Tuesday, August 31, 2004

if you call me

Nikki has an amusing post about names and I thought I'd write about it too - because it made me think about how different roles and circumstances determine my name.

1. If you call me Dean, then you could be a friend or an acquaintance, a business partner or client, or one of my staff members. This is the name I prefer to use, although it always feels odd when my wife uses it. I guess it's because I'm used to her calling me something else.

2. If you call me Dean Alfar, then you could only be Dino Yu. I don't know how we ever got started on calling each other by our semi-full names, but there it is. Or you could be any number of organizations who think "Dean" is a title and are thus giving me honor by calling me this. When I'm invited to speak or judge, organizers are tickled by the fact that I look so young for a dean of a college.

3. If you call me Deanbo, you're most likely my mother, my aunts or uncles, members of my step-family, family members in Los Banos or the US, my doctor godfather, or someone trying to be cute. I'd urge caution if you attempt to use this name for me - I'm liable to think you're "feeling close". Unless you're my brother-in-law Richard, in which case, your variant of Dimbo is fine.

4. If you call me Manong ("older brother"), you're one of my beloved siblings (hi Jo!)or one of my younger cousins on my mother's side. This is also the term I use to call almost every older male person I meet who drives taxis, guards buildings, sells cigarettes and plies food.

5. If you call me Dad, Daddy or Daddy Dimbo, you can only be Sage. Though sometimes, I'm Sage and she's Daddy, or some other permutation involving me, her, her mother, her nannies, and all her friend's names. And, unless you want to look stupid, you have to remember which name she has assigned to you.

6. If you call me Cutie, Sweetie or some other embarrassing thing, then you're my wife, who, in addition, likes to use adjectives that are certainly not in keeping with my quiet, unassuming, wallflower nature.

7. If you call me Ponytail, then you last saw me many years ago and are in for a surprise. You used to watch me enter a house with Nikki (my then-girlfriend) and wink at me when we exited. "Tumira nanaman si Ponytail" (no, I will not translate)

8. If you call me Mr. Alfar, you're someone looking for a job, asking for an interview, soliticing money, are from the government or are that perky girl from the bank I dislike (no, I still do not want your credit cards, any of them, thank you).

9. If you call me Sir/Ser Dean or Sir/Ser Alfar, it's not because you think I'm a knight, but because it's a Filipino cultural need to attach some sort of honorific to show courtesy and respect - which means you're one of the barberfolk, a Comicquest girl, massagefolk (visually-impaired or sighted), one of the juniors of my clients, an employee of one of my partners, a current or ex-Magic player, or one of the nannies of Sage.

10. If you call me Hambog! (loosely translated as "arrogant shithead!"), you're my maternal grandmother in a really bad mood. It used to devastate my cousins Kim and BJ and I when our grandmother, reddened with emotion, would call us this most senses-shattering invective. It was used rarely, and when she called me this, tears would inevitably follow.

11. If you call me Dean Francis Alfar, then you're probably the Palanca Awards or National Book Awards people, or a magazine or online zine editor, and you're probably writing to inform me that I've won or been selected for publication (woot!) or am a loser with a capital ā€œLā€. This is my professional name, as it appears in all my writing and on my business card.

12. If you call me Salahuddin, then you're one of my Muslim cousins, and I will probably try to throw away the pork chop I'm eating (or quickly pile it on Nikki's plate) to avoid censure.

13. If you call me Tangkad (tall guy), then you're one of the merchants I visit infrequently, and you are using the age-old technique of assigning outstanding traits to people who are not exactly friends, to remember them. But you forgot to keep it yourself and addressed me as thus. I want to be present when the woman you call Taba (fatty) evicerates you.

14. If you call me Mr. Bean, I will kill you. One time, during my tenure as the Philippine Head Judge for Magic: The Gathering, I deplaned in Davao and scanned the crowd for the persons who were supposed to meet me. And there, hoisted above beaming faces of young card floppers was a huge banner that said "Welcome to Davao, Mr. Bean!". So, don't.

To close, an excerpt once overheard at university; a girl angrily arguing with her boyfriend on the payphone:

GIRL: You can call me a bitch, you can call me whatever you like, just don't call me!


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