The barista looks back up at me, Sharpie aloft over a half-caf venti soy latte.
There have been times when I’ve allowed myself the small joy of just telling the barista: Yes. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, my name is Megan! And what is yours? By your nametag I’m guessing Tyler? Tyler, isn’t that nice, isn’t that a blessing, such simple names as ours? And then we would rejoice, Tyler and I, in the ease of it all.
That is not to say I am not grateful to my parents for their determination that I be unique; that I don’t dominate networking functions with a fun explanation of pronunciation and origin; that my every achievement isn’t Search Engine Optimized; that I didn’t learn to assert myself even in the eyes of God by correcting the bishop a little too loudly at my own confirmation: “Miden. It’s pronounced Miden.”
It’s a family name. A few generations back one of my relatives was named Magdalen, and her baby brother couldn’t pronounce it. Somewhere along the way he started calling her “Miden,” which became a nickname and then, down the family tree, a real name. I’m currently one of three. I wonder if Magdalen was ever peeved that not only had her name been mispronounced, but that that mispronunciation had been commemorated through time, across generations, in the form of a name apparently even less pronounceable.
When we first started dating, Luke’s friends would ask after me: How’s Madge? Marlboro? Hey, what’s new with Meridian? His mom stumbled in phone calls, “And how’s, um, how’s,” then politely, “I’m sorry honey I just can’t remember her name.”
It’s like a room that’s yours, he explained. My-Den. The suggestion led to a delightful array of unexpected guesses. How’s Hernook? Ourkitchen? Been seeing much of Yourpowderroom lately?
Yes, a simpler name would be convenient. But today, I will not yield to that temptation. Today, I look that barista straight under the visor and make a proud correction: “Miden. My name is Miden.”
He looks blankly back at me.
“Like Joe Biden, but with an ‘M.’”
There we go.
I am putting myself in vice presidential company because today I am a production assistant on a television show, and regardless of whether said show was ultimately canceled mid-season, the feeling of that role is one that includes both the glitz and glamour of using a headset in public and the subjugation of being ferried to and fro by said headset’s smallest command. The stakes of fetching someone a timely breakfast were not this high during the rule of Genghis Khan, though I imagine that if a P.A. happened to do any such task poorly the punishment would be similarly antiquated: their decapitated head mounted on a spear inside the Honeywagon, for all to see when they fetched call sheets the next morning. A warning to the production mudlings: do not lose your fucking walkie battery.
Today, I won’t settle for Megan because this half-caf venti soy latte isn’t for me. It’s for thedirector. A woman flown in from Britain who, rumor has it, has directed at the Globe theatre , and maybe also was that British woman responsible for the puppet-packed magic of The Lion King and Across the Universe . I was tasked with getting this very venti drink, and it was my chance, not Megan’s, to make an impression.
I rush across State Street with perhaps too much abandon and squeal, into the elevator just as its doors are closing. On the fifth floor, I fling my head around to spot her. There— in front of the monitor. She is watching a take, a thoughtful finger resting against her lips. I make my way shakily across the room, around gaffers and grips. This is the director’s coffee, I want to say, Pardon me, I have to go meet my mentor. Please part like the Red Sea, I must prepare myself for the inevitable heart-thumping feeling of lost kindred spirits finally found, the inevitable taking under-wing and late-night talks about the true meaning of Shakespeare and womanhood and those blue guys in that Across the Universe LSD trip scene . I start to sweat a little.
The A.D., who has been watching the monitor over her shoulder, turns and spots me. “Is that the coffee? Great.” He pulls it from my grasp and hands it to her. She never even looks my way.
And that’s it. I turn away from the back of her head. An imagined co-founded alternative puppet theatre disintegrates.
“Who bought this coffee?”
Of course. Recognizing the little guy. It’s exactly this kind of humility that I hope to gain from our mentorship. “Me!” I spin around, “It’s me, I did!”
She is squinting at the cup.
“It’s Miden,” I correct her, more gently than I’d corrected the Bishop, and God.
She lifts her head, looks into my eyes as though reading something behind them.
Sometimes I wonder if a name doesn’t have some effect on the person to whom it was given. Maybe my unwieldy moniker leant me an earlier sense of identity, an interest in creative pursuits, or a special emotional resilience from the repeated disappointments of gift shop custom keychain racks. If names really do make the man, then I know that I am a man unique unto myself. A name I have to defend is also one I have to live up to.
In a list of top female chief executives, the number-one most common name is Deborah. Number three is Debra. Could it possibly be a coincidence that so many Debs are built to rule the corporate world? If not, then what are the Midens meant for?
The director glances back at the paper cup in her hand. “Did you know,” she asks with an impeccable British lilt, “That Midden…”
“…is olde English…”
I am still waiting.
I did not know that.
She turns back to the monitor and does not become my mentor.
A unique name is a tricky gift, especially when passed down through a family tree unfamiliar with Shakespearean terminology. But I have decided I will wear it proudly. I will define the word for contemporary language. I will only fetch coffee for myself, and I will correct the barista every time.
“Miden. My name is Miden.”
“Like the olde English for bathroom.”
 She did!
 She wasn’t!
 Again, probably not a great topic of discussion since this was not in fact the woman responsible for that scene.
Miden Wood is a writer and performer from Virginia-outside-DC. She has contributed to Gapers Block, and has performed with The Home for Wayward Artists, live lit show Two Cookie Minimum and is excited to count herself among The Kates. She and her dog are both, generally speaking, happier than this photo suggests.