Features

Call Out My Name (And Then Specify Further)

Issue 6, Volume 112

By Sabrina Chen 

Cover Image

I remember it was the perfect weather to go with a not-so-perfect start to my day. Blue skies and the warm sun paired nicely with my two-hour lateness to the second day of Camp Stuy (somehow my friend and I had accidentally gone to Brooklyn instead of Manhattan). It was this fateful day when I met the first Sabrina Chen at Rockefeller Park. She was spirited and loud, in a good way. My memory gets foggy at the specifics but I know we reveled in the fact that we had the same name. I imagine it went down like this:

“What’s your name?”

“Oh, I’m Sabrina. What’s yours?”

“What, I’m also Sabrina!”

“Wait, what’s your last name?”

“Chen.”

“Oh, my god. Me too.”

“No way.”

“No, I’m serious.”

We played badminton together, solidifying what would become a friendship greater than either of us knew at the time.

I met the second Sabrina Chen in freshman year Mandarin. She had a sweet demeanor and we immediately hit it off, despite both of us being introverts. When our teacher took attendance, she saw our names and asked when our birthdays were so she could differentiate us. Turns out, we were both born in October but I was older by a couple of days. We became 大 (older) Sabrina and 小 (younger) Sabrina. By the end of class, we were still reeling from the shock of our sameness.

Then, as if the universe (and program office) were really trying to play matchmaker, all three of us were put in the same Global History class. For our final project, which involved the creation of a cultural dish, we teamed up together, even going to Sabrina (you won’t know which one)’s house to make dorayaki—a Japanese dessert. And in the process of making dorayaki, Sabrina (you also won’t know which) accidentally burned my arm with a hot pan.

These are the fond memories I cherish with the Sabrinas. If we didn’t have the same names, I don’t think we would have become friends. We’re all so different. We probably wouldn’t have even talked to each other. Another Sabrina Chen agreed with this assertion: “I feel like we wouldn’t have been friends if it weren’t for our names because all of us have different interests.” Our names, just two words, gave us a common thread—something that we could laugh about, tell others, relish their awe, and appreciate. As the third Sabrina Chen put it, “It’s something we all experience, and it’s something unique to us.”

But besides our friendship, our identical names present another advantage: anonymity. Unless you know me personally, you won’t be able to tell which Sabrina is actually writing this. I can hide behind the other Sabrinas, and they behind me, for better or for worse.

What if a teacher gives me a Sabrina’s grade and it’s worse than my own grade? Or what if it were better? In fact, this has happened in the past, and we’ve had to ask the teacher to fix the mistake. If we were all in the same class (which has happened before), would teachers remember us three better just because of the sheer quantity and coincidence of us? What if someone says something about a Sabrina and they think it’s about me? What if college admission officers question our applications? What if they compare us?

Identity confusion has generated some concerns but in reality, hasn’t proved to be anything more than just an occasional inconvenience. At the end of the day, a name is just a name, and being temporarily confused for another Sabrina has only made for fun stories to tell.

There’s something so heartwarming about being connected to two other people by nothing more than a simple string of letters. For the duration of senior year, I have seen the Sabrinas nearly every day because we all share the same lunch period. Each day is a reminder of how we all met. While we found humor in our identical names, we also found something even more important: friendship.