Wednesday, July 9, 2014

let's talk about my middle name.

There is a certain beauty in a middle name. Some parents give their children family middle names, and others choose a middle name simply because it sounds good with the first name they’ve chosen. Still others use the middle name to create a pun, which I find a little bit awesome. (Example: my friend Allison’s parents almost named her Allison Wonderland. How great would that have been?)

On the whole, though, middle names tend to be family affairs, which is exactly what mine was.

(I say “was” because when I got married, my maiden name became my middle name. More on that later.)

And what was my middle name?


I know what you’re thinking. I said that my middle name was a family name, and we are a bunch of fish-belly white Scandinavian/Germans. What kind of Norwegian ancestor names their child Shelaine? Answer: no Norwegian.

My two grandmothers are named Sheila and Lorraine. Smash those two names together, and you’ve got yourself a Shelaine.

I was born in 1987: well before crazy made-up names became as commonplace as they are today. My first name is also out of the ordinary, so my parents must’ve been way ahead of their time when they named their firstborn Calla Shelaine.

Growing up, I longed for a nice normal name that no one could screw up. My first name often became Kayla, along with the fairly frequent Call-a (first syllable being pronounced as “call” rather than the actual “cal”) and occasional Carla. (Nope. No ‘r’ in my first name, thank you.) Believe me when I tell you that going to restaurants where you have to give your first name is the WORST.

My last name – Bjorklund – was no better. Even in a land of Scandinavians, everyone had a tough time equating the “Bj” in my first name to be a soft j. So while my last name is pronounced as Byorklund, I usually ended up as Kayla Buhjorkland or Call-uh Borkland. And you should’ve seen how the spelling my last name got butchered on junk mail.

And then there was Shelaine. While Shelaine was not especially difficult to pronounce, it was just as odd as my first and last names. But until Calla (which is pretty easy to get used to) and Bjorklund (which is charmingly Scandinavian), Shelaine just didn’t seem to fit. I’m just too white for the name Shelaine.

(Side note: I later found out that I REALLY dodged a bullet with the name Shelaine. My parents had seriously considered making Shelaine my FIRST name – but they knew that I’d inevitably be nicknamed Shelly. Neither of them liked the name Shelly, so Shelaine was out. WHEW.)

While I thought that Shelaine was fairly ridiculous, watching people react to said ridiculous name was always fun for me. Whenever I’d tell someone my middle name, I’d get a funny look followed by a slightly incredulous “She-LAINE?” Never failed.

Even better were the mutations of Shelaine that my friends assigned me over the years. My friend Sue could not remember my middle name, so for the longest time, she thought it was Loraila. My friend Bob preferred to call me Calla Shaniqua. My friend Nate could not remember my middle name one day while yelling at me for something (a common occurrence in college; it was a sign of affection!), so he said, “Calla Shaquandra!” That one stuck.

While I eventually came to embrace my less-than-normal first and last names, I never saw eye-to-eye with Shelaine. Before I got married, I thought long and hard about what to do with my names. One thing was certain: there was no way I was getting rid of Bjorklund. I thought about not changing my name at all, but I knew James would be awfully disappointed. Hyphenating was not for me, so something had to go. Bjorklund would become my new middle name, and Shelaine would get the boot.

No one was more disappointed to hear this than James’s brother Jesse. Jesse had grown attached to Shelaine over the years and practically begged me to keep it. “Long live Shelaine!” he cried. When I showed Jesse my new driver’s license – no Shelaine to be found – it didn’t phase him. Since then, he’s taken to calling me Shelaine. And the worst part? I’ve begun to answer.

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