Shakespeare said it best in Romeo & Juliet:
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
And yet, names are important to us, aren’t they? It’s how we perceive someone. And how we relate to them. Sometimes a friend or family member decides that s/he is “over” being called by the name we have known them by for years and few of us are capable of making the mental shift to call them by their “new name.”
But who among us hasn’t known someone to go from a childhood nickname such as Bobby or Susie to a ‘more adult’ sounding version like Robert or Susan as they got older?
The desire to feel like our name represents who we are and not what someone else has christened us? It’s a strong one.
So why then are we so resistent when others choose to change their names? This is a question that has long puzzled me, even as I’m likely to fall prey to it myself.
I was born Lucretia Ann Madden. My family promptly took to calling me Tia. A name which I have disliked as long as I can remember. [The following paragraph has been edited entirely to refrain from personally identifying those prior express permission I did not have to write about 9/14/10 LMP] The family I grew up with all have names that can & have been converted into nicknames. Shortening their names, adding “y” on the end. You know, like “Freddy” or “Bobby” or “Sue”. All of them absolutely hate being called by those names. Although they put up with it sometimes from other family members. [/end revision]
So of course, they all call me Lucretia, right?
Nope. Not until they run up against someone who has no idea who they’re talking about. (For the record? I’ve never once gone professionally by any name other than Lucretia. Not since I was 18.) I resist even telling people that nickname because as soon as I do, many of them think that I’ll be okay with it if they call me that.
The only person I’ve known who could switch back and forth on my name depending on who he was speaking to outside of myself is my husband. He could call me Bob and I’d answer. Which is why when it came time to decide about changing my name after we got married? No brainer. Because I’d realized by then that a name was just a matter of a label that helped other people figure out who I was.
I kind of gave up on my family. After all, it’s not so important what they call me as it is that they call me at all.
But then I went and made this huge mistake a few years back. I decided that it was more important to have a memorable, easily spellable name on the Internet than it was to insist that people learn Lucretia. After years of creating different psuedonyms on various BBSes, websites, blogs, and other electronic gathering places (and shedding them with ease as I moved on) I hadn’t considered that a time might come when I couldn’t. I also hadn’t tied any of those names to my real name though.
If you Googled Lucretia Pruitt prior to January of 2007, there were 355 entries. All but 2 of them were a woman who died in the 1850s in Kansas. The remaining two were work-related entries of mine.
Presently Google comes up with 259,000 entries for Lucretia Pruitt. It takes many pages before you get to that woman in who died a century & a half ago.
So by now people know who I am right? They know my real name? Not as much as you’d think.
Because when I came out from behind the curtain and started using my name on the Social Web, I tied it to the UserID of GeekMommy. I had started a small, infrequently used blog by that name in 2006. So when time came to find a good, easy-to-remember Twitter handle – it seemed ideal. I mean, anyone can type GeekMommy. Not everyone can spell Lucretia off the top of their heads, right?
This is where I got it wrong. I pulled a rookie mistake of thinking that a psuedonym wasn’t that important.
There’s an urban legend about the Chevy Nova that illustrates the mistake nicely (even if it isn’t true.) The point of the cautionary tale is that you should never bring a product to market without first doing adequate research. But who thought of their online identity as a ‘brand’ or a ‘product’ in 2007?
I didn’t come up with the ID of GeekMommy thinking “yeah! I can build this into a profitable brand! Soon, there will be GeekMommy merchandise! GeekMommy affiliates! GeekMommy products on HSN!“ I was just trying to find something that let people have a starting point to interact with me.
I mistakenly assumed that as people got to know me they’d call me Lucretia. They’d just see GeekMommy as some sort of ID, not as an actual identity. And they certainly wouldn’t skip those first four letters entirely as if they weren’t there.
A week ago we were having dinner with  assorted family. A conversation arose in which  kept referring to me as a “mommy blogger”. Normally, I’d patiently explain to someone that ‘no, contrary to the word “mommy” in that ID I wasn’t a mommy blogger – although I could introduce him to some extremely good ones if he wanted.’ But this was family – so of course I didn’t react nearly so rationally.
How could he? My own !! The one who has been casually stalking me online during his lunch hour with the assistance of Google for at least a year & a half now! How could he not have a clue what I did?! *melt down*
Fortunately for me, I married well.
My husband stepped in and patiently explained to my baffled  that he had pushed a button of sorts for me. That I wrote about technology, Social Media, and a variety of topics – but that I didn’t write about my daughter. My  (one of the brightest people I’ve ever known) looked tolerant of my outburst but confused.
That’s when it hit me. This misunderstanding wasn’t his fault. It was mine. If one of the smartest people I’ve ever known couldn’t figure out what I do? Then how are potential clients, business partners, and colleagues supposed to know? How can I advise someone how to craft their own presence on the Social Web when I’ve clearly done such a poor job with my own?
I apologized. I tried to explain that he had just done me a great favor and gotten it through my head that if I wanted people to “get my brand” then I had to start packaging it correctly. I’m not sure he understood – but maybe he will when he reads this.
It’s taken a little over a week. But I’m ready. GeekMommy is going into the past along with Bobby and Susie and Johnny and every other “yeah, people used to call me that, but I don’t answer to it anymore” nickname anyone has ever rid themselves of.
If you don’t mind? If you want me to answer?
Call me Lucretia.
 It has come to my attention that identifying members of my family in such a specific was as I originally posted this is not something that I should have done without getting their express permission prior to posting. While everything lives eternally on the Internet, I have done my best to redact this post as it currently published to remove any specific references to individual family members. A lesson learned. I apologize for the redactions and editing making for a choppy read. But the privacy of the individuals previously named takes precedence. Thanks for your patience, Lucretia. 9/14/2010