Irma Grocery Store, located in Denmark, is the world's second-oldest grocery chain store, and it turns 131 this week. Marks & Spencer is the only retail chain that has been in continuous operation longer than Irma (at least in Europe). I know about Irma's b'day as friends visiting Copenhagen sent me an email yesterday with the news of Irma's 131st b'day celebration along with the photograph below.
Sometimes I tell people I'm from Denmark when asked where I'm from after I give my name its correct pronunciation. The store's name is much like my own -- not UR-ma. My visit to Copenhagen and my adventures in my namesake grocery store are part of a scene in my one woman show, Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name? which will be at the San Francisco Fringe Festival next month (details below).
If you visit Copenhagen, do check out this local treasure, it's an environmentally conscious store with lots of organic products.
Recently I met a medical doctor (originally from Romania) who upon hearing my name asked where I was from. I gave her song and verse, Mexican-American ancestry, family been here for generations.
Her response with a smile: "Well I didn't think you were Romanian or Hungarian." Only images that came to my mind were of the Gabor sisters Zsa Zsa and Eva. She then added that Irma is pronounced the way I say my name in her country and that her best friend from Hungary is named Irma. Someone I met from Bosnia told me the same thing about my name, so it seems that URma stands pretty much alone in English. And I was told by a German that in their country there are two similar names Erma (pronounced URma) and Irma with the softer "e" beginning.
All of us meet people with names that are unfamiliar. Happens to me on a regular basis and I'm hyper vigilant around issues of names. If you aren't sure how someone pronounces their name, ask and if you aren't getting it, ask again. I had that experience recently with a new neighbor. I asked her at least three times times to tell me her name, and to spell it for me (sometimes that's helpful, sometimes not). And then Eureka, I got it. Yes, at first it feels awkward to ask again to help you with their name but isn't that better than not knowing what to call someone.
Our Use of Pronouns in lieu of Names and Gender Identity Awareness
A friend recently mentioned that she's become aware that name tags at conference/meetings have a space where folks can indicate their gender pronoun, sometimes called Preferred Gender Pronoun (PGP). An important side note: some people find the very notion of "preferred gender" offensive, being of the view that you are whatever gender you are regardless of what others think or perceive your gender to be. It's not a preference, it's your identity. You don't prefer to be a lesbian, or African American, or Chicana . . . you just are. So point well taken, be mindful that some may be offended by the very use of the term PGP.
For more info about pronoun use and how we are good allies to folks in the LGBTQ community it's important to educate ourselves about the obstacles and issues that challenge them each and every day. Here are a couple of articles on this subject:
The LGBTQ community is targeted in many different ways beyond the bathroom bills in state legislatures. They are on the receiving end of many forms of discrimination and violence in many communities and the most vulnerable are Transgender Women of Color, see: http://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2017.
I challenge everyone (including myself) to fess up to our own biases and prejudices and our privileges because we all have some form of privilege -- US citizenship, well-educated, healthy, insured, straight/cisgender (the list goes on) that makes our lives easier. Even with these privileges, many of us are still subjected to many forms of hate and prejudice as we have seen so clearly in the unsettling and tragic events in the past two weeks.
In this overwhelming times when it seems like we can't do enough to turn the tide of anger and hate, each of us as individuals can bring civility and kindness to the world. And it starts with respect for others. We show that respect by learning peoples' names and seeing them as individuals rather than stereotypes.
Come reflect more on these topics, and enjoy some good laughs too, at my solo performance at The SF Fringe Festival. There are lots of other great performers with plays addressing issues of identity around race, LGBTQ, transracial adoption. More info about these and other shows at SF Fringe at: http://www.sffringe.org/
Tickets NOW on sale for four performances of Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name? at The San Francisco Fringe Festival:
Look forward to seeing you at The Exit Theater 156 Eddy St. San Francisco, CA (Powell BART Station):
Saturday 9/9 4 pm
Tuesday 9/12 8:30 pm
Thursday 9/14 7 pm
Sunday 9/17 7 pm