Not all that long ago I discovered something new about myself. It wasn’t new, exactly—I’d been doing it for a long time without realizing it, but had only recently thought to ask to ask myself why.
You may already know that I have an unusual first name. It’s ethnic, kinda freaky; you hear it more as a last name if you hear it at all. Anyway, there’s a real good chance that somebody meeting me for the second time is gonna misremember my name, and call me by a different, but only slightly more common name. Here’s the thing: it’s always the same fucking name. And this other name is fairly rare, too–chances are the only time you can remember hearing it is as the last name of a moderately successful comedic actor from the 1980s.
When someone calls me by that name, I’ll either correct them or I won’t, obviously. But it never occurred to me that there might be a pattern to this behavior. I simply assumed that there were some situations where for whatever reason I didn’t feel bothered correcting someone.
Eventually, I was able to tease out an identifiable pattern to my behavior, and it boils down to how I feel about the person. If I like the person, I’ll correct them. If I don’t, I won’t.
Getting to the motivations behind this behavior was a little more challenging, and when I did finally plumb the dark heart of this mystery, I found it was surprisingly passive-aggressive. You see, I’d unconsciously created a system whereby I could justify my negative opinions of the person. By not correcting them I pretty much ensured that they would continue to address me by the wrong name, which irritated me and in turn gave me more reason to not like them.
You’d think that once I became aware of this frankly childish and unproductive behavior I would have taken immediate steps to curtail it. You’d be wrong, though.