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I Am Sam

Sometime after the pandemic hit, the retail store I work at implemented “health ambassadors”, which is a fancy title for someone who keeps track of the number of people that come in and/or sanitizes carts. Since no one was volunteering themselves for this work, management has been drawing up a list of people that have to go up to the doors every single day. After I check in at the employee screening table for my temperature and health assessment, I check this list for when—not if—I have to go up and do an hour or two at the doors.

The last week or so, I’ve been getting real irritated seeing this list. Well…more irritated since I’m never happy about seeing my name on the list. The reason I’m more irritated is seeing my full first name on the list.

Samantha,” it reads. The problem is that’s not what I go by. Much like Maxine Caulfield from Life is Strange, I only go by the first three letters in my first name.

I understand why my full name appears: Everyday management prints off a list of people that are scheduled for that day, I show up on this list as Samantha because that’s my legal name, and they’re just hand writing down what’s on this list. At the same time, I’m the only Samantha or Samuel in that store currently and all of management should know that I have never addressed myself as Samantha—I’ve always been called Sam.

I’ve gone by Sam for as long as I could remember. The only time I refer to my full name is when I’m explaining that my parents named me after Samantha Stephens—they immediately agreed on a boy’s name, but couldn’t agree on a name for a girl until they were watching Bewitched one night. The only person I allow to call me Samantha is my uncle, who was still learning English when I first met him and I don’t have the heart to correct him since he took the time to learn the longer version of my name. Plus, his accent drops the “h” when he says it so it sounds less like my “real” name

I didn’t like being called Samantha as a kid because it was feminine and I was a very “tomboyish” child. I think these days it might be called “gender non-conforming” because I identified with being female and hated being mislabeled as male or questioned about my gender, but I also didn’t (and largely still don’t) identify with the traditional gender norms and roles of being female.

A few years back, the coworkers in my department were talking about what our middle names were and afterwards one of the more passive aggressive coworkers kept calling me by my full name thinking she was being funny. It got to the point management had to step in to get her to stop. I didn’t understand until I saw my first name appear on the door lists why it bothered me so much: it was triggering my anxiety because I associate that name with my abusive mother. She would yell my full name whenever she was furious with me, which was the only time she ever called me anything other than “Sam”.

Even though I’m sure it’s not being done intentionally, coming in everyday to see “Samantha” on the list is stressful and nerve wracking. I keep asking myself if I should say something because it seems like such a silly thing to get agitated over, but it’s also not a trivial thing and I’m not sure if I want to explain to management why it isn’t silly.

3 thoughts on “I Am Sam”

  1. Hi Sam, well done on doing this role. It must be challenging but a credit to you to manage it.

    The choice of whether to raise the issue of your name on the list is a difficult one, given that it sounds like management will ask for a reason? I guess it’s a case of weighing pros and cons of raising it but, I think you would be well within your rights to ask to be listed as your identified name, which everyone calls you by.


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