This I Believe

Maxwell - Clovis, California
Entered on July 20, 2007

I was born “Maxwell Bobier Rowe.” Not an odd name necessarily, but in some circles a large name to live up to. Maxwell has always been associated with Kings, heroic knights, award winning physicists, conquering poets and child prodigies, but people called me “Max,” allowing me to develop without the added pressures of a strong first name. As a child, the only instances when I was referred to as “Maxwell” were during the first week of school– I would raise my hand embarrassed, red faced, and say “here;” I hated my name. While others might be astonishingly proud of their names, I hid from the attention of mine. To add to my uneasiness, I had a middle name that carried ridicule throughout grade school – “Bobier.” How do you say it? I don’t even know. But I’ve heard it every possible way from “Boabie” to “Bobier” to “Boabear;” if my first name presented a great burden, my second was the bane of my existence. To top off the array of names that would suppress my social expansion was the surname “Rowe.” “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream” kids would gurgle out of their Popsicle filled mouths, but not only kids. Kids I could understand—they’re young and naive, but teachers and adults? Didn’t they know this kind of ridicule was driving me insane and deeper and deeper into my sacred inner abode? But hindsight being twenty-twenty, how would they have known? If I were the next Broadway star or sales executive I might have relished in the glory of my name, but as it was, or as I was, the name harnessed a sort of attention that I could’ve done without. Now, 23, I like my name, it holds a certain sophistication. I still go by “Max,” but for anybody outside the family it’s “Maxwell.”

All this got me thinking, “What’s in a name?” Can a name make a success or failure, strong or weak, outgoing or introverted, happy or sad, embarrassed or proud? It is clear that some names carry a certain amount of clout. You probably would be treated differently with names such as “Rockefeller,” “Bush,” or “bin Laden” than if your last name was simply “Rowe.” Or what if your last name was “Lee” or “Jung” or “Hawkins” or “Johnson” or “Rodriguez” or “Esteban” or “Masaragean”– are there stereotypes associated with those names? Is there a pre-destiny associated with names? Throughout history there certainly has been—name was class and class was name—

but has that changed? Probably not as much as we’d like to think. Does a name carry as much weight as people allow it? Labels such as ‘stupid,’ ‘ugly,’ ‘dumb,’ ‘failure,’ and so forth can have detrimental effects on children—they isolate children and create a sense of hierarchy on the playground; but can a surname, first name, or middle name have the same damaging effects? Looking back I wished I had been proud of my name—I am now. It’s part of my heritage, of my past, and it will be part of my future. It doesn’t exactly make me who I am, but in a way it certainly has contributed. Without the experiences of carrying “Maxwell Bobier Rowe” around with me everyday of my life, I wouldn’t be who I am today. So, we’re left with the question; “Do you create your name or does your name create you?