I’m horrible at introductions. People say their names and, most often, by the time I say, “I’m Mel. It’s nice to meet you,” I have entirely forgotten their name or never fully understood it in the first place. Introductions would be a way for me to practice assertiveness in just simply asking for clarification or repeating of the name. But I never do, unless my family is present with me, in which one comes to my rescue and will finger spell and lip-read until I get the name and/or pronunciation correct. Even after all this, I still stumble to remember. Names.
Names are special–even nicknames. “Mel” was never even mentioned while growing up. My high school friends called me “Minda” and Dad has always loved his for me–“Minder.” 🙂 It wasn’t until my freshman year at CCU that Mel came to existence. I think it started as a mix of decorating our dorm room, “Cal and Mel’s Room,” along with the street church kids. Our leader had an abbreviated name as well and the kids just took Mel and that is who they came to call me. Between friends, roommates and street church–Mel fit. I liked Mel. I think my full name–Melinda–is a beautiful name, but for me, Mel fits. 🙂
It was also in college that I came to use sign language and interpreters for hearing needs in the classroom. My sophomore year, a deaf man transferred to finish his degree and we had one class together that Spring. As I got to know him over the next year, he gave me my signing name. In the Deaf culture, one must be deaf to give another a signing name (unless you are going into interpreting or such.) I am not sure why this is,but I remember my ASL teacher, who was born deaf, telling us about different deaf culture things. Another one that I found funny, but now that I am deaf myself, can see how it makes sense: if two deaf people are talking or even just a deaf person signing to another hearing person, it is considered rude for a third person passing through to duck or lip an, “excuse me,” because it is actually more of a distraction to the conversation than if the person just quickly passes. A complete opposite of the hearing world conversation.
Conversations, like names, can get confusing when watching me. Because I was born hearing and didn’t go fully deaf until this year, my speech–though soft–is good. I do struggle with different pronunciation aspects, but then again, like a history of falling, I have a history of funny word mishaps and pronunciations even before I got declining hearing. Contrast, my deaf friend at CCU was born deaf and taught himself to speak; he too had a soft voice, but his pronunciation of words was remarkable! Unless I am using an interpreter, I lip-read; as I mentioned, my hands and sign language don’t agree anymore, especially in finger spelling…which is probably why I dread introductions with interpreters, because it is proper to first finger spell your name and then show your signing name. So much for manners–I skip the finger spelling completely and just show my signing name. 🙂
Before we graduated, my friend gave me my signing name. It is an “M” brushed by the side of the cheek, starting close to the mouth. He said he chose this, because of my smile. I think it is a very special signing name and even though I have now lost contact with him since moving here, I think of him when I use my name. I have been thinking about signing names for many months now, because I have the honor of giving my family signing names…which will also cut the finger spelling time and questions in conversations if I need clarification of the name. I want, like my signing name, the signs to be special. My problem is that there are 4 “M’s” in the midst of being creative, but I haven’t stopped in search of their names yet.
So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good.