It happened again today. I’ve been altered yet again by big data. Over and over it happens. For those of you cowering in fear that Big Data knows too much about you, listen to my story. Because I’m waiting for them to get it right, just once.
My name is Kim. I was born Kim. In Nebraska, I was born to parents who are of Polish, German and Bohemian descent. My first name is Kim. Not Kimberly. That was the first thing that happened. Everyone wanted to call me Kimberly. Back before Big Data or even before computers. Kimberly, they said. No berley, just Kim, thank you.
Then later they would slaughter my last name. Dlouhy. A nice Bohemian name. I remember when I figured out that the Agriculture Minister from Czechoslovakia shared my last name. Vladimir Dlouhy. I was so proud. And then there was no more Czechoslovakia.
I learned to double check my name every time I spelled it for people, because I would tell them D-L-O-U-H-Y and they would spell it D-L-O-U-G-H-Y. Yes, in a way, they made me doughy. I was just waiting for a tummy poke.
I married a man named Lang. English descent. I was excited to finally have a last name that people could spell. Only they couldn’t. I learned to spell it aloud for people: L-A-N-G-No E.
Strangely one day he started getting junk mail where they changed his middle initial to U, instead of W. It still happens today, decades later. I wondered what his new middle name was. Ulysses, Urban, Unique, Unicorn? I googled just now for men’s names beginning with U. There are many options, but not a one that really fits him the way William does. Just for fun, I might see if he answers to Upshaw. I blame the whole deal on sloppy penmanship.
Upshaw and I had a daughter and named her Danika, a name that meant “morning star”. Such a pretty name, we thought. As normal parents, we did due diligence on all of the mean ways that kids might tease her about her name. We were not diligent enough. They pronounced it Duh-NEE-kuh, making it Hispanic or African. Even Upshaw’s dad did this at first. Now we can say “Danika, like the race car driver.” But back then, Danica Patrick was using training wheels.
Next Big Data error. I started working from home and suddenly my business became a metal recycling business. Someone sleeping and doing data entry at a list company I guess. There’s no way I could remotely blame this one on sloppy penmanship. Soon we got LOTS of mail for S & D Metal Recycling. We got free pens that said S & D Metal Recycling and our home address. We got phone calls. No junk car deliveries, please.
Gradually, as our city’s demographics changed, I became Chinese. I get phone calls from people speaking only Chinese. They think I’m just messing with them when I loudly say “No espeak Chinese!” It’s amazing how you can be born Polish – German – Bohemian – American, and turn Chinese, just like that. Clearly I don’t have the language skills for this. But at least I’m not alone.
We Langs get together, and it happens to all of us. Our whole family has become Chinese. My poor daughter probably gets the worst of the confusion, as she is Hispanic African American Chinese.
So just as I’m getting used to perhaps never being recognized for who I am, they start over from the top. The other day my mom asked me if my real name was Kim or Kimberly. She couldn’t remember. My mom. This whole Kim thing was her idea. And today, I got mail from a certain private high school where my Hispanic African American Chinese daughter graduated, and where my son (who to date, has no identity problems – perhaps he’s not old enough) will go this fall. They want money, and they called me Kimberly.