There is a commercial I saw recently about a new “walker” for toddlers.
It’s called Stride to Ride and the idea is that toddlers walk behind it, inside the “V” and push it while they are learning to walk. When they are older, the “V” is pushed together to become a seat, so the kid can ride it sitting down, scooting around using her legs.
This image has become to symbolize my current struggle with identity.
Patriarchal archetypes aside, I have been known as Jennifer McConnell for most of my life. When I got married for the first time, I became Jennifer Bogetich. That was so short-lived hardly anyone had time to get used to me with that name.
I reverted back to Jen McConnell and was first published under that name. Figuring my love life was over for good, I assumed that would be my name forever. So the next few stories I published, and hundreds of rejections I received, were under that name as well.
Four years later, I was engaged to someone else and had just changed my name on one official document when we broke up. Among many things, I was lucky that I hadn’t changed more.
That was it, I decided. No matter what, I was never changing my name again. Not that I was ever going to get married again, or even fall in love – I had been used up my quota.
Enter Dan. The one I was not supposed to fall in love with. Definitely not the one I was supposed to move across the country and marry. But yes, as unconventional as our love affair was, we did do the conventional thing and got married – albeit in a bar (that’s another story).
I remained steadfast that I wouldn’t change my name. I didn’t see any reason to at this point, and besides, when I made it big time as a writer, I wanted everyone to know it was me, ESPECIALLY those who’d rejected me.
Fast forward two years. I am hugely pregnant with what will be our daughter. My stepson, who is three at this point, goes by his mother’s last name. I have my last name. What last name will our daughter have? I decide at that point that it would be nice if most of our family had the same last name – Doron. It’s confusing enough for our son to have a different last name, so we should take control of what we can.
So eight months pregnant I pay $300 for the privilege of standing before a judge and swearing I am not changing my name for nefarious reasons. Behold, with a swing of a gavel, I am Jennifer McConnell Doron. This, I decide, will be my married and “professional” name. My writing name will continue to be Jen McConnell.
And all was well for many years. I didn’t speak very much about my writing life during my day job life, and vice versa.
But now, the two sides of the “V” are starting to close in on me. It’s a good, but confusing, situation.
As I begin to work less using my professional name, and concentrate more on my writing using my pen name, the lines are blurring. And thanks to social media (where I am Jen McConnell Doron), the two sides are conflating even more.
It’s not that I have a problem being known as Jen McConnell Doron – it’s just that 1) it is unwieldy – I can’t picture it on a book cover or inscribed in a National Book Award plaque, and 2) I love Dan and his family, but my writing is tied into who I was/am as Jen McConnell. That will forever be my pen name.
I know on the scale of things to be troubled about, this hardly rates a wrinkle, but I am that toddler who has learned to walk but isn’t ready for the split of the “V” to disappear completely.
Soon I’ll be a confident toddler tearing up the sidewalk on my scooter, tush firmly on the seat, not remembering it ever was a “V” – but until then I’ll just stumble around for a while.