December 23 – New Name (#reverb10)

December 23 – New Name. Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

When I was born, my parents didn’t give me a middle name. Both of them had middle names - my dad actually goes by his middle name (which he tells me is not a great idea for those of you thinking of doing that with your child(ren)). 

Year in and year out, I got a whole host of reactions from people as the subject of middle names came up, as it often does during grade school years. There was inevitable disbelief that I didn’t have middle name. Surely I had one and was just too embarrassed to share it. As a teenager, I even dug out my ID to prove I wasn’t lying.

I think my lack of a middle name bothered me quite a bit more than I realized because my mom came to me when I was about to turn 16 and told me that for my birthday, she and my dad were going to allow me to legally change my name. I guess I must have lamented my lack of a middle name to the point that my parents felt it was a real problem for me. When we had this little talk, she gave me a key chain with the name “Marie” on it. That was my mom’s middle name and I’d tossed around the idea of being Karen Marie. It has a nice ring to it, though I got some pretty hardcore lobbying from a friend who thought I should be Karen Elizabeth. (Elizabeth was this particular friend’s middle name.)

The funny thing about situations like that is that often when you receive the permission to do the thing you want, you find it isn’t nearly as important as you thought it was.

One of the truths that my parents instilled in me - my father especially - was that I was unique. (Just like everybody else, I once told him - because I can be a smart ass like that.) At 16 years of age, I decided once and for all to embrace the uniqueness of not having a middle name and told my mom that I didn’t want to change my name after all. From that moment on, my perspective changed from one of being the odd one out to feeling pride at my uniqueness.

Ironically, my name is extremely common. (I’ve gone to the doctor, had them pull “my file”, look at me then look at the file, and say, “You weren’t born in 1952!” No. And I’m glad you noticed.) Probably the only unique thing about it (maiden or married) is the fact that I don’t have a middle name.

So, would I introduce myself as someone else for a day?

Nope. I am Karen C. Wilson and Karen C. Wilson I will always be. The C is my middle initial now because I kept my maiden name when I got married just to get to have a middle initial. So, it all worked out in the end after all. And the “Marie” key chain from my mom? I used it until it fell off my keys. It reminded me daily that I was special just as I am and that I didn’t need to be like everybody else to be accepted.