Susan “Mia”

Recently, at work, something changed my display name in Webex from Mia to Susan Mia. I didn’t notice until people started asking me “Is your name Susan?” and saying, “We have a new person in the meeting, welcome Susan.”

In most work systems (Slack, Jira, etc.) I’m Mia. But now Webex is picking up my name from some source that has it’s full form. Yes, I’ve tried to change it. This is similar, but limited to only me, to when everything switched to use ALL CAPS for last names a couple months ago. That change was brought about by ongoing integration of our systems with our France-based parent company, though. (The French always use all capitals for last names in formal situations. You get used to it.) This sudden insertion of my first name in every meeting I attend or run feels like a personal affront by the technology.

I mean, I do need my official records with my employer to have me as Susan. I’m Susan to the IRS. I’m Susan to the DMV. Most of my life, when I’ve received a letter addressed to Susan, I know it’s “official.” Phone calls to Susan? Well, back when I answered unknown callers, I’d know it was someone I probably didn’t want to talk to. Like all normal people these days, if I don’t know who’s calling, I don’t answer. Sometimes if I do know who’s calling, I don’t answer too, but that’s a different story.

I know when I’m called Mia instead of Susan that I’ve made a personal impression. My dentist is a great example. My insurance is for Susan, of course, but they’ve twigged on to my use of Mia without my even telling them–they make effective use of Facebook.

Throughout my life, I’ve encountered quite a few people who have a hard time understanding middle name use. Their reaction to me can range from curiosity–“why do you use it?”–to annoyance–“you’re confusing me”–to suggestion that it’s a character flaw–namely vanity. But the truth is, there are many, many people who do it. I don’t have enough fingers to count all those I know personally. And there are plenty of famous people throughout history who went by their middle moniker.

It’s just not that odd, people!

There are two reasons why I use my middle name. The first is the reason I understood for several decades of my life: In the fourth grade, there were three Susans in my class, and my last name was alphabetically last. I did not want to be “the third Susan” (and I do believe the teacher actually called me that, but maybe I only imagined it). Within the first week or so of school I asked her, and my mother, to call me Mia. And they did.

I only realized the other–perhaps the real–reason in the mid-1990s after my mother’s death. In the spring of the year I was in third grade, my father passed away quite abruptly. Throughout my childhood my Mom had told me about how when I was born, the little girl after three boys, my dad wanted to name me Mia. My mom figured he was thinking of Mia Farrow. So my mom decided I would be named after her. She was Dorothy Susan, known as Sue (see, there’s my first example of a middle name user right there). She compromised with my dad by naming me Susan Mia.

So a few months after he died, when my mom was mourning the loss, I abruptly decided to use the name he picked instead of hers.

Nice kid, huh?

To be clear, I do not recall thinking of it this way when I was nine. And I also do not believe my mom resented my choice. As another Susan said to me recently when I explained my use of Mia, “I’m sure your mom loved you honoring him in that way.”

Other than annoyed bureaucrats, the people who had the hardest time adjusting to the new me were my older brothers. Bruce, the youngest, was in college by then, so my change, on top of the death of his father, threw him. I don’t know how long it took middle brother Ralph to make the adjustment because we simply weren’t in contact that much in those years. He was busy raising a young family an hour and a half away. David, my oldest sibling, probably made the shift most easily since he lived nearby and saw me regularly–especially during those days.

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