The inside joke around my friends and I is that names don’t matter in my world because I use sign language more than English. I hate admitting this, but… it’s actually true. You should feel impeccably special if I can remember your spoken, English name after the first time we’ve met because, well, in Sign Language (what I call my heart language) names are flexible. Literally.
It’s too culturally endearing to fully describe, but the reality is, when you walk into a room of Sign Language dependent people, they give each other a sign that represents that person. You can have a “Sign name”, but if anyone else’s Sign name looks like yours, one of you has to adopt a different one for the night…. Have I lost you yet?
Regardless of what all that meant, my point still stands. I’m not being disrespectful by not learning your name… I’ve just learned to act as if it’s not the number one important thing about you cuz it can change.
My boyfriend Peter is learning how to sign. Some days I’m astonished at what he knows after 3 months of learning and some days I want to hurt him for not knowing enough. He got all the patience and logic between the two of us. It’s slightly unfair. When it comes to learning the cultural understanding behind Sign names he’s just as confused about the whole thing as anyone else.
Yesterday, he was informed by someone else who uses Sign Language that a person can have more than one name depending on the circumstance. For whatever reason, he took that to mean he got the right to “name me.”
I don’t think he understood what he did when he randomly switched to a signed conversation in the middle of our friends’ kitchen (who praise God, don’t know Sign Language) and let me know what I get to be in his mind.
Once I caught on, I just about started crying…. Peter named me. In deaf culture you just don’t do that on a whim very often. If you have the audacity to give someone a different Sign name, especially when they don’t need one at the moment, it better mean something and better be for a darn good reason.
I had to fight back tears even more when I walked away and I heard God chuckle. I could almost hear Him saying,
“If you get choked up about ‘secret names’ now; I can’t wait to tell you the name only I have for you. Just wait, Baby Girl… this is only the beginning.”