Seriously? Do I have to explain further?
Probably. People ALWAYS need explanations, rather than just accept you for who you are.
I was given a name at birth. Karen [maiden name withheld for obvious reasons… hackers] 🙂
I got into writing fiction in 2006, so chose a pen name ~ as so many fiction writers do. It’s normal in the world of fiction writing to have a pen name ~ or five, if you write in more than one genre. Ghost writers don’t have to worry about ANY of this ~ which is why I’ve been flirting with becoming a ghost. I don’t need or want celebrity status. It’s not my thing.
The internet made it possible for people to ‘dig in to people’s business’ as if anyone was hiding it.
In truth, people have a right to privacy, but that doesn’t stop anyone else from being nosy.
I could name a dozen different actors or writers who go by different names and nobody thinks anything of it.
Here’s my snag. I’m not famous.
People are fine with you being yourself and living the way you want to live as long as you’re famous or wealthy, or have solid connections who will back you up.
Outliers such as myself are told that we need to explain ourselves ’cause it’s “weird”.
It’s not weird. It’s more common than you think.
Back story time …
I got into a doctoral program in psychology in 2006 and started networking … as they do … by 2007. The disadvantage was, everyone in my personal life was as far removed from both the fiction writing world AND the higher ed./academic world as you could possibly be. So? They all thought I was ‘weird’ for anything I did.
Dear old dad used to openly laugh at my choice to get into the psychology business by often reminding me that, “only crazy people get into the psychology field” or, “only stupid people go to school for masters or doctoral degrees”. Thanks dad. I was used to verbal abuse that always started with, “karen … followed by an insult or criticism” (see where I’m going with this?)
My entire doctoral dissertation combined the two worlds. I studied subjective well-being in relation to membership in a writer’s organization for professional women [happiness, but the school and committee wouldn’t allow me to move forward with completing my dissertation until I changed the word ‘happiness’ to ‘subjective well-being’ so it sounded more … scholarly].
They cost me my dissertation with the amount of time that took, but I’m not thinking about that now. I own my mistakes but we can’t go back, only forward. A VERY costly series of mistakes.
The women in academia also didn’t like me studying the professional women who wrote romance novels as their full time job. The women in my study were also holding graduate degrees in literature or some equivalent of high achieving fields such as doctors, full tenured professors, or just wildly successful as full time authors.
In many cases, my participant pool included women who made four times any academic I was affiliated with. One of them made so much money selling her “trashy books” that an academic would have to work their entire life time in three lives before even cracking a glimpse of the success of the romance novelist’s success and wealth.
That made me happy.
Especially when many of the scholars I knew openly mocked and laughed at the books that were part of the 1.5 billion dollar industry.
The two worlds + the world I was leaving were like living in the Bermuda Triangle. By myself, I didn’t know how to handle that plus a train wreck at home.
What does that have to do with the Karen thing?
I’m telling you. Hang in there.
My psychological health suffered from the stress of trying to hold all the pieces together. Then, thanks to a couple of bitter ex’s on Reddit, the Karen meme’s started. It was picked up by the BLM movement.
When you were already surrounded by people who weaponized your name for their misogynistic ridicule, along with intense daily verbal abuse, you become triggered by the very name you walked around with. Then the public went wild with openly mocking middle aged women with their “okay karen” banter.
That’s a WHOLE other commentary.
The point is ~ a LOT of women named Karen started to change their names because for doing nothing but showing up, they were under public, cyber, and face to face ridicule. Harassment, belligerent and insidious treatment … no matter their personality. Women who looked a certain way were being blamed for all the things. ALL the things. ALL THE THINGS.
As if being the target of sexual harassment our entire lives wasn’t enough. As if being the target of social misogyny or gender related crimes against humanity since birth wasn’t enough.
This is in the United States, by the way. I have NO idea what it’s like elsewhere, but here? Yikes.
They tagged the name ‘karen’ to represent everything that was hated in the world.
The easiest way to legally change your name is to go to Vegas with a stranger and get married. You can change your name on a marriage certificate in an hour, then the rest of all government agencies will say,
Your name is now, Poppycock Flibberdigibit 🙂 As long as you’re a Mrs. and not a Ms.
BUT ~ if a woman wants to change her name without a man, she has to jump through a dozen hoops, spend hundreds (thousands) of dollars and ‘prove’ to the government WHY she wants to change her name.
It’s a nightmare of bureaucratic bullshit, but it is what it is.
I don’t identify with ‘karen’ as it also represents triggers of abuse.
I want to change my last name to Daly ~ my Great Grandparent’s and will eventually.
I go by KH *a nickname given to me by my eldest daughter’s friends who were charming and adorable*
I also dropped the ‘k’ and write as Aren Henry Miller ~ which is actually my name.
- In the academic world ~ they think changing your name is really abnormal.
- In the writing world ~ they think it’s very normal and don’t fully get why anyone would think otherwise.
- In the main streets of the world where people have ordinary jobs that have nothing to do with online anything ~ the ones I knew anyway ~ they don’t get either of those worlds and think it’s all stupid.
- Happily married people? Older than 30? They don’t get it either.
- I LOVE that women are keeping their names. Especially the professional women.
- OH, and don’t hyphen. That is also a nightmare.
And this is the biggest and most important issue of all of this ~
It’s nobody’s damn business what someone calls themselves or wants their name to be.
Here’s what I would love for everyone to know and know completely ~
What someone decides their name is ~ is ONLY their business and nobody else’s.
None of us owe an explanation to anyone else about the decisions we make for ourselves.
I haven’t written fiction in seven years. The last time was when I published the novel by the name I am not discussing. Nor am I sharing the reason for not discussing it. One day, I might. Or, not. My business. My decision. My body. My choice.
However, I AM publishing a Kindle Vella which is fiction. Under the name Aren Henry
One day, I’ll figure out the whole ‘karen’ thing but not while people are being shitty. ‘Susan’ is now also under attack.
Would you walk around carrying the weight of psychological and verbal abuse as a choice? It sucks by the way.
Being verbally, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, socially, financially abused. It’s a bloody nightmare. In case you don’t fully grasp what I’m saying.
Domestic Violence sucks. Nobody “asked for it” and yet, here we are. In a world full of it. When you’re out there making fun of, or straight up bullying some woman having a panic attack or anxiety attack online or in the grocery store ~ you are probably also participating in contributing to domestic violence.
As for names?
Here’s a thought …
Why do guys named Richard CHOOSE to call themselves Dick?
How is it that Margaret becomes a Peggy?
Where did Elizabeth get Lilibet?
When did Patrick become Patty?
Those are just the Anglo Saxon names.
I actually told one place I worked that I don’t use my legal name but go by the simplified form ~ they were SO DISRESPECTFUL of my identity that they actually said, “too bad, that’s what we are going to call you and write on all of the paperwork you use”.
Can you imagine how Caitlyn would respond to that?
Or, Elliot Page.
Or Laverne Cox.
I KNOW they faced much much worse to become who they authentically are.
I’m not naming the Karen’s I know who have become something else. I simply respect them enough to call them by their pen names in public and in person.
As is their right.
Aren in writing ~
This is too long but I will say, when you use a non-gender specific name, people on the internet will 100% automatically treat you with more respect in tone, and inclination.
That’s another story for another time.
BTW, Henry is my ex’s last name ~ if I didn’t have a child with that name, I would have ditched it immediately. Same for Miller ~ when your children have the same name … you are forever more stuck to the mistakes of your past.
OH and when mansplaining men tell me how insulted they are by being called mansplainers while they are mansplaining misogyny to me ‘as a feminist’ ~ I know I’m on the right path.
(Happened more than once on Linkedin and in professional listservs” and maybe … is part of the novel I’m writing. 🙂
Here’s to all the women out there who are somehow navigating this world while also being powerful in your own identity. By birth or by design.
p.s… I am a mental health coach and women empowerment personal development coach for a reason.
Education + Life experiences make for the BEST life lessons learned.