By Kabir Moss
By Kabir Moss
Shnu smitik mn America? What’s your American name?
Kif kif. Kabir. It’s the same. Kabir.
But that’s a Moroccan name.
I know, but it’s the same.
Are you Muslim?
Not yet. (Because it’s nicer to say than the other.)
Rabat – I try to own it, as though it is mine entirely. I speak knowingly, as though I understand anything at all. I stride with confidence, as though I have earned any of it. Individuality is complex and therefore challenging to understand within yourself much less to define aloud. Where I fit, what I bring, why I wake up, and all the other questions stemming from the timeless, answerless question, who am I?
An honest, though incomplete answer is I am, like we all are, many different things at once. A son, a graduate, a friend, a husband, an American, a teammate, a wannabe writer. But what is hard to reconcile with is that to more people than not, I am Kabir. When it comes to who I am and what others know about me, above all else, it is my name. I have spoken the most often and with the most variety of people, about my name than any other single subject. This is not just the case today but will be the reality every day to come.
In the U.S. the questions are anything from, “What’s your first name?” and “Is it a family name?” to, “What does it mean?” “What language is that?” and “Why?” If we met through email first, odds are your reaction would be similar to my college coach (then also transferring from Africa University) “Huh, I thought you were gonna be a brotha.” No doubt there, like here, it isn’t the name itself but the contrast of the name and the face. Coming to Morocco I said repeatedly, “I can’t wait for my name to finally belong,” but of course it is not the culture or location the name must fit but the person, and clearly for most of my appearance this isn’t the case. Although for those that know a little Arabic, I am bigger than I am small.
I am not under the impression, as my mother may be, that this name found me. However, I am under the impression that this name has been a large part of who I have become. Again, not for reasons unknown, but for the reasons above. This name is the keeper, that which precedes all other social intercourse, and in this respect, how could it not? Apart from the first few cross-dressing years, I have spent most of my life fitting in. Looking and doing very run of the mill things, in very much contrast to a quite eccentric family. Where people spend years exploring and creating (consciously or subconsciously) a unique and genuine identity I was, in a sense, given one. An individuality neither earned nor stolen and therefore leaving me both estranged from, and possessive of it. In some ways this has made me lazy, falsely confident in my idiosyncrasies, expecting that other gifts and talents should be prodigal in nature rather than resulting from struggle and discipline. In other ways, however, this has made me that much more confused. Blurring the lines even further between nurture and nature and creator. Creator, of course, not being that of the all knowing respects but that of the active participant within that chooses.
Hlif? You swear? Kayne had smiya f lmghrib. There is this name in Morocco.
Ah iyah. Ah yes. Arft. I know.
Inevitably, at some point in this conversation, they smile, and I smile. Sometimes they laugh and then I laugh. Not because it is foolish but because it is unexpected. Then, odds are, a hand gesture follows referencing my height and acknowledging somehow, in some way, that even with pale skin, hair, eyes and English the name sort of fits. How much weight does a name hold? None. All. Some. Most. Running, as my mind is now, through the rhetorical abyss I wonder if these questions are worth asking?
Would I be tall if my name was Jack? Would I be better with confrontation if my name was Henry? Would I want to write if my name was Steven? At the beginning of a semester, as I gave a teacher a slip asking to transfer out of his class he said to me, “I admit, I hoped you would stay in my class, though only because of your name.” Am I convinced I could have lived up to his expectations, no, but neither am I sure I wouldn’t.
These questions, of course, have no answer and therefore this muddling in thought today has no conclusion. Do I wish my parents gave me another name? Not a day of my life, because the truth is, I don’t know what I would be without it.
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