Slices of Life: In defense of Karen

(Dedicated to all the innocent Karens in the world)

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

None of us chooses our own name (at least not the original one.) Let that sit for a moment. You might be John or Steve or Julie or Lisa, but not by choice. Most likely your name came by the choice of your parents.

Imagine that another Steve or Julie did something publicly embarrassing. What if John or Lisa acted in a manner that caused others to shake their heads in disbelief and mumble, “Man what were they thinking?”

And then, ponder Karen. Poor, poor Karen. (Not the original manager-seeking one, but those who just happen to have that same name.)

I counted and I’ve known an estimated 12 Karens during my lifetime, an even dozen. By and large they were an agreeable lot. Not condescending. Not complainers. Not unkind. Not entitled. Not demanding. Not unreasonable. None of those things.

The Karens I know are teachers, nurses and social workers, to name a few. They are helpers. They give more than they receive.


And none of them, to my knowledge, has ever asked to speak to a manager.

But people are ruthless, especially when anonymous and online. That’s why Karens are taking a beating — on every social media platform capable of posting a meme. Because memes speak the truth. We all know that. (Duh.)

How many jokes can be made about wanting to speak to a manager?

In the words of Buzz Lightyear, “To infinity and beyond.” That is reality for all of our Karens (and each of us has a few, if we don’t carry the name ourselves.)

Currently, that is their legacy. A legacy they didn’t choose. A legacy, quite frankly, they don’t deserve. At least not 99.95% of them.

The caring Karens I’ve known have been just that. How many other first names can you think of that sound so close to caring or kindness? Karen fits that bill as do the bulk of Karens in my life.

Yet the name, for many, has been dragged through the mud — and poopy, self-righteous mud at that. It warrants its own Wikipedia page. It has become a caricature, created to make a point, but resulting in pulling some innocents along the route along the way.

Karen (and you know who you are), I apologize for the one Karen who wrecked it for you all. Life is unfair. And we all deal with unfairness, but no one wants their very name to be plowed through a cesspool of poopy mud.


Never mind the other Karen – the guilty one. There are thousands and thousands of you who are not doers of the transgression so described in countless memes and on Wikipedia.

Hold your head high. Speak your name proudly. Stereotypes are for the desperate. For the ignorant. For the belittlers. For all the things none of us aspire to be.

My name is Karen. I am Karen. It’s Karen with a “K.” That’s you. And there are scores of us, not named Karen, who will stand beside you, proudly.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to not wreck it for the other Jills out there. We can all do our part.

During these tough times, who needs to add to anyone’s load and burdens? Please let’s be kind — to the Karens we love and everyone else, no matter their name. It’s what each of us needs. Truly.

J ill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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