on pseudonyms

A very hilarious friend of mine once said, well, you could have chosen a pseudonym like Cheeky Chubbypants, or Chubby McSparklepants, or Fattie BoomBatty, and then you’d really be sorry. But when I started what was originally a weight-loss journal, so many years ago, I chose to go with my middle name, which would be Anne, and my mother’s maiden name, which I have always loved. Three guesses what that would be. We don’t even have to count the first two, so you can just go crazy-nuts.

I had been writing a blog under my real name (well, nickname) since, god, 2000? 2001? Something like that. So long ago that we called them “online journals,” and all the online journalers knew each other and sometimes went to each other’s houses and had sex and dinner and went bowling. It was a very tiny community. I made a lot of friends that I still have to this day, through the online journaling phenomenon, and the thing about making friends online is that, if you have any kind of basic writing skill and a sense of self-awareness, you are manipulating exactly how your reader sees you, thinks of you, relates to you. You are whomever you’d like to be, online–even when you’re writing non-fiction, daily accounts of your day, there is an astonishing amount of wiggle room, there. It’s one of the great tragedies of online dating, I think.



So I, of course, wanted to come across as a cool, hip, awesome young
girl with a fabulous sense of style. And I wanted to be thin. As far as
anyone reading my blog knew, I was thin and attractive and sexy and
could wear very high heels and very tiny underpants and people would
drop like flies, their hearts bursting with uncontainable desire for
me, when I’d sashay down the street. I never said, “Well, there I was,
being thin the other day…” but I never mentioned my weight, or my size,
or my body issues, and it felt like lying. It always felt like I was
hiding something vital about my character, and it made me vaguely
ashamed to not confess–as if my weight was something to confess, a
dangerous secret, a terrible flaw. It felt important.

Of course, I met the people who were reading my journal, and they learned my
terrible secret, and somehow, they were still my friends, which of
course totally boggles the mind. And I was still ashamed of my weight
and embarrassed to talk about it, and the combination is what made me
decide I couldn’t bear to write a weight-loss blog with my real name–it
felt too exposed and too naked and too confessional. I only told a few
people about the new weight-loss blog; other people figured it out,
because my writing style is fairly distinct and full of tics, but it
felt so much safer to have that remove of a fake name, however fake the actual remove was.

So when I started to write about my weight-loss surgery, here on Elastic Waist, and all
the accompanying nutty body image issues and the thorny fat versus thin
dichotomy, I said yes, I still want to keep my pseudonym. I don’t want
to be talking about this under my real name. It is very raw and I feel
very raw and exposed, but Anne, she is brave and can say anything at
all. Perhaps I had developed schizophrenia while under general
anesthesia.

But as time goes on and I write so personally and I’ve talked to people
and met people who know me as Anne, I inevitably feel like a phony. As
if I am right back there, lying, keeping something essential from the
world. I could deeply psychoanalyze this–I could say I want to merge the thin
girl I had always wanted to be, and the fat girl I always was and still
feel like, together. I want to lay claim to my whole identity. I want
to be myself, fully, both sides integrated. I don’t actually know if it
is that complicated an issue, though. It sounds really good. What is
more likely is that I’ve as screwed up a relationship with weight and
size as I ever have, no matter how hard I rail against it, and now that
I am not fat any longer, it’s safe to admit who I really am.

Of course, it could be some from column A, a little from column B, and
a whole lot of hey, it’s weird to answer to a pseudonym and respond to
people who call me by a very real and reasonable-sounding pen name as
if it were my real name, and that it started to feel like as much a lie
as not bringing up my weight ever did.

So hi, I’m Jen. You can keep calling me Anne, if you like–we can
pretend it is a pet name. I won’t ever really stop being Anne
Fitzgerald, not really, so I’ll probably keep answering to it. But it’s
nice to actually meet you.

  11 comments for “on pseudonyms

  1. Vanessa
    August 18, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Hi Jen! It’s nice to meet you. Again. ;)

  2. lap
    August 18, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    You are awesome no matter what name you call yourself. My middle name is Ann too, hence the “A” in LAP…

  3. Beth
    August 18, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I’ve actually never used my real name in my blog either. I actually only recently started using it for commenting (but notice how I don’t link to said blog- oh crafty, crafty me.). It’s not that I’m really afraid pf anything, it’s kind of hard to expalin why. It’s almost like it’s the last line of defence for inacountability, “why no that wasn’t me who tripped on the carpet at the Westin and almost spilled coffee all over Weetabix! That was my blogger self! The one with the goofy name! Not me! I’m graceful and always witty and smart, yes, oh so smart!”

    In contrast, I usually don’t care if someone else uses my real name in their online existance, it used to annoy me but now I care less and less. As long as I can still hold up my mask for myself I’m pretty content.

    Nice to meet you again, Jen!

  4. Anonymous
    August 18, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Got a kick out of reading your entry to discover at the end we have the same name. ;) I knew I always liked you, ha. Nice to meet yet another Jen!

  5. M.
    August 18, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Names don’t mean much to me. I think that’s mainly because I can never remember them, so in self-defense I categorize them as utterly unimportant… :)

    Either way, the posts still mean the same things if they have Anne or Jen on top.

  6. Redlilocks
    August 18, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Been reading you since ‘Hello I am Fat’ where I fell in love with your writing style, your wit, your ability to laugh at yourself, your vulnerability, your honesty and everything else that makes you you. A rose by any other name etc etc… Nice to meet you whatever your name x

  7. August 18, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Oh my gosh! Well, you still look like an Anne to me. :)
    But are you sure your last name isn’t McSassleson?

    And I hear you on the “online journals” thing. Gulp – 1997 here. Thankfully those pages are dead and buried. Ha!

  8. punchy
    August 18, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    I just got married and I can’t wait to start using my new name! Mostly so jerks I’ve been avoiding for years can’t find me. I may be an antisocial weirdo…

  9. MOM
    August 19, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Hello, JenAnn.

  10. August 19, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    It may be a shock to discover that Crabby McSlacker is not my real name either!

    It’s really a dilemma–because I know that same feeling of appearing inauthentic. On the other hand, I used to be a psychotherapist, so I do sometimes fear that if I used my real name someone might google and feel weirded out by my distinctly non-therapist-like blog persona.

    But I also think that may be a story I tell myself, because there’s something very comforting about being hidden behind a pseudonym.

    So congratulations on stepping out behind the curtain. Nice to meet you, Jen!

  11. Sarah
    August 19, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    When I was little I always wanted people to call me Liz, because my middle name’s Elizabeth and I was sick to death of being one of >5 Sarahs in the class. It worked for about a month in second grade until parent-teacher interviews came around.

    Now I identify with my name, original though it is not.

    Glad to meet you again, Jen!

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