My middle name is my preferred first, like many Southerners before me. I go by my middle name, Maegan — most of the time, my moniker, Mae. My middle name was fashioned after my great grandmother’s, Hattie Mae Brisco. That’s the part everyone knows.
Right about this time in the conversation, people inevitably ask me about my first name. Therein lies the mystery, the formal name I share with my wonderful grandmother and amazing mother: Mary. My full name is Mary Maegan. I recall reading an essay by one of my favorite feminist authors when I was a teen, Anna Quindlen. In her two page composition, The Name is Mine, she writes about the meaning of a name, how it can feel like an albatross around one’s neck, or how it can be a liberating label that pointedly represents one’s personality and politics (Quindlen 1). Consider the name Mary: the white well-meaning grandma of a name; Mary, the “mother of God”, as my Econ professor called me; a stiffly foreign uniform anchoring me to thousands of years of tradition that I didn’t believe in.
On the other hand, Mary provides me a buffer between myself and doctors who don’t care to remember the name I want to be called. It is a technical term I allow people I don’t trust call me. The person at the DMV, the debt-collector, the snitch coworker. My first name commands a respectful barrier, an easy and automatic categorization in my mind. It also connects me to my ancestors, the ones who came before. My grandmother’s email address handle is “email@example.com”. It’s created a thick link to my mother and grandmother. At one time in my life, when I didn’t know how to set boundaries, that bond wasn’t always welcome. At this point in my life, that connection is everything. There’s something about “Mary” that bolsters my mood and automatically reminds me of my grandmother and mother, of their vivacity and audacity. That link we forged grounds me, amplifies me. I don’t know who I’d be without it.
In Quindlen’s essay’s context, she writes about not taking her husband’s name and the pros and cons associated with it, particularly regarding parenting. Reading this piece was the genesis of my decision to keep my last name when I got married. Quindlen writes, “He didn’t adopt me, he married me,” (Quindlen 1). HAH!
At one point, I thought I could even convince my future spouse to take MY last name, that is, until I married a trans person, who was made to go through a horrifyingly embarrassing name change process which required him to publish the name in the paper so anyone can dispute it. Name changing, even in our queer-friendly state of Colorado, costs more than your average young person can cough up. My spouse describes the process as traumatic and something he never wants to do again. So, we kept our respective names, no hyphen/dropping my middle name (Maegan… the one I go by…thus my ENTIRE identity) middle ground. I like this about us. Instead of sharing the same last name and therefore decorating with the first initial of the last names, we share a letter in our first name. People call us M&M. In fact, many of our wedding gifts, housewarming gifts, etc. display M&M or is a literal large container of the candies we all know and love.
Though I’ve been at odds with my first name throughout my life, I’m growing into it. I’m growing to appreciate what it represents — not just me, but my mother, her mother, and the three Marys, not so holy.
What’s your middle name?
3 thoughts on “WordPress Writing Prompt: There’s Something about Mary”
Same for me! Coming to terms with my middle name too is why I now go by Angelita at work. Plus my brother said he loved my middle name a few weeks before he passed. I will cherish it forever now as I do my brother.
Oh, I love your middle name (I love mine too!) 🙂 I love you!
I called Grandma today, and she told me there were several Mary Elizabeths before her. She said Nanny didn’t like Lizzie, so they named her Mary June b/c of her birthday. So, maybe it should be the 7 Marys, or something 🙂 Love you!