no idea what it feels like to be mistaken for a Craig. Let me take you through one of these soul-crushing experiences in hopes of finally bringing to light the torment we've so long been burying.

A HARROWING ENCOUNTER WITH IGNORANCE


The other night I was out at the bar with a couple friends. In fact we met up to celebrate Andrew M's girlfriend's 21st. It was a crowded Saturday night and I posted up to the bar to order a beer. Despite having been in this situation dozens of times before, I'm never psychologically prepared for the way a fun night can explode into prejudice-fueled self-loathing. Living with a burden like this for years, you still think of yourself as "normal". Finally grabbing the bartender's attention, I order myself a sour lambic and hand over my card to start a tab. "It's Greg!", I shout over the din.

"Was that Craig or Greg?" he calls back. Alright, no big deal. It's a loud room - Boston's "A Man I'll Never Be" is playing on the radio - he probably legitimately couldn't hear. Most people don't realize what an insensitive question that is, but that doesn't bother me - I'm more about education than reprisal. 

"Greg, actually!" I always enunciate the short 'e' the second time, almost saying it like "Greck".

"Got it." He takes my card and starts up the tab. Whew - crisis averted. Once it gets into a second round I can have a hard time keeping my blood pressure under control. We'll make it tonight. Or so I thought.

After a few more rounds, the gang decides it's time to get a move on. Andrew and I head back to the bar to cash out and I grab a different bartender to ask for my tab. That's when things get ugly. The bartender looks at his computer for a minute then back at me confusedly: "I don't have a Greg...". 

Not this. Please, not this again. I can't do it twice in one night. I glance over at Andrew who gives me an exasperated look and mouths "you want me to handle this?", subtly flexing his biceps. I shake my head. It's one thing to correct someone, but when it comes to, "Sigh... How about a Craig?" - that's just humiliating. Can you imagine what that feels like? Living your whole life KNOWING your name is Greg, knowing what a huge difference there is between "Greg" and "Craig", and having to sit there and let someone think you're a Craig? It's the worst feeling in the world. The lowest of the low. Being confronted with someone who doesn't know the difference, then having to identify as a Craig... you start to wonder who's really the crazy one. Under constant inquisition, how can you ever seal the lid on the doubt?

The bartender hands me the tab - there it is. Right above the name from my credit card, Gregory H G, the name the original barman typed in all caps: CRAIG. I write in a fifteen percent tip (I'm not going to punish the rest of the staff) and stumble off, the night in shambles. 

MOVING FORWARD


I'm not sharing this story to garner sympathy or pity. I've made it this far in life without support, mocked by those in whom I've confided. I'm sharing it here for the other Gregs out there to let them know they're not alone, and for everyone else to listen carefully for and enunciate the difference between "G" and "C", and between a short 'e' and a long 'a'. If you've having trouble, remember this little mnemonic: Egg rhymes with Greg, don't make me beg; vague rhymes with Craig, he's just like the plague. 

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