I bet most twelve year-olds don’t even know what the word “anomalous” means, but my youngest brother does. And he doesn’t like it. In fact, he gets annoyed whenever anyone uses the word when he’s around.
This is probably due to my mother’s habit of using the phrase “statistically anomalous” to describe our family. It’s her preferred euphemism for “strange,” which we certainly are as well. As a child I felt proud to be part of a statistically anomalous family; being part of a weird one might not have made me quite so happy.
I knew our family was different: for starters, I had five siblings, and my friends all had one or two or even none. We had no television, and my friends talked about people and things I had never heard of. (As an adult remembering some of those conversations, I realize that it was good that I’d never heard of them.) And to top it off, I had a weird name. You can’t imagine how many times in my life I’ve had to say “A-R-W-E-N,” and even after I spell it some people don’t get it right. My high school guidance counselor called me “Erin” for three years before finally learning my name – and that only after I took the PSAT and made the National Merit cutoff. (Although I suppose that’s kind of snarky of me.)
It sounds flippant to say that I never minded being different, but I never minded. I doubt even the keenest of psychologists could find any bitterness in me on that subject. I have my parents to thank for that, because they made being different a good thing. We didn’t have a television, but that's the negative angle - we did have the ability to entertain ourselves; we had a love of books; we had thinking skills that the more TV-soaked of our peers lacked. (When I was in fifth grade, my friend’s parents canceled their cable because she told them I was the smartest kid in the class. And while correlation doesn’t always mean causation, in that case I have to admit that it probably did.)
We didn’t have to be told that being part of a big family was an advantage. I still find it impossible to adequately describe the joys of our family. Until I was well into middle school, a baby brother or sister was always part of life, and everyone knows how wonderful babies are. We all loved each other so much, in a way I didn't see when I watched my friends interact with their siblings.
As for my name, I always knew that I had been named for someone special. My dad had a blessing that he gave each of us every night before bed, and mine ended "give her strength, and peace, and wisdom all the days of her life." As I grew old enough to know about The Lord of the Rings, and then old enough to read it, I understood that the character Arwen had those qualities that my dad prayed for me, and I connected my name with the things my parents wanted most for us children: honor and faith and goodness. It made me glad to have a name none of my classmates had, a name that had meant something special to my parents when they named me, and had grown to mean something special to me.
My name has always been so much a part of my identity that at first I found it awkward to use a pseudonym here. I imagined that you all would surely guess, because using my middle name just felt so weird. My name is Arwen. I thought the weirdness I felt would come through to you. But ha! apparently not. I guess I'm better at fooling people than I expected.
Feel free to keep thinking of me as Elizabeth if you wish. It is my name, after all, albeit my middle one. I've always loved it. I just wanted to share my first name with you, too, because it's part of me, and I share the important parts of my life here.
Oh - and I was surprised at how many of you are attached to the idea of my husband being named Michael! I have to admit that I actually like the name Michael (his middle name) a little better than I like my husband's first name, in theory. But because it is his name, I love it, even though as a name I don't really like it, if you see what I mean.
Anyway, my question for you is: would you like me to start using his real first name here? Or would you just like to live in oblivion, believing his name is Michael? Because I have no problem with that. Make sure to let me know in the comments section of this post, because I will tally up the votes and the votes will decide!
Edited to add: Just for clarification's sake, my husband doesn't care which name I use for him here, which is why I'm letting you all decide. If he had a preference, I'd go with that. And for those of you who want me to use his real name because you're curious about what it is - I'll email you and let you know. So don't let that affect your decision.