I’ve been daydreaming about changing my name. I’ve wanted to do it forever, since I discovered it was a thing.
Starting around 11, I kept trying to give myself a nickname, but nothing would stick. If I was called something else, maybe I could be someone else, someone with a different personal mythology/origin story.
I tried to get people to call me “Lars” in freshman year of high school, because I was/am an enthusiastic fan of the band Rancid. They called me “Lard”, and I quickly abandoned it. I used the name “Davey Velociraptor” in zines and online.
When I was a little older, I told myself I would change my name after my father passed away. I thought it would hurt him, and feel like rejection to him if I did it while he were still around. I’m not having any more kids, so I’m not going to have a son. I’m not going to pass the family name on, and neither are my brothers, which doesn’t bother me. However, when I was about 20 I decided I very much liked the name Timothy Integrity Blake Connor for if I ever had a son. I don’t like it so much anymore. I’m also glad I didn’t get all the tattoos I wanted when I was 20. Now I like William Lorenzo and Oliver Kainalu. I am occasionally mildly disappointed I will not be passing these names on.
Around age 22, I decided I don’t like being called “Dave”. I’m already a working-class guy, and a mechanic. “Dave” felt like an affectation, like the overcompensating macho drag of the lifted truck, and does not fit me.
If I were to change my name, I would add to it. I would hyphenate in my mother’s maiden name, and add a few middle names, to reflect my heritage and experiences.
I’ve thought about writing under a pen name, and perhaps wearing a mask might allow me to compartmentalize my public and private lives, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I’m weird. I walk in different worlds. I like Phillip Glass and Clipping. and Sleater-Kinney and Captain Beefheart. I’m okay with having disparate tastes and opinions.
Now, when I think about changing my name, it seems silly, because I like who I am and who I am growing into. I own my history and my journey, and I have the lion’s share of responsibility for my future. My name won’t change any of it, but maybe augmenting it could be a customization, memento, a talisman, an affirmation, like a tattoo.
The Bard is know to have written “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, to which Bart Simpson appended “not if you call them stenchblossoms”. Homer added “crapweeds”. This would endure to be one of my favorite episodes of the series.
Names matter and they don’t. I’m sure most of the readers of this blog are familiar with Freakonomics, which put forth the charge that people with perceptibly “Black” names were subject to discrimination sight unseen, in their chapter “A Roshanda by any other name.”
I have the privilege of trying names on for size like hats. They don’t change who I am, but may change how others perceive me. That’s dumb on their part. It’s just a hat, unless it’s like a top hat with flames on it, then yeah, judge that guy.