5.01.2013

Call me "MK" (pronounced "EmKay") please?

As my family knows, the name on my birth certificate is "Maria Karen Kettleson", which my parents chose because "Maria" was a name they liked in the musical West Side Story and also a name with familial connections in Sweden, "Karen" is my mom's first name, and "Kettleson" is my dad's surname which my mom also took when they married.  It is a pretty name that I like objectively, but it just isn't the name that fits me at 49, and I finally have the courage to ask people to please STOP CALLING ME "MARIA".  Please call me "MK"?  (And thanks SO MUCH to those of you who actually listened to me as I've explained this to you, and who have been calling me "MK" for years now!)

One of my favorite stories about C.S. Lewis is how, at the wise old age of 4 years old, he announced "I Jack!" and was from then on called "Jack" by family and friends, despite his legal name being "Clyde Staples Lewis" and his pen name being "CS Lewis".  He knew who he WAS, and I love that his family and friends didn't question it, but simply complied.

My youngest son's legal name is "Parker Brooks Anderson", but you all know him as "Brooks".  It fits, doesn't it?

My husband, Steven, was called "Steve" by his family and friends growing up, but by the time I met him he was called "Steven" by anyone who had regular contact with him.  This didn't just happen and doesn't just happen, of course . . . He had to decide both that he preferred "Steven" to "Steve" and that he preferred it enough to ask for the change and then to keep making it an issue with people who chose to keep calling him "Steve".  This is still a regular part of his life, and of mine as well, because many people think it is just nicer to call him "Steve" than "Steven", and it takes a while to have them actually hear and remember that it is nicer to call someone the name he prefers than the name that they prefer, for whatever reason.

In my case, my reason is this:  "Maria" is who I was as a child, when I believed things I no longer believe and therefore acted in ways I no longer choose to act and made choices that no longer have any logic to me.  "MK" is the person who lives in this 49-year-old body and mind and who is trying to live out the remainder of my life in a way that witnesses to the things that I hope will inform and direct my children and grandchildren and anyone else who considers my life.

None of that is a rejection of my family or of the friends I had in childhood!  And none of that is a rejection of the values or beliefs of my family or of the friends I had in childhood.  If anything, it is finally growing into the legacy I have been given, and for which I am grateful.

A name change is very Biblical, of course:  Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter, Saul became Paul, and many other biblical characters where given or took new names as an illustration of something profound.  In my case, I am not illustrating anything nearly that profound.  I think my choice is more like that of CS Lewis preferring "Jack" or like Steven preferring "Steven".

Still, the bottom line in our culture is this:  We let people choose what they want to be called.  The name on their birth certificate can be legally changed if they desire, or they can still use it as their legal name and socially use a nickname.  We should understand that when we insist on calling someone a name that is different from the name they have requested, we are being rude.  It is as if we reject their right to define themselves in even something as basic as the name they go by.

So, please, call me "MK".



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