I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me for dinner.


‘Well, on second thought, maybe don’t call me “Karen”‘

Big surprise: my name isn’t actually “Lutheran Liar.” It’s Alice, a name I didn’t like much when I was a girl. Back then I wished my name was Linda or Debbie or Nancy or Sandy or Barb. Cool girl names. Cheerleader names. Girls-with-flips names. (That’s me, without a cool name, but with a reasonably-cool flip, in the picture at the top of this story.)

Instead, I got saddled with the name Alice. Which is a perfectly lovely name, really. But at the time I thought it was a “Grandma Name.” Maybe that’s because, in my case, it actually was a Grandma Name: the name of my Peterson Gramma. To add insult to name injury, my middle name was also a Grandma Name: Celia, the name of my Henry Gramma. (I couldn’t — and didn’t — do this to The Child. Her name would have been Bertha Myrna.)

My Gramma, the original-in-my-family-anyway-Alice

At my age it’s kind of hard to wrap my head around what’s happened with the name Karen, which was perhaps the coolest Cool Girl Name of all. As you probably can’t help but know, “Karen” has become a not-so-great all-purpose name for women caught exercising their white privilege muscles. Preferring an upbeat blog, I won’t go into this now, but you can read this New York Times piece for sad sociological details.

One of the nicest of the Nice Karens I know

Me, I only know Nice Karens. Like my cousin Karen. And my bridge buddy Karen. The very sweet Karen I babysat for in high school. There’s snappy-smart Lustre Karen. I even know a Field Guides Tours Karen. All nice as nice can be.

A gaggle of nice cousins with Cool Names: Debbie, Sandy, Kathy, Cindy, Nancy and — yes — Karen — all at my Mom’s 90th birthday party last fall. And no, dear Cousin Sandy, we did not name our dog Sandy after you (!)

Of course, no one really called me “Alice.” Except my Mom when I did something wrong. Then I got the whole darned name: “Alice Celia Henry, get in here this minute.” Ooops. I was “EO” to my Middle Younger Brother because he couldn’t say “Alice” and instead tried to spell it. I was “AE” to my Dad, because he remembered the spelling incident, only with with different letters.

Middle Younger Brother (the one who called me EO) competing for treats with Hermie, who was never ever called “Herman”

And, of course, The Child called (and still calls) me “Mom.” I know some families where the kids call their parents by their first names. Which is fine; just don’t try it at my house.

The Child modeling a sweater her Mom (me) knit for her. In the background is a painting that she used to point at, saying “Mommy! Mommy!” Hmmm

And The Dude? He calls me “Pie.” In fact, sometimes when he leaves me a note, he just draws a little pie wedge in lieu of a signature. Sometimes he draws steam coming out of it.

My Dad, who called me AE, called The Child “WalMart” because I made a crack one day about people naming their kids after stores (“Tiffany”)

As for the name “Alice,” not only did I learn to like it — especially after I moved to the East Coast, where I met several other Alices my own age — but I’ve grown into it.

In fact, the only other name I’d rather be called now would be “Gramma.”

Amagansett, New York. August 2020

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16 thoughts on “I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me for dinner.

  1. We have granddaughters called Ivy, Mabel and Penelope, at two Penelope is really sassy Mabel is a sit back and watch 3yr old, takes the measure of all in the room. Ivy is a gregarious look at me four year old. At 4 she loves the drama group, excels in the performance. I thought with old names Mabel and Ivy would both be reserved. I guess personality is queen after all. P.S. I would have loved being an Alice, and wonderland would have been my residence.

    • Wow! Those are some interesting names! We thought of naming The Child Penelope, but were afraid people would pronounce it to rhyme with “cantaloupe.” I knew a “Mabel” when I was growing up; she was quite beautiful. I haven’t met any “Ivys,” but I think it’s very pretty. Actually, I love that the old-fashioned names are coming back. I was getting tired of babies named after states (“Dakota”) or cheese (“Brie”). And yes, it’s nice living in Wonderland. Though sometimes a bit frightening. Like when you fall down the Covid Rabbit Hole.

  2. My mom was a Barb and she didn’t like it. She said she thought her parents ran out of good names by the fourth kid! I was always one of so many Beckys, I ached for an unusual name. Now, it’s OK–it’s flexible. In true Gemini fashion, I have more than one name for more than one side: Rebecca, Becky, Beck, etc. But never Becki. Don’t know what it is about that i! With the current salacious Twitter headlines, I fear Becki is going to become a thing! And, I’m with you, all the Karens I know are lovely!

    • Tell your mom that the most popular girl in my high school was named Barb. She was head cheerleader, she was Homecoming Queen. And you couldn’t hate her because she was really nice. She married a guy whose last name was Doll. Yup. Barbie Doll. True love, that. As for Becky, one of my two very best friends was named Becky (the other was Susan). We were so close that we formed an exclusive club (this was in 6th grade) called the SAB Club (for Susan Alice Becky, natch). Sigh. Those were the days. I love that you have a flexible name. Alice is basically just Alice. Oh — So glad your Karens are also lovely ones. Before I forget, thank you for being such a lovely reader, Lovely Becca! (You ARE “Becca” in BlogLand, yes?)

      • I am Becca to you, dear Alice! And Rebecca to most else. And that’s good for me! Funny enough, my mom was prom queen, voted prettiest, etc. And really nice! She said it was only because of the guy she was dating, who was popular. You’ve got to be one special Barb to be a Barbie Doll though, wo!

  3. Ruth Meisenheimer

    My mother was Marie Sophie Bertha, but I acquired the name Ruth and don’t hear that anymore. We’re dieing off. Glad you remember my Karen that you babysat. I love names. Remember the Boulder news in the Banner … Emma Worm and Katie Pigg went visiting someone every week.

    • I have always liked the name Ruth. But you are right; you don’t hear it much anymore. But who knows? Names like Emma and Amanda were considered very old-fashioned and now they are quite popular. Ruth could have a resurgence yet! And yes, your Karen has always been one of my favorites. Speaking of Emma, how I remember those news bits featuring Ms. Worm and Ms. Pigg!

    • Ah Lori! I do love your name. It could be because I know not one but two very cool girls named Lori — three, counting you! Spelled the same too. Did you, by any chance, dot the “i” in Lori with a teensy heart?

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