By Hannah Reich Berman
Honoring someone is always a meaningful gesture. It means a lot to the recipient of the honor, and if the honor is given posthumously, it is a comfort to the survivors of the deceased.
Honors come in a variety of forms. Some people have libraries or schools named after them. On the Long Island—Queens border, what was once known as Idlewild Airport was eventually renamed for our late president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and for years it has been internationally known as JFK. Those who make hefty donations to hospitals often have an entire wing named after them, and temples and synagogues may name a room after a past president. Occasionally an honor is given not because of a financial donation but because a person has worked tirelessly for an organization. Even gardens have been named for people we wish to honor and to remember.
But there are exceptions to why honors are given. Now and then a person is honored for no discernable reason other than the fact that he or she is about to become somebody important–somebody who is not yet, but will become, very well-known. It is an honor that has less to do with what the honoree has accomplished but is more about the association with somebody famous. This is true in the case of Meghan Markle.
Meghan is a Hollywood starlet who has a list of credits that include both movies and television shows. While it is unknown at this point if she would, at a future date, have been honored for her roles in any of them, the public doesn’t have to wait for that to happen. She has apparently been chosen for this honor by virtue of the fact that she is soon to become the wife of that well-known redhead, Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles and the late Diana Spencer. Possibly there will be other future honors for Meghan, but the first one has already been revealed. The London Zoo has announced that it is naming an okapi after Meghan.
It is a dubious honor at best. The zoo means well, but why would a lovely-looking female want an ungainly-looking animal named after her? It is not a well-known animal, which might just be the good news.
Not many people have any idea what an okapi, also known as a forest giraffe or a zebra giraffe, looks like. There is no other way to say this–it is ugly. Admittedly, there are hundreds of ugly animals in the world. Some are relatively well-known, others are not. The warthog, the blobfish, the goblin shark, and the Tasmanian devil are just a few of the world’s most hideous creatures. Some live on land, others make their home in the ocean, while others spend their time flying above us.
The okapi, while definitely ugly, does not fall into the “most hideous animal” category. It is debatable about whether or not most people would want an animal–any animal–to be named for them, but we may at least assume that a familiar and a pleasant-looking one would be preferable. There are just as many good-looking animals as there are ugly ones. The bottlenose dolphin is a creature of beauty. The giant panda is not only adorable, but is very familiar. In the bird family, the peacock and the flamingo are colorful, beautiful, and recognizable to everyone. But an okapi is not beautiful or adorable, it is not colorful, and it is not an animal that most people recognize. Few, in fact, have any idea what it looks like. It is referred to as the only living relative of the giraffe; nevertheless, it is not nearly as pretty, graceful, or elegant-looking. Like the giraffe, it does have an elongated neck, but the resemblance stops there. Both its front and hind legs have black-and-white stripes like those of a zebra, and its thick body is part brown and part black in color.
Why Meghan Markle, or anyone else, would want an okapi to carry her name is a mystery. Privately, she may tell her Harry that she is less than thrilled with the honor but it is doubtful that she will complain publicly. After all, an honor is an honor, and an honoree has to keep her mouth shut. That’s just the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.