The Facebook message came from the other Megan Kirby. I’d started calling her that in my head after she’d friend-requested me three months prior, whenever she floated across my feed posting Bible verses or pictures of the beach. “I think you know why I’ve gathered you here today,” she wrote to me and 19 other Megan Kirbys.
As someone who has, on more than one occasion, gotten stoned and creeped other Megan Kirby Instagrams, I was equally baffled and intrigued. How long had Other Megan Kirby been planning this meeting of the Megans? How did the others feel, being faced with their own insignificance, over social media, all at once?
I wondered if growing up with the same name influenced us in similar ways. Would all of us Megan Kirbys be like fraternal twins separated at birth, our lives mirroring each other even as we grew up on our own across the country? Would we all have the same pet names and Starbucks orders? As the Facebook message bloated with ice breakers (nicknames: Meg, Meggy, Kirbster, Kirbs) I wondered how all these women had moved through the world with my particular name.
So I decided to call them and find out.
The first Megan Kirby I call married into the name, which feels a little like cheating. Until 2009, she was Megan Rogers. She lives in El Paso, Texas, where her husband (a true Kirby) is stationed with the Army. In fact, she just enlisted too. Basic training starts in two months.
The truth is, we don’t have much in common besides our initials. I’d hoped our phone call would feel like a conversation. Instead, we progress stiffly—my question, her answer, repeat. She pronounces her name “May-gun,” the way my mom always told me not to (but I never really minded). We talk about how, in the chat, six girls had the middle name Elizabeth—the most popular by far. Her middle name is Elizabeth. My middle name is Elizabeth. We’re not just unoriginal, but the most unoriginal.
“I feel pretty basic as a Megan Elizabeth,” she says. “That’s about as white girl as you can get.”
My pale skin glows under the porch light as I scan my list of questions. I imagine us buried under a pile of MEK-embossed Madewell totes and start to have an identity crisis.
Megan was a top girls’ name in the ’90s, reaching its height in 1990, the year I was born. (El Paso was born in ’89.) I always appreciate my name’s simple spelling. M-e-g-h-a-n looks like a cough, and M-e-a-g-a-n seems a little overeager. (Not even going to analyze M-e-g-g-a-n.) “No unnecessary letters,” I say whenever a barista pauses with a Sharpie poised against my coffee cup. Once, my latte said “BAGEN,” which felt like a tiny miracle.
There are 54 Megan Kirbys on Instagram, 70 on LinkedIn and 72 on Twitter. One of them seems to be a teen girl running a One Direction empire. She has many, many more followers than me.
My hopes for a string of wild coincidences begin to evaporate. El Paso is perfectly nice, but we can’t find any common ground to build on. She says she doesn’t Google herself. Seems suspicious. In the chat, I joked about a Megan Kirby convention, but now that seems like a terrible idea: A giant room full of Megan Kirbys bumping into each other, sharing the kind of stilted small talk I usually save for my Uber drivers.
I ask El Paso if a name is enough to build a community.
“I do feel a type of solidarity with other Megans,” she says. “But it’s more like we complain that there are too many of us.”
“I wonder if anyone has an existential crisis,” I say.
“I could see that,” she responds. Should I tell her that by “anyone,” I mean myself?
“It’s funny to think of somebody going through their day with your exact name,” I say slowly. “Even though it doesn’t mean you have anything in common.”
She says, “Yeah.”
A few hours later, I click over to her Facebook, wondering if I left any conversation stones unturned and there—in her description—is a line from Harry Potter. I am wild about Harry Potter. Maybe this is our big, coincidental commonality—we’re both Ravenclaws-turned-Hufflepuffs with an affinity for charms incantations and plans to get Shrieking Shack tattoos.
“Ahh just saw your Harry Potter quote on Facebook,” I email her. I add a “Haha” for good measure.
She doesn’t email me back.
Megan Kirby in Sarasota, Florida sent the original message. I pictured her as a sort of puppet master, pulling the strings with those 10 carefully-chosen words that set this whole thing in motion: “I think you know why I’ve gathered you here today.” As opening lines go, it’s pretty stellar—confident, self-aware and just a little creepy. What kind of person writes a message like that?
She’s 19, on a gap year before Bible College, and working as a secretary at a custom cabinetry store.
She’d definitely planned the message-sending for a while. She’d friended me three months before, and her friend list was stuffed with Megan Kirbys. So I ask her why—why the friending, the planning, the message?
“Have you ever heard that 21 Pilots song?” she asks. This is not the answer I expected. I have not heard the song. I refrain from telling her that when 21 Pilots come on the radio, I actively change the channel.
I listen to the song the night after our phone call. It’s called “Forest,” and the chorus goes, “Does it bother anyone else that someone else has your name?” It also includes the line, “The stomach in my brain / Throws up on the page.” (Same.)
I say this with the utmost respect for Sarasota: the song is truly bad.
But sharing a name bothers 21 Pilots, just like it bothers me. “It didn’t really bother me,” says Sarasota. “I was just kind of curious about what was up with the other Megan Kirbys.”
She’s a better person than I am. I would flunk out of Bible College.
So we talk about our nicknames, and how often other people reference the vacuum manufacturer and the video game character. We discuss the meaning of Megan—Pearl—and agree that the meaning doesn’t really suit us.
I prefer the Urban Dictionary definition for Megan: “A girl that is very stubborn but at the same time can be the greatest friend on the planet. She loves pizza and is absolutely gorgeous. She is loved by everyone and is fucking hilarious.” This is accurate.
“What if everyone had to have different names?” Sarasota asks.
“We’d have like strings of numbers,” I say.
“Megan45,” she shoots back.
I realize in a flash that she’s a weirdo. Maybe a low-key weirdo, but a weirdo all the same. How long had she really planned this Facebook stunt? What had she been hoping to get out of it? When I ask, she dodges the question. She says she was bored. I wonder if she’s lonely, but I don’t know how to ask.
The thing is, after a couple hours that initial night, the Facebook conversation fizzled. “Megan Kirby left the conversation” popped up again and again. Just because you share a name doesn’t mean you want to talk to each other. It doesn’t mean you owe each other anything.
If I’m being honest, I feel competitive against the other Megan Kirbys. As the Facebook conversation progressed, I couldn’t help measuring myself against the others: were they funnier? Smarter? Were their profile pictures more flattering?
Unlike El Paso, I Google myself fairly often to track my online writing and feed my personal narcissism. I’ve been aware of other Megan Kirbys on the fringe, ruining my search results. Maybe this is our chance to finally settle the score: a reality show where we’re eliminated one by one, until the victor gets the first Google image slot.
Ever since I got that Facebook message, I’ve had this gut feeling that there can only be one true Megan Kirby.
The thing is, I have an idea of who it might be. And it’s not me.
So I reach out to the owner of megankirby.com, who also owns the coveted @megankirby on Twitter. By email, she cheerfully informs me that she’s also staked claim to Megan Kirby on Facebook and LinkedIn.
I call her a few days later. She’s a senior web designer at Filson in Seattle, where she’s lived her whole life. At 34 years old, she’s the oldest of the Megans I’ve talked with. So she was scooping up URLs and handles while I was still feeding my Neopets. (For the sake of transparency, I was very good to my Neopets, tending them all the way through my senior year of high school.)
The ironic thing is, when she was younger she thought about changing her name. “There were so many Megans in school. I was really shy and introverted,” she says. “It got to the point where somebody would say Megan in the hall, and I wouldn’t even respond to it, because I didn’t think it was me.”
She almost switched to her middle name in college, but it didn’t stick. “When I actually heard it back—Renee—I was like, ‘Well, that’s not me,’” she says.
She works behind the scenes on the internet, so it makes sense that she’s smart about her own web presence. If we were both settlers on the nineteenth-century prairie, I’d covet her prime spot of land. “I feel a little territorial,” I admit. “It’s weird to think about other people—“
“—With your name,” she finishes for me.
What’s in a name? What’s in my name? My basic white girl name, the one my parents picked because it “sounded Irish,” the one I sign to every receipt and email. If I’m laying it all out on the table, I’ve dreamt of writing a book since I was a kid. That’s what my name means to me: that one day I’ll hold a book in my hands, and the cover will say “By Megan Kirby,” and it will be mine.
My name isn’t the most important part of my identity. But it’s not insignificant. And sharing it doesn’t have to water it down, even if I’m relegated to @megankirb across the internet.
“I really like our last name,” Seattle says, and I stick on the our. When she says it like that, I don’t feel so competitive. “I really like it,” she echoes.
“Yeah,” I say. “I like our name, too.”
Megan Kirby lives in Chicago and writes all over the internet. She also publishes a few zines. One is about The NeverEnding Story. You can find her on Twitter at @megankirb.
Illustration by Angelica Alzona