Anonymity, Names, and Identity, when I was a young mother living in a new place, I had to ask people to call me by my first name. My husband called me “Sweetheart” or “Love” and my children called me “Mom” or “Mommy.”  I had temporarily given up my career, so I had no colleagues to check in with. We hadn’t made friends in the new location yet, and acquaintances like the doctor and newspaper delivery person called me Mrs. Price. I had lost my sense of self, so I asked my husband to use my first name, and he did. In fact, he continued to do so from then on, and I am forever grateful for that. It was a kindness that became unnecessary, but we never forgot that at one time it had been.

One’s name is such a random thing, it’s surprising that so much significance is attached to it. Your parents came up with a name they liked and applied it to you at birth or shortly thereafter. From then on, your name became your identifier on everything from school certificates to credit ratings; from passports to reputations.

You may not even like your name, but usually you are stuck with it. It can be changed legally, of course, but that is a long process.  My youngest child changed his name and was surprised at how many documents had to be re-created. He even got a new birth certificate, which surprised me. I didn’t know you could do that.

As a teenager, I was Susan every Saturday for a year. I had a  job at a local hairdresser’s salon. My role was to wash clients’ hair and sweep up after hair had been cut. I would wait in the back room until I heard my name called and then run into the salon to do my work. It soon became clear that we had a problem because my name was the same as that of one of the stylists, so shouting my name caught two people’s attention. Consequently, they arbitrarily changed my name from Anne to Susan. I got used to it.

Before I got password software, I had to try to invent usernames for myself on various online websites. I tried to choose something that was both personal and anonymous, while at the same time being memorable. My hair-sweeping career had an important role to play in all that. Who would have thought that it would finally have paid off?

Lately, what I am called has less to do with my identity and more to do with securing private access to electronic information. I’ll be glad when they start doing retinal scans instead of asking for passwords. Then I can go back to just being me–whoever that is.



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  1. Oh, I forgot to add. I am a hairdresser by profession and the issue of alternate names was quite prevalent in several of the salons I worked at.

    One of the stylists I trained under was called Jennifer. It was only after I qualified that I discovered her real name is Kathy!

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