Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Quilted Fish out of Water

I don't know what it is about me. My presence, specifically my name, doesn't compute.

I finally tried to create an author profile for the Goodreads page about Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale. I began clicking here and there, only to be told that HENRY was not an acceptable last name so I should try again.

A new round of clicking began, only to be told that I had to apply for LIBRARIAN status if I wanted to edit an author profile. There was no author profile; that's what I was trying to create. I just wanted to offer some details for the folks who landed on my page.

I don't want to be a librarian. That ship sailed. (I'm not even sure I'm an author on some days, truth be told.)

My trouble wasn't just with technology. My name has been swimming upstream for decades.

When I got married in the late 1970s, I faced name changing red tape when I explained to the bank teller that I'd need new checks. She congratulated me on getting married and began asking questions and filling out a form. She handed it to me, marking where I should sign. I scanned the blanks she'd filled in.

"No," I said. I don't want the checks to say Mrs. Clifford W. Clark."

"Would you prefer Ms.?" she asked with a knowing nod.

"No. I want it to say Karen Henry Clark. I'm not using my husband's name," I said brightly.

 Shocked silence. Then she asked incredulously, "Why not? Aren't you proud to be married?"

Okay. I'll admit this was Tulsa, Oklahoma, a state still known for being socially behind the curve. Our Junior League cookbook from that era listed recipe donors as Mary Brown (Mrs. John T.). Being married was everything then. (I suspect it still is out there in many circles.) 

In all fairness, the recipes were great. In fact, we still use many of them. (My husband cooks, but don't mention that. I'm sure that's not what the cookbook committee ever intended.)

I patiently explained to the teller that this wasn't about my husband and that I never intended to be known as Mrs. Him. She said she'd have to talk to a manager and disappeared behind a door. When she returned, she said my check request would be discussed at the next board meeting. They'd let me know their decision.

I am absolutely not making this up.

I don't remember how much time passed, but I finally received a call. They granted permission for one box printed with my requested name change "to see how it would go."

Don't you wonder what that meant? Was I a new-fangled scam? Some kind of feminist fiasco that would fraudulently steal millions from respectfully married members? Best I can tell, whatever they feared was never perpetrated by my red-flag name.

But as someone with three names, I can tell you that technology remains confused with it to this day. Some places have filed me under C or H or HenryClark or Henry-Clark. I've learned to roll with it.

But my basic inability to communicate correctly with computers, however, has continued. A tech-literate friend, who was trying to unravel a device problem for me, said, "Karen, you're the only person I know who would be better off living among the Amish."

I love quilts.

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  1. Love this. I always knew you quietly lead. Very enlightening and not a bit surprised by 1970's Tulsa. Glad who came to Tulsa, but wonder why you didn't end up in The Big City. You were way ahead of the curve. ~Janet

  2. Shoot, darlin', it was my honor to serve in Tulsa. And that's what it felt like, believe me.

  3. When I married Janie, there was no way she was going to change her last name from Wise to Sabien. That would not have been wise. I thought about changing mine though. Randy Wise. But no one would've come to my shows. Things have worked out so far on that front.

    1. Thanks for letting me know the back story on your names. I've been amazed at the number of people who have now privately shared similar name-change challenges since reading my blog. Baby Boomers have been important upstream swimmers in countless ways. So it turns out I was never alone in the water.

  4. I came after you good Baby Boomers and still have had trouble with three names. My favorite story being my first professional job in which they refused to print my office name tag with three names--"We don't use people's middle names," they said. I said, "My middle name is Ann. Heuiser AND Hill are my last names." They said, "Our printer can't print that many names." OY!

    1. There's always a ridiculous excuse given. I have to laugh at the idea of a printer not understanding what to do with that additional space.