Claire Rice submits her last list item for San Francisco Theater Pub.
The most wonderful thing happened to me on Tuesday. A woman asked me how to pronounce my name. For a moment I was caught off guard. I’ve never been asked how to pronounce my name before. Claire, while mispronounced more often then you would imagine, isn’t immediately intimidating. The women, when she asked, did so with such kindness and sincerity that I was taken aback. Then I remembered: on Facebook I changed my name to “Erialc Ecir”.
Since I changed the name I’ve gotten the same question several times. Why?
For the last few weeks I thought the answer was simple. I thought it was a kind of vague, if limp, protest against Facebook’s real name policy. That it was an experiment to see what it would be like, what it was like, for all those men and women who Facebook forced to change their names to their “legal” name. When I changed my name, I was still myself as I am, but I was not as I was known. The reorganization of the letters had caused me to move into a digital shadow. I couldn’t be seen and when I was seen I was ignored. Not in a cruel way, it was just that now I was unfamiliar.
It isn’t the first time I’ve had a different persona online, but my other persona was short lived and more of an inside joke than anything. That name was about hiding in the hopes that my words would feel truer. They didn’t. They were still mine. They were as true as they were when they came out of my fingers.
Seeing my words under a different name isn’t too far from hearing them through other people’s lips. There’s a sort of out of body experience. At times when listening to actors speak my words out loud I’ve had moments when I’ve taken quiet satisfaction in my own abilities, and others when I’ve been proud enough that it could be called a sin. There have also been moments, whole hours even, when I’ve cringed and grimaced and almost had to tie myself to my chair to keep from running from the theatre. But, even when they were terrible, they were my words.
But what version of me?
There is a version of me that writes poetry. Some of it sacred, some of it saccharin. There is a version of me that writes romantic comedy novels and a version that writes punk fantasy. There is a version of me that writes epic revenge tragedies and a version that writes kitchen sink dramas. There is the version of me that writes angry opinion pieces and a version that writes self deprecating personal essays. There is a version of me that stares at my computer screen as the curser blinks on the empty page, and a version that writes for days on end obsessively as easy as breathing.
This version, that has written for San Francisco Theater Pub, has enjoyed this last year very much. This version of me has both loved and feared the opportunity to write here, as it should be. This version of me is both very sad and very happy to be moving on.
I expect my name on Facebook, once my sixty days are up, will change back to Claire Rice. I expect that you may see one or two impassioned blog posts about theatre on my personal blog before too long, but this version of myself will no longer be the Enemy’s List version. Thank you for letting me in. This version, any version.