Ever since I moved to the States (at age 8), my names have caused so much confusion that whenever I am asked by a barista at Starbuck's for it, I hesitate for a few moments until I decide which of the million names I want to reveal.
I, like many other Filipinos, have at least four names: a first name, a middle name, and my mother's maiden name hyphenated by my father's last name. Hence, the names Marie Paz del Rosario Villanueva. Also like many other Filipinos, I was given a nickname completely unrelated to any of my birth names. Hence, the name Pia. For 26 years, I went by the name of Pia Villanueva. Then when I got married, I was given yet another name to add to my long list of names that already don't fit in my driver's license. By that time, I was so fed up with the confusion that I conveniently 'forgot' about my name crisis until I had the biggest trouble with a Starbuck's barista.
When the barista asked for my name so he could label my grande breve latte, I said, "Pia."
Frazzled and confused behind the counter, he said, "I'm sorry? Could you repeat that?"
"Sure. It's Pia."
He leaned over the counter and stepped away from the loud whirring of the espresso machine.
"What was it again - Pilar?"
"No. Peeeeeeee-yah," I pronounced each vowel as carefully as possible.
"No. Pia. P-I-A."
Exasperated and embarrassed, I yelled, "PIAAAAAA!"
I quickly composed myself and looked behind me. To make matters worse, a line full of impatient and caffeine-deprived customers were waiting. Turning back to the barista, with his face flushed, I suddenly felt empathy for the flustered young man.
In a more soothing tone, I said softly, "Okay, just call me Marie."
Relieved, he took his Sharpie and started scribbling on the paper cup.
"One grande breve latte for...." His voice trailed off as I walked towards the other barista making the drinks. I didn't hear the name he called me, but at that point, I just wanted to get my drink and get out.
Sure enough, when it was my turn to pick up my drink, I discovered that the Starbuck's baristas have unknowingly given me another name, "Meredith." Whatever.