Monday, February 10, 2014

A Starbucks Yuliya

I liked my name until I hit first grade and another Jessie arrived on the scene. By middle school a Jessie with the same surname had cropped up in the next town, and then I was totally over my name’s lack of originality. You’d think that my father of all people would recognize the importance of a unique name, but apparently he didn’t inherit his family’s creativity (his first name is Dick and our last name is a generous adjective...use your imagination). My mother was no better. She briefly entertained the idea of naming me after her grandmother, but luckily, I was saved from being the whitest Juanita the world has ever seen. So maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to complain.

While the Russians love to brag about the richness of their language, I still haven’t been able to buy a “J” in the Cyrillic alphabet. Thus, when I have to sign out of the Lenin Library with my first two initials, JC becomes “ДК”  and I am robbed of my Jesus complex while Lenin laughs at me from his subterranean tomb.  My name also poses a problem at Starbucks, where I have tired of pronouncing my name incorrectly and where the baristas have run out of inventive misspellings of Джессика.  I decided it was time to be reborn as Yuliya, a nod to my friend Julie, a college friend and former Muscovite.

The first of Юлия’s many chai lattes

I probably wouldn’t have continued it, but then I kept getting the same barista, and pretty soon Lena was greeting me with an exuberant, “Hello, Yuliya!” every time I walked through the door. I only realized how crazy this might look when I went to my usual Starbucks with a guy and had to give him the heads up that I would be referring to myself as Yuliya. But I needn’t have worried about what Lena thought; a few days later her name tag spelled out an entirely different name. It seems “Lena” and I are cut from the same many personalitied cloth.

I told my flatmate about my Russian altar ego, and she said, “Oh my god, I know another American who’s a Starbucks Yuliya!” Great, it’s like I’m in first grade all over again and discovering that I’m not special or unique. I guess it’s time for a new Starbucks persona.  Princess Anastasia, perhaps?

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