Hi, hello, my name is Sable. Yep, Sable. No, not Stable.
Yes, that’s my real name.
Wanna see my license? Okay.
Yes, I know Sable means “sand” in French.
When I meet people for the first time this exchange is not uncommon. Rude, sure, but usually voiced in a complementary manner. I barely go to Starbucks anymore (the whole cup-name thing vexes me, and also I’ve finally admitted to myself that I just don’t care for their coffee). Yeah, I’ll spell it out if it’s a “write your name down to wait” situation, and sure enough, even after spelling, I will often see it written as “Sabel” or “Stacey” or one time, “Salad.”
Seriously, what is in a name, that any other name would sound like salad?
My name, though rare (I have yet to meet another Sable IRL!), is still a word that exists in the English lexicon. It’s a type of animal and fur coat from that animal, it’s a color, it was a mid-range sedan from the 1980s to early-2000s. I won’t ever find it on a novelty-sized, vanity license plate or personalized gift-shop toothbrush, but I’ve gotten over that.
I grew up cursing my name due to its unconventional weirdness, which made me a beacon for ridicule. In grade school, I begged my mom to change it because kids always called me Stable. Part of me thinks they weren’t necessarily trying to be mean, that they honestly rejected the notion that a person’s name could be Sable.
After seeing Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I decided I would be Jessica. It was a “normal” name and Jessica Rabbit was, like, the first woman in power I witnessed in pop culture (it was the early ‘90s). My mom did not entertain this frivolity. She said she named me Sable because she heard it on Dynasty and thought it sounded cool, and also it means “consecration of God.” That was about as much deliberation as went into naming her only daughter. She also told me that one day I would grow to love it. I hate when my mom is right.
It was only after coming into my own, shedding the insecurities of being the shrimpy nobody in high school and the liberal-arts nobody in college, that I became quite pleased with my name — proud, even. This was the height of manic-pixie-dream-girl-ism; having a unique name was very de rigueur. Mine was hard to forget.
Once the teasing made way for compliments, my timidness about saying my name diminished and I could utter it without that upward, questing inflection, always a half apology for accosting someone’s ears with an unfamiliar, slightly more-difficult-to-dictate name. Side note: Unconventional names are always a great litmus test for the types of people you know you’ll get along with. I’ve never been a staunch name-corrector, but I will repeat it once so I know the person understands. Never learning how to correctly say your name is fairly indicative that a person is at best possibly deaf, and at worst a complete sociopath.
Sometimes a name makes a person and sometimes it’s the other way around. I’m not sure in which camp I fall, but having settled into Sable quite nicely in my adulthood, it feels like I’ve earned it. What was once a chip on my shoulder has become a one-of-a-kind signature.
Like any identifying feature that’s unconventional or unusual, it can be a process to absorb the perception of others and not take the bad-feeling stuff to heart. But honestly, having a weird name is cool because it’s yours and nobody else’s. You won’t turn your head when someone calls out your name only to realize they’re talking to someone else. You won’t have to go by the initial of your last name as well as your first name in group situations where there are multiple people with the same name. I’ve never once heard, “Oh, she is such a Sable,” the way I have about other names. Its outsider status means it doesn’t connote anything that I don’t necessarily represent. I can literally make a name for myself! Sometimes names are indicative of where you come from and sometimes they reveal nothing at all — only who you are once you show it. It took a while to come into it, but what I hated about my name as a kid I love now. It’s unique to me and my own brand of whoever I choose to be.
Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt.