My name is Meg. Well…ok, to you its Mom, but to the rest of the world its Meg. Not Megan or any of its twelve other spellings, and not Margaret, but Meg. On occasion to my aunts or small children I am Meggie. That’s it.
I love my name and I always have. When I was a child, my name was so special that when my mother was mad at me she didn’t use it. She used my “angry name” instead: Margaret. We all had angry names. My sister Beth’s angry name was Elizabeth and my father Bart’s angry name was Bartholomew. Angry names were long. Real names were short. This is what I believed.
Then came that fateful day in fourth grade. I attended a small, parish school. Everyone knew everybody else. Everyone called me Meg. Then, one day we had to take our first standardized tests.
“Write in your full first name and then fill in the appropriate bubble below each letter,” the teacher instructed. Piece of cake. M-E-G. Done in 6 seconds.
The teacher walked around inspecting our work. She stopped at my desk. “No, Meg. Your real name.” Excuse me? “Write Margaret.”
Dumbfounded. I can’t describe my horror. I was Margaret? How could I be Margaret? Meg was short and fun. Margaret was long and angry.
To save face in front of my classmates who had begun to look my way, I dutifully wrote out M-A-R-G-R-E-T. My teacher, still watching, pointed out – all too loudly for my tastes – “Meg, you spelled your name wrong.” Kill me now.
Mustering all the dignity I could I told her, “Well, that’s how I spell it!”
“Well, dear, then I think you need to go home and check your birth certificate. Put another ‘A’ between the ‘G’ and ‘R’.” And she walked off ignoring my gaping mouth. Check my birth certificate? Even at nine I knew that was snarky.
All the same, I went home after school, ran up to my room, got a stool and, standing on my tippy toes, inspected my birth certificate which had hung proudly on the wall of my bedroom for nine years. It read, “Baby Girl Jones”.
Great, I thought, now I have to take the stupid standardized test again.