I’m not sure how you grew up, but back in the 80’s, when I was very young, parents made their children write their names, addresses, and phone numbers a thousand times. This was more than just a writing and learning exercise; It was a rite of passage–a sign that you were no longer a baby. This exercise served two purposes: 1. so the kids would actually learn to spell their name correctly and learn their address and phone number, and 2. to practice writing. This was usually done some time after learning to tie shoelaces, but before the end of kindergarten. I wrote “Jessica Grace Brown” a million times. That exercise ingrained in my brain that this was my name. Some kids didn’t like their names and went by nicknames or some other name. I didn’t really care. I had a name, and it was mine…at least I thought so.
As I got older, I started to notice some stuff. Things didn’t really add up. After all, what is a middle name for if no one recognizes it any way? Some time during the first half of my junior year I decided that I needed some answers. I went to the source.
“How come my middle name doesn’t come on anything?” I asked.
My mother replied, “What do you mean?”
“Everyone else has their full name on their report cards and things except me. My stuff just says Jessica Brown.”
Without missing a beat, and so casual, she bestowed upon me the answer to my quandary.
“Oh. That’s because you don’t have a middle name.”
That was not the answer I was expecting! I wanted some long, technical answer that started with “Long ago and far away…” involving monks who built a special computer deep in the Alps, and ending with “…and that is why your middle doesn’t show.” I felt like she ripped out part of my identity. I didn’t know who I was any more. I was angry and felt like I had been betrayed. How could they not tell me this? What was up with writing “Jessica Grace Brown” a million times? Who am I?? She said something about when I was born they only had one name picked out, and when they finally selected a middle name they already had the birth certificate and it was going to cost money to get it changed. At the time I thought that was the most lame excuse of all lame excuses. It makes sense now, of course. I wanted to give myself a name just to spite my parents, but, of course, it does cost money to do that.
Months later, at our class ring ceremony, all of those feelings resurfaced when I saw that I would be haunted by this my entire life. Before I confronted my mother, I had already designed my class ring. I opted to have my signature engraved on the inside of the band. I signed my whole name. So, while my classmates were celebrating a milestone, I stood there in anguish, staring this stranger’s ring. I thought, “This person doesn’t even exist.”