A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Maybe this was true in Elizabethan England, but, maybe not so true anymore. Now we can choose whatever alias we want, and we must, as a requirement of the Twenty-First Century. We have personal e-mail, work e-mail, twitter, instant messaging, last.fm profiles, blog profiles, and on and on. Has anyone else been daunted by the task of naming oneself? Presenting oneself to the virtual and non-virtual-by-extension world packaged and labeled by your own hand?
I feel some shame knowing that I’ve occupied plenty of good, usable monikers on G-mail and Twitter. I confess, I’m a name addict. I’ve changed my e-mail address too many times than any responsible adult should, but the problem is, I never felt my name fits me. It’s a ubiquitous name, first AND last, in America, and maybe even the UK (starting with Ireland). In fact, a girl on the other side of the very town I grew up in shared the same first and last name. I received her bus pass and an enduring identity complex one suburban August day. Hello, my name is literallyjess and I’m a name hoarder.
I have gone from jessicantelope to aequilibra to jayayess to literallyjess on my personal e-mail in a few years’ time. I have stored away possible e-mail addresses, for business, personal, and business/personal use just in case. I have changed my last.fm profile names, and probably the saddest to me is that I am going, actually, I have almost gone this entire semester without a DJ name on my college radio show because I am in DJ name purgatory and in quasi-denial of identity crisis hell.
But I’m not the only one who takes this name thing seriously. Some known and lesser known examples:
My friend recently changed her name from Kate to Cate upon the realization that a K had snuck into her name from some dark corner of the alphabet (it’s Catherine, not Katherine damn it!) and the reception predictably went with gentle mocking, the type that only real friends can get away with. Admittedly, I supported the change from the beginning for my own reasons -how urbane Cate with a C is! Not like her kountry kousin at all.
A girl I know, Jessica, prefers Gessi. With a G. A girl Meaghan I know, prefers the nickname Alex derived from her full _middle_ name Alexandra. Middle as first is her preference. Why didn’t I think of that when I was young? These girls are two of my online education classmates, a place where our names are our single most important features of identity.
In literature we have George Sand and Mark Twain among countless others.
I’m somewhat comforted that I’m not alone and that I can have control over my name in certain contexts, but, even with all these modern name-changing outlets begging me to exert my free will and imagination, I feel impotent. Can I really change my name now, at this point knowing so many people already, having established relationships etc etc, and even if I do change my name, will you really think of me any differently?