It’s Christmas Time, late December, when capitalists celebrate Consumerism, Pagans celebrate Winter Solstice, and Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. During Christmas Time I sometimes remember the day I was out shopping with my three small children in tow. They overheard another shopper swear, “Jesus H. Christ!”, and one of the kids asked me, in all innocence, what Jesus’ middle name was. Taken aback, I asked him what made him ask that. “Well, that man said Jesus’ middle name began with an H, so what did the H stand for?” Thinking quickly (which mothers with young children have to do on a regular basis), I replied, “Well, I’m not sure, honey, but I think it was probably ‘Holy.’”
Whew, got around that one!
There is nothing quite so fraught in the lives of new parents as the choosing of a child’s name. There can be all sorts of strings attached, all sorts of underlying intentions and considerations and traps. Whom shall we honor, or remember, or please, or piss off? If we give her this name, what is she likely to be nicknamed? What will the acronym of the name be? Will that distant elderly relative leave us a bequest for that child? If we MUST use an aunt’s out-dated name, can we hide it as an initial in the middle of the child’s name and only reveal the name if necessary?
I never thought of my mother’s mother, Gertrude Quick, as having a sense of humor until I realized that she’d named her daughter Dorothy Blanche, and her son John Biery – “Dorothy Be Quick” and “John Be Quick.” Cute.
My husband and I named our firstborn “Joseph Thomas Trenshaw.” That was a home run name – in one brilliant choice he became the namesake of four: his two grandfathers: Joseph Thomas (my father), and Joseph Trenshaw (my husband’s father); his uncle: Joseph Thomas (my brother); and his father: Joseph Trenshaw (my husband). That was a LOT of Josephs in one family, so we called him by his middle name, Tommy.
I have no middle name. When I’m filling out a form in a medical office or a bank I just put a line through the blank space asking for a middle initial. (I’ve also been known to answer “Person to call in an emergency” with “Doctor” and to fill the blank for “sex” with “occasionally.” But that may be too much information for my readers!)
I don’t have a middle name. This is because (I was told), when I married I would – “of course” – use my maiden name to fill that gap. I was at least twenty-five years old before I realized the huge presumptions in that explanation: when (not “if”) I married, I would take my husband’s surname, and I would want to keep my maiden name as part of my identity. I was at least forty before those presumptions made me really angry.
I did get married, at age 19. I did take my husband’s surname. But I did not keep my maiden name as a middle name. At first it was because I simply wanted to have some say in the matter. Later, out of sheer spite, I chose to continue having no middle name, ever.
And you know, I haven’t missed it a bit.