Dear teachers who don’t even bother saying my name:

TEACHER: Um, who is this? I can’t pronounce your name, umm Z-A-I-N-A-B….

ME: [Raises hand] Um, it’s Zain-ub.

TEACHER: It’s too hard. I’ll just point to you from now on.

This actually happened — a teacher refused to even try to say my name. The funny thing is that it was an English teacher who could pronounce Russian names like “Gorbachev,” “Dostoyevsky,” “Solzhenitsyn,” yet, “Zainab” was so hard that you had to point at me for the rest of the semester? Point at me? Really?

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Dear friends who have given me a nickname:

“Zainab is too hard to pronounce — can I just call you Z?”

My recently migrated, new-to-the-country, eighth-grade self was confused as to why my new friends would not even say my name after only trying once, so I just went along with it. As the years progressed and I started becoming my own person with my own opinions, I realized how stupid it was for my friends to give me a name that wasn’t even a name; it was the first letter of my fucking name. They couldn’t even try to get it right. How stupid it was for me to introduce myself as “Zainab” then quickly tell people to call me “Z” because I believed pronouncing my name was too hard and didn’t want to burden them with it. Senior year of high school I finally told all my friends to start calling me by my real name, not just a letter, but I still got blowback from them for having to call me by my actual fucking name?? Seriously?

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Dear men trying to flirt with me at bars/parties/on Tinder:

Thank you for calling me “exotic.” It really means a lot that you find me and my name exotic. Thank you for trying to come up with multiple ways of how you would say my name where, and I don’t know why, “Xanax” always wins the game for you. “How does your culture pronounce your name? Xanax-babe?” I really do not understand how you think that would work as a pick-up line. Why would I ever be impressed by you calling me “Xanax”? Dude seriously, “Xanax” is what you came up with? My name reminds you of Xanax?? Zainab… Xanax… ??

How do you expect to get a girl’s number if you compare her name to a prescription drug for depression and anxiety?

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Dear everyone,

Never tell someone you won’t say their name. Try to pronounce it. I promise you will get it right eventually.

You’re welcome,
Zainab Hussain