Monday, January 23, 2006

A Boy Named Kim

Growing up with the name Kim hasn't always been easy. In my life I have met countless females who have shared my name, but never a man. Oh I’ve heard of them, and occasionally been told that someone has a friend, cousin or work colleague who is both male and called Kim, but I’ve never met one in the flesh.

I know that there is a Labour Politician called Kim Howells, that Rudyard Kipling wrote a book called Kim, that there might be an Australian cricketer or two called Kim and there was once quite a famous British spy/double agent called Kim Philby, but I never met any of them.

As a child, when meeting kids (and occasionally adults) for the first time, the most common response was “Kim? But that’s a girl’s name!”, or “My sister’s called Kim and she’s a girl!”, or they would start calling me Tim, Jim or Ken, assuming that they had misheard what I’d actually said. It was so rare for someone not to make comment on my name that I found I was always waiting for the reaction as soon as I told someone. Consequently there has never been a time in my life when I don’t inwardly prepare myself for a negative response, a fraction of a second before any introduction.

As a teenager, I would have given anything to be called Steve.

Steve, was a guy’s name. There was no mistaking a Steve for a girl. Steve was the name of the Bionic Man – a guy so manly and tough that half his body was a machine. He was stronger, faster and had better eyesight than any ordinary Joe. He was beyond a man. Huge tough guys were like 7 stone weaklings compared to Steve Austin. Then there was Steve McQueen; a real man’s man. Cool. Strong. Didn’t say much because he didn’t need to. He didn’t have to be in touch with his feminine side because he could ride motorbikes across enemy lines, and drive cars really fast around the streets of San Francisco.

At school, Steve was the good looking one who pulled the birds. Shoulder length, wavy hair and all the girls fancied him. If I could have just hung around with him, I could have got off with the girls who wanted him, but because he was with their mate would settle for me until he became free again, and in the meantime get closer to this testosterone ridden demi-god. However, Paul had already got that role, so I just had to put up with watching, with bitter envy, as all the girls crowded around him and ignored me.

When you’re given a girl’s name you have to rebel against it. You have to become more masculine, more manly. You have to sleep with more women and drink more beer to prove your manhood – not just once, but again and again and again. Then, by your 8th birthday, you start on the whisky…

Ever since I was 5 I wanted to grow a beard. At 13, Steve was shaving twice a day, but my chin was still as smooth as the day I was born until I was 15, and then it was just the faintest bit of fluff. By the time I was 18 I had a moustache that was beginning to look like a moustache rather than a dirty mark I hadn’t washed off after dinner. Unfortunately, around this time Freddy Mercury was sporting a hairy upper lip and having a moustache now meant that you were gay. I wasn't actually able to properly grow a beard until I was in my early 20s, but you can be sure that I've never had a bare chin since.

As a grown up, the reactions haven’t usually been so bad, as most adults understand that laughing out loud and pointing a finger at me isn’t the most mature of responses. Over the years the reactions have moved from openly verbal to not-very-well-suppressed body language and facial expressions of disbelief. However, this is an improvement of sorts, as at least it doesn’t tend to draw the attention of everyone in a 10-yard radius. But I have still had to endure more than 20 years of letters that are titled “Ms”, people phoning for me yet asking for my wife when I answer, and still, some people just come out and say “But that’s a girl’s name,” as if they are revealing some secret that might never have occurred to me.

However, there have been a couple of benefits.

When I was 15 and was going out with a girl called Rebecca, who’s father would have happily castrated any young man caught in the vicinity of his daughter, she was able to phone me while her parents were in the same room, knowing that if they overheard her saying “Is Kim there?” and making arrangements to meet up with me, that they would never suspect I was anything other than one of her female friends.

The other advantage has been that people do remember me much more easily and this definitely had benefits in business. During the course of your average business networking meeting, you will meet countless Johns, Davids and Steves, and after a while they all blur into each other. However, everyone will remember the fat bearded guy with the girl’s name.

Would I change it? No, I’m used to it now. A lifetime of dealing with people’s reactions means that it’s no longer a big deal. Did it have an affect on the naming of my own son? Too bloody right it did. There was no way I was going to burden my son with a name that was in any way feminine.

And yet, Rogan is not your everyday, common, young man’s name. I have never met another person called Rogan, but I knew that I didn’t want to call my son John, David or Steve. I did want him to experience something of being a bit different as, in the end, I feel my name has helped to shape the person I have become. A bit more individual, capable of standing on his own two feet and having an innate distrust of the herd mentality – these are qualities I would like my son to share.

But don’t expect any Johnny Cash songs to be rewritten for either of us in the near future.

33 comments:

Natalia said...

I said it before and I will say it again...I think Rogan is a beautiful name.

And I also love Kim as a man's name... and James as a woman's name.

Ohhh and I checked the other blog... way to go on the weight loss. I am currently contemplating the Low GI lifestyle. We shall see.

-N

Asher Hunter said...

I feel your pain ... while I didn't have a girl's name, by birth name was "Garry", with 2 R's in the middle instead of one.

I can't count the # of fights I had because somebody was apparently pissed off at my extra R. Despite the fact that EVERY other male "arry" name (Harry, Jerry, Larry, Terry, Barry) had 2 R's in it.

michael the tubthumper said...

billy connolly has a song called "whats in a name" about a boy in aberdeen whose surname was McCann and his parents named him 'genghis'

Gyrobo said...

Having an unusual name helps when you're doing Google searches. Look at me- the word "Gyrobo" is completely made up and has probably never been thought of before.

When you do a search on Gyrobo, you see literally everything I've done since I started blogging last June.

This is great, because in a few minutes of searching, I can see every blog I've ever commented on. I never need to bookmark anything!

Gyrobo said...

What the...?!

I just did a search on Gyrobo. Turns out, the number of hits is over 10,000.

I must be popular.

Andraste said...

I know a woman called Kevin.

Stella said...

Kim, I can see how it must have been tough for you growing up with a "girls" name. But I am sure dealing with it has helped you become the person you are now, maybe Johnny Cash was onto something. Having said that my kids have ornery names. Rogan is a beautiful and very unusual name - what are it's origins?

Chris Black said...

When I was a five year old I sat next to a boy called Kim at school. I must have felt uneasy about it - so yes, I'm afraid I asked if I could call him Tim.

Until now I have never worried about it... but I'm starting to feel guilty.

Meanwhile "Chris" can also be female, and that was useful for me once at Uni. My room was at the end of the corridor of our flat, so the room beyond mine was in a different flat... and a lot of noise came through the thin wall.

So I bought a brightly coloured greetings card .... and in slightly feminine handwriting asked him if he chap could be a bit quieter ... and he was. It took him months to find out I wasn't female - if he had known I was a geeky bearded male I don't think he would have bothered...

Kim Ayres said...

Natalia - never heard of James being used as a girl's name before!

Glad you like the Losing a Hundredweight blog. Feel free to ask questions and leave comments.

Asher - It's amazing how many people are prepared to blame you for failing to conform to their norms. So is Asher just a blogger ID, or did you end up changing your name legally?

Michael - I thought you were going to say McCann O' Guiness for a moment

Gyrobo - only found 742 for you on Google

Andraste - Kevin? Not heard of that for a woman before.

Stella - Rogan was just a name we found in a name book when Maggie and I were frantically searching for something to call our soon-to-be-born son. I liked the sound and thought it had a certain strength to it. According to the book it's of Irish origin and means "little king"

Chris - despite my surprise at the women mentioned above called
Kevin and James, I think it's easier for a woman to have a bloke's name than the other way round. Rather like it's fine for women to wear men's clothes, but for men to wear women's runs the risk of getting arrested, or beaten up.

Asher Hunter said...

Asher is actually a nickname that was adapted as a stage name. Its the name I act under, and because of the nickname, the name I usually go by. Eventually, the change will be legalized.

swiss rebecca said...

Funny, I always wanted to be named Lisa or Linda because I thought they sounded little and cute- with my "tall gene" ancestry I was a head taller than everyone in my elementary school (including some of the teachers). I'm still tall, but don't stress about it any more (just an incredable pain to find decent-looking women's trousers).

Funny how we all want to fit in, then eventually find that fitting in just isn't that important.

Gyrobo said...

Weird... yesterday it was 10,000 and now it's 947.

Maybe there's something wrong with Google...

Kim Ayres said...

Asher - I guess in the blogging world, the vast majority of people have chosen a different name.

Rebecca - My wife was known as Linda for most of her life, even though Linda is in fact her middle name, but about a year after we met she confessed that she'd always had a desire to go under her first name, which was Maggie (actually, strictly speaking it's Margaret, but she wasn't so keen on that version). So when we went on holiday, I called her Maggie for the week to see how she got on with it. She liked it and began using that name instead. Now everyone except her family know her as Maggie rather than Linda.

Gyrobo - 863 today, although if I use Google.co.uk, then there are none.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Steve? I thought Adam and Steve were a same-sex couple. Is Kim short for something. Kimford? Kimpole? Kimmerhausen? Perhaps the long form would be more virile.

Kim Ayres said...

Nope, Kim's just short for Kim, GB.

The girls version was originally short for Kimberley, like Samantha get's shortened to Sam but, especially in North America, this shortened version of Kim became popular in it's own right.

MomTah said...

I like the name Kim, for a man or for a woman. Funny thing, I have a female cousin Kim who married a man name Kim, and a female cousin Jan who married a man named Jan. Weird huh? The Kims and the Jans. I have another cousin, on the other side of the family, female, named Michael, and my uncle Rex on the same side of the family married a woman named Kevin. So, I guess I'm kinda used to names not being associated with the gender they supposedly should be associated with...but I'm still trying to talk this guy I work with out of naming his first daughter Patrick.

Terri :-)

Kim Ayres said...

I think you're right to do so. The parents rarely seem to realsie the sheer hell their child is likely to be put through with the wrong choice of name.

Good to see you back Terri

MomTah said...

Good to be back, Kim. :-) The keys on this laptop are *so* tiny, though! (I broke my "real" computer...it's in the shop).

Terri

Brenda Christmas said...

I just saw a man named Kim Vo on TV, so I did a search for "boys named Kim" and found your blog. My funny story is that the first Kim I ever knew was a boy -- a hot boy as far as 3rd graders go. I thought Kim was a boy's name. All the girls had a crush on Kim Vincent. Imagine my surprise when a girl named Kim moved to our school in 4th grade!

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks for commenting Brenda - it's always good to hear there are other male Kim's out there surviving in the world :)

Kim Paul Cook said...

You are not alone :)
http://www.guysnamedkim.com/GNK/index.html

Kim Ayres said...

Hi Kim - if you check number 112 on the list, you'll find me there already :)

Kim Artus said...

What about Stevie Nix...Maybe Steve isn't the all male name you thought it was.

Kim Ayres said...

I've known both male and female Stevies, but I've haven't yet met a female Steve.

Would I be right in guessing you're a male Kim? Few people stumble across this old post unless they were specifically searching for guys called Kim :)

Jayne Martin said...

I always assumed that Kim was short for something. "Kimothy" maybe. Or "Kimbert." Or maybe just a Welsh thing. Actually, it just didn't strike me as odd. But if I met you when I was 6, yes -- I definitely would have ridiculed you.

Kim Ayres said...

I have had people wondering if I was a bearded lady...

zooman said...

I am 46 and have had the exact same experience as you ... my name is Kim.

Kim Ayres said...

Welcome to my blog Zooman/Kim :)
Where in the world are you based? I get the impression the severity of dealing with the name varies from country to country

kim said...

I am a 14 year old male named kim and i get the obvious reactions from people but you kind of get used to it.

Kim Ayres said...

Hi Kim - yes you do, and it eases off as you get older. And it has the advantage that people tend to remember you more than your average John, David or Andrew.

Which part of the world are you from, if you don't mind me asking?

Kim Barnbrook said...

im from England.I also heard there was a australian weight lifter named kim i bet no one said anything about his name !

Kim Ayres said...

I wonder if being called Kim influenced him in becoming a weight-lifter? I've sometimes wondered whether my desire to grow a beard from the moment I could, was influenced by constantly having to deal with the looks and comments.

The reason I asked where you're from is that Kim is a more popular male name in Australia. I'm sure there's been a famous cricketer or two sharing our name too :)

Kim Barnbrook said...

yes i have heard of many australians named kim and yes i think it did