It used to happen all the time.
The Starbucks barista would look at me with their customer service smile and asks for my name.
“Yaasmeen,” I replied.
After about 50 more interactions like that and even more variations of Yasmine and Jasmine written on my cup, I stopped trying altogether.
Eventually, I became “Piper,” a name that can easily roll off a barista’s tongue.
Even though it was only my last name, I still felt this disconnect.
Like I was placing an order for a friend and not myself.
What even more strange is that I became a regular.
Every time I walk in I would hear “Hey Piper!” or “How are you doing today Piper?”
I smile and say hi back but it still didn’t feel like they were talking to me.
They were talking to Piper.
This public pseudonym is nothing new for people who have a more unique name. You know, those of us who aren’t named Ashley, Brittney, Chad, or Joe or any variation of these names.
Often, those who use these public pseudonyms are people of color, American born and immigrants.
We create these new names to avoid hearing the inevitable butchering of our names or to just make conversations a third shorter.
Hurriya Burney wrote in her piece “I Have a ‘Starbucks Name’ Do You?” for Zora Magzine that many people have adopted an English name as well a name from their native culture (usually their given name).
But, people don’t just change their names in coffee shops.
According to Burney, people with “foreign-sounding” names often discriminated against and have a harder time finding jobs and housing.
Jenny C. Chen of NPR writes that the “Administrative Science Quarterly Journal” found that Asian job candidates in the U.S. were almost twice as likely to receive a call back if they whitened their resumes by changing their names and excluding race-based honors and organizations. The same was true for African-American candidates.
Sometimes calling myself Piper feels like I’m giving in to the white, patriarchal society that made me feel like my name is hard to pronounce in the first place.
I love my name.
I love the way it sounds, how it fits me, and it’s meaning (flower.)
But, sometimes I just want to get my coffee and go.
A piece of Burney’s article that really stuck with me was when she wrote:n“…despite doing my best to make my interactions with baristas and the Postmates guy easier, I refuse to take it too far and anglicize my actual name in everyday use or allow other people to change my name to make themselves more comfortable.”
Like Burney, I refuse for people to conjure their own nickname for me.
If I tell you my name the next few words out of your mouth shouldn’t be, “Can I call you [insert one syllable name here].”
It’s not my job to make you feel more comfortable.
Using the pseudonym “Piper” is more of a courtesy to my time rather than a way to make someone else feel at ease.
For people who I’ll have more than a temporary interaction with (colleagues, bosses, new friends, etc.) I’m Yaasmeen and will work with them until they can pronounce it right.
But to everyone else, Piper is just fine.
Email Yaasmeen (Yaz-Mean) at: