These Letters Mean Something to Me

A little over a year ago, I decided that each Thursday I would answer questions submitted by my readers.

It was fun.

For some reason, though, over the summer, I sort of…quit.  Not purposely; I just gradually tapered off.  I always knew I would start it up again, though, so I have faithfully collected each and every reader question that has deserved its own post and filed them away for future reference. And that future is today.

Actually, no, the present is today; the future is tomorrow. But who can be bothered with such technicalities? [Well, I can, obviously, or else I wouldn’t have brought it up.]

But I digress.

The point is, I’m reviving the Archives of Our Lives Q+A. Starting right now.

Question, from Whitney:  What does the P stand for in your name?

Answer, from me:

Let me begin with a bit of background information for those readers who might not know what Whitney is talking about.

When I reply to comments via email (or when I send any informal emails at all, for that matter), I sign my name like this:

—cpsf

CPSF.  My initials. I’ve written about them before, about how important they are to me, but I’ve never addressed the “P” part of my name despite the fact that I am asked about it quite frequently.

So, it’s like this:

The “P” doesn’t stand for anything. I made it up.

I remember the day distinctly:

It was Junior year (Grade 11, Canadians). I was at a She-Rah Man Haters (i.e. girls only) party hosted by two of my awesome friends from high school. There was a sign-in book (although, come to think of it, I don’t know why we had to sign in for that party…was it for posterity’s sake? Lindsay, Chelsie, please enlighten me…), and as I picked up the pen to enter myself in the annals of She-Ra history, something inside me just…snapped.  And instead of simply writing “Camille S—” and moving on with my life, I clutched the pen with my fist and scrawled boldly, “CAMILLE P. S–––.”

I took up two whole lines, and I don’t think I even apologised for my greed (sorry, guys!).

Anyway, I don’t know why I did it. It was not premeditated. I had never called myself Camille P. S— before, and I didn’t expect to call myself Camille P. S— ever again. I was purely living in the moment—possibly in the throes of teenage rebellion, for I had always been bitter that my parents did not see fit to give me a middle name—but I didn’t really think anything else of it.

Later that night, though, the hostesses were going through the ledger book, and when they noticed my misdeed, they asked me why I’d done it.

“I don’t know,” I confessed, ashamed. “It just sort of…flowed.”

I guess they thought it was funny. Who knows, maybe I thought it was funny myself—P is a funny letter, when you think about it.  Either way, from then on, throughout the rest of my high school career, some of my closest friends would address me as “Camille P. S—.”  Over time, I adopted the P for myself, and took to signing my notes, letters, and emails as —CPS. I liked it. It really did flow nicely.

Plus, I argued, why shouldn’t I be able to give myself a middle initial? My parents didn’t think I needed a middle name, because they wanted me to take on my maiden name as a middle name when I got married.  But my maiden name is not a middle name—it doesn’t even come close to sounding like a middle name.  Moreover, what if I had never gotten married? Then I’d just wander the earth middle-nameless for all of my days? That’s not fair. For seventeen years, I suffered the agony of simply crossing out the space for middle names on government forms, and I guess by Junior year I had had enough.

Now that I’ve matured (I use the word loosely), though, and I sign my emails as —cpsf, I’ve come to see a deeper meaning in it all:

C—The letter given to me by my mother, who put her foot down when my dad wanted to spell my name “Kuhmill.”  (Thanks, mom.)

S—The letter given to me by my father, whose last name I will always bear with pride.

F—The letter given to me by my husband, whom I love so much that I didn’t even force him to hyphenate our last names like I would have liked, and…

P—The letter I gave myself, because I wanted to and I could.

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
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14 Responses to These Letters Mean Something to Me

  1. Liz says:

    I’ve been wondering about this actually! So what names did you keep legally after you got married? Maiden and married, as your parents wanted?

    I ditched my maiden name and at times I feel guilty because of me and all my cousins there’s only one boy! But my married name is easier and flows better. Sometimes I forget it was ever different!

  2. niki says:

    i too wondered this. good to know.

  3. anna says:

    I just assumed you had a middle name and added the fourth initial when you got married. Now I assume no longer.

  4. Wow. Awesome. I don’t have a middle name either. Oh, I take that back. I guess my maiden name is my middle name now. ENM. Not very exciting.

  5. holly your fan says:

    brilliant.

  6. Love it!!

    This reminds me of my “Second” middle name that I gave to myself so that I could have a Pen Name later in life. It is not legal, but I do it anyway.

    Thanks for sharing,

    -ccaj

  7. Geevz says:

    I agree. Wonderful flow.

  8. RatalieNose says:

    Bahaha this makes my heart happy!

  9. chelsie says:

    If I remember correctly, the she-ra men haters meeting was one of the things that got me into event planning. The vision was that it would be AA/cult-ish in style… aka the candles, fires(and consequently the smoke), I guess the signing in was like signing in with blood (but not because we would never induce such pain to ourselves…) i don’t really know for sure. you see i didn’t have any foreknowledge of cults or aa meetings so it was all a guess.

  10. Mary-Rose says:

    Haha! Reminds me of my sister who was also minus a middle name and also hated it! But she used “Q”– because she said it was queer not to have one!

  11. TeamHaynes says:

    Wow, no offense to your dad but I’m really happy you’re mom put her foot down too. You want to hear a ridiculous but equally hilarious name? La-a
    (pronounced LA-DASHA) let it sink in for a little. I think I laughed for ten minutes with Taylor about this one. I have a middle name, but it wasn’t very exciting having like eight other people I know have the same one. It has been really nice for my sister and I because we had an annoyingly long last name that people could not for the life of them pronounce. Even though it was spelled phonetically. Anyway, we now both have a small, easily pronounced name. Well sometimes. I smile when people at the grocery store say, “Thank you Mrs. Haynes” (but they say Hay-NESS) I’m like, really?!
    I like the P! To be honest I didn’t even notice there was four letters before. It does flow. We had an all girls club in second grade. It didn’t end well though because in the end boys didn’t pull hair or take your barbie doll.
    I had two teachers in college that were married and they hyphenated both of their names, like he had it too. The reason he gave, “Because I’m a flaming liberal.” I thought that was so funny, and yet so romantic at the same time. And yet so not what we would do.

  12. Anonymous says:

    So would you say, then, that you are going to give your daughters middle names? I think I’m going to. What do you think? I suppose it is a bit sexist not to; who’s to say that they [my unborn daughters] are ever going to get married? Or that their lives would be so terribly awful if they didn’t? It’s so hard being a liberal Mormon woman. I have such conflicting feelings all the time. I probably should have been born in a different era.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Although I must say, I did like the succinctness of our names growing up. There was a certain amount of firmness and even power in our names. They sounded good, at least. Mom and Dad could have done worse.

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