As a first born raised by immigrant parents, I wasn't hip to the cultural happenings of the day. There was no one to tell me how to layer my multi-colored tube socks and no older sibling to turn me on to the NKOTB songs currently in radio rotation. While all the other 5th graders were collectively chanting, "Oh my God, Becky, look.." during recess, I was left wondering who exactly was this Becky, and why didn't I know her? It wasn't until middle school that I learned of the curiously-monikered knight named Mix-A-Lot, and due to circumstance beyond my control, I simply wasn't in the know.
It was at this early age that I discovered the pressures of uniformity, even in name. Growing up, there weren't many others who shared my name, and certainly no one who spelled it with a 'k'. Erica's were rare, and Erika's, non-existent. I hated that 'k'. 'K' represented all that was wrong with the world - from Kryptonite to the Ku Klux Klan. I abhored its obtrusiveness, constantly jutting out and disrupting the otherwise smooth flow of my pen when learning to write my name in cursive. I resented that whenever I would scan the racks of 100+ personalized key chains populated with the likes of Emily’s, Emma’s, and Erin’s, all I could see was one glaring omission: Erika. It's not that I was all that particular. Being the ever tolerant nine-year old, Erica or even Ericka would have made suitable replacements.
To be honest, I’ve grown used to misspelling. With a first and last name like mine, it has become the norm. I am often surprised when people do manage to get one of the two correct, and even some of my closest friends still draft emails addressed to Erica. I don’t bat an eye at c’s, though ck’s may or may not raise an eyebrow. And I don’t mind. Really, I don’t. What I do notice, however, is when someone actually gets it right. And on that occasion when I’m greeted with that 'k', I respond with a smile. With college came self-acceptance - weird became unique, while odd became whimsy. And as for that lifelong battle with 'k', I've come to realize that it's not so bad after all.
This Christmas, I received the best present ever - a gift of truly Jantastic proportions. As I unwrapped the twice-wrapped box and peeled away the double layer of festive tissue paper, there it was. A skate, signed by Michelle Kwan, personally written out to one Erika with a 'k'.