"What's in a name?"

Last week I ran into an old college friend. We’ve seen each other only twice in the past decade. The last time we met, he possessed a generic American name. It was simple and rolled easily off the tongue. Let’s call him David Sanders.

I went to high-five my longtime pal, because I'm pretty cool for my advanced age. “Wassup, Dave? Long time no see,” I chimed (I may be cool, but my greetings are horrendously unoriginal). Dave stared at me in a condescending manner and said, "I am no longer Dave. From now on, you must refer to me as Hassan Amjed Ibrihim Musharif Abubakr di Jambalaya." Or something like that.

I was momentarily confused, trying to decipher whether Dave was speaking in tongues or reciting an ancient alphabet that went extinct long ago. He further explained that he was a new convert to the religion of Islam, and it was imperative that he shed himself of all Western influences (he was wearing a Nike shirt and drinking Pepsi) and designations, particularly his birth name.

Unfortunately, I was having trouble pronouncing anything past Hassan. Actually, I was also messing up on the Hassan part, apparently failing to accent the correct ‘S.’ So I shortened my friend’s new name to "H-Man.” Did I mention I’m cool? Well, Hassan didn’t think so. Hassan merely scowled. Upon further review, Hassan scowled throughout our entire conversation. David tended to smile more.

The meeting with David/Hassan reminded me of when my Jewish ex-girlfriend requested that I convert to Judaism. I declined out of fear that my name would have to undergo construction. Although I’m not infatuated with it, I have grown accustom to it. My girlfriend urged me that not all religions require a name change. She also explained that by participating in an innocent ceremony, her sect would allow me to retain my current name and consider me to be a righteous gentile who is accepting of Jewish traditions.

Okay, that sounds harmless. But I still couldn’t find the courage to go through a religious conversion. I kept having a horrible nightmare where a rabbi was bestowing me with some kind of blessing ritual on the steps of a temple. When he finished, he said, “Welcome to Judaism, my son. Let us enter the temple and pray. By the way, from now on you will be known as Murray Finklestein.”

BYLINE:

Michael Angelo is an Accountant hailing from Connecticut. When he's not rotting away in a cubicle, he can be found blogging all over the Internet. His first humor book, "Chronicles & Opinions of a Nobody," will be released in March of 2010. Check out www.michaelangelothewriter.com for more info.

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