When I was a little girl, I loved my name. I doodled it all over my Lisa Frank coloring book, “Katie, Katie, Katie, Katie,” endlessly filling the empty space around the psychedelic, house-painting panda bear. All seemed right with the world—with me. And then I went to kindergarten.
I was so excited for school. Roll call started and I was beaming. And then I raised my hand: Katie? Oh, a different Katie. I did that four times. There were four other Katies in my class. No one had told me that fateful day that there are seventeen names that can be shortened to “Katie” and that all of them would eventually crush my fragile, budding self-image.
I’m Katie Winters. But Katie Walters-Wilkinson with her stupid face got to be the Katie W. of the class while I had to go by my first and middle name: Katie Harry. So Katie W. got to be Katie-Katie and I got to be “Boy Katie.” That’s right, Boy Katie. Because some parents don’t hyphenate their last names when they get married and instead give their first-born their mother’s maiden name as a middle name.
From then on, I was constantly compared to the other Katies. I was never “Smart Katie” like know-it-all Katie Harper. Never “Nice Katie” like Katie Appelbaum. Never considered “Pretty Katie” like that bitch Katie Sinclair. Never as popular as the Katie. I was just “Boy Katie.” The least interesting of all 37 Katies in my graduating high school class.
College was supposed to be the light at the end of my identity-crisis tunnel. “I can finally be Katie, once and for all,” I thought to myself. But then my RA’s name was Katie. I foolishly thought “at least people can call her RA Katie.” But I’d made a grave mistake that first day, wearing my hair in a ponytail. RA Katie (who I now know for the life-ruining bitch she is) came into our first floor meeting, introducing herself as Katie and me as “Ponytail Katie.” It stuck and was eventually shortened to “Pony Katie.” I don’t even usually wear my hair up! Yet to this day, my Facebook profile still has to say “Katie (Pony/Boy) Winters” just so people know who the hell I am.
Every guy I’ve tried to date’s been burned by a “Katie” and doesn’t want anything to do with me. I’ve thought about changing it up and going by the more refined (and much less common) “Kate.” But then I think of that self-possessed little girl learning to scrawl her name around those fairy penguins and I reconsider.
The trauma I’ve endured has caused irreparable damage to my confidence. Sometimes I’ll think to myself, “You can handle this, Katie.” But then I stop. Which Katie am I talking to? I have to remind myself: “You’re talking to
Change my name to Katy.