What's in a name?I always disliked my name. Long, it felt formal, much too stiff for the loose, ragged childhood I had, too "posh" for the rough and tumble of Cornish boys. Short, it felt common, marking me as dumb, ugly, characterless. It's the name most used for useless men on TV. Trust me, it is. When it's your name, you notice. In between, it sounds wrong, too Scottish, giving a misleading impression. Even though it's the version I prefer, I don't ever introduce myself by it or ask people to call me it.
I wanted to be a Mike or a Steve. They are proper English names, with just the right amount of easy familiarity and butchness, without tipping over into the diamond hard Rod or Brett. They are contemporary, unlike Roy, Ron or John. I could have settled for Richard or Edward, but I'd be uncomfortable with Eddie or Ted, not keen on Rick and I think Dick is about the last name you want in a Cornish schoolyard, this side of Isa Cox.
I've learned not to take it seriously, of course. I suppose most people dislike their name when they are young but learn that it both is and is not them. What I mean is that it becomes wrapped up in you, an intrinsic part of your identity, yet somehow it doesn't describe you at all. It is after all just a label, something to distinguish you from the trees, sheep and cars. I am not a dumb, useless man because someone else shares the same label, any more than a moggy can catch a gazelle just because it is a "cat" like a lion, and the leopard trees that shade my front yard will not shed acorns instead of the ugly seed cases that litter the lawn just because they and oaks are both "trees".
It tickles me when some luser finds out my "real" name and tries to taunt me by using it. I have a sense almost of pathos. I have whipped the luser so hard they are trying to hurt me with my own name, the name I am called by many times each day, that my mother uses, my wife, my friends. It's to laugh at. Of course, they believe they are revealing something, or threatening to reveal something, by hinting at having knowledge of who I "really" am. But I use a screenname not a codename! I am not hiding. I have nothing to hide and no reason to be scared of being "revealed": if I did, I would be hiding. Many people online know who I "really" am. I email them from an account with my "real" name, the same that I use for work and offline people. It's not a big secret at all. Why would it be? It's the name I go by in this life. Thinking that the interwebnet is separate from life is a common mistake people make. It is part of life. (I realise that not everyone shares this view and some have circumstances that differ from mine. In particular, were I a woman, I might be more cautious and just perhaps if I was likely to move in circles that harbour genuine nutters, rather than the bags of piss and bluster that I tend to mix with.)
Of course, I also have other names -- not just the unprintable ones that I'm quite often called. I have been Dr Zen for some time now. It's a great name, one to be proud of. It is a troll in a name because it seems to be saying several things it isn't. I like injokes (when I'm "in", of course! Not being in on the joke is one of the worst places to be in this life). I invented it to post on a trackers' messageboard. (A tracker is someone who uses a sample sequencer to make music.) I wanted something that sounded "techno", nothing more convoluted or difficult to grasp than that. The world of dance music is littered with DJ this and thats, Dr this and thats, Professor this and thats. It's a small gesture of belonging. You don't want to be hanging with Neutrino, Electroshok and Professor Sowndwave and be going by Steven Smith.
On Wikipedia, I am more or less Grace Note. You would not believe how many people have thought I am a woman, because I go by Grace. My writing is so masculine that it's almost unbelievable. The tension it must create for the unwary is wonderful. It is like being a transexual in pixels. There is a wonderful thrill in transgression and it is doubled if you can become a question too. I greatly admire men who have the nerve to be what they feel and I find them adorable when they are posing the question: are they a man? I am entirely fascinated by chicks with dicks. How does a person feel to want to abandon their gender? If you fuck someone who has chosen to be a woman but still has a dick, what kind of fucking is that? I don't doubt I could do it. It is the masculinity of men that makes them unattractive to me, not their having dicks. But I'm not a transexual or anything like it. I don't even wear Mrs Zen's clothes. I am borrowing the ambiguity but I'm all man. I have never wanted to not be one, despite believing it's a lot harder in the round than being a woman.
I say Grace Note more or less because I've had other names on the wiki and probably will again. I have used lots of names online, sometimes to deceive people, sometimes just because I felt like a change. Sometimes it's fun to change names just to see whether anyone can spot you (the Shell Game, as Uselessnet regulars will know). You use a new name and change your tone but not so much that you cannot be spotted. Then the cognoscenti can guess at who is under the shell. It's all good fun. The fun lies in some guessing and some not. Those who are "in" have to let you know without letting others know. Sometimes you choose a name that tells some people who you are but leaves others in the dark. Posting as Donkey, for instance, told one person straight away who I was, because they knew the name from another context. Everyone else had to guess. Those who think that the fun lies in trolling people and having them all unaware are way wide of the mark. Where's the fun in that? You act very differently from normal and people can't tell it's you? That's so easy for a skilled writer as not to be worth bothering with. The true fun lies in being catchable.