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do you market yourself with your middle initial?
when i was young, my father’s business cards fascinated me. i examined the papers, pondered the idea that so many identical things could be printed, studied the typesetting and wondered what magic made it all happen. they seemed like precious talismans, foil-stamped tickets passed between Illuminati. dad could talk about the logos, or how he chose this or that, and point out his title. there was always a clear importance attached to it. despite having uncommon first and last names, he always used his middle initial.
i’d beg a couple cards off him and print my own on the empty backs using rub transferred lettering, hand drawn or stamped logos, and a typewriter. all that should have been someone’s first clue that i was destined to design. following his lead, i’d include my middle initial.
there’s a formal, distinguished quality to using a middle initial. without knowing that middle names weren’t even common until the 19th century, and without knowing they started with aristocrats, the highbrow scent persists. the first middle names were familial. today, it’s not very likely that your middle name is a reference to a relative or ancestor, but it still elevates you somehow. imagine being the only person in the room without one.
i noticed a while ago that most of the resumes i review are full of info that helps identify someone: email addresses, twitter and linkedin URLs, you name it, but the least helpful info is often the name at the top. people tend to spell out their full names instead of using the version everyone calls them. a minor source of confusion and awkwardness when it comes to a live conversation, but still. and they include their middle initial—something i could only possibly ever need if there are numerous people i could mistake them for otherwise. it’s rare.
david i cus
my mother was more intent than most on my receiving education opportunities. neither of my parents grew up with a focus on education. for most of my school years, mom made a point of being friendly with my teachers, inviting them over for dinner and so on.
sometimes it was political. a few years in, it was clear i was developing interest and skill in art. my father couldn’t see any money in that. he encouraged law, medicine, accounting—these things he understood as successful. one night my teacher and mother teamed up and convinced him to allow me to follow my own path. i’m surprised it didn’t take four or five ladies, but whatever they said, there was a clear change in his attitude which i now appreciate.
other times, my mother would get a little tip. sometimes that makes all the difference. i remember only caring about reading as a competitive event. i would do things to annoy my classmate and arch enemy Malcolm Hawker, like draw four fingers on a hand because it fit better (the five on his, i’d insist, looked more like a daisy); or, pronouncing “the” like “thee” simply because it infuriated him. before summer vacation arrived, mom inquired about how to ensure a few months out of school wasn’t a waste. my teacher, with simple wisdom, told her to buy me comic books. the theory was that if i enjoyed them, i’d read them, and that it was a great way to improve my reading skills.
she was right, of course. i went through them voraciously. it turns out even lowly comic books were well-edited, so i absorbed spelling and punctuation. the dialog may have been simple, but the themes were sometimes mature. meanwhile, i was exposed to a wide variety of drawing, inking, coloring, type, and layout styles that served me well my whole life. also, i use exclamation points liberally!
when i started piano lessons, my parents applied a similar principle, granting me a comic for each page i’d complete in my music theory workbook. needless to say, i advanced faster than most at theory.