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.