Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who dat? or What's in a NAME?

This is my first foray into blog-dom, so I thought I'd start out with really trying to explain all the conglomeration of personas I have running through my life right now.  The blurb at the top doesn't really define who I am, as blurbs really aren't meant to do.  I'm taking this longer space to try to muddle that out. 

If I start from now and move backwards, the first persona I have revolves around my kids.  Since they were born, they've been the focus of my world, the things I consider first when making any decisions.  I've filled out countless forms with their names and mine.  I even remember the very first time I listed myself as "mother" on one of those forms and how it brought me to tears (granted, I was one week post-partum, but still).  What struck me recently is that my kids are starting to get things addressed to them and not ME!  I don't mean the stray holiday card or magazine subscription from Nana, I mean an actual email!  My little girl scout--who'll be known in this blog as Brownie (can't be too careful with the internets and all)--is attending day camp this year, and all the messages have been sent to HER, Brownie Rumplestiltskin.  I mean, that's just wrong, on so many levels.  My son--let's call him Cubby--at the tender age of 10 has an email address too.  He communicates with friends who have moved and sometimes with family out of the area.  How did my kids move from beings totally reliant on my planning of their every move to people who have CONTACTS?!  I was preparing for this when they entered junior high, but not now.  I've started the task of officially separating my name from theirs, which is like ripping a thousand band-aids off, one. at. a. time.

My professional persona revolves around my name and is kind of funny.  I hyphenated my last name, really as a compromise to my husband--Sporto--when we married almost 12 years ago.  My reasoning?  I really wanted some form of myself to stay intact.  I married in my 30s and had created a whole life long before I met my husband, and I simply wasn't ready to throw that away.  Plus, he didn't have to change HIS name, and I'm all about the fair in relationships.  Granted, I'm not a freak.  Our kids carry his last name, Rumplestiltskin, because we do live in a patriarchal society.  And I didn't want any of those cutesy "let's make up a NEW name" configurations.  If you do, good on you, but it's not for me.  I will say, my main reason for retaining my maiden name had to do with my professional life, however, my employer for the last 17 years has really taken that to heart.  I mentioned I was married almost 12 years ago, yes?  My mailbox?  With my "new" name?  Just happened three years ago.  It only happened then because they reconfigured and completely moved our mailboxes. My students have were known to wander the main office, highly confused, if they didn't ask.

I've found I really embrace the changes my different names force upon me.  In my persona as a college educator, I'm not picky if my students use my whole Ms. Badass-Rumplestiltskin when they address me, or any version thereof, as long as they're respectful.  Many just say Professor or use only one side of my name, either Ms. Badass or Ms. Rumplestiltskin.  My favorite is when they use something like Ms. Rutabaga, which only has a first letter in common.  Those are the ones who don't usually stick around for long.  Plus, I have to say, at first, I'm a hard, hard teacher.  I've learned that I can back off of hard if someone has an issue, but I can't back off of nice if someone's taking advantage of my good nature.  The person my students see, by necessity, is a much tougher person than I am in real life, at least to those I LIKE.

With my kids' school activities, and as a co-leader for girl scouts and awards coordinator for cub scouts, I just tell the kids I'm Mrs. Rumplestiltskin.  The change is more significant on the title than the name.  If you've ever been around kids, you know that ALL women of authority are Mrs.  I don't care if you're a Miss, Ms. or anything else.  Even if your child was raised to address every woman in their lives as Ms., as soon as they hit school, all authorities are Mrs.  I can't tell you the number of times I've heard single teachers correct kids.  At some point, it's not a battle I care to fight over.  The really interesting thing is, I think Mrs. Rumplestiltskin is warmer and fuzzier than Ms. Badass-Rumplestiltskin.  You might be saying inside, well, of course she is, she's ditched the badass part!  But it's not just that.  Is it the fact that moms are "supposed" to be warm and fuzzy (which, really, I'm just. . . not.  Ask my kids.)?  Is it that surrounded by a bunch of kids who are just happy you're there, I get warmer and fuzzier?  Is it just plain old age?  I don't think that last one, because when provoked, i.e someone messes with my kids, Ms. Badass comes out in full force.

There are also those people I've known for 15 years or more--read even longer than I've known my husband--who to this day will ONLY refer to me as Dee Badass (not my real first name, but it works nicely, don't you think?).  I kind of like it, secretly, because it means to me that when my name is mentioned, the image they will forever call up in their minds is a younger, thinner, more open to adventure, without a care in the world me. . . with bigger hair.  It's nice to know that person still exists somewhere.  Then again, these are also the people who knew my secret bar name.  You know, the name you'd arranged with your friends when you were younger and frequenting drinking establishments where members of the opposite sex might be?  If you used the bar name--mine was Paula--that meant "Run! Hide! Evacuate! Loser alert!"  There's danger in letting those people talk to your friends of today, because, well, they know where the bodies are buried.  But these are also the people who probably helped bury them, so it all evens out.

So I've been thinking about all the "people" I am--writer, reader, music lover, wife, parent, teacher, neighbor, etc.--and how some blend, some overlap, some don't want anything to do with each other.  Who are the people YOU are?  Are they different like mine, or are they all co-existing in a happy little stew?  Hey, I'm a writing teacher, I had to give an assignment.

Have a great day!

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