Hello there! My name is Melinda, nice to meet you.
Well that was certainly a different greeting than how most people would start off their blog post. But try this one.
How are you doing? My name is Phuong, nice to meet you.
You probably had to stop and wonder how that name is pronounced and by the time you have a clue on how to say this one syllable name, you’re not even paying attention to me. First and foremost, both of the names mentioned are my names, I was born as Phuong but from fifth grade onward, many people know me as Melinda. It is very likely that you are confused how this would correlate in any shape or form to my title-which foreshadows that I will talk about language (words) and actions. What we say and HOW we translate it across are all based on our responses to the judgments that we receive, and of course, the names given to us from our parents hold a very dear and personal value to us-it is the FIRST thing that people will scoff at and judge. A short story called “The F Word” by Firoozeh Dumas is one that I can relate to the most. She talked about the different ways people would react to her when she used her unique Iranian name, “Firoozeh”, which means Turqoise in Farsi, versus her American name, Julie.
As Phuong, many peers didn’t seem to pay attention to me as much, I was simply another “FOB”-meaning fresh off the boat- and wasn’t cool enough to hang out with them. The more embarrassed I became about my own identity, the more reserved and resentful I became. I started to dress with the trend and talked with slangs…all these efforts to be more “Americanized”. In reality, my actions really couldn’t hide my culture and how I am, the real me. But that’s not to say I don’t like being Melinda because I really do. The name is elegant and on the plus side, no one really knows a Melinda so I always feel special that I’m not just another Asian “Michelle” or “Jennifer”.
And that was my answer to my first question: What purpose does expressing yourself with words serve?
The first form of self-expression is through your name because not only is it unique to you and only you (ok, maybe with the rest of the 100,000 other people), but a stranger can have a sense of your culture and be able to know you that way. You live your WHOLE life under that one name and it is your job to feel comfortable and grow into that name. Once you are sure of who you are, all your actions and words will follow through beautifully. But above that, we express because we want companionship in others, we want to share a part of ourselves, to connect, to feel, to love.
In Catcher in the Rye, language is Holden Caulfield’s weapon. It is all he really knows. But once you master something, you are rather weak in another area, and Holden’s weakness is his inability to express himself through actions. Why does he struggles so much? All his problems started because he is already an insecure individual who has a hard time coping with a brother’s death and the idea of growing up. When you embrace reality, the world is not that complicated. Your life up until this point has been cultivated through your decisions, which was based off of your emotions, and under all that emotions is insecurity. Throughout the book, Holden brings up Jane, a girl he has been crushing on forever, to a lot of his acquaintances but he never really goes out of his way (and be a man for that matter) and show Jane that he cares through real actions even though Holden is clearly frustrated, both mentally and sexually. To Stradlater, Holden holds back a lot about his feelings because he doesn’t want to seem desperate. Why is it so hard for people to say what they mean? Simple. Steven Pinker, author of “Words Don’t Mean What They Mean”, explained that when you converse with someone, number one, you are trying to convey a message and ALSO “continue to negotioate that relationship”. Holden simply wanted to seem like the “bad boy” who wouldn’t cry over a girl to Stradlater.
Through my experiences and from reading this book, I learned that you should just live life. Tell the world what you want to say, regardless if others disagree, and do what scares you the most. Until then, you are not truly living.