Today I read something in the newspaper that convinces me there are people in the world with entirely too much time on their hands. How else could we explain the fact that there’s a couple in Massachusetts named Melanie and Neal who have petitioned the state to legally change their middle names to the word “Seamonster.”
I read this information in a short news snippet so I don’t have any context for the story, but I doubt that additional information would make the request seem less weird. Perhaps they really love sea monsters? Perhaps their favorite uncle was a sea monster? Maybe they lost a bet made after five too many beers? It’s hard to say.
What I do know is that petitioning a state to do almost anything requires a certain degree of paperwork and hassle. I imagine it’s at least twice as time-consuming and nearly as painful as having a sea monster tattooed on one’s ankle or arm. But for whatever reason, this couple needs their new middle name to be officially recognized by the great state of Massachusetts. (I’m guessing they couldn’t make it fit on a vanity license plate.)
But why the middle name? If you ask me, it shows a certain lack of commitment to the sea monsters they claim to love. A middle name is like an appendix. We’re pretty sure it was important at one time but nobody is quite sure why. You can certainly live without an appendix or a middle name. Just ask Prince and Madonna.
When’s the last time you even heard your middle name used out loud? The only time I ever heard my middle name was when my mother was mad at me and trying to make a point. It’s not like this couple will one day be in a restaurant waiting area only to hear the hostess say “Table for Neal Seamonster Coughlin? I can seat you now.”
Maybe I’m being too close-minded about it. Maybe this odd name change is an example of one of the freedoms that make our country great. Here in the United States, you can create your own identity and express it freely. Some people use that freedom to build companies or become great chefs or work as back-up dancers for Beyonce. The possibilities are endless, and you can be completely unique while creating something valuable or beautiful or serving a greater good.
But wouldn’t it be great if more people used that creative freedom to do things that, for lack of a better word, matter – at least a little bit? Doesn’t it seem like a lot of our modern day weirdness is motivated not by any discernable purpose but simply because it’s possible?
In America, we have this “just because we can” philosophy that sometimes gets out of hand. Why would you attempt to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Just because you can. Why would you competitively scarf down more hot dogs than any other human in under a minute? Just because you can. Why would you intentionally squirt milk out of your eye? Just because you can. (Google the words “dumbest world records” to see more evidence of “just because you can” gone terribly wrong.)
Sure, these oddities might cause a small ripple in the constant stream of news and random facts we’re flooded with daily, but does that make them worthy of attention? Does it do any good?
Something that finds its way into the news or sets an unusual world record isn’t automatically admirable. And sometimes it’s only about as useful as having a middle name like Seamonster.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.
Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography