Tuesday, September 11

The Middle Road

When I was young, I longed for a middle name.
My parents didn't award one to the girls in our family at my Mom's insistence that once married we would never use a middle name again (she didn't) so I was middle nameless for the first 23 years of my life. Of course, not having a real middle name didn't stop me from making up one of my own. In bold childhood scrawl you can read it on all my first grade papers:

Jennifer Jane.

My brothers still tease me relentlessly about it, but I thought it had a lovely ring.

Once married, I did indeed move my maiden name to the middle slot and for the first time was the proud owner of a middle name. It appears on my drivers license as well as my passport. I sign legal documents with that name smack in the middle between my first and last. Though certainly it doesn't carry the same ring as my self imposed JENNIFER JANE, it does carry the legacy of who I am and so it will do.

For the past 18 years I have been proudly identified as Jennifer Gwilliam Taylor. No worries, no questions, no problems.

And then I got a job in The Netherlands.

As best as I understand it here, all work documentation for a married woman needs to be done with her maiden name as the identifier. Suddenly at my intake with the HR department I became Jennifer Taylor-Gwilliam.

Fine. No worries, no problem.


That's not how my identification reads and for whatever reason, or set of reasons, it took positively FOREVER for those working on my file and/or writing my contract for the school year to get their minds around the fact that what LOOKS like my middle name is indeed my maiden name.

Yes, hi Jenn. I just have another question about your maiden name.

Sure. okay.

Yes, my question is what is your maiden name? I see we have here written that it is G-W-I-L-L-I-A-M but on your passport that name is your middle name.

Right. In the states, as is custom, when I married, my maiden name became my middle name.

Yes, all right. So your middle name is your maiden name?

Yes. That's exactly right.

So you don't have another middle name?

No, I have no other middle name.

Just your maiden name?

Right. My maiden name is my middle name.

Yes, okay, I think I understand.

Before you think to yourself that a single conversation sorted this controversy I am going to ask you to think again. And then think again. Right after you are finished thinking, please commiserate with me over the fact that I have had this conversation or some version of it no less that 7 times in the last two weeks.

A middle name is proving to be the bane of my existence.

I really should have stuck with Jane.

AND NOW, with that exceptionally long introduction I am going to play a tag given to me by both Gunfighter and Songbird. I don't really know the rules and even if I did I am bound to not follow them. If you really want the details I am sure you can scout it out for yourself. But as I remember, I am supposed to define my middle name by identifying something about myself with each letter.

G--Grateful. The gratitude list in my life is endless. I am exceptionally grateful for my family, immediate and extended, and for my friends.

. As in unbelievably stubborn. But only when it comes to personal expectations and goals. In all other things I am a great team player.

. And occasionally creative.

. Even to spiders and other creepy-crawlers. I will carefully scoop them up and carry them tenderly to a new place to make a better home for themselves than say, spinning a web on my bike handlebars or living inside my shoe.

. Lucky, lucky me.

. By my friendships; my relationships; and the beauties of the earth.

. To people, to sentiment, and to truth.

M--Mixed up
and a little confused. But that's what keeps me interesting, right?

You want to play? Then, tag! You're it!


  1. Oh Darlin'! I would have warned you if I had known you too are middle nameless. But there aren't that many of us in the world these days and I just didn't think. I would feel sorry for you, except that there is one worse thing. Try no middle name, keeping your maiden name and being married to someone with a different last name. Then add children with different last names. It seems this country does not know how to identify me. I am listed at the doctor under the family name with my name hyphenated to it. But the insurance papers for me go under my last name. Then there are those occasions where I have filled out a form with "No middle name") because just putting a dash always leads to questions and explanations. So guess what middle name they enter in the form? Yep. I have evidence officially that my middle name is "No Middle Name" also abbreviated as "N.M.N". AAARRRGGGHH!!! It never ends.

    Yep, ya shoulda stuck with "Jane".

  2. I had several female friends as a kid who were without middle names for the same reason. However, one of them had a serious feminist for a mom so that just didn't make sense.

    But, I'm sorry, that was a long introduction? I was so happy to have something to read by you I was sorry to see it end.

    And Mitchell for a middle name? I was tormented by all those girls with Elizabeth, Mary and Grace for middle names (it was a Catholic town afterall).

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  4. I guess part of it is the European penchant for middle names, church names, saint's names, etc., etc. It could have been worse. My BIL was a very, very young parent, and he named his children with the middle names of chi and omega, although not spelled that way - the birth certificate actually showed the greek letter - he and his then-wife did this so the boys couldn't be tracked "by the system." Both boys legally changed their names as soon as they were old enough to do so, lol.

  5. I have a great middle name - it's the end of my mother's name. I will keep it forever. And when I got married I didn't change my last name - to date this hasn't been a problem. On occasion, I take my husband's last name - if it suits me. "No, there's no one here by that name, Mr. IRS agent" :)

  6. I'll play:

    J - Jaded
    O - Obstreperous
    I - Inexplicable

  7. I can totally share your frustration. My mom didn't have a middle name and that used to confuse me as a child (key word being child). I kept my last name and it seems to really confuse people. It particularly confuses people when they find out we have kids. Sometimes I feel like telling them that my kids don't have a last name. The best part is for the longest time we relatives wouldn't put last names on any cards or gifts that they addressed to my boys.

  8. Jenn- I'm so glad you posted! I had this strange feeling something was wrong... isn't that so silly. This blog thing can be strange.
    I agree with Brillig. I like Jennifer Jane. A lot.

  9. Add me to the list of women who were middle nameless until marriage.

    For my parents, I ended up being the 1st of three girls. So I guess it was a good call on their part to carry on the name in some small way.

  10. You know the funny thing is that I got harassed relentlessly by everyone I knew when I said that I was going to use my maiden name as my middle name after getting married. This caused plenty of confusion as I already use my middle name as my first name.

    I want to send a link for this post to everyone who harassed me. "See, other people do use their maiden names!!"

  11. This is a fun list, I might have to do it myself. :)

    I had some friends growing up who did not have middle names. I also know people who name their children with more than one middle name!

  12. I forgot about that Dutch habit of transposing all women's names into FIRST NAME LAST NAME MAIDEN NAME. I haven't used my maiden name in YEARS, and sometimes I have to think about how to spell it!

    Funny, though, my parents gave me TWO middle names, and I was married previously, so if I followed Dutch custom I would be FIRST NAME MIDDLE NAME MIDDLE NAME MARRIED NAME MARRIED NAME MAIDEN NAME. Ack!

  13. If my new daughter in-law ever comes to live in Holland, she'll have a time. She never liked her first name and always went by her middle name. Once married, she officially dropped the first name. Now her driver's license reads: middle maiden married name.

  14. I also have no middle name. (My parents named me Mary-Beth, yes with the hyphen. But problems with a hypen in your FIRST name would be a whole nother blog post!) Never really bothered me, but my best friend in grade school was also middle nameless and she chose a new one every few years. I believe she settled on one and still uses it now, although it is not her legal middle name.

    I end up with people assuming my name is Mary, and my middle name is Beth, or that my name is Elizabeth. Good grief. I think I will stay out of the Netherlands! :)

  15. I've had the same problem, and it has reared its ugly head here again when I registered in Germany.

    I never changed my name legally when I got married, so my American passport lists me that way. My Dutch passport gives my maiden name, but says "spouse of" and gives my husband's last name.

    Which means I got registered here under my husband's name, even though I don't have a single legal document with that name on it. ???

    It started to spiral out of control when I applied for a new driver's license and was a real pain to straighten out...

    I like Jane too. Maybe you could tack that on the end and call yourself Jennifer Gwilliam Taylor Jane. You know, just to keep everyone on their toes...

  16. It's best to change your name and your address often. A moving target is hard to hit!

  17. That hyphen crap did me in. I never hyphenated. I just dropped the middle name -- so close, BTW, to your lusted-after middle name -- of Jean, and made my maiden name my middle name, and took the husband's name as the last name. We were in the process of divorcing. I won a huge award at the company I was newly working for. A woman who hated me for psychotic reasons had the elegant Tiffany crystal "trophy" engraved with the freakin' name hyphenated...fully aware that I was dropping the name and had never hyphenated. Ooooooh, I hate that bitch. I should not have read your blog today. Sorry. I'll leave now.

  18. I love the commiseration here and all your wonderful comments!
    Most of all I appreciate you all returning to read me even though I have been a very bad blogging friend indeed.
    I am okay! Just adjusting to what life means when you add full time work to it! Thanks to all for your support and enthusiasm and mostly for your patience as I sort myself out.
    Mwah! To you all!!

  19. The French love maiden names too. Mine is difficult to pronounce even in English so I spend a lot of time spelling it out. They still manage to get it wrong even then..

  20. I had a middle name, but kicked it to the curb when I was married to hang on to my maiden name.

    Now Julia, and the nameless little person in my belly, have (and will have) a middles name: my maiden name. Dave only thought that was okay, but I thought it was brilliant.