I just found out that one of my best friends is a closet revolutionary. I like her even more now.
It all started when I got an email from my HR department addressed to Karen NMN. Wha? I was very confused. It sounded like a candy bar, or a Detroit-based rapper, but not staid boring regular old Karen H. I read a little further and realized that I was actually being referred to as Karen No Middle Name. Apparently my Mormon roots had blown the mind of our government IT system, and it had to assign me the middle initials that my parents didn’t give me. I was part of that mid-century crop of girls that were destined for marriage and mommy-hood. I was born in the height of the ERA debate, and my lack of a middle name was like an anthem to my mind. “You won’t get caught up in this silliness. You’re getting married, and you’re taking your husband’s name, and then your last name can become your middle name, and all will be well in Zion and your HR records should you choose to have a part time job before you start raising your children.”
Now I have to admit here that I’m being totally unfair to my parents. They have never been anything but supportive of my education and my career. They are smart and loving and kind. And I think they just wanted me to avoid name confusion. It was pretty common in the Mormon-belt for girls to be without middle names. In an informal straw poll among friends, about 1/2 of them, or sisters, or wives, or mothers were without middle names.
But the bottom line is that it feels like a bit of a slap in the face. It feels like alone I do not have a complete identity. It feels like I’m not a whole person without a husband. And let’s make no mistake here, friends, I am without a husband. I may be without one for the rest of my life. And even if I’m not, I’m not sure I would want to change my name if I were to get married. I’m really settled professionally, with hundreds of work contacts. I have a mortgage, a car, bills, passports and id cards, not to mention all of the work documents and school diplomas all in my name. The name of me. Whole person me.
So I was expressing my disgruntlement to my awesome revolutionary friend who, as part of her day-disguise poses as a Relief Society president, Beehive teacher, or Cub Scout leader. She agreed with me, and said that she hated not having a middle name. “What?” I said incredulously, “You do have a middle name, it’s Elizabeth.” “Ha!” She smugly replied. “You bet I do, I took myself down to the courthouse and legally changed it. It’s a family name, and I love Elizabeth Bennett, so it was the perfect choice.” She rocks. Were her parents upset? Nope. They bought her monogrammed towels to celebrate.
That got me thinking. I could give myself a middle name too! I would be like that skier, Picabo Street who chose her own name when she was two years old, only I wouldn’t choose a name like Picabo. But what kind of name would I choose? A few sassy thoughts passed through my head: Svetlana, Bathsheba, Vivienne. Ultimately, I think I would choose a family name too. My favorite family name is Astrid–my very beloved grandma who passed away at age 101 a couple of years ago. Karen A. Karen A. It sounds nice.
So should I do it? Is symbolically declaring myself whole worth the bureaucratic hassle that would surely follow? Is this brilliance or folly?