Icky Introductions

By Oluyemisi Bolonduro ‘23

“What’s your name?”

“Oluyemisi.”

“Do you have a nickname?”

“No, just Oluyemisi.”

“Can I give you a nickname?”

“No, I don’t do nicknames.”

My whole life prior to Pomona, I went by a nickname; it was how I tried to assimilate. It was a tool I used to make people comfortable when interacting with me. I decided to go by my full name, Oluyemisi, because I saw college as an opportunity to accept all aspects of my identity. Picturing myself as Oluyemisi, I imagined a woman who was unapologetically herself, refusing to “shrink [her]self for someone else’s comfort” (@recipesforselflove on insta).

Move-In Day crowd
Move-In Day: plenty of people to meet!

I wasn’t entering college with the mindset that a name change would make me a completely different person.  It was more like I could shed aspects of myself I didn’t like and develop my character.  Kind of like the clichéd “REINVENT YOURSELF” vibe that makes one hopeful in a new environment.  In this environment, I’m always introducing myself because there are barely five people from my entire school district at Pomona.

Most people I meet don’t realize how harmful it is when they try to pronounce my name, give up, and demand a shortened version.  If you’re uncomfortable with my name, it’s like you’re uncomfortable with my existence.  Then, a compromise has to be made so we’re both comfortable.  The thing is, I’m not comfortable shortening my name … so if I give in to a compromise nickname, I’m really just being passive and letting you get your way. Correct me if you think otherwise, but nobody wants to start a relationship (platonic or romantic) with one person indirectly demanding a compromise and the other just … going … along … with … it…. I’m not the only one who doesn’t like that idea … right??

Thankfully, most people who use a nickname apologize and call me Oluyemisi the next time they see me. I will say, there was one nickname I was given at the beginning of the year and it rhymed, so I let it slide. We don’t use it anymore because the creator wanted to make sure there wasn’t the slightest ounce of discomfort with me having a nickname (even if it was a cool rhyme from a cool person!!).

Two people who did da quickie shifty to Oluyemisi
Two people who did da quickie shifty to Oluyemisi

That being said, the people at Pomona (and the greater Claremont Colleges) are always open to change and open to making room for change. I feel like the person I’m becoming in Claremont is the type of person I was too scared to be in high school. But I wouldn’t be her if I wasn’t in an environment that stimulated growth.

If you want to “REINVENT YOURSELF” at Pomona…go for it!!  I embraced my daily dialogue and now I’m always saying “heyo dawg!”  I played around with my clothes and now the color inside me shows!  I picked academics as something to explore and now I’ve opened up a door or more!  Okay, I’m done with the rhyme, I hope this post prevents you from having icky introductions that are sticky like slime!