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OK, Karen.

Real-life Karens reflect on "Karen" memes

The name "Karen" is one of the most loaded, mocked names in pop Internet culture today. According to popular memes, "Karen" is a middle-aged white woman demanding to speak to the manager who wears her entitlement as proudly as she wears her asymmetrical bob.

In the past few years, "Karen-ing" has become an action as well as a term that's often trending on Twitter and myriad videos of women nicknamed "Karens" have gone viral. These videos exposed "Officer Karen," a weeping Georgia-based police officer worried a McDonald's employee was poisoning her breakfast sandwich; "Central Park Karen" who called the cops because she felt threatened by a black birdwatcher who asked her to obey dog-leashing laws; and "California Karen" who reported an 8-year-old girl selling bottled water on the street without a permit.

None of these women are actually named "Karen," but they are given this moniker because they are all white women who whipped out their privilege at the expense of others.

But what if your name really is Karen and you aren't a racist asshole? While being named Karen is obviously not comparable to racially motivated name discrimination, it is most likely super annoying to have a name that's the butt of pop culture jokes.

"I basically think it's funny, but also a little obnoxious," says Karen Ott, a 44-year-old South Milwaukeean. "For as long as I can remember, I've never really been a big fan of my name, but in 44 years I've not been able to come up with anything better."

When the Karen memes started to come out, Ott says she laughed and declared herself "the anti-Karen Karen."

"When I introduce myself, 'Hi I'm Karen, but not that kind,'" says Ott.

As time went on, however, it's grown tiresome and she now gives a fake name at restaurants and coffee shops to avoid another conversation about her controversial name.

"After I get done with therapy, I plan to change my name to Hillary. People seem to hate that a little less," she jokes.

The name Karen comes from the Danish, where it has been a short form of "Katherine" since medieval times. In the 1940s, the name became popular in the United States and was in the top three names for girls born in the mid-1960s. By 2018, however, only .025 percent of baby girls were given the K-name.

Karen Dalessandro is an afternoon DJ on 96.5 WHLH and she says if her name can be used for good, she's fine with it.

"Being Karen has been great for a lot of years, but if now I have to share my good name to expose the crazy in the world, I'm willing to make the sacrifice," she says.

Karen Lynn (last name withheld) is a 55-year-old freelance designer living in suburban Chicago. She says at first she was really bothered by what she felt was "name shaming," but over time, has understood it differently.

"I think it's a way of keeping people – white women – in check," says Lee. "In reading about all these different 'Karens' I realized that sometimes I was a little bit like one of those 'Karens,' but I want to be a better Karen. I'm working on it."

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