Juliet told Romeo that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet — but it was ultimately the lovers’ last names that led them to their tragic demise. (Or was it their teenage stupidity? Social constructs? Well, whatever…) In our modern world, names are almost inescapable. Identity theft lurks in every unshredded piece of mail and life stories are just a Google search away. Our names are our reputation and our uniqueness — hopefully something we can be proud of, but at times a source of headache and ambivalence. Below, Alternative Control writers examine the nuances of what’s in a name.
My mother raised me with the idea of being famous, so my first concern was always my stage name. And, in my quest for authenticity in my fame, I just stuck with my real name. Vanessa David. Yes, much like George Michael, I have two first names. Also a fabulous set of initials. Ugh.
When I got married the idea of changing my name wasn’t even brought up. My husband’s first name is David, so technically I already have his name. But at the time I thought I had enough “credits” to my name that I didn’t want to change it. In the acting world, once you join the union (and I never got that far) your name must be unique. And, besides that, I’m not joining his family. We can’t stand his family. I didn’t feel I should change my name to honor a bunch of people I couldn’t care less about. Of course I love my husband but, like I said, I already have his name.
Over the years my focus switched to playwriting. To be honest I don’t know if the Dramatists Guild requires each playwright to have a unique name. But, I do know that some of the plays I have written have the potential to turn people off to me in a huge way. Would people be less interested in producing my family friendly play Resolution #9 if they knew I’d written plays like Baby Bear Becomes a Man which features a naked Goldilocks masturbating for Baby Bear on his 21st Birthday? Possibly. But when I sit down to write a play I can’t concern myself with that. Like most creative pursuits, playwriting is very personal. What ends up on the page can be very revealing, upsetting, eye-opening and off-putting. Some people aren’t going to like what I have to say. This was especially true when I sat down to write 31 plays about Stamford. I’m sure I made some enemies when I wrote Support Local Music or Die, Mother Fucker! but what am I going to do? Censoring myself is out of the question. All I can do is proudly present my plays for the world to see and let the shit fly where it will. That’s my job as an artist. I’m proud of my work and I’ll happily put my name on it. My mom would be proud – and she’d LOVE the masturbating Goldilocks.
When I got married I was torn about changing my maiden name because I’m a feminist at heart but more importantly because it rhymed with Pantera. I ultimately decided to change it because if I have kids I think a hyphenated last name is confusing and because I was happy to shed my family of origin name. New name, new life, new me. You probably guessed that my name isn’t Vegetarian Metalhead either. The name is pretty self-explanatory of what I identify with but it also serves as a way to keep my mom and creepy Human Resources department out of my business.
Names have always been a thing for me. Most people don’t hate their birth names the way I hated mine as long as I can remember. If I tried to tell you the reasons, I’d be a liar. I just did, and for as long as I can remember. I picked up the nickname Pixie toward the end of high school (and I am about to age myself) when I would call a college radio station and the DJ said I sounded “high voiced and sweet, like a pixie.” I started doing zines, and Pixie Girl was born. When I got married (which lasted a whole two years… sigh) I changed my whole name and took my ex-husband’s name. It’s a hassle, though, changing your whole name. If you ever thought the DMV sucked? Take a visit to the Social Security office. You’ll see. I want to change my last name again, but the paper trail of proving I am a legitimate human who is just very name sensitive is going to be a nightmare, so I am holding back.
The truth is, though, I’m not a (my ex-husband’s last name) I never really was. Our marriage was a confusing affair that never really made sense and I never fit in with the family and what that name means in this area. It’s not a slight on them, or a slight on me. It was different worlds trying to combine in ways they can’t, and I feel weird using it. Admittedly, because I work in a very specific field and (please do not think me arrogant) am one of the few people in the country who can do what I do. My name with (ex-husband’s last name) is known in a really narrow field. I don’t want to hurt the career I am currently in.
Nonetheless, one day, my legal name will be Rachael Pixie Kruczynski. Truth be told, I love the name, but I am also a little bit of a sadistic bitch. As it is, nobody can spell my first name properly (I had no idea the extra “a” was rare) – and my last name now is (my ex-husband’s last name) which is a fairly straightforward Irish name. Good luck, world, with Rachael Kruczynski (pronounced “cre-chen-skee”.)
Since people asked in the brainstorming, Kruczynski has nothing to do with my family or my heritage. I’m Irish and Welsh. It’s the briefly mentioned last name of the chick in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Hey, if they want to make a movie with a lead character who is me? Damned straight I can steal that last name. I’ve used it so long, most people thought it was my maiden name, anyway, since I protected my birth name like a dragon watching its firstborn egg. I ended a 10-year friendship over sharing my birth name, actually. Three years after I was legally Rachael (my ex’s last name). Aside – I do realize that maybe says a lot about me, but this is an article about how important names are to us.
I’m in the relationship I expect to be in for the rest of my life, but I know I am never getting married again (even though my boyfriend has a lovely last name that I would be happy to have (I love you, baby, if you’re reading this) so I am going to define myself how I am comfortable. I dye my hair, I put ink in my skin. I put stickers on my laptop and car. A therapist once said I really like to “claim” things for myself. What can you claim more than your own name?
– Rachael Pixie Kruczynski (I’ll use it, anyway. It’s how I identify.)
Although my first name on my social media accounts is correct, my last name is not. This started back in the days of Friendster (I’m dating myself here) and followed me to MySpace and FaceBook. It began with the hyphenated Hepburn-Monroe after my two favorite actors: Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, and has since been shortened to Monroe.
There are several reasons I choose not to use my real last name and use pics of my pets for my profile. First, I am not a fan of most people in general, nor do I care much about the annoyances of their daily lives, so I don’t want some random person I met at a show once or a coworker I can’t stand trying to “friend” me. I’m not friends with people on social media sites that I do not like or find amusing. Also, I do not want people from my past trying to find me. If I wanted to keep in touch with you, then I would have. I know people like to see how others have changed, so they can feel better about their menial lives. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I should be friends with those people. I’m still cute, don’t have wrinkles, didn’t get fat, didn’t marry some loser from town that makes people say, “Eew. How did she end up with him?” hmm…I may have to rethink that one.
Anyway, finally and most importantly, I am a teacher, and I do not want students to find me. Inevitably, they ask if I have a FaceBook. To which I respond, “Yes. Good luck trying to find me.” None of them have yet. Go me! My real last name, which I will not divulge here, amuses my students because it makes them think of smoking pot. I once dated a fellow teacher whose last name was pronounced “boozey.” That fueled their fantasies about my secret party lifestyle outside of school. It didn’t help that the guy was busted for possession that year, but that’s a story for another article.
So, my name will remain Monroe. Not only does it protect me from students and other weirdos, it also humors me because some of the people I’m friends with on FB think it is my real name. I like being mysterious. In an age where a plethora of information is at our fingertips, a little mystery can be a good thing.
You might have guessed that May is not my real last name. It is, however, my real middle name — which earned me a few surprised comments when I sent out wedding invitations that said Jessica May _____. I guess people just thought I was pretending to be a Southern belle or something… I try to keep my real last name off music and internet endeavors because my day job is incongruous with some of my extracurricular activities. I realize that anything I put on the internet, including this blog, could one day be traced back to my nine-to-five identity; while I try to be judicious with the vulgarity and controversial opinions in my own articles, I’m waiting for the day my boss asks, “You edit a blog that published, ‘Support Local Music Or Die, Motherfucker’?” or “What exactly does your band name mean??” Uh….
One good thing about my half-truth Facebook/music/blogger persona: it was one less “name” to change when I got married.
Okay, I hear the feminists starting in on me: “You didn’t HAVE to change any of your names when you got married, Jessica!” No, I didn’t… But my husband and I will probably have children one day and the hyphen thing is too complicated. I could have chosen to have a different last name than my kids — but then I would feel the need to explain to everyone I’d meet that I’m not divorced, and no, I didn’t get knocked up by some jerk who ran off on me.
At first I wasn’t a fan of having a new last name; as the oldest of five siblings, I felt like I was “switching teams.” After eight months or so, though, I’ve gotten used to it. I think it also meant a lot to my husband that I was willing to tell the world I’d joined his team. Perhaps this means I’m not a liberated feminist after all… But I need that noise like a fish needs a bicycle!
An interesting snafu with married names and fake Facebook identities: my husband uses a fictitious, silly adaptation of his/our last name on his Facebook profile. Since getting married, I’ve received mail from old friends who think that the silly last name is our real one!
Elizabeth Emma George is not my name, legally. It’s not my name at all. No, Elizabeth is a writing persona.
Originally, the pseudonym came about because I worked for a publication that frowned upon their employees working for other publications, even if only voluntarily. But as she developed, I thought of better reason as to why I should keep her going; anonymity — to a degree — can eliminate a lot of the unwanted politics and personalities that are found in the writing world. How? Well, Elizabeth is pretty vague in her self-description, and that allows for more of a concentration on the quality of her work, not focused on her social personality. She keeps her real life out of the news she reports and the articles she publishes, and tries to remain as objective as realistically possible.
The writer/ artist, to me, should be able to be separated from the art. Otherwise, it could become a popularity contest, or worse — just a “what’s trending” in the reality t.v. world of life. But, that’s a whole different discussion.
Regardless of the name itself, Elizabeth is really me, without any strings — no preconceptions or bias, just a writer and her ideas.
For years now I have attempted to come up with as many alliterations of my real name as possible for use in writing and other creative endeavors. Be it JW (as seen on this website), J-double-U, Joseph Doubleu, Jay Doubleyou, Joseph, Joey J Double, or my full, real, government name, if I was putting out content in print, video or audio, you have probably heard me say or write one of those names. I never thought much of it beyond liking clever aliases and spur of the moment decisions, but recently a peer asked me why I would both not use my real name 100% of the time and why I would choose to “hide” beyond initials, or a fake name.
The question gave me pause, which was why I cobbled together a fake answer when I didn’t have a real one (something about blank slates – I can’t keep track of everything I say in public). Why did I decide to re-invent my name into several initial-heavy versions? Was I not proud of my work? Was I hiding from something? Or was I looking to create some sort of character; a premium version of me that fit the selected content I was putting out?
After thinking about that a bit I received word from ALT Control that an article was being written about names, which led me to think that this was all kismet – maybe some unseen force was telling me to focus on my constant identities.
The truth though is so much more superficial; I don’t decide to use my real name or a fake one in order to hide, or put on a mask or create a character; I do it because it’s fun to constantly change the questions when people know the answers. What I did realize though by reading the other responses was that names are just like anything else about us as people; they are part of, but not the sum total of who we are. In fact, I would bet that any consistent reader of this website could know which writer they are reading by simply the style of the writing and the personality shown within the work itself. You could call yourself anything you want, wear anything you want or be anything you want and all of that is as minuscule as a grain of sand on a beach because it is who you are as a human that signifies who you are amongst other humans. So what’s in a name? Nothing, until you put meaning behind it.
– Joey T. Double-you (created especially for this article)
“Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized; Henceforth I never will be Romeo,” the horny teen replied to his nubile girlfriend in the window. But unfortunately, that proclamation didn’t change Romeo’s fate. Whatever we call ourselves, we are who we are….
Unless we’re not. Some people think Shakespeare was a pen name, or the real name of a patsy that a wealthy lord blamed his plays on — but that’s a whole different article!