Right before my 16th birthday, I decided to give myself a middle name. Up until that point, I belonged to the unfortunate group of misfits who could not answer the most personal of schoolyard questions, “What’s your middle name?” And yes, I suffered greatly as a result, but like so many people born with this defect, I preferred not to think of myself as “handicapped.”
I secretly kept a list in my Trapper Keeper for about a year. I would write out my first and last name, and then insert a delightful-sounding middle name in between. Then I would repeat this full name over and over in my head like a mantra, sometimes for weeks on end. I was really fixated on “Francis” for a while, but there was another Chinese-American chick at my school named Francis who also bore my surname, and she was an evil cow. Alas, goodbye Francis. Then I moved on to “Emily,” because Emily was the name of the girl that everyone adored. But after a while, I came to the painful realization that I really wasn’t that girl. So, so long, Emily.
I even bought a baby name book and tried out all kinds of fanciful appellations: Chloe, Alexandra, Beatrice, Hazel, Tatiana. Soap opera names, really. But none of them really stuck. As my 16th birthday and the thought of getting my first form of ID in my driver’s license approached, I panicked. And I reached for a name that was familiar to me. My mother’s name.
When I tell people this story, they usually go, Aww, how sweet! A tribute to your mother! But really, it was an act of desperation (sorry, Mom). Besides, her name wasn’t exactly her real name; it was given to her as a child in Taiwan at Confirmation. But I had to have a middle name. It was going to define my future and allow me to achieve greatness, like it did for John F. Kennedy and C. Thomas Howell. Which is why I completely understand conservative radio host Bill Cunningham’s intentions in repeatedly calling Barack Obama “Barack Hussein Obama” at a McCain rally Tuesday:
Since, not to pat myself on the back, I’m in the business of handing out middle names, and we’re talking tributes to our mothers, I thought I would give Bill Cunningham both…
Bill “MyMomIsaWhore” Cunningham!
Try it for a little while, Bill, see how ya like it!
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