Noms de Plume
June 22, 2009 1 Comment
Dear Carla Fran,
I hope Leticia writes you or sends you some classy pumps. While you are being plagued by mail for a potentially whole new You who vacuums and complains about noise, I’m deliberating on whether or not to befriend an old Me.
It’s funny you should mention this, as just this morning I was thinking of a time—you may remember—when I developed some mail problems of my own. Due to an error on a change of address form Mama Millicent and I temporarily became one person in the eyes of the U.S. Mail, and it was disastrous and impossible to extricate our two separate selves back into Millicents Sr. and Jr., and I found myself on the brink of changing my name not because I was married, but because it suddenly seemed necessary—in an urgent and practical sense—to distinguish myself absolutely from my mother.
Had I gone through with that plan, I might have taken the name of an alter-ego I’ve cultivated over the years, an avatar of sorts who wrote Amazon.com reviews, had a Myspace account, and conducted all manner of questionable activities online. This alter-ego was in danger of becoming a nom de plume—I liked the name because it was ungendered and seemed like it might shield me (should a book ever materialize) from the color pink. This alter-ego was generative and hermit-like. It was unfrivolous and proudly unconstrained by society. It even started a blog. When I gave my husband-to-be an engraved engagement gift it was the alter-ego (which I keep wanting to spell altar-ego) that gave it.
My husband-to-be-that-was (it’s getting complicated) had an alter-ego too, in whose name he wrote songs and circulated albums. Let’s call him Harry. This gift was dedicated to Harry. To Harry from alter-Millicent, is more or less what the thing said.
I haven’t thought about my alter-ego in quite some time, but recently, when I idly clicked into the Facebook universe, among the list of “People You May Know” was my other self, still faceless, still genderless, with the little cowlick curl on top.
I don’t remember how to get into the account. I don’t actually remember creating the account. And no matter how many times I click the little X to dispose of that particular suggestion, it comes back, much like Leticia’s mail.
As for Mr. Millicent, he felt, I think, that Facebook was rather beneath him. He joined briefly, but he and I were never Facebook friends and he subsequently deactivated his account. Harry, however, has cropped up—as a person—commenting on the profile of someone we know. Mr. Millicent-that-was is nowhere to be found—he is still safely above the fray, one supposes—but Harry is around and kicking.
I assigned my students the project of creating a fictional character and starting a profile for them on one of the more prominent online dating services. They’re supposed to write a scene that incorporates as a character someone who expresses an interest in their fictional persona and writes back. Maybe a slightly cruel exercise, but it’s fitting, I think, that the doppelgangers on whose behalf my engagement gift was given and received are floating around in the Facebook ether. It helps to think that the contracts we made and the alliances we contracted were made in other names. Poor Harry and alter-Millicent were so pumped with great art projects, they had no idea what they were actually authoring.
On reflection, after rejecting her so many times, the way one does reject the People You May Know—as they usually consist of People You May Know But Rather Wish You Didn’t—I’m thinking of giving in and adding her as a friend. I wonder what she’ll say.
One of the Millicents