Last weekend, I reactivated my Netflix account for the fifteenth-billion time. Maybe some of you reading this had that one tortured, teenage, on-again, off-again love affair with someone you totally loved but just couldn't make it work out, no matter how hard you both tried?
That's me and Netflix.
But, we've started it up again, even though I know I'm only going to end up getting hurt. Right now, it is so, so good. Instant viewing, friends. Instant viewing. I've been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer like it was my job (except for when I'm doing my actual job for twelve hours a day). And last weekend, I saw something on Netflix I've always, always wanted to see.
The woman I am named after.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: Hey, that's Betty Joan Perske!
Oh you're not thinking that? Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske, then changed her name to something she found a little more glamorous. (Strange side note: Humphrey Bogart was born Humphrey Bogart, and didn't feel compelled to change his name at all. So cool.)
And Lauren Bacall, dear friends, was cast in two episodes of the late 1970s classic The Rockford Files, as one Kendall Warren.
So, there you have it.
Here's the legend that has developed in my own head concerning my name. I imagine my parents watching TV, clicking through the channels with their brick-like remote that had four buttons on it total (I remember this remote), with my mother hugely pregnant on the couch. Then, The Rockford Files comes on, beautiful Kendall Warren crosses the screen, I give my mother a swift kick to the ribs to let her know I like the name, and two months later, I am born screaming and hairy as an ape and my parents smile down at me and, with tears shining in their eyes, they say, "We shall call her Kendall."
What my parents have actually said was, "Lauren Bacall played a character named Kendall on The Rockford Files and we thought it sounded like a good name, so we picked it."
Somewhere along the way in my self-mythologizing, I decided something else: Kendall Warren was a powerful and successful attorney, wise and no-nonsense, upholding the law and punishing criminals in a good-looking suit. And my parents gave me the name because they knew I was going to be powerful, with an infallible sense of justice.
So imagine my surprise when I sit down to my Netflix instant viewing to watch The Rockford Files, Season 6, Episodes 2 and 3, to meet at last Kendall Warren, this woman for whom I am named, to whom I feel connected each time someone calls me, or when I put my signature at the bottom of a check.
And I find that Kendall Warren is not an attorney at all, but a broke hanger-on traveling in circles of the world's wealthiest and most powerful people, getting along by hook and by crook. She's got no job and she's got no money.
What the what? I could actually hear the record scratch as my brain worked overtime to revise the story I'd told myself my entire life. Some part of my identity felt compromised by this information. Who am I, I asked myself? And why did my parents name me after a (very pretty) social-climber who knows how to get a free lunch?
I handled the news the way I handle most news: I got myself a snack. I exchanged a few pleasantries with Fatty the Hamster. I came back and resumed watching, anxious to see how this new story would play out.
When the episodes had ended, and Rockford had saved the day (and Kendall Warren) I was back to being okay with my name. Because Kendall Warren was resourceful, and she was a scrapper who cleaned up real nice, and she was a woman who knew how to work the system. And maybe, at this point in my life, that sort of resourcefulness will serve me better than a good-looking suit and a knowledge of penal codes.
Not to mention that the most important aspect of my name-origin story isn't that I was named after a powerful lawyer. The most important aspect of my name-origin is that I get my name from a TV character. As if my parents knew, nearly twenty-eight years ago, that I would end up here in LA, doing exactly what I'm doing: scrapping.