I have the same last name as a celebrity, so people think we're related. I met him once and he asked if we could be.

  • My first name was the most popular in the US for 44 years.

  • But it's my last name that has brought confusion into my life.

  • People assume I am related to the late Academy Award-winning actor Alan Arkin, which I'm not.

Until David bumped it off the list for one year in 1960, my first name, Michael, was — from 1954 to 1998 — the most popular name in the United States.

Even today, when names like Lucas, Reilly, and Wyatt are trending, one out of every 206 baby boys is still named Michael, and that's not counting variations like Michel, Mischa, and Miguel. It's safe to say the name knows no borders.

Having a common name does have benefits — no one has to ask you how to spell it, and when on vacation, it's never hard to find a corny souvenir with your name blazed across it. But it comes with some pitfalls: In school, when my teacher called on Michael, six kids would answer. And more than once, when the Starbucks barista called out my name, I've had to fight my way to the front of the line to claim my decaf latte (the one with two Sweet 'n Lows).

People assume I was related to Alan Arkin

Growing up in a world full of Michaels, even my best friends felt the need to refer to me by both my first and last names. They still do. And it's my last name, Arkin, that always elicits the question, "Are you related to him?"

The "him" being the late Academy Award-winning actor Alan Arkin. As far back as I can remember, long before 23andMe could verify if we were or weren't related (were weren't), nearly everyone has asked that question or, better yet, "Are you one of the Arkins?" My stock answer is, "In my family, we're all Arkins." Then I could see the disappointment in their faces when I added, "Just not those Arkins." As if that wasn't bad enough, even when properly introduced, people would inevitably call me Alan.

One Christmas Eve, I was rushing through Bloomingdales, buying a present for my father. When I handed my credit card to the saleswoman, she looked at the name and asked the usual question. Tired and cranky, I said, "Yes." Then I leaned in and whispered, "That gift you're wrapping? That's for him."

Her eyes widened, and she said, "He's one of my favorites." Inspired by the near brush with celebrity, the tip of her tongue protruded between her lips as she meticulously concentrated on adorning the box with such elaborate decoration that it should have been placed in the store's window instead of my shopping bag.

Arkin himself once asked me if we could be related

When Alan's son, Adam, gained popularity starring in the 1990s TV series "Chicago Hope" questions about my identity became even more frequent.

Around that time, I went to work as an executive at Paramount Pictures, and some people assumed that nepotism may have played a part in my obtaining the position of Senior Vice President of Marketing. In that role, I lost count of how many times filmmakers told me how much they enjoyed working with my dad.

But the piéce de resistance came in 2006 when I attended the Sundance Film Festival premiere of "Little Miss Sunshine," the movie for which Arkin won his Oscar. After the screening, an industry colleague introduced me to him. When he heard my name, his brow knitted, and with his signature intensity, he asked, "Do you think we could be related?"

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