Aliens Have Names Too
© Copyright 2021 by Fancy Goodman
It all starts with a name.
It is 2012. I am eleven years old. I follow my parents to the immigration office to get my international passport. I am quiet as usual. After some two hours, I get impatient and restless.
“When would it be our turn, mom? I’m hungry”, I tug at her shirt.
“Be patient”, she replies patting my cheek, “it would soon be our turn”.
Few minutes later, one of the officers come out. Paper in hand, he reads out a list of names of people to go into the office for their capturing and documentation. After five names have been rolled out, he calls a somewhat familiar name.
“Franc---… Fanc… Godman”
I smile. It’s me. It’s my name. I know it, but I don’t move. Here is an eleven-year-old who has been complaining of hunger and she gets her chance to finally quickly get things done and fill her stomach with goodies. Yet, I stay still and stare at the officer’s large belly.
“Godman”, he repeats.
My parents tap me.
“I think it’s your name he’s trying to call”, my dad whispers, “go there and ask him to see the list”.
I stand, dust my school uniform skirt and walk towards the officer.
“Sir”, I begin, “my name is Fancy Goodman”. I then walk into the office without looking back.
This is my first experience.
It all continues with a name.
Fast-forward to 2016. I am fifteen and done with secondary school (or high school, as some would call it) and have just gained admission into the university. After my registration process, the woman in charge returns my file.
“Didi I fill in something wrong, Ma?”
“Your state of origin”
“Ma?”, I ask eyebrows arched. I open the file to see what I have written.
“I put in Oyo State Ma. That’s where I’m from”
She looks at me like I am stupid. She has this look in her eye that (almost) says “you don’t know where you’re from. Go and ask your mummy over there”.
“How can you be from Oyo state? People from Oyo state don’t have Goodman as their surnames” are the actual maggots that come swimming down from her mouth.
“I don’t know Ma”, I say in between a fake laughter, “but that’s my real name—Fancy Goodman.”
This is the second experience I have. Now, I am getting more familiar with what this is all about.
My name is my name.
That same year in 2016, during my first semester, we are asked to introduce ourselves to the rest of the class.
“My name is Oluwafemi Adekola”, the first one goes.
“My name is Chukunonso Onyedikachi”, the second goes.
It goes on and on till it gets to my turn.
“Hi everyone, I’m Fancy Goodman”.
“is that your real name?”, someone asks.
“Oh, did your mom marry a foreigner?”, another questions.
“Okay, that’s enough”, the lecturer calms the class.
This is when it hits me. In a world full of Ayos, Tundes, Musas, Itejiris, Ifeoluwas and Iteoluwakishis, I am a Fancy. A Fancy Goodman.
I mean, I have always known that I have an English name, but there are English names and there are English names. This, is what just hits me. I remember my classmates back in secondary school. Hope, Faith, Love. All the virtues for names, really. People did not find these strange because they were all followed by a traditional surname. Hope Adejumo. Faith Njoku. Love Etim. But I am a Fancy. A Fancy Goodman.
This is when it all starts—the questioning of my identity. “What were mom and dad thinking? Why does my name sound different from everyone’s?”
Come Christmas break, I bombard my parents with questions.
“Why did you name me Fancy, dad?”
“I thought I have told you before”, he answers without looking away from his laptop.
“Yes, you did. You said you didn’t want a common name”
“Exactly”, he replies, looking at me this time.
“But why ‘Fancy’? Aren’t there other Yoruba names that are uncommon?”
“Because I like ‘Fancy’”
I am back in school. Second semester. My lecturer is talking about imperialism and the negative effects of colonialism on Nigeria as a whole. I am half asleep. Partly because I didn’t sleep well the previous night and partly because I am bored to death. I begin really going deeper into my sleep until I hear my name. I look up, and my lecturer has his finger pointed at me.
“Look at Fancy”
I am scared (and red-eyed), I think he has caught me sleeping in his class and would ask me to repeat everything he has said.
“She is an example of the identity crisis which resulted from colonialism.”
In seconds, my fear immediately transits to self-defense, and then to anger.
“I mean how can a Nigerian, a Yoruba girl for that matter, bear ‘Fancy Goodman’?”, he continues, “You are a cultural alien.”
A cultural alien. That is a strong (and even offensive) term. I am supposed to be angered by this, but something else goes through my mind.
A cultural alien. The immigration officer knew it. The admission lady knew it. My classmates know it. My lecturer knows it. Now I know it. My name has in some way alienated me from being a Nigerian; from being an African. It’s all clear now.
“My name has nothing to do with what I will achieve in life or how far I will go”, I tackle him.
“But it alters your identity”
“With due respect Sir…”, I am already standing, still red-eyed, “…you cannot just tie identity to a name. We have lost our culture in its entirety. Look at the whole class. More than 50% of the class are dressed clothes not recognized by our culture. Look at Feranmi for example”, I point at him and the class follows my finger. “I mean, why is he in a shirt and tie instead of buba and Sokoto?”. I drop my finger then continue, “We are even communicating in English and the last time I checked, that is not our language.”
My voice gets shaky, but I don’t care. “Truth be told, we are all cultural aliens. It might not be in our names, but it’s there”.
One or two people start murmuring.
“I agree with her, sir”, Feranmi chips in, to my surprise. Before I know it, everyone is chipping in a “Yes”.
The lecturer calms the class.
“Wow, Fancy! I’m impressed.”
“Thank you Sir”
“Hahaha a cultural alien impressing another cultural alien with a cultural name”, I think to myself.
It is 2021, and I am in NYSC camp. One of my platoon members walk up to me.
“Hi, I’m David. Are you in this platoon too?”
“Oh nice. What’ your name?”
“Wow, what does that stand for?”
“It’s just Fancy. That’s my name. Fancy.”
*Buba and Sokoto is the traditional clothing of Nigerian men of the Yoruba culture
*NYSC is National Youth Service Corps. Every Nigerian is expected to serve their country for one year after they graduate from the university.
Fancy Goodman is a Nigerian youth who loves writing. She writes majorly poems and short stories.
She studied English in the University. She
has always been in love with
language and writing. Some of her writings can be seen on her
Instagram page @fancy.writes.