The Woman Who Didn't Know Her Own (Middle) Name
Gather round, friends, and I will tell you the strange but true tale of a woman who lost track of her own middle name.
It all started innocently enough. She was a young woman with a very common first/last name combo, and she was engaged to be married. She decided to take her husband's less-common surname, and to use her single-person surname as a middle name. And so on her wedding day, Ms. First Middle Single became Ms. First Single Married.
The years rolled by, with business cards, credit cards and contracts issued in the name of First S. Married. "Middle" sank quietly into the realm of memory. Then one day, our heroine realized she had never received the Social Security Card she'd applied for in her married name. She requested a duplicate, and it arrived printed with the name First Middle Married.
In the United States, the Social Security Card is king. When Ms. Married moved to a new state, the DMV ignored her old driver's license and issued her new identification with the SSA's preferred name. Once those two primary IDs said First Middle Married, her passport had to follow suit. The die was cast. She had a new official name, one which she'd never chosen.
Which full name should she use now? Which was "correct"? Was there any turning back?
A funny thing happened: she found she didn't care. Single, Middle, whatever. She didn't use any middle name much anyway, and the new version did have nicer initials.
Did I mention that this woman is me?
It's quite the irony, a professional Name Wizard not knowing (or caring about) her own name. But the lesson I took away is that for me and many others, our middle names aren't really our names. If you don't use a name and don't answer to it, it plays a very different role in your life. It doesn't shape the impression you make on others. It's something attached to you, rather than your own self. You might take it out to look at it once in a while, but it's not essential.
I suspect many of you feel differently. Your middle name is part of your identity. If it were taken away by bureaucratic chance, you'd spring into action to rescue it! For some of you with middle names of special significance, that's doubtless true. But as one who's been there, I can tell you that the reality of the middle-name switcheroo was far less significant than I would have imagined.
I spend a lot of time telling people that first names mean more and say more than we think. Middle names, though, may just mean less.