Chapter 7 | Roxanne

My name is Roxanne—sorry, I mean Rooooooxaaaaanne. Let me clear something up. I know that I don’t have to put on the red light and that I don’t have to wear that dress tonight. Neither do I have to walk the streets for money. I do care what is wrong and what is right. And no, I am not something you can choose to share or not share with another boy.

My name is memorable. Whenever I meet someone new and say, “Nice to meet you. I’m Roxanne,” I can tell from the glimmer in their eyes that the song has started playing in their head. Many of them feel the need to share that with me. On the plus side, most people don’t forget or misspells my name—except for Starbucks employees. I assume they misspell names for giggles or for the free Starbucks promotion on social media.

Here are the funniest and most remarkable stories I have relating to my name.

My teacher

It all started when I was in primary school. My favourite teacher would sing out Rooooooxaaaaanne every time he saw me. I had never heard the song; it came out in 1978 and I was born almost a decade later. We didn’t own the record or CD and I didn’t have access to YouTube or Spotify because they didn’t exist. I only heard the song years later when I twisted my ankle at basketball practice. My teacher and basketball coach gave me a lift home. He was very happy to be able to introduce me to the song that made my name popular, Roxanne by the Police. I have to admit, it’s catchy.

I especially like this cover by AnnenMayKantereit & Milky Chance.

Note: If you don’t know the song Roxanne or don’t remember the lyrics, you can find them at the end of this post. It will be useful before reading on.

My local barista

Sometimes, I would pretend my name was something else at coffee shops. It’s just easier that way. When the film Baby Driver was in theatres, I even pretended my name was Baby (B.A.B.Y.) to replicate the scene from the film. Sadly, the barista didn’t flinch or get the joke.

If I did happen to use my real name and if the barista was about my age they would go: “Roooooxaaaannnne”. I would be like “Yep. Please, don’t sing.”

On one occasion, the barista had “Roxanne” scribbled on her name tag. I asked her if she suffered the same fate and when she answered yes, I nodded knowingly.

Loblaws

A few years ago, I brought my German boyfriend to Loblaws, one of our 24-hour grocery store in Canada. In Germany, most grocery stores close at 8 PM and aren’t open on Sundays. It’s a great law, especially for the workers, but as a customer, you have to plan ahead. That’s why, I wanted my boyfriend to get the full late-night shopping experience. We brought our five items to the cash and the cashier started scanning the items. I gave her my loyalty card and she said “Roxanne”. I answered “yep”. She said “The Police”. I said “yea” and smiled at her while tapping my debit card. Then I grabbed our stuff to leave while wishing her a great night. When we left the store my boyfriend looked at me, bewildered. “How did she know your name? And, why is she going to call the police? And why didn’t you pay!?” It was amazing to see the culture shock this simple transaction had created.

Germans love their privacy, so they don’t usually have electronic loyalty cards. The only cards I have in my wallet now are disposable stamp cards. My boyfriend also didn’t know who the Police were, so he was very confused that the cashier would randomly say “The Police”. To add to the confusion, tap payments weren’t yet a thing in Germany, so he had no idea that I had actually paid. He thought I had won free groceries or something. We spent the next fifteen minutes laughing and wiping tears away.

Germans

We were visiting my father-in-law for Christmas. I was still taking off my shoes when he asked me if I had ever heard of the song Roxanne by the Police? He said he wasn’t sure I would know it because it’s so old and obscure. I’m sure he was ready to play the song for us, but we assured him that I knew it by heart and it wasn’t necessary. That’s one of the reasons I love living in Germany. Not one person has sung the song to me or pronounced my name correctly in the two years I’ve lived here.

The song

The song Roxanne was apparently inspired by prostitutes Sting saw on the streets of Paris and a Cyrano the Bergerac play poster he saw at his hotel. I especially love Sting’s explanation for the inspiration.

“It was the first time I’d seen prostitution on the streets, and those birds were actually beautiful,” Sting explained in 1981. “I had a tune going around in my head, and I imagined being in love with one of those girls.” The Stories Behind The Songs: Roxanne by The Police, 2014

It’s insulting to say that the prostitutes “[…] were actually beautiful”. I’m not sure what he expected, but the word actually here is insulting. What is he trying to say? He then went on to write a song about being in love with one of them, just because they were beautiful? To add to the insult, he calls them “birds”. Calling a woman a bird (or babe, doll, chick, honey) is undermining and is ultimately damaging to womenkind. This article by Hattie Garlick explains all the ramifications of these nicknames. We are not fragile, we don’t have feathers and we are not there to be pretty or sing for you. This slam poem Song of the Prettybird by Shay Stewart nails the methaphor.

I like to listen to the song Roxanne sometimes, but I do think it’s sexist. The male singing to the prostitute, Roxanne, assumes that she would be tickled pink to be saved by a man; to become his. I don’t know what it’s like to be a prostitute and I won’t pretend to, but I would really like to hear what Roxanne has to say. I’m pretty sure she would like to be free and belong to no one. He apparently “loves” her, but he probably just loves the idea of her. Does he even know Roxanne? Maybe she wants to wear that dress tonight. She can make her own decisions.

I’d just like to end this post by saying this. Dear strangers, please stop serenading Roxanne’s you barely know. We don’t need saving and we especially don’t need to hear your off-key rendition of the song. Thank you.

Roxanne - The Police (Lyrics)

Roxanne You don’t have to put on the red light Those days are over You don’t have to sell your body to the night Roxanne You don’t have to wear that dress tonight Walk the streets for money You don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right

Roxanne You don’t have to put on the red light Roxanne You don’t have to put on the red light put on the red light

(Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light Oh!

I loved you since I knew ya I wouldn’t talk down to ya I have to tell you just how I feel I won’t share you with another boy I know my mind is made up So put away your make-up Told you once, I won’t tell you again it’s a bad way

Roxanne You don’t have to put on the red light Roxanne You don’t have to put on the red light You don’t have to put on the red light (Roxanne)

(Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light You don’t have to put on the red light (Roxanne) (Roxanne) put on the red light You don’t have to put on the red light (Roxanne) (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light (Roxanne) put on the red light

Does your name also come with a sexist song? Share your experience #Evulving on social media #Evulving and follow @Evulving on Instagram.