Real-Life Karens Don’t Know What to Do About Their Cursed Name

By 2030, you might be able to count the number of actual Karens on one hand

The first thing Karen, a 59-year-old in Galveston, Texas, wants me to know is that she’s never liked her name. In fact, she’s been distancing herself from it long before the latest iteration of “Karen” memes. Whether it was growing up in San Francisco, working as a writer at NASA’s Ames Research Center or moving to Texas to marry an old flame, the name has haunted her, conjuring up images of “a socially awkward girl with no makeup and a mustache.” 

“If you took the Karen of the 1970s or 1980s and postulated where they’d be in 20 years,” she says, “this is what you’d definitely picture — a rather loud-mouthed, entitled, unfulfilled woman who has nothing else in her empty life, and so, she focuses on stepping on, or over, anything that gets in her Birkenstock-ed way.” 

The thing is, she continues, “Now people are laughing at me and thinking I’m a stupid, entitled battle-axe of a person. Karma, why-fore art thou such a raging bitch? Did I kick peasants for fun in a past life?” 

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Luckily, if you polled everyone in Karen’s life, most would say her name is “Kate,” the name she’s chosen to go by since she was 20. But that doesn’t prevent her legal name from still rearing its misbegotten head. “If it gets called in public, I’m mortified,” she says, recalling a time before coronavirus when “Karen” rang through the airport PA system for a random search. “I could see a couple of millennials in the background laughing their asses off going, ‘Oooh, Karen is gonna get the manager!,’ and every eye watched me schlub my way to the gate. So yeah, that’s not so fun. But I’m nothing like the meme so that gives me some distance. Plus, I’ve learned to laugh with it — especially when my son says, ‘SHUT UP, KAREN!,’ which is always good for a double take in a store.” 

Karen says officially changing her name has been on her to-do list for years, but it’s not exactly easy to do. “In Texas, I have to pay a $370 fee, then get in front of a judge, which takes about 30 days to get a court date,” she explains. “After that’s approved, I have to walk it to every agency that deals with my existence — DMV, tax offices, medical records, credit cards, birth certificate. It’s very involved for a simple change.”

Nonetheless, she adds, “My drivers’ license expires next month, and I’d planned to do it then. But with COVID-19 putting all those processes and buildings on hold, I’m on indefinite hold, too.” 

Twenty-eight-year-old Karen in Toronto is in the same boat — as soon as coronavirus calms down, she plans on officially becoming someone else, too. “Nothing drastic, just something to distance myself from the memes a bit,” she tells me. “I’ve always disliked my name to some extent because it just doesn’t suit me, but with everything going on, I began to feel really sad. I’ve never spoken to a manager in my life. I’m not like that at all, but it doesn’t stop people from flooding my messages on dating sites, asking if I ‘would like to talk to the manager.’” 

When nice women are named Karen from FuckYouKaren

Continuing the theme, 26-year-old Karen in Ireland says she’s never loved her name either. “I don’t know where my parents got it — we don’t know any other Karens, and it’s not a very popular name in Ireland,” she says. “I’ve never felt like it really fit me, but with the internet now assigning it to every middle-aged woman who does something crazy, it continues to feel like the distance between my identity and my name is becoming insurmountable.” 

“At first, it was just the ‘Can I speak to your manager?’ haircut meme that my friends would link me to,” she continues. “But now it’s everywhere. And it’s evolved into this ultra-right-wing, ultra-misinformed woman. It’s become a bit more annoying and constant; it’s almost embarrassing to introduce myself now.” 

For better or worse, these Karens could be the last of their kind. Among the millions of users at babynames.com, TMZ reports that “none have added the name Karen to their favorite name lists in the past year.” Not only that, but the existing Karens are few and far between, as the name has suffered a 75 percent drop in popularity over the past decade. 

Which is why some Karens are hell-bent on survival. “I will not change my name. End of story,” asserts Karen, a 35-year-old in California. She’s not just staying Karen quietly either; she’s gone on the offensive, making a point to be active on a subreddit made specifically for “Karen” videos — r/FuckYouKaren. “I’ve made ‘My name is Karen, I am not a Karen’ into a saying for myself,” she tells me. “I love my name. I own it, and I remind people that it’s #NotAllKarens.” In the subreddit specifically, Karen says she is “considered to be one of the Good Karens.” 

After years of working in the food-service industry, Karen says she’s “far from the ‘calls the manager’ type of Karen,” but can usually take “those memes in good humor.” “It’s when the ‘a Black/Asian/Latinx/non-white person did something I didn’t like’ Karens came along that I cannot overemphasize how much I hate,” she says. “Call them what they are — white supremacists.”

“Let’s face it, the vast majority of ‘Karens’ are white,” she continues. “But do not use my name to describe racists. I’m half white, half Filipino on my mother’s side. People using Kyle/Karen/Whatever as a stand-in because they’re too scared to call it what it is trivializes the problem and makes me sick.” 

Once more, she stresses, “My name is Karen, I am not a Karen.”