First name Eva. Middle name (and Chinese name) Jingjing. Last name Ge.
When I once asked my mother why she named me Eva, she told me it was because Eva was easy to pronounce. When I was born, she had been in the United States just a few years and could not speak English well. However, despite her language difficulties, she wanted American names for her children, and Eva and Larry were the easiest to pronounce. So Eva and Larry we are…
I’ve always secretly been a little relieved that my parents named me Eva and not Jingjing. In grade school, when teachers took attendance I always cringed a bit when they tripped over the unpronounceable ethnic names, provoking giggles and stares. The poor misnamed student would then either attempt – syllable by syllable – to correct the teacher, or instead say “call me Bob” or “call me Jane,” assigning themselves a common and easily pronounceable American nickname. When my name was called, at most I would have to tell teachers that it was “ee-vuh” and not “ay-vuh,” but even then sometimes I would just let it pass.
Most of my legal cards and documents read “Eva J Ge” for which I am also relieved. I have a (possibly irrational) fear of being racially profiled. I don’t want to think that a total stranger will read my name and automatically classify me as “another Asian” with all the attached stereotypes. I know that we live in an increasingly globalized world, and that ethnically identifying names are more common than ever, but no one hears a name like Mohammed (popular in Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, and UAE) or Anastasia (popular in Georgia, Russia, Latvia, and Ukraine) without forming some biased presumptions. I find “Eva J Ge” to be so wonderfully ambiguous. The name “Eva” has Latin roots and sounds vaguely European. The last name “Ge” sounds like it could come from anywhere.
I used to deflect the conversation whenever people asked me if I had a middle name (many Chinese people don’t), or if they were really insistent I would explain that it’s Chinese name, but say nothing more. But after living 19 years with this name, I’ve realized that it’s not going to go away and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I still like my name for its ethnic ambiguity, but I also appreciate its musicality. And its length (I was always first to finish filling out the name bubbles on standardized tests). And now when people ask me what the “J” stands for, sometimes I’ll tell them it’s my Chinese name, Jingjing.