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The power of Solmaz
What's your name again?


Solmaz B
May 16, 2005

It was when we moved to a small mining town in Ontario that I started  detesting my name. Growing up as Solmaz in a town of Jennifers, Melanies and Melissas was hard. Even more arduous when you already looked and felt different than the rest of the kids who were not used to seeing different ethnicities other than their own.

I wondered why my parents would purposely want to torture me. Did they think that we would be staying in Tabriz forever?  How I wished to be named Jessica or Jennifer. Something simpler, something a little more ... well ... English.

I still recall the trauma I felt in my bright orange bathing suit at the tender age of nine. Our 3rd grade class had left on an excursion to the local swimming pool. It was attendance time as we gathered around the pool while the swimming instructor meeting us for the first time called down our names from her list. My heart was pounding, I knew my name would be called at any moment.

"Souleemaz?" she called out with a mixture of confusion and annoyance. "Where is he?" I wanted to crawl into the ground.

Soon the laughter began from my classmates, especially the boys. "HAHAHAHA... he's a she!!" They laughed in hysterics as I stood there and raised my hand to acknowledge my presence. I felt as if my face was on fire.

When my teachers would be absent, I knew it would be a day of laughter ... at my expense; for the substitute teachers would be unable to pronounce my name.

My poor sister Sanaz, seemed to have it worse than I did. The kids had changed her name to "Spaz." And when they would see me, they would refer to me as "Spaz's sister."

Although we had friends growing up in this town, we felt yet somehow segregated. It would have been nice to meet other Iranian families, but there were few in such a small town (there were two other Iranian families besides us).

A big change occurred when my family and I moved from the remote city of Sudbury to Montreal when I was 17. It felt great being in a multicultural city. Soon I was surrounded by other unique names. I even met another Solmaz.

I look back upon these past memories and realize that my name holds power. To change my name would be changing who I am to fit the needs of others. I would be succumbing to assimilation. Today at the age of 25 I have come to a new appreciation for my name. It's Azeri in origin and means an eternal flower.

So to all the Farrokhs, Pooyahs, Sakinehs, Arazs and Siavoshs living in small towns; hang in there, as you get older your name will become a symbol of strength through the name calling you have overcome.  

For letters section
To Solmaz B


Book of the day

The Legend of Seyavash
Translated by Dick Davis

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