Volume 21, Number 2 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | MAY 23 - 29, 2008
A Ben by another name: Dan
By Ben Krull
“I’m Ben,” I’ll say when introducing myself.
“My name is Ben.”
“Yes, Dan. Nice to meet you.”
The confusion happens so often, that I have stopped correcting people. This causes embarrassment at social gatherings, where I am known to one person as Dan, and another as Ben.
“Why did you let me call you Dan all these years?” I will be asked, when the truth is revealed.
I can understand being mistaken for a Ken or Len, or even Jen?but Dan?
I often feel like someone with multiple personality disorder, or like a secret agent. Immigrants with names like Fuyumi and Khadijah hear themselves addressed correctly more than I do.
A friend who is a speech therapist explained that the mix-up stems from my saying my name with a soft ‘b.’ To learn to say a hard ‘b,’ she suggested I place my hand in front of my mouth and practice repeating my name, so that I can feel my breath strike my palm.
I practiced and practiced, to no avail. Recognizing defeat, I have considered changing my name to Dan, but then everyone would probably call me Ben.
Another option is to go by Benjamin (I can hear it now, ‘Danjamin’). Benjamin, however, sounds to stuffy. I would rather be known as Dan.
Despite the difficulties it imposes, I am at peace with my dual identity. Given the ordinariness of my name it would be narcissistic to take offense at someone thinking I am one of the 1,193,150 Dans in America?rather than one of the 330,750 Bens.
Still, most people get insulted when their name is botched. When I witness someone blowing a gasket because Hallie is mistaken for Holly, or Roy is heard as Ray, I want to say, ‘Lighten up!’
I recently had a girlfriend who shared my easygoing attitude toward names. Her name was Sari, and she always made dinner reservations under Sara.
“It’s just easier that way,” she said when I asked why she did not use her real name. “Everyone calls me Sara.”
When I told my mother that I was dating a woman named Sari, she was thrilled.
“Sara is such a pretty name,” she said.
Unfortunately, Sari and I only lasted a few months. When I e-mailed friends telling them of the breakup, I received several messages expressing regret about Sara and me.
Although I was sad about my split with Sari, it saved me from an awkward conversation. If we stayed together much longer, I would have to had told her that my name was not Dan.
Ben Krull, an attorney in Lower Manhattan’s Family Court, is a freelance writer.