Today I attended a lovely alumni reception at St. Patrick’s Church, which is celebrating its centennial. Although the reception was light on actual former St. Patrick’s School students, the hall was filled with the bustling, devoted women who have lovingly kept the parish running for more than half of the celebrated centennial. As I bent over the dessert table to get a homemade piece of chocolate cake to go with my coffee, one of these devotees called out, “Karen!”. I instantly raised my head and responded, “No. My name is Kathy”. She gave me a perplexed look and then started talking to the woman behind me, whose name actually is Karen.
I laughed to myself as I walked back to my table, the calling of that name bringing back a flood of memories; Memories of 8 years spent following my well behaved, studious older sister, Karen, though school.
Not once, during any of those 8 years, by any teacher, was I ever called by my rightful name, Kathy. In every class, the teacher’s eyes would come to rest on me and, with the certainty of the sunrise, that teacher would: 1) call me Karen; 2) be offended when I corrected her; 3) 15 minutes later, call me Karen again.
One elderly teacher not only couldn’t get my name right, she couldn’t even get my sisters name right, so I went through 4th grade as Karen Louise. Now, it’s bad enough being called the wrong name, but tacking a Louise onto it just added insult to injury.
To compound this confusion, all through school there was a girl in my class whose actual name was Karen. Karen’s older sister was in my older sister Karen’s class. Guess what Karen’s older sister’s name was? You got it- Kathy.
Let the hilarity ensue.
Poor Little Sister Karen and I never knew which one of us was being spoken to. The teacher would ask, “Karen, would you please spell PREPOSTEROUS” and when Karen opened her mouth to respond, she would invariably be beaten back with whatever weapon the teacher held at the time and told “I was speaking to Karen!”
If Kathy was asked to come to the board to diagram a sentence, I was meet with equal fury upon rising.
Throughout the years LSK and I endured endless blows raining down on our heads from countless yardsticks and pointers for the imagined disrespect of not answering to the wrong name.
I can still hear my comrade’s plaintive voice pleading, “But my name is Karen, Sister.” in her never ending attempt to rectify the injustice.
I gave up around 7th grade when I realized it was probably better if they didn’t know my actual name.
Karen Louise- identity crisis over and no worse for the wear