The moniker of Monica

With a name like Monica Lee, I can float through the world and the World Wide Web with enough candy sprinkles to be recognized and enough vanilla to be semi anonymous. It’s like skirting through a crowd by turning my shoulders sideways and gently nudging people to and fro while making my way through — you know I’m there, but you may not be fully conscious of my uniqueness.

It’s not Joe Johnson or Mary Smith, but Monica Lee is easy to articulate, easy to spell and easy to remember if you want to remember it. It’s also common enough to melt into the mass; “Monica” is the 131st most common first name in America, and “Lee” the 24th most common surname (thanks for those stats).

I like that the “Lee” part is a bit of a red herring. I’m not of Asian descent, and “Lee” is in fact my middle name. I was born Monica Lee Redacted. I got married and became Monica Lee SomethingElseRedacted because that’s what mainline, rule-following girls in Minnesota did — they took their husband’s name.

The surname of my first husband was a lot like Lewinsky, and I didn’t need any more baggage from that marriage than I already had, so when I got divorced, I became Monica Lee (through I considered changing my name to Monica Lee Rockefeller just for fun). That’s when the rebel in me finally made an appearance. For a couple of years I had no middle name; “Lee” was my last name, and I relished in a simple existence that made applications and restaurant reservations so easy.

When I remarried, I took my Beloved’s name in all the legal senses and became Monica Lee SomethingElseRedacted, but I didn’t want to lose the simplicity of Monica Lee. It’s not that I don’t like my Beloved’s last name, but it’s the 7,501st most common surname in America, so it’s pretty distinctive and requires a recitation of the spelling every time I use it, so “Monica Lee” is my public name in all its succinct and straightforward glory.

If you google “Monica Lee,” you’ll find 61.5 million results. I am not the Monica Lee at the top of the list which, for branding purposes, is not preferred. (If you type in my full legal name, you’ll find a lot of legal references that actually do belong to me, and that’s not exactly the kind of brand image I want to promote.)

I’m not this Monica Lee (who expertly holds the first result in Google):

Monica Lee 1

Or this one:

Monica Lee 2

Not this one either:

Monica Lee 3

And certainly not this one (not that there’s anything wrong with her, it’s just that I couldn’t look anything less like this one):

Monica Lee 4

And I’m just fine with being a ways down on Google’s list. Among my friends, I’m unique, and that’s good enough.

Me. In costume. Behind the fortune-telling cards.

Me. In costume. Behind the fortune-telling cards.

On the internet, I’ve cultivated the ambiguity that fails to connect my name to my image. If you follow this blog, you may notice I rarely post pictures of myself. In fact, every picture of my face posted on this blog is either an old one or an obscured visage. In fact, I didn’t even own up to being Monica Lee for first three years of writing this blog. That’s was too scary, and I didn’t want that much notoriety (and I certainly didn’t want to make anything easy for identity thieves). Even my husband was simply “my Beloved” though now I occasionally identify him by his real name, Tyler. I’ve warmed up to using my name (if not my picture), though I don’t mind being referred to as “Minnesota Transplant” (by the way, this blog does in fact hold the No. 1 result in most search engines when typing in “Minnesota Transplant”).

Even my author blog eschews “Monica Lee” (you’ll find that one at because I’m a mindful writer, if not a famous one).

Names are powerful, and I was reminded of that recently while reading Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” (which I loved! — book review coming next week). In her book, her characters have distinctive monikers like Boris, Hobart and Pippa. Unforgettable.

I know in my heart I’m uniquely me, even if my name isn’t very rare. I have an aunt who sometimes calls me Monica Wee, as a reminder of what I once called myself as a child who had a hard time getting my tongue around L sounds. That’s probably my best label because the expression of delight, excitement and exhilaration in “whee!” is the kind of brand image I can get behind.


11 responses to “The moniker of Monica

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