2002-03-28 - 4:10 p.m.

I have a weird first name and I am a vegetarian. In my own personal space these two things make me quite happy. I love my name and being a vegetarian is the only thing I have ever truly, fully believed in. But having these two things in the outside world causes me nothing less than sheer despair and irritation. I hear the same remarks day after day, I hear them so much that I can usually say what the person talking to me is going to say before they say it. It goes like this, “And what is your name?”

I roll my eyes and take a deep breath, “Whisper.”

“What is your name?” person asks in a whisper.


“What is your name?” person asks again in an even quieter whisper.

“My NAME is WHISPER,” I say with exasperation.

“Really? Were your parents hippies?” they’ll ask.

“No, my parents are state senators with an alcohol problem, just normal people,” I’ll tell them with a smile plastered on my face.

If truth be told, my parents were indeed hippies, but weren’t most people’s parents? Even people with common names? A more relevant question would be to ask if my parents are creative. And they are creative people and even though I do like my name and could never ask for a better name for myself I still end up telling people my name is Mary by the end of the day. It’s just easier. Except that it pisses my boss off. I’ve worked for him for eight years and he still gets confused when someone fills out a comment card about me and it says, Mary was a very good waitress. He’ll come in the back and say, “Who the fuck is Mary?”

The telephone offers no escape either. Telemarketers ask about my name when they call even if I tell them I am not here, may I take a message? “Is that her real name?” they’ll ask. And I’ll say, “No, it’s her fake name,” and hang up. When asked my name when I call in an order for takeout I’ll just tell them my first name because my last name gets more muddled than my first typically. But I’ll still go to the restaurant to get my food and find that they have taken my name down as Westburg, or Wendy or Heather. It just doesn’t register. Is it so hard to believe my name is Whisper?

Once people get used to my first name the vegetarian thing starts. The first question is almost always, “What do you eat?”

“I eat food.”

“I mean, doesn’t that get boring? No meat? What do you eat?”

“I eat what you are eating without the meat.”

“What do you have for Thanksgiving?”

“I eat what you eat without the meat.”

And sometimes I’ll get some horndog guy that will say, “ don’t eat any meat...huh ha huh,” and he’ll nudge his friend.

“Yeah, I don’t eat meat but I sure like the bone dumbass.”

My ex-boyfriend’s grandparents could never quite get it right about me. The rest of the family slowly settled into my name and my meat free diet. His Grandmother could never remember my name and would call me things like, Essence, Willow, Misty. His Grandfather who even after 40 years in the U.S. still couldn’t speak English very well thought I was a “vegetation”. One time his grandfather asked, “Are you bringing the vegetation to dinner on Sunday?”

Ex-boyfriend asks, “What vegetation?”

And Grandmother screams, “Don’t be stupid, you know what he’s talking about, are you bringing Secret to dinner?”

I guess there are worse things than being secret being a quiet vegetarian.


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