|My "you-survived-Christmas" reward|
Even though I have never been there, I have had a life-long, love/hate relationship with the islands. With a name like Hana (which means many things in many different languages), and my ambiguous racial appearance, most people who meet me for the first time assume I’m from the town Hana in Maui, or that my parents named for me for the Hawaiian meaning of “work.”
I get really offended by this assumption for many reasons:
A) I’ve never been to Hawaii, so I’m not a freaking islander. It’s the equivalent to assuming every white person you see is from Sweden. “Oh my god! Have you been to Ikea?!”
B) My name means flower (and nose, but don’t tell) in Japanese and not something as heinous as WORK.
C) I am black, Japanese, and white. My dad does have some roots in Hilo, Hawaii, but they are so far back that I’m only 1/16th Hawaiian. Which leads us to:
D) My tan skin is from my African American side. But people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m black so they need to associate my tan skin with something they can cope with.
When I was younger, and unscathed by idiocracy, I did include “part Hawaiian” in my answer to “What is your ethnicity?” (But usually this question comes in the form of “what are you?” to which my response is “Human. What are you?”) My sister and I even joined a hula group and learned how to do the traditional Hawaiian dance. It was a lot of fun (and MUCH harder than you’d think).
But after a year or two, we quit hula, and I started getting sick of people assuming I was from a town I had never even been to. It reminded me of the scene in Juno when Ellen Paige meets the dad who plans to adopt her baby. He says, “Oh Juno. Like Alaska?” Ellen simply says, “No.” She doesn’t explain and lets him sit there awkwardly. She simply points out he is wrong. That is my life story in a nutshell.
If people aren’t assuming I’m Hawaiian, they’re assuming I am trying to be cutesy with the name Hannah. First of all, I can’t even comprehend how many times I’ve heard, “Ya spelled yer name wrong HANNAH” and subsequently having to tell people my name rhymes with Donna. Secondly, don’t be rude and just ask me how to pronounce my name. If you don’t know, ask. It is much safer for you to admit your ignorance than to botch my name and pay the consequences (in which case you will refer to me as Muhana Ali).
I have come to a point where I will let it slide if someone calls me Hannah if I’m never going to see that person again. You can call me Nancy if you can handle that better during our one-time rendezvous. But I have joined the facebook fan club, “Everybody f**** up my name” to cope with my anger.
So as of tomorrow, we’ve come full-circle. I will inhabit the island that contains the famed town of Hana, and I have not come to the conclusion if I even want to visit it. It would be all dandy to take a picture in front of this town I’ve been hearing about for most of my life, but not visiting it feels like giving the proverbial (and satisfactory) middle finger to everyone who has ever assumed wrong about me. We’ll see what happens when we get there.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I’ll break yours if you call me Hannah.