Don’t call me Rich: Thoughts on confrontation and pride

By Richard Raya

I hate being called Rich. Luckily no one ever tries to call me Richie, and Dick is used sparsely enough to still be funny. Something about Rich is just really annoying, though, and unless I’ve known you for a while, you’re cool, and you have some damn bass in your voice, I’d really prefer if you just called me Richard. That being said, I found myself being calle Rich an inordinate amount of times over this past winter break. My dad’s mother-in-law was in town for the holidays, and as I landscaped the backyard, cleaned up the kitchen, and forced myself to endure several hours of inanity in conversation with my relatives, I was lauded with Riches by my dad, step-mom and her mom. It was pretty agonizing. Stranger still, I said not one word of dissent against my new term of endearment. Every time one of my relatives screeched, whined or weaseled Rich I came a-trotting like the over-eager little freshman that I am. No matter how patronizing or condescending I felt this shortening of my name was (“I’m 18, dammit!”) I never objected. Why, though? Like many other people my age, I’m not one to quietly bear any affront; I’ve tainted many a personal relationship by not shutting up and feeling compelled to share exactly how I was feeling. I always advocate an open exchange of opinion to solve problems, so if something bothers me, I usually just cut loose. This confrontational attitude has to be within reason. If some poor first-day-waiter screws up your tri-tip sandwich order and ends up giving you some chowder and a hunk of french bread (something that also happened to me over break), there is no need to verbally assault the guy about it. Just don’t go back to that restaurant. It’s pretty simple. But when problems involve serious matters, especially interpersonal relationships, it is necessary to act, preventing both parties involved from becoming at the very least seriously annoyed. I tried to justify my silence to myself. This was no grave life-or-death matter, but at this point it was definitely more than a minor nuisance. Maybe it was because these people were pretty significant parts of my life, and I’d have to deal with them for many years to come. Maybe the problem was that they had been calling me Rich for a couple of years without my correcting them, and raising the matter now might be awkward– there definitely seems to be a small window of opportunity for these kinds of things, and I had missed it. That was the problem, I reasoned. The awkwardness. I didn’t want to raise the matter because, at this point, I might seem contentious, and I didn’t really want the drama. Taking it one step further, I had to ask one more question– why the awkwardness? Why was it a given that some type of uncomfortable drama would ensue? And why did I have to care? Maybe I’m overreacting, and it’s just a perspective that you gain as you get older, a maturity to simply not sweat the small stuff that I don’t have yet.. But maybe there’s something to be said for doing as much as you can to shape your life into the life you’d most enjoy living and taking pride in the littlest detail. Maybe our reasons for letting minute problems drift by without acting to change them is a holdover from the powerlessness of childhood, or the symptom of a culture that tells us that the circumstances of the world around us are so vast, and based solely on invisible machinations, that we have no hope of ever changing them. We all deserve to not only have the capacity to make choices; we deserve to see our choices bear favorable fruit, at least every now and then. If we can’t demand small pleasures for ourselves from strangers, for fear of sounding domineering, or from loved ones, for fear of seeming unappreciative or disrespectful, then from who can we? Why is it that only the most opinionated of us feel that their desires and points of view are worth sharing? I’m not saying we should fly into a rage at every small annoyance, and in no way am I suggesting that making sure you’re referred to as “Richard” and not “Rich” is noble or profound. Still, isn’t there something about making sure that others see, refer to and treat you the way you’d like to be just a little bit proud and true? refresh –>