My name is Karen. Yes, that's my real name. I've always thought of it as non-descript. Easy to pronounce. Easy to spell. Common, but not trendy. These days, however, it's become shorthand to describe a middle-aged, white woman, (typically depicted with styled, blonde hair) who insists on getting her way at the expense of others. She asks to speak to the manager at the slightest inconvenience and wears her entitlement like a crown on her perfectly coiffed head, believing herself innately superior to those of other races and ethnicities. She is, to put it bluntly, dreadful.

As a real-life Karen, when I first came across this pop-culture phenomenon, I focused immediately on the words ‘blonde’ and ‘middle-aged.’ With my grey hair, I'm so far past middle age that 50-year-olds look like kids, so I was thrilled to think that 70 is the new 40, grey is the new blonde, and wrinkles are the new … well, let's forget about the wrinkles. I enjoyed that split second of flattery (I take it wherever I can get it), but when the rest of the description sunk in, I felt awful.

Not just because I'm named Karen, but because I'm a Jewish Karen. Actually, to be more precise, I'm a Jew who happens to be named Karen, not a Karen who happens to be a Jew. And if there's one thing a Jew is not supposed to be, it's a person who fits the negative stereotype of a "Karen". That's about as un-Jewish as you can get.

I figured I needed to do some serious self-reflection and see if Karen (me) is really a "Karen," and I’ve come to the conclusion that:

It's the Inside that Counts

Good people don't have a specific hair color, skin color, or ethnicity. Neither do bad people. What matters is who we are on the inside, not how we appear on the outside.

I am not a body that has a soul, I am a soul that has a body. My neshama was given to me by G‑d, and is unlike any other ever created. I am not a stereotype, and I am not a meme. I cannot be reduced to a single word, to something more like a cartoon than a human. I am defined by my character, my values, and my faith, not by my haircut.

Yes, I'm Entitled. But to What?

I plead guilty to the charge of believing myself to be entitled. But to what?

As a Jew, I believe that I am only entitled to the one thing to which all humans are entitled: the inherent self-respect that comes from knowing G‑d created me because my being here matters to Him. I am entitled to value myself simply because I exist. I don't validate my self-worth at the expense of others, especially on the basis of race, ethnicity, or income. Because they matter, just as I do, or they wouldn't be here.

When I Speak to the Manager, I Go Straight to the Top

Life is full of little aggravations. The teller at the drive-up window doesn't recognize me and asks for my ID. The grocery worker is new, and she's painfully slow. I can let these things get the best of me, demand to see the manager, and behave like a prima donna, or I can go straight to the top, and seek help from the Manager of the Universe. I can ask Him for patience with the new worker who is doing her best and the bank teller who is trying to protect me from identity theft. I can ask Him to help calm me down. And I know from experience that if I ask, He'll respond. It's a request that is always answered.

My English Name Is Karen, but My Hebrew Name Is Chana Meira

My English name is Karen. I think of it as a shorthand label to distinguish me from other people. I also have a Hebrew name, Chana Meira. Hebrew has a spiritual component that English doesn't have. Unlike my English name, my Hebrew name is not just a label, but an aspiration—a description of the person my parents wanted me to become. A common translation of Chana Meira is Gracious Giver of Light. Pretty cool name, eh? And not a whiff of "Karen" in it. Quite the opposite!

Who I am Is Always My Choice

My two names, Karen and Chana Meira, reflect opposite ways of viewing myself and interacting with the world. They remind me that who I am at any moment is up to me. I can be a Karen who is a "Karen," or I can be a Karen who is a Chana Meira. May I always make the right choice. The Jewish choice.