I’m Karen, but Not That “Karen”
Step Away from the Mean Meme
Yes, my name is Karen. I’ve always liked the name. Never wanted to be a Karla or a Kathy, but lately, things have gotten a bit complicated and I’m wondering if a name change is in order.
Let me explain.
There’s a meme – and a viewpoint – going around attacking the “Karen Generation” as a group of privileged, middle-aged women “usually racist, homophobic, and transphobic (who) don’t believe in vaccines or climate change.”
When my mother picked the name 66 years ago she didn’t know any Karens. She simply thought the “Swedish” name quite exotic. Other post-WWII moms must have thought so too because, by the time I entered kindergarten, the classroom was peppered with non-Swedish Karens like me.
In the way back “good old days,” the name Karen had lovely, positive meanings. Keren is Hebrew and means “ray of light.” Karen is also Germanic and means “hard worker.” It is also similar to the Sanskrit name “Kiran” which means “sunbeam.” That’s me, right? A hard-working beam of light!
The Karen Generation is Under Attack!
But now, Generation Z – those born in 1997 and later – are applying the name to criticize a whole generation of people, women, in particular. It’s mostly a battle between Gen Z and Gen X. I confess – I don’t quite get it. I only know that my name is in the middle and I don’t like it one bit.
A Middle Ground?
Maybe I should start going by my middle name – Michelle? I really do love that name. When the Beatles penned the song “Michelle,” I practically wore the album down, playing it non-stop on my record player.
Handsome Hubby already calls me Mish. My brother always calls me Mish or Michelle-o. So, it wouldn’t be a stretch for them.
Funny story though. Once when HH had a new administrative assistant, she overheard him whispering sweet nothings to me on the phone. He ended the call with a kiss and an “I can’t wait to see you later, Mish.” The next day I happened to meet HH at the office, and he introduced me as Karen to her. The poor woman could barely look me in the eye. It wasn’t until weeks later that she overheard HH say “Mish” while I was standing there. Then she realized — to her visible — relief that her busy boss didn‘t have a honey on the side!
Just Don’t Call Me …
My father wasn’t a man to worry about niceties like names. He had only one requirement: “Just don’t call me late to the dinner table!”
But with all this Gen Z negative name buzz, I confess I’m stressing. Should I change my name? It seems an extreme, downright risky move. If I do opt for a change at this late date, chances are I won’t remember it! Then, my father’s admonition of “Call me anything, but don’t call me late for the dinner table” might be a problem!
And taking a lesson from Shakespeare, think about how Romeo and Juliet struggled with their feuding families and the whole name issue.
“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name.
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”
Things certainly didn’t work out well for them, did it?
Still, I won’t be bullied. I was born a Karen and I’ll stay a Karen.
Take that, you Gen Z-ers! Say what you will. Just, please, don’t call me late for dinner!
Cute! You have a great, punchy writing style!
You are very kind!
Also, Happy Holidays.
I enjoyed this, Karen! Of course you should keep your name. The Gen Z meme about “mean Karen” is just age-old misogyny and fear of older, more independent women wrapped up in a GIF. How unoriginal.
And don’t forget: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – not that I’ve ever smelled you, of course!
On the subject of smelling: My sister-in-law’s British mother once said of a particular perfume, “It stinks good!” I always thought that was an unforgettable expression.