I prefer to be called Kiki, but my birth certificate says "Kyriaki". No, not "Teriyaki," and no, not "Karaoke." Kee-ree-ah-kee. Roll your tongue on the R and don't enunciate the K. I know my name will never be printed on a keychain or coffee mug, but, come on, it's not that hard to pronounce.
No matter how many times I say it, I will always be referred to as "Teriyaki Chicken."
Ever since I was exposed to a non-Greek world, my name has been mispronounced by a countless amount of people who couldn't roll their tongue if they tried. In the first grade, the so-called "smartest kid" in my class casually mentioned that my name sounded exactly like the name of a Japanese condiment. I had never heard the word teriyaki before, so I quickly forgot about it and moved on with my day.
As my years of school progressed and my fellow classmates transitioned from nice kids to bullies with just a sprinkle of puberty, "Teriyaki" became my new nickname. Everyone thought it was so clever, but I thought it was hurtful and childish, even as a 9-year old. I would argue with my parents, asking them what they were thinking naming me something so absurd. "But you're named after your grandmother," and "It means Sunday in Greek!" were the only two phrases that left their mouths. Even during my annual summer visits to Greece, people would make fun of me by calling me "Friday." I remember wondering how or if my grandmother ever dealt with these nuisances.
After begging my parents to change my name on the roster before I entered high school and miserably failing, I decided to adopt my late grandma's nickname, Kiki, and roll with the punches. When my new teachers took roll on the first day of school, I watched them carefully as they all glided through the Michelle's and the Ashley's. At last, when I noticed a puzzled look on my teacher's face, I simply raised my hand, "Is that the name with the K? Sideris? Yeah, that's me. Call me Kiki." This became my regular routine for the next four years, and it will probably progress for the rest of my life.
Today, in a time where being different is encouraged, I am finally starting to appreciate my name. For the sake of my slightly uncultured peers and the ability to have a cute nickname, I continue to go by the name Kiki, but I'm no longer embarrassed to reveal my full name. Actually, I think it's pretty entertaining when I meet people for the first time and introduce myself as Kiki. They always reply with something along the lines of, "But what's your real name?" And when I respond with a friendly giggle and a simple "It's Kyriaki," they always give me that same puzzled look my teachers used to give when taking roll on the first day of school. Except now, I don't cringe at the thought of my own name; I simply embrace it.