What does an “X” cost? Apparently $537 and counting…
Posted August 9, 2012on:
I have being going by the name “Sean X” for so long that I sometimes forget I have a last name. But for those who are so inclined to know, my full legal name is “Sean X Cummings.” I often get asked where the “X” came from, as if to indicate that its presence in my name was unacceptable.
If I am in a particularly cantankerous mood I tell people it is short for “X-ray” and that my father was a radiologist. On the other spectrum I have, with vitriolic rage, yelled at people who say “Sean ‘ex’” and explained indignantly that it is pronounced “ten,” like the roman numeral. But for true spectacle I tell people my parents were Black Panthers in the ’60s and respected Malcolm X. And then… I wait.
I am white, and Irish. There is this apoplectic pause that comes over them. They. Just. Can’t. Say. Anything. They are frozen in that space between the peanut butter and the bread; where the brain runs into “huh?” You can see cogs in their heads tracing slow outlines on their temples…. ”I’d better not fraking laugh if it’s actually true.” They. Just. FREEZE. I start counting. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… and then I look at them and laugh. Them however? Not so much. Now that is what I call fun.
The stories are false… lies… designed to both keep people off-balance, as well as provide me with a way to avoid the melancholy called life. For I am, for the most part, mostly harmless… mostly. Somewhere Strunk & White turned over in their graves at that last sentence. Then again, one must know the rules of grammar to consciously break them.
Alas, I digress.
It is after all a rather simple explanation as to where the X came from. I was born with no middle name. Like being born without an appendix. For if you put thought to the matter a middle name or initial is really quite unnecessary, unless you are so ego-prone as to name your children after you. My mother wanted one name, my father wanted another name, and so the story goes. I do sometimes wonder if my parents were firing on all cylinders. I guess the thought never occurred to them to give me both. Then again, it was the ’60s. It could have been worse… I could have had hippies as parents and ended up with the name “Moonbeam.” Who knows how many Psychologists are employed today because parents gave them truly bizarre names?
In lieu of burdening me with multiple middle names I ended up with none. I was quite comfortable with having no middle name. It was just a hole that I had, like a missing tooth it became a part of me. “I have no middle name.” I would explain to the teacher; which was a little easier to deal with than the teacher I had in 1st grade who tried to convince me that my first name was pronounced “Seen.” Even so far as to make me sit in the corner when I refused to agree with her. That was when my parents enrolled me in private school. They had gotten a first hand taste of the teaching excellence in our public school system.
There I go again, not explaining what the “X” actually is. Where was I? Oh yes, no middle name.
Well, fast forward to 2002. I had just joined marketing in a financial corporation, and I am about to get a new email address. Exciting… until the system spit back my email address. “scummings@——.com” Huh? Scummings?!! Are you fraking serious? The system used the first letter first name, first letter middle name, and then your full last name. However, with no middle initial name to pull from it just skipped it. The email address generated automatically from your personnel records in the system, and I was told for security reasons there can be no changes, and that would have to be my email address. They, Human Resources, aka The Evil Ones, indicated that was it, end of story. I am not even to go into the myopic thinking that goes into such decisions, or into such uni-culture organizations, however, I was NOT going to have scummings on my business cards.
I did the only thing I could do. I walked into my new bosses office and I handed him my resignation. This caused something of a sensation, as I was told by HR when I informed them what I was going to do that “People just do not do things like that at this company!” Initially I thought it was me who was strange in my behavior; I did come from working at advertising agencies. However, I have come to realize that employees at most large financial corporations exhibit this relative “ballessness.”
Human Resources was down in 5 minutes and profusely apologizing to my boss who was much much more senior than they realized. In fact, I was much much more senior than they realized. The Billy Idol white hair, the tongue piercing and the tattoos threw them off. And they obviously had not actually looked at my employment record. They probably thought I worked in the mail room and was just being difficult.
They then “suddenly” realized that they could just add in a middle initial and that would solve the problem. So they asked me what I wanted my middle initial to be “X” “Z” or “2.” I chose X, well, because X is just… well… cooler… everyone knows that. After switching companies I tried to get rid of the X, but one of my colleagues called me and told me that he said that “Sean Cummings” was coming to speak and no one knew who he was talking about, and then he said “Sean X” and they all indicated they had heard me speak before and wanted to have me come in. “Sean X” had become my brand.
After years of using it I made it official last year. As I handed in my name change forms at the court, paid my $410 San Francisco Court fee and $102 for 4 certified copies of the name change, the teller took my money and said ”You just paid $512 for an X?” My only response. “Yes I did.”
With the $25 DMV License Fee I’m at $537 and counting.