Something’s Missing…

My full name is Cassie Mullins Moses. Mullins is my maiden name and I have chosen to include it in my “real” name because I don’t have a middle name. I also just like keeping a part of myself that is BS (Before Stephen, ha, got ya on that one!) The first question I get about this apparent mistake is “Why??” Why on earth didn’t your parents take the time to give me a middle name? It’s especially vexing because BOTH of my siblings have the ability to complete a proper monogram on their backpacks/towels/anything on this earth that requires initials.

Here is the story my parents have told me: They didn’t know until I arrived that I was a girl and they had not agreed on a girls name at all. Finally, they compromised and named me Cassie after a character in the book The Dollmaker. The character’s full name was Cassie Marie but she dies in a train accident and it was just too morbid to call me Cassie Marie. Apparently it was not too morbid to call me Cassie (just a hint of sarcasm in case you didn’t catch on.) So they put nothing in the column of my birth certificate that reads “Middle Name” and I was destined to a life of making up my own.

Friends, there were some doozies. My personal favorite was the Cassandra phase. If I was going to be a one name girl, by gosh, it would be a fancy name. “Yes, Cassie is just short for Cassandra. I don’t always like to write it out.” This is in fact lying but I saw it as storytelling; two totally different things. Later things got a bit more out of hand and I was Cassandra Mercedes. This flamboyant name had such a soap opera feel coming off my tongue. Now I cringe thinking about my fake name as it has a more of a witness protection feel.

Later on, around 10-12 years of age, I wanted to be Cassie Dorothea. My maternal grandmother’s name was Dorothy and I really felt like my name needed some family history behind it. But Dorothy wasn’t fancy enough so I tweaked it a bit. I hounded my mom. I knew you could go to the court house and pay to have your name changed. I begged. Mom kept putting me off for various reasons. I now understand the main reason was because I was nuts and would want to keep on changing my name. Well played mom.

At some point I stopped caring that I was without a middle name. One person at my college was sure it was simply so horrible I refused to share it with anyone. I never could convince him that my LL Bean backpack said CM because I was just Cassie Mullins.

My girls have lovely middle names (Isabel, Emerson, and Harper) and I must admit, I gave each one a great deal of thought. They are not named after anyone but I hope they will appreciate the names their dad and I gave them. I really think that my mom and dad couldn’t come up with a middle name because I wasn’t supposed to have one. I would always need and want Mullins to remain a part of my identity; in my heart and on paper.

The Truth Hurts

Have you ever heard something that hurt your feelings or left you saying, “Um no that is not true”? For example when my four year old recently said, “Mommy, why does your belly stick out? Is there another baby in there?” My immediate response was “My stomach does NOT stick out (very much) and there is NOT another baby in there!!” She was just being brutally honest and for the record, the shirt I was wearing was not the most slimming. We were both at fault. 

Another great example is when someone tells you that you look tired. Really? Why not use some tact and say instead, “I really wish I could get away with wearing yoga pants today. You look SO comfy!!” Minor slips of the tongue that might be true but you don’t necessarily want to hear them. However, there are other comments and questions that are much harder to deal with.

A few months ago my then six year old came to me and said, “Mommy, today at school someone said that Justin Beaver (bless her heart, she never says Beiber) is gay. What does gay mean?” I’ve learned it’s best not go head long into a complicated answer until you know exactly what they, in this case Lily, know so I told her it meant happy. Lily said, “I know that. What else does it mean?” Obviously I wasn’t going to get away without answering this one. So I explained to Lily that the person at school meant “gay” as something rude and most likely was repeating something he’d heard from someone else. She accepted this and went on with her day. I hated my answer. I wanted more than anything to tell Lily the truth but it hurt me too much to have to explain that we live in a world where the word gay is very complicated. How do you talk to a child about sexual orientation? How do you give meaning to a word that is hurled at people with hate but is also a description that is widely used? I didn’t know what to do.

Since that day I’ve thought about Lily’s question a lot and I know the time is coming very soon when my girls will need definitive answers. My goal is to SHOW them that terms like gay and straight are words but in this family we LIVE the word love for everyone. We will not tolerate using words to hurt others. We will not label those around us based on who they date, marry, or choose as their partner. My goal is for my children to have an answer when the word gay is used to belittle or hurt. I hope their response would be, “Justin Beaver can be gay or straight. That part is his business. I just wish he’d pull up his pants.”