Whilst working on Tights and Fights, editor and writer Rob Pincombe asked me to put together a bio explaining that he’d combed through this site and hadn’t found anything he could use. Sheesh! The nerve! My name was on it…and it mentioned that I letter and colour…what else could there be?
Okay, it actually was KT Smith until the end of that project. I’ve since changed it to my full name. Although, to be fair, my mother would wish me to point out that it isn’t my “real” name which is, in fact, on my birth certificate as K-a-r-e-n Smith.
Even just typing that gives me the willies–my mother, who had an old-fashioned name at a time when her classmates were named Donna and Laura always hated hated hated her name and decided that if ever she had a daughter she would make sure she gave her a wildly popular name. Sure, you might not know a single Karen–but look up some naming charts and you’ll discover that it was consistently a Top Ten name for the entire ’60s. I believe it’s the name of the daughter on The Wonder Years–so that shows you right there how ubiquitous it was.
Add to that my middle name: Elizabeth. Elizabeth was one of the “go-to” middle names of that era… Then, make sure you follow it up with Smith. Yep. Smith.
Once in a high school class, tiny little town, tiny little class, out of 25 students, five of us were named Karen Elizabeth. Yeah. That certainly helped me as a teenager, trying to feel like I had a unique identity! By the end of that class, I think there was Karyn, Caryn, Karin, one lone holdout of Karen…and me with Keiren. Sure, it requires spelling it out to people, and correcting their pronounciation–think “heir” not “weir”, but until the internet it was unique. Since then, I’ve found that overseas it’s used often as a variant of Ciaran–and pronounced as such. Of course, I raise an eyebrow at anyone needing to change the spelling of such a unique name–but it’s unique on this side, not the other.
So, I’m K-e–i-r-e-n. There are those that still raise an eyebrow and think it was silly of me to have changed it–announce that I should “have” changed my name, or switched to my middle name (yeah–Elizabeth would have been quite the unique name to wander the earth with, wouldn’t it?). But it matters to me–and it’s my name. Whenever I see it, it’s “me”. It’s not soft or delicate, or gentle…it fits. The other spelling I had contemplated was C-a-r-y-n, because I had thought it was absolutely beautiful. Then I decided that it would give people “expectations” of who I am and I would never live up to that (“Wow, I thought she’d be pretty!”). Years later, I was amused to find out that Whoopie Goldberg’s birth name was Caryn Johnston! I always wonder how she felt about it…you never hear her telling stories about how the world knows her as Whoopie but everyone else calls her Caryn. I wonder what her mother calls her…