Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Am I?

I don't mean this quesion in the literal sense. I blog & comment with my real name, and the links at right will take you to more information about me than you probably want. This is more of a rhetorical question about the many identities I have, including wife, mother, scientist, doctor, and editor.

I bring this up because there has been some discussion about attempts to "out" one of my favorite bloggers, Isis, over at ScienceBlogs. This woman has kept her real identity a secret and has some very good rules for pseudonymous bloggers. She is trying to keep her online life separate from that as a scientist and her wife/mother roles.

I came down on the other side of this issue, in part I believe, because of my "advanced age" when I started this blog. About the time I hit 40 I realized that no one could really do that much to hurt me in life. I shouldn't be evil because then I would deserve retribution, but I could generally state my mind in most professional situations with little fear of the consequences. It takes a lot of energy to maintain separate identities, and I didn't see much advantage for me to do that.

I had my first identity issue when I got married. The question was whether or not to change my last name. I had not yet published anything but an abstract in a local proceedings in an unrelated field. Part of me was violently opposed to the patriarchal supposition that I would take my husband's surname. However, I started talking with those who had already walked the path. First there was the "keep your maiden name group" who found this choice was really awkward when the kidlets came along. Did mom want to be the only one in the family with a different last name? The teachers were confused, and most women were "Mrs. Daddy's Name" when the school called, just to keep everyone from thinking they were divorced. Kids taking mom's name alone is pretty rare still, and I could not bring myself to dump a hyphenated name on my offspring. What about hyphenating my own name? One friend pointed out the difficulty that presents with forms and other documents. I had other friends who used their given name professionally and their married names personally. Talk about confusion! I have been introduced to women at parties where it took 20 minutes to figure out we shared patients! In medicine and academia, the personal and professional lives overlap substantially.

In the end, I took my husband's last name. Of course, I couldn't do anything easy. See, my birth name was Ann Pascale Hammond, but no one had ever called me Ann. Compared to a hyphenated last name, using your middle name is pure hell in this country. It is not your legally recognized name! I ended up dropping the "Ann" and becoming Pascale Hammond Lane. It was the right mix for me, even though I had to jump through a bunch of hoops for a common usage name change. I like that my family has the same last name, even though it wasn't the one I was born with.

I suspect my daughter will not change her name, but you never know. Just as I had to debate myself for a few months, Jen will have to make her own decisions. We all have to make our own decisions about who we want to be and how we will balance roles as professionals, partners, and parents.

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