That which a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
So why was I so afraid of telling others my middle name? I feared of superficial judgement. It was really only of recent when I began to fully embrace my middle name. My middle name is who I am, the only name that differentiated me amongst other 'Nguyen'-ers.
Lenna Thảo Nguyễn. I never liked my middle name. Thảo. Towel. Tao. it sounded weird; I was highly accustomed to the English language therefore I dubbed it ugly looking and sounding, and it was TOO different. When someone asked me what my middle name was, I refused to say it. Although, I did have fun keeping it a secret, but since my friends found out via drivers license, I guess I should be less reluctant about it now. I never liked my last name either; it was too common. In fact, the last dynasty to exist in Vietnam was the Nguyễn dynasty, and only Nguyễn's would receive the most benefits out of any other families. Every family was quick to change. It eventually became one massive, conglomerate lineage. Up until college, I never really thought about it since the Vietnamese were sparse, but once I entered the depths of Berkeley, there was a lot more Nguyễn-ers than I thought, literally (and metaphorically speaking).
Later I found out that in order to preserve their true ancestral lineage, they oftentimes used their family name as their middle name. Which prompted the question: is Thảo my "real" last name? Who knows. To my surprise, a lot of Vietnamese Berkeley students asked me what my Vietnamese name was, and I always reply with my middle name.
After taking a Vietnamese language class, being active in VSA (Vietnamese Student Association) and the API (Asian Pacific Islander) & SEA (Southeast Asian) community and now my New Vietnam Culture and Diaspora class, I've finally taken a big leap to appreciate who I am. My identity as a Vietnamese. To take understanding of my history, my diaspora, my roots. My middle name gives me a sense of uniqueness, a sense of individuality. Sometimes, in a massive Asian (especially Vietnamese) environment, I wish I was referred to as 'Lenna Thảo,' or maybe even 'Thảo,' but never 'Nguyễn,' for that, I lose myself amongst the ocean of Nguyễn's. I am first gen, I am Vietamerican, I am not associated with the tourist image Vietnam has today, but I am still Vietnamese, but one who is unfortunately ignorant. I cannot speak, tôi khong nôí chuyền tiếng Việt giởi, I do not wear ao dai's, I do not celebrate their holidays, and I don't know what Vietnam looks like for I have never set foot on their soil. But I am still Vietnamese, and I am giving it my best effort to maintain my culture in fear of it dissipating as the generation continues. I hope for my future husband to be more knowledgeable and traditional than I, for Buddha knows how uncultured I am. I only wish for my children to gain the same appreciation of Vietnam, the same way I am now, but at an early age before they end up "white-washed."
Yes, a vacation to Vietnam surrounded with cultured friends is much needed... I must go search for my history, for myself, for my future.
(I dug up this post I wrote months ago; I forgot I written this. I wonder why I didn't publish it...)
Labels: deep stuff, random