jUwa: The Story behind my Name

Me in Edinburgh.

Hi, I have finally decided to write about this. About the story behind my name. Many people have been asking, even my professors did: Why do you sign as jUwa? Why not Siti? Why capital U? Etc. No hard feelings; I seriously take no offense for that, because, well, I know it’s not usual, and when you encounter something unfamiliar, it’s just natural and okay if you are curious and want to know about it. So, when people ask about it, I take it that they ask purely out of curiosity. Sometimes I get overconfident, too: they ask because they care about my name or about how I prefer to be called. (If they didn’t care, why bother asking, right? 😜) I’m not being sarcastic here, so please don’t be so negative. The truth is that, actually, when they ask such questions, I am happy but I often feel bad, NOT because they ask but because I know sometimes I get a little too excited to tell the story, the explanation so long I’m afraid it will bore them, but I really want to make sure that they know and understand. So that’s why. I think I’ll just write it here. If somebody asks, I can just copy-paste or share the link. I can save my time like that 😜 But just a warning, this will be a bit long 🙏🙏🙏

So, alright, let’s start. My complete name is Siti Juwariyah, but I prefer to be called jUwa, not only in social media or virtual world, but also in real life or real world where I live. jUwa is not only my name, it feels like it’s me myself, i.e. I’m not really me if I’m not jUwa. So maybe it’s just the me I create, like the identity or the image I project for the world to see, i.e. I am still me even if people do not call me jUwa. I’m not truly sure of who or how I really am, though. But can we be sure about it? Who can be sure about it? Are you sure about who you really are? Isn’t it just who you think you were, are, or want to be? But anyway, enough with the excuses. Let’s start.

  1. I don’t really sign as Siti. It’s true that my complete name is Siti Juwariyah, but Indonesian naming system is kinda different. Not all of us use family names. Some ethnicities use family names, but most of us don’t. Take my name, for example, Siti Juwariyah. None of it bears family name, i.e. both Siti and Juwariyah are given. My mother has only one name (no first/last name), which is different from her parents’ and mine as well as my siblings’. My father also has a different name from his parents’, which is also different from mine. My brother and I do not share a same single name. However, my sister’s first name is also Siti, but not because we’re siblings/family, but because Siti is a common name for female Indonesians (especially Muslims. But I believe this is not the case with Muslim women in other countries). This is to say that there are other women named Siti in Indonesia just like there are many women named Emily, Maria, Lauren, etc. in Western countries. However, as time goes by, Siti kinda bears a “negative image”. It often represents someone coming from a low-class family, uneducated, poor, etc. I’m not sure I have the exact translation in English, but maybe it’s something like “tacky”, i.e. it’s just not cool. For instance, if you see Indonesian dramas or movies, Siti (along with some other common “tacky” names) will be used to name a character whose profession is a housemaid, janitor, and such, while the bosses or the rich ones will never be named Siti (or they are not going to be called/nicknamed Siti). If someone is named Siti and happens to have a career in entertainment, she’ll certainly not use the name “Siti” as their stagename. (It’s a different case in Malaysia, though, in which they have Siti Nurhaliza as one famous singer (or maybe the only star named Siti)). Hence, this might also lead to my “self-esteem” defense; i.e. at least as a kid, even though I knew my family was not rich and that I came from a low-class and “uneducated” family (my parents didn’t even finish elementary schools, remember?), I didn’t want to be “uncool” just because I bore the name Siti. Moreover, when I was at schools, in my classes, there were always other kids named Siti, which made it confusing for the teacher sometimes. Hence, I did not want to go with Siti as my nickname. Now I have come to term with it, though. But I’m still not used to being called Siti (except if it’s followed by my last name). And hey, Siti sounds like ‘city’, so sometimes it can be confusing 🙈😅✌️
  1. Nickname and title in Indonesia is different from that in the US. We can call someone by their first name, last name, a part of either first and last name, the combination of both, or even a completely different name. I remember having a friend named Nurul and she’s called Inung, and that’s totally fine (maybe it’s like Bill for William?). As to show respect, we can add “title” equal to Mr/Mrs., Ms./Miss/, etc. and this title can go with any name (first name, last name, nickname). For example, it’s totally okay to call me Miss Siti, Miss Juwariyah, or Miss Juwa. Meanwhile, here in the US title always goes with last names. Let’s take “David Archuleta” for example. In the US, I can address him with Dr. Archuleta but not Dr. David. This is why it’s hard for me to call my professors by their first name (even if they say it’s okay), because title here doesn’t go with first names, and if I don’t address my professors with a title, it will be considered disrespectful. I mean, it will make me feel that I am being disrespectful and I don’t want that because I do respect my teachers/professors. (Except if from the beginning, all I know is and/or they ask me to call them by their first names).
  1. I’d been having different nicknames in high schools since everyone was so fond of calling others as they liked sometimes. I remember wanting to be called Ria so I often introduced myself as Ria, because I think it’s beautiful, feminine, gentle, princess-like, and such, but most of my “friends” usually decided (that’s how they made me feel) that the name was too beautiful for an ugly duckling like me. Thus, they ended up creating a nickname for me. That’s why I will know who someone was (whether they were my junior high school friends or senior high school friends, etc.) from the way they call me. Well, few nice friends did call me Ria, and I remember as well as am grateful for them 😊 By the way, you might be curious why I thought they thought Ria was too beautiful for me, right? What made me think and feel that way? Well, first, it had never really worked when I introduced myself as Ria, but I remember back then there was this new student transferred to my school. She was tall, beautiful, had fair skin, and she was rich too. She introduced herself as Ria, and everyone called her that. (But why hadn’t they called me that when I asked them to call me that even before the arrival of that girl?) So you see, it might be silly, it wasn’t a big deal for many, but it really made me feel ugly, that’s why I think the nickname Ria didn’t fit me. As for that girl, Ria, no, I’ve never blamed or hated her. It’s not her fault either. We were good friends in high school. (Just in case you, Ria, happen to read this, please don’t get me wrong). And, oh, I don’t hate my friends from high schools either. Maybe I should be grateful instead, because now I feel special with jUwa as my nickname 🙂
  1. As for jUwa, it started when I was going to college. I didn’t want to be called Siti and I was still trying to be called Ria but at that time there was also another girl called Ria, so I guess I was just fed up, and thus, I completely gave up that nickname. Other nicknames were already used, too. So I went with Juwa and I felt like reborn: this was the new me; I had a full control of who I was, of my identity. It was neutral. It was genderless too. People who don’t know me actually often think that Juwa is a male’s name. Haha I’m not upset, though. Quite the opposite, I find it intriguing. Maybe because I feel it’s kinda “macho” and cool. I guess I always want to be a “cool girl”. LoL I mean, I love cool people, so maybe that’s why I want to be one. But I really come to love the name jUwa, though. For instance, there’s this friend who often joked and called me Jew (because it sounds the same as jUw), and I really don’t mind. I mean, I’m not a Jew, but people say Jewish people are smart, right? I didn’t mind being considered smart. Haha There’s also an Indonesian word that sounds like jUwa, too, and it’s often used in songs, so I often feel as if they put my name in the lyrics. LoL And, oh, my country’s motto is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, in English it means “Unity in Diversity”, but in Indonesian it means “Berbeda-beda (different) tetapi satu jua/juga (but one)”. I often use this to joke around with new friends/colleagues in Indonesia and they are usually entertained, so it makes me happy 🙂 Besides, I can also “extend” the meaning to myself. It can feel like, there can be many people named Siti Juwariyah, and there might be different sides of me; nevertheless, there’s still only one me, one jUwa :p Gosh, I guess I’m taking it too deep. Pardon me 😀
  1. As for writing capital U in my nickname, well, it happened in college, too. I majored in English Education. As I was learning English, I just realized that the letter ‘u’ was pronounced the same as ‘you’. Sometimes we also used “u” to replace “you” like when we were texting. So, because I thought that my existence without you (people around me, it includes you, too^^) was not really meaningful, I took it that ‘you’ were really important in my life. Thus, I made the letter U in my namecapital to show its importance, as if to say jUwa without U (jUwa without you) was not complete. It’s just to emphasize the importance of U as YOU. I guess I was just trying to be philosophical at that time and I felt cool with it. Then I came to get used to writing it that way, and I guess it’s unique, too. The philosophy and the idea was really personal (and kinda childish), though. I understand if people find it troublesome and I feel really bad for it, too. There are times when I ask myself to just write it the casual way, i.e. writing Juwa/juwa instead of jUwa. It’s not a big deal anyway. But I feel like losing a part of me. It just doesn’t feel right. Besides, nobody is harmed or disadvantaged by that, right? They might think it’s childish, silly, insignificant, etc. but that’s okay as long as I can still do my job well, right? Or does it make me look unprofessional? This is my only concern, to be honest. But for other reasons, I just want to be selfish and write it the way I’ve been writing it.
  1. Actually there’s another story of how I came to be named Siti Juwariyah. But for now, I’d love to keep it to myself, so please don’t ask. I have a different nickname at home, too. Like, if you come to my neighborhood and ask my neighbors using “Siti Juwariyah” as a clue, they will have no idea. They’ll think that you might be looking for someone who lives in another village or district. Or they will say “There’s no one named Siti Juwariyah here.” But if you describe me as a clue (e.g., the daughter of Mr.X (mention my parents’ names), the girl who got a scholarship to study in the US, etc.), they’ll know 😀
Me in Zaanse Schans in North Holland.

To sum up, I don’t hate my name, and I don’t hate the name Siti; I am just not used to being called Siti. Nobody did, nobody does. It’s like when your name is Jane Mary Stewart and everyone has been calling you Mary and you love being called that, too, and then suddenly someone calls you Jane, well, it’s still your name, you don’t hate that name, but it just feels weird. Well, at least for me it’s weird, because that’s not what I identify myself with. I know this is kinda problematic, though, especially here in the States. For those who do not know or do not understand, they might think that I’m just keeping some distance since I refuse to be called by my first name. Meanwhile in the US, we call someone by their first name to show closeness or friendliness. In my case, everybody calls me jUwa, whether they are close or not, with a title or not. It’s my nickname, it’s what I identify myself with, though I am really okay if someone calls me Siti when they first know me. As for the writing with the capital U, yes, I prefer writing my name that way, but I am perfectly fine with people writing my name ‘Juwa’, so it doesn’t really matter 🙂

PS: That’s why it often gets on my nerves when people call others as they please especially using “bad names”. Some people think it’s to indicate intimacy and friendliness. Some even think I’m too serious about it. Well, of course I am serious about it. Names mean a lot to me. Religiously, (though I can’t remember exactly the holy phrase), there’s this teaching to call someone with the name that they like, i.e. we are taught to not call someone with a name that they hate or the bad names. Plus, I have been through all that, i.e. being called names that I don’t really like. Hence, calling someone a bad name is just like bullying, can’t you see?

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