Dear Karen, Not You, the Other Karen
Dear Karen, no, not you, the other Karen.
Yes, you. I wanted to tell you how sorry I am about the hijacking of your name. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jami. I have no “e.” My parents left it off. Perhaps because they wanted to be original, or cute, hence the Jami Jo.
It was darling when was I five but at 49, I find it questionable. When I was 11, my mother grew tired of my complaints about my lack of vowels and offered to take me to have my name changed to “Jamie.” And while I coveted the little license plates and glitter embossed pencils in the museum gift shop with Karen, Beth, and Emily, neatly printed on each, I am Jami with no e.
So we never went to the courthouse to make the change. And while my Uncle Jim insisted on calling me “Charlie,” because "Jami is a boy’s name," it is also, my name. Gifted to me by adoring parents and a desperate wish from my beloved Grandma Mickey who hoped to name her daughter Jami, with no e, but met with great objections from her mother.
And so, this letter is not to criticize, rant, or rave, this is a letter to say, I am sorry that society has messed with your name. I hope you know, your name originated from Scandinavian descent, as did I. First, let me encourage you. Karen is an excellent choice in the lineage of Scandinavian names. My Great Grandmother, who immigrated from Norway was named Solveig.
Yeah, this is the same woman that found the name Jami objectionable.
I also hope you know, Karen means “pure.”
It is this meaning that I love.
The other day on the news there was a report about the rise in cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19. The reporter displayed a map of “hot spots” and went on to say, the majority of unvaccinated “spreaders” are made up of Christians in the South. I stopped in my tracks. I am a Christ-follower in the South and I am vaccinated. Granted, I rarely leave my house, because you know, people, but I am traveling to New York, to deliver my daughter to college, (insert wailing and gnashing of teeth) in two weeks.
I am not hard-headed, nor do I consider myself a dummy, but I did what I felt was in the best interest of my daughter, myself, other travelers, and is required by her school. And before everyone goes nuts and starts commenting about how I shouldn’t have, or whatever your opinion is, the vaccine is already in my person… let it go.
My point with that is, the raging opinions and ranting of this side, that side, us, them, and all the others, seem entirely too loud lately. But you, Karen, your name still means, pure. Recently, my sister made the observation about all the signage instructing us to “Be Kind.” But she went on to say, it seems like no one is being kind at all. And I agree. We aren’t being kind.
Division seems to be the name of the game.
Democrat, republican, protestant, catholic, race, creed, color, and toilet paper usage are morphed into pre-determined groups, and the world stands by ready to name, isolate, reject, rebel, fight, and condemn.
Granted, in an age of viral videos of humans losing their cool and behaving badly, division can sometimes be a blessing. After all, we learn from bad behaviors just as we learn from good ones. But I reject the idea that any belief system or culture can be easily lumped and branded into good or bad based on the latest fad.
We may have huge gaps in agreements, but we are unified in our humanity. The labeling of irate, rebellious, privileged white women, under your name, is not fair to you whose name means pure. I am sorry, and I don’t know that it even really matters, except for the baby girl in a car seat at the grocery store today.
The beautiful doe-eyed, caramel-skinned darling was a little nugget of perfection. Jet black curls framed her dimpled face. I stood behind her mother in line and when our eyes met I said, “Your baby is just beautiful!” We chatted a bit and I refrained from begging to hold the little cherub, but I did ask, “What is her name?” And her mother hesitated and then she said, “Karen.” Before I could say anything the woman said, “I know, it is the least popular name in the country. And my husband is African-American and my father was Columbian, so we had the conversation, ‘we are naming our baby a name that is very unpopular, and really isn't normal for little brown babies.’ But, it was my mom’s name. She died in a car accident two years ago. I just wanted to bless my daughter with her grandmother’s name. It was like I was giving a piece of my mom to her, even though she will never experience how wonderful my mother was.”
I still hadn’t picked up my hormone cream from the pharmacy, and that is why I feel it was completely acceptable that I burst into tears and found myself hugging this dear young woman and celebrating her baby’s wonderful name.
OH MY WORD, we both had masks on… everyone calm down.
Spring-loaded for a fight and ready to accuse every Tom, Dick, and Karen of horrible atrocities against humanity, I wanted to let you know, it’s not you Karen, it is us and… them. I looked at that little muppet, dressed in purple polka-dots, vigorously gnawing on her pacifier, and thought, I could take one for the team. I don’t know what team? But I thought I could pull a “privileged white woman” meltdown right here in Kroger. Perhaps I have just enough notoriety, if it were ugly enough - if I lost my ever-loving mind because the peaches were mushy, could the “Karen” trend be swapped for the “Jami with no e” trend? Could a bad deed by me mean peace for wee Karen and her delightful (and OMGOSH GORGEOUS) momma?
Alas, I am Jami with no e, who decisively doesn’t like to cause a scene.
But I do have words.
And while they may not meet you, now, they are out there, along with millions of Karens who do not fit into the crude model you have been dealt.
I admit, I knew a Karen once, she was less than delightful.
But I have known other Karens who were some of the most fantastic humans on the planet. I imagine there are some Jamis wandering the globe wishing for an e, behaving badly, and running our good name through the mud.
Still, it is my name. It is important to me. I guess I just wanted you to know, Karen, your name means pure. It is a lovely name, with a spot-on spelling, just the right number of vowels, and long history of Greats.
Karens have conquered kingdoms, saved lives, taught the masses, fought for justice, nursed babies, kissed boo-boos, fed, clothed, and nurtured, the least of these.
I don’t know why your parents chose to gift you this name, but I bet you do, and I know that it means something important to you. In a world of labels and severance, where we must tiptoe the fine line between offenses and defenses, I guess I just wanted you to know, there are still people who recognize the human behind the label.
Greater, the label only has power if we let it rob us of our true self. It is interesting, the lines drawn dividing us are actually an opportunity for us to look more closely at what we are saying and who we are saying it about. And while the powers of whoever attempt to dictate what we feel, believe, and say, while constantly blasting us with negativity, hate, and opinion from the same high horse demanding we “be kind,” there’s the rest of us. T
he Jamis, the Karens, the Kates, Mirandas, Emilys, and Shellys, we are ALL more complex than the stories reported, the color of our skin, poverty, wealth, orientation, or the good or bad acts of each.
I guess that is what I hate most about the #Karen craze. More division, more false assumptions, which all lead to more unwarranted hatred among us. I am you. We are all part of this miraculous tapestry called humanity. Yeah, we have all made mistakes, but I am sorry that someone else’s mistake attempted to taint your good name.
And if this does reach you, I hope you rally the pride of the Vikings who coined it and remember the baby girl in a grocery store in South Texas, who like you, should be very proud of a pure and lovely name, such as Karen.
May you rise to the occasion, that all might call you blessed.
Love, Jami with no e
P.S. Go check out my good friend Shelby Spear's talented and wonderful daughter and her magical music @pure_kahrin on Instagram and Spotify here! She is pure magic. Also, she's actually KAR-Hin, a fourth-generation Norwegian. She's a beautiful soul. Love her and her music, I think you will too!