Friday, January 15, 2010

What was your name again?

'The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.' ~Marshall McLuhan
'Names, once they are in common use, quickly become mere sounds, their etymology being buried, like so many of the earth's marvels, beneath the dust of habit.' ~Salman Rushdie

I do not have a name. No, really, I don't. There's a name on my birth certificate, a name on my passport, and a name on my State ID (long story, no driver's license). They actually don't all quite match, which is an even longer story. I keep meaning to update my birth certificate to match my State ID- but either way, that isn't my name. There's a nickname I've gone by online for... Geez, almost 10 years now. But it's a very immature name so I don't like using it much any more.

This is something people have a hard time understanding, and also gives me a hard time understanding people. Most people think of a name as very crucial to your identity. My chosen legal name isn't my name, and I had a friend worry that I'd lose my identity by using a name that isn't me. I once tried out a name for 3 months, but realized it was wrong so went back to my nickname- when I did, a friend who had only known me by the test name literally freaked out at me. She was convinced I'd become a completely different person. I've seen a person who thinks changing forum usernames was a reflection of an identity crisis. This all seems a bit strange to me, but these people were quite serious.

I don't find a name all that important to identity, anyone's. I actually have a really hard time with other people's names. Even when I'm really trying it's a coin toss as to whether or not I'll remember your name. I don't mean to be disrespectful, and do apologize for this a thousand times both in advance and retroactively, I'm just really bad with associating a name with a person.

I also don't like how hard it can be to lose a name after you've used it. I generally like to shed old names (usernames, legal names, or nicknames) when I'm done with them, bury them behind me, and start off with a clean slate name-wise. I'll give a grace period where I'll politely remind people because it can be hard to remember, and I am bad with names, but after that I'd like to be done with the ex-name. But people generally don't understand this and I often have at least a few people who'll say "you'll always be [old name] to me". This makes it even harder to give a name, because if I realize that it was wrong I know that there'll be some people who refuse to acknowledge that wrongness.

But I have been trying to find a name for well over 2 years now, just so that people have an easier time identifying me, but I haven't found one I liked. At first this bothered me to no end. Everyone has a name, so why am I having such a hard time finding one? It doesn't bug me so much any more, though. My identity isn't wrapped up in a name- it's wrapped up in everything else. Not having a name doesn't make me a non-entity, it just makes me a person who has a hard time with names.

I'm sure some of you are wondering what to call me- and I honestly can't give an answer to that because I don't know. Just go with whatever you feel comfortable with and if I don't like it I'll politely let you know. And if you continue ignoring that, I'll not-so-politely continue letting you know.

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