Referring my to myself in the third person is something I don’t usually do, and I sense that in this instance I may have done so from a coy perspective, because I don’t know my readership. Perhaps it’s my unusual name that provoked this pronominal detachment, since most do not place it in the semi-automatic recall for name/face. People’s recall is distanced. They don’t have a slot of other Mentons, with 3 other face choices to select from. I am the only one in the still flat , unused box, so I float or slither in between other boxes because there has been no wear and tear of the ‘Menton’ box to contain the image-symbol of my face. My interlocutor has to ride up and out of the boxes, go to the result receptor for ‘unusual and slightly funny’ and then recall their emotion at hearing it for the first time, which in turn triggers the signifier. It’s a bit tawdry but it is good for going by incognito in a bar full of Ians and Toms.
Early on I developed a complex from observing how people were processing my name because often, from the semiotic acrobatics they were performing every time they addressed me, meaning that I would not get a direct conflagration of the meaning they had built-up for my name + visual trigger. I had no place amongst other Mentons and so could not perceive the hierarchy of affection in which I took a position. I was isolated all the way to the left of the other names to avoid any mix-ups in their minds with more common names, acting as a sort of emotional currency if you like for my friends to spend as they thought fit on their thoughts of networked-ness and popularity.
Being aware of this difference with other people, sometimes feeling left out of the elbow rubbing and jostling in the road of the groups of boys with popular first names, I very quickly established that I had to find a partner with a similar potential for interlocular aphasia. Setting my desires on a Caroline or a Ruth would put me apart in their mind.
I come from a provincial outskirts of a European city and strange names were not the norm amongst my peers. I met a Kiley one day, traveling through with her Australian parents. She noticed how I double-took when she uttered her name. My light had turned on; yellow maybe, flashing yellow. I knew of Kyley in Neighbours, and nothing else. I observed from another table in the restaurant how her parents were interacting with her, calling her Kyles and mentioning a friend of hers back home that was seemingly her namesake, but just differentiated by her second name, Kyley Adams, making it quite clear that Kyley was indeed a slot-making berth to such an extent that a super-ordinate had to be used to clarify a separate berth within the Kyley berth of normal first names.
I looked at my plate to focus my determination at not looking disappointed, then looked-up at my Mother who said “eat-up your artichoke heart”.
It would be years before I met a girl with a non-slotting name. I was by that time at a cooking school, in my first year of patisserie, the only reason I was there in the first place; to get the 2 formative years of all-round cooking completed before I could channel into the pastry making department. I knew by now that chocolate was my forte. I could already differentiate between the 3 major cocoa providing continents, and further to that I would be able to whittle a chocolate down to its fundamental area within that continent: North or South, East and west.
Before entering our first laboratory class with Chef R. I could not figure-out why certain people were so nervous. I knew that Martha, the girl in my promotion and living in my halls, was always waiting for funding, and somehow this gave her an excuse to indulge in emotions of unsuitability or nervousness that I had to dissassociate from for my own good. It’s hard not to place oneself at an empathetic level with one who is in the same class; not competition in the same way. Nevertheless she took a place in my prayers at night.
We were paired-up randomly by Chef R. and asked to come to the podium in twos. I snuck a look at her name tag: ‘Tuilette’. My light was in flashing red alert mode since I was inferring that any English speaker might recall her name with the ‘funny’ emotive that toilets give to most, and let’s admit with no definite compunction that the British are most likely to get a rise out of the word for washing in French, but which means passing fecal matter and urine by extension.
Her parents might have been patissiers, and being half cast they had perhaps called her Tuilette once they had asserted she was female, and also the colour of a baked Tuile.
She did not look confident to excess and without due cause, as a Sophie might. I recognised that she may well have the same apprehension about being addressed by her first name as I did. The same sort of noble bearing and patience at people’s childish semiotic rapprochements.
We both tasted the Chef’s offerings and asked to identify the components but Tuilette got a few things wrong. She was not anal about vanilla, and could not tell South American from African cocoa. I had a problem with that, something which later gave me more confidence with my own name, though for now I had to wait to find- out more; it was only the first day of class and nothing like Masterchef at all.