image by Malkav
Let's face it, most Americans grow up sheltered, normally having friends named John, Jane, and Fred. I've always dreaded introducing myself at gatherings and functions because normally the experience leads to awkwardness:
John : "Hi, my name is John."
Me: "Hi John, my name is Khalid."
John: "Huh? What is your name again?"
Khalid is such a common name in Arabic culture, and a google search of the name "Khalid" returns 13,500,000 results (granted that search is not a scientific). Here are just a few stories centered around me being a person named Khalid.
Who is Kyle Jones?
I used to live in an apartment complex, and when I would come back from work my neighbor, a 70-ish year old white man, would be wandering the parking lot. One day he struck up a conversation and said: "Hey son, what's your name?" I panicked and in my fit of stranger danger blurted out: "Kyle... Kyle Jones". My name isn't Kyle Jones, it was just the most apple pie name I could think of that started with a K. "Ah, nice to meet you son.", the man said. I never did get his name, mostly due to my shyness.
Weeks passed and I would always see him in the parking lot, and we would talk about whatever was bothering him that day; he was a cranky person. Then one day he pulled me in close by my elbow and with a whisper posed a question to me: "Hey Kyle, what do you think of all these Jews, Towel-heads, and Indians living in the neighborhood?" I was kind of stunned by his blatant racism, I never expected it. At that moment, I was Kyle to him. I said : "I think they are good people looking to take care of their families." I told him I had something important to do and had to get inside. I did not speak to him again after that; I'm not sure if I was disgusted by his thoughts, afraid to be exposed, or a mixture of other thoughts.
Where's Your Accent?
My full name is "Khalid Abuhakmeh", on paper it looks intimidating but phonetically it is read Kha Leed Aboo Hak Mah. When I interview for software development positions I hear a sigh of relief from my interviewers, "When I saw your name on the interview list, I was worried you'd come in with a heavy accent." I can only guess they are alluding to the large off-shore development crews that normally speak in broken english. I imagine my name conjures images in people's minds, but I don't want to place any thoughts or ideas in anyones heads or hearts. I just know during these interviews I have the upper hand because the interviewer has already put their foot in their mouth :)
I Remember You
I have grown to appreciate and love my name. I especially found out how powerful a tool my name is when attending a Leukemia Lymphoma fundraiser. It was comedy night and they had brought in insult comedian R.C. Smith. His routine soon focused on me: "What's your name?" and then the jokes started, mostly focusing on my name. I can take the ribbing and jokes, and I don't take myself too seriously. Being the target of the jokes gave everyone in the room an opportunity to come up and talk to me. From time to time, I run into the people who attended that night. It usually starts with them saying "Hey, I Remember you... Khalid right?!" Yes, I am Khalid.
In the context of America, Khalid is a name out of the ordinary, I get that. There are times when it works for me, and I am sure there are times when it has worked against me. All the evidence I have is anecdotal, but I can safely say that "Khalid" is a wildcard.