And it’s genuinely eating me up inside. Have you ever told one of those little white lies that’s gone on just a liiiiiittle bit too long? And then it goes past that point (you know what I’m talking about) and becomes so interwoven into your real life, spread to so many people, that you can’t extricate yourself out of it? You and the lie become indelibly linked and you start to care about the people to whom you’ve told it, but then telling them the truth would make what’s a torturous experience solely for you a humiliating and confusing one for everyone involved. That’s what I’ve done.
Let me paint the picture.
After working at my place of work for over 12 months, I finally committed to a regular coffee shop. Me and my girl Bronte (hay girl) made it part of our morning routine to walk up the street to the cafe we will call “Revolving Door” because that is what we called it, and it had a revolving door. However after a few days of attempting to give them my name and receiving only confused looks and mangled pronunciation in return, I retreated back into the shame of having a weird name. Aphrodite is not an easy one unless you already know what it is. And believe it or not, it’s even harder to try and give them a nickname to write on the cup coz it ain’t like “Aph” is a real thing either. When I try and spell it, they look at me like I’m fucked and don’t know how to spell “Ash”. It gets even WORSE when the person who made the coffee and hadn’t heard me spell it then tries to read the name on the cup and call it out. When they start stammering and trying to figure out what an “Ap” is, either I step forward or they just call out my coffee order instead. Whatever comes first.
This has happened to me for years. For 28 years in fact. Not ordering coffee, but like, other stuff. At the beginning of the school year, when my new teacher makes their way through the roll call and can’t for the life of them figure it out, I know they’re up to me so I raise my hand. When I introduce myself to people as Aph, and I can see the cogs turning as they wonder what the actual fuck that could be short for, I over-explain the origin of the name. But the worst is always ordering coffee. Coffee is my favourite thing in the world and the best part of my day, so I hate feeling awkward and uncomfortable while ordering it because I don’t want to associate bad feelings with such a good pure thing.
ANYWAY. After 3 days of cringing anxious awkwardness at Revolving Door, when asked for my name, I spat out the first name that came to my head. Kate. I was Kate. I saw the recognition, ease, and comfort that transpired as my gorgeous coffee lady wrote K-A-T-E on the cup. Relief flooded through me. Bronte laughed at me, but she understood. She was there the previous few days, she knew I had to do it. So I used the name again the next day. And the one after that. And the one after that, ad nauseum.
Sure, there were some days when I completely forgot my own “name” and zoned out while the poor ladies called “Kate” 100 times and looked in dismay at me, the halfwit, standing barely three feet from them and huffing with impatience as I waited for fucking Kate to go get her coffee so I could get mine next. But other than that, each morning went off without a hitch.
I got in too deep.
As the lovely lady taking my order handed me my change, I noticed she had a fabulous burgundy polish on her nails and complimented her on it. She lit up, and we talked about getting our nails done for another few minutes. She complimented my hair. We bonded. As I walked away, I realised she never asked my name. She just wrote “Kate” on the coffee lid. I blinked a couple times and moved on. So what, she thinks my name is Kate, big deal. After we got our coffee, they called out to me, “have a great day Kate!” I gulped. We were friends now. And they thought my name was Kate. Because I had told them for like a month that my goddamn name was Kate. I was Kate.
I felt stupidly guilty. This would be like the part of a rom-com where the guy or gal or whoever had told an innocent little white lie at the very beginning of the movie that seemed totally harmless, but developed a life of its own. Like, the well-meaning mega rich politician in the city thinks his fiancée is from a well-to-do country family because that is what he was led to believe through harmless little details dropped into conversation. He doesn’t know she’s poor and married to a country bumpkin back in her hometown and all of a sudden, the lie feels so much more. And yes, Sweet Home Alabama is one of my favourite movies of all time, so sue me.
I was at the part of my own movie where I was in so deep, I just *couldn’t* tell the truth. What could I do?! Go in one day and just say my real name? They would think I was even more mental than I know I already am! They wouldn’t even understand why I had done it to begin with! They would lament and mourn Kate! Their lovely friend who chatted and joked with them every damn morning! I couldn’t do it. So I didn’t.
Did it get awkward when I went and got coffee with other people who actually knew me and heard me give a fake name? Sure. Did I cringe every single day when they told Kate to have a great day? Definitely. Did I ever wish for a normal name so I never got into this awkward situation to begin with? Never. Please. I get at least 30% of my initial social chit chat from my weirdo name. I wouldn’t give it up for shit. But still.
I stuck with it until the end because I had resigned from my job, so I knew there would be an actual end in sight. I silenced the crazy voices in my head who writhed in guilt every time I was referred to as “Kate” by quite possibly the nicest ladies on the planet on a daily basis. And on Monday, I started my new job. I was starting afresh in every sense of the word. New suburb, fresh hair, new coffee ladies. I walked to the counter, placed my order, was asked my name, and promptly blurted out the name “Kate” the second I was asked.