Saying Goodbye to an Alias

calliope aliasIn May of 2005 I joined my first on-line forum to talk to and learn from other women trying to become mothers in unconventional ways. I sat and looked at the screen asking for a username for twenty minutes. A wave of anxiety washed over me and I knew that I could not, would not be using my real name in this forum. No harm. No one uses their real name.

On a total lark I decided to use the name Cali Hope. Cali was short for California, the state of my birth. And Hope. Well let’s just say in 2005 I was totally a girl dancing in glitter. I signed my messages and questions in the donor sperm boards “Cali” and slipping into the skin of the username was easy.

A few months went by and within a thread someone said to me, “Oh! I just sounded out your user name realized that your real name must be Calliope!”

In 2005 I did not conceive a baby but I conceived my alias. Calliope.

It was such a perfect online name for me, it felt so right. It was unique enough and yet it was a name people had heard of. I didn’t feel like I was creating a new identity or like I was donning a disguise. I felt like I was borrowing a name to use because everyone needed to have a name on-line and, well, they couldn’t possibly be told my real name.

So why not use my real name? In September of 2005 I started blogging Creating Motherhood and my posts were all about a very, very specific topic: trying to get pregnant as a single woman. The truth is I was afraid. I knew I needed to, wanted to write about my experience. I loved connecting with other women and couples going through similar stories and I loved the community of blogging.

But what if! WHAT IF! What if someone from my life found my blog? What if people I used to work with, work for, men I used to date, men I might want to date…what if they found my blog and read post after post about my journey to be a Mom? Using an alias allowed me to feel in control of this. It was like living in the country but keeping a secret apartment in the city that only I had the key to.

A year into blogging I met someone from the internet in real life. She was another single woman trying to start a family the same way I was. I still remember e-mailing her in the, “and here is how we will know each other” e-mail. “I have red hair, I am very tall…oh and my real name is…”

This is the part that will absolutely sound narcissistic: I loved telling people my real name. Gifting it to them. In the early years of blogging very, very few people knew it and by trusting someone with that part of myself I was saying to them that we were more than just wires and wifi. We were more than an avatar. If I gave you my name I gave you myself. It was, for me, a wonderful way to be on-line.

A few years into blogging someone who I didn’t want reading my story was sent the URL of my site. She then called me. The first five minutes of the call I wanted to hurl. I wanted to delete my entire site. Then I just listened to her. This call was one of my fears and it was happening. I agreed to remove the one post that she took a particular objection to and hung up. It was liberating. So that’s what happens when someone you worry about reading your site reads your site. I can deal with that.

I continued to use the alias of Calliope through all of my attempts to become pregnant. I was Calliope when I went through the process of being an egg donor and I was Calliope when I had my miscarriage. I was Calliope when the internet helped get me pregnant by raising funds for my treatment. I was Calliope when I wrote about the heartbeat and told you all that I was having a boy.

Somewhere within my pregnancy the desire to say goodbye to Calliope surfaced. I thought and thought about it and at the end of the day it didn’t feel right. So I knew it wasn’t time. Not yet.

When Millie slid into the final stage of her Alzheimer’s it was hard to stay Calliope. Many times I felt off for using that name as it felt like it was making my life less MY LIFE. I am using this name Calliope but this Calliope person is not here to clean up the mess. She is not here to sing to my Grandmother or convince her to please, please, please eat something. She was not here when my Mother unexpectedly lost her job and she was not here when W’s heartbeat stopped with every push forcing us to have an emergency section.

Calliope was just a name. Just this scarf. An accessory. And oh my she was getting so tattered and so worn.

When my Grandmother died I lost a part of myself. I honestly didn’t know who I was. I had been her caregiver for 7 years and a Mother for only 6 months. When she died I used her real name on this blog. I wanted, needed, you to know it. Yes she was my Grandmother but she is forever Millie.

So why was I still trying to make myself fit into an alias?

Last year, as I made my cards for my first BlogHer conference, I debated for days about what name to put on the cards. DAYS. I was so nervous about meeting so many people and that ultimately was why ‘Calliope’ went to BlogHer last year. (And of course once there I left Calliope in my room.)

A few weeks after I had returned from BlogHer my Mother was in a front page story on the Huffington Post about unemployment. It was a mostly good article but we had no idea the entire piece was going to be about her. So there, for all to see, was my Mother. Her photo, her age, details about her health, and her full name. And of course a vibrantly gut-wrenching comment section was alive and kicking. I spent five minutes thinking about it and then posted the link on my twitter feed asking for support.

It was the first big kick to Calliope. It was aggressive. My name was not mentioned in the article but my wish for taking down the fourth wall had only just begun. It began to feel off to write online without using my real name. Calliope started to feel like something I was hiding behind.

There were quiet but big steps: the creation of Plaid House Designs using my real name. Then linking to it. For a long time that felt good. I was online in my work site using my real name. And then every day I would write here and see that byline: Calliope. Damn her! Yes. For almost an entire year I have resent her.

When I moved to Philadelphia I joined a social media group and it was the first time that people met me first and Calliope second. I had to explain my twitter handle. I had to explain why I had an alias. And every time I explained I realized that the reasons that I needed Calliope in the first place didn’t exist any more.

I created Calliope because I was afraid that people would find out that I used donor sperm to make my family. I created Calliope because I didn’t want my family to know that I was writing online. I created Calliope because I didn’t want people I used to work with or men I used to date to find my writing.

In September this blog will be 7 years old. SEVEN! Chances are if you have met me, talked to me about my son, you know about our amazing and wonderful story. My family found out about my blog and I survived. People I used to work with and men I used to date know I blog (& some even read daily).

Calliope was born in 2005. She is just over six feet tall, has red hair,  giant feet, and loves plaid. She is just like me. She is me. She was me. I am unpeeling. Oh Calliope, holding you in my hands I see how delicate you were. You allowed me to find myself, find my friends, find the people who would help me grow and bloom into the person that I am today. I thank you.

I release you.

Goodbye Calliope.

My name is Dresden.

 

Talk to the plaid:

  1. For some reason, that last paragraph just got to me. I’ve known you by your alias and by your name; and getting to merge both is to know you even more.

  2. Brava! Beyond all the love I have always had for you, I also totally respect, admire, and applaud you. You only blog about a little bit of life, but I see and share the zillions of more things that you do and are that absolutely radiate how wonderful and special, kind and loving, funny and intense, smart and sassy, INCREDIBLE you are. You are the best of all I have done with my life, and I love you!

    • Thanks Lolly, totally crying over here and precisely how I feel about my baby girls : ) Hope I’m around long enough when they’re grown to tell them, I think it’ll mean more then!

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  4. “You are the best of all I have done with my life, and I love you!”

    Between you and your mom, I will need an entire box of Kleenex.

    I love, love, LOVE this post.

    I feel honored to have been given the allowance of knowing you before today. I recognized it for the gift that it was even then, and I felt special because of it.
    “Dresden” – it feels good to say that aloud out in the open for everyone to see.

  5. I remember earlier this year, finding out your real name and feeling like I owned a special secret , it was about the time you took Kir’s Corner and made it THE KIR CORNER and I felt liberated too…isn’t that funny? Like I could start over with blogging again, just a shift in my blog name and I could be this new Kirsten. So thank you for that.

    That last paragraph is pure poetry, I was letting the tears well and fall as I read it because whatever name you use, it’s all good, you’re one of the most amazing women I know. xo

  6. This was a great post. I think that using your real name is a step in the right direction for women in social media. Dresden is a beautiful name.

  7. This is a really interesting post for me to read, especially right now. I’ve been spending many months now trying to figure out if I should keep my alias, as I have a post that will be syndicated on BlogHer and an interview being run connecting me to a blog I write. In the end I realized I had to keep my alias because I’m a middle school teacher and having my adolescent students find my one blog is absolutely not okay. And these kids will find it. We had a very scary and creepy cyberstalking situation happen last year with a younger science teacher and I definitely do not want that happening to me.

    I’m so glad that for you it feels right to shed your alias. I wish I could do that too. Maybe some day.

  8. Oh my~ That was one great post.
    Even though I knew your real name already, i still had tears in my eyes when you really introduced yourself!

    Welcome Dresden

  9. Lovely post (and comment from Mother). I have been reading your blog for years and ALWAYS wondered what your real name was!

  10. A beautifully written post. It brought tears to my eyes. I’ve been honoured to know you for many years and it has been amazing to watch your journey. You’ve grown as a daughter, as a woman, as a mother and a writer.

    Thank you for letting us travel along with you.

  11. If you can reveal your given name, I can delurk (after 3+ years of reading in the shadows) to say, so pleased to meet you, Dresden!

  12. Wow!
    I always wondered why you were anonymous online but since you were so great IRL I thought it wasn’t my place to ask. Glad to have met you as both.
    Hope to see you soon!
    -r

  13. What a beautiful post! I have to say that I will miss Calliope only becuase I love that name. (actually on my list for my dd due in 7 weeks!) But it is wonderful to know the “real” you. Welcome Dresden!

  14. Hello, Dresden! You are just as sweet by any other name! Been following since before W came into existence. If I haven’t de-lurked before, Hi, I’m Andrea. You rock.

  15. Awesome! Welcome :)

    I recently had a brief moment where I considered ditching my alias. I can’t yet. Not ready completely. Little pieces slide away. If people want to, they can figure it out. :)

    I love the name Dresden. That is freaking awesome.

  16. This is such an important, milestone-ish post. I love the whole thing, but especially this:

    “I loved telling people my real name. Gifting it to them. In the early years of blogging very, very few people knew it and by trusting someone with that part of myself I was saying to them that we were more than just wires and wifi.”

    I get it.

  17. Totally weepy here! Love you, Dresden!! You ROCK!

    Seriously, we have room for you, Lolly and W to come visit. As you well know, Autumn in NYC is lovely.

  18. Naming is such a strange and powerful thing. And so is coming out. Congratulations on your coming out, Dresden!

  19. Awesome post! As a rather new follower of your blog and even newer friend of yours, I am honored to have been able to witness some of your recent evolution. I feel very special to have known you as Dresden before you officially ditched your alias and am so proud of you for taking this step and merging yourselves. I really enjoyed the back story of how you became Calliope too.

    When I joined my first online discussion board/buddy group in July 2002 when my husband and I were TTC#1 on “Fertility Friend,” I posted as “Special K.” Most people quickly found out my real name, but I have used it off and on since in online forums, when I wasn’t ready to share all of who I was.

    Though I never blogged under an alias, I did not publicize to everyone in my life that it is existed. Earlier this year when I “came out” about my blog to my extended family and friends it felt extremely liberating (and a bit scary). There have definitely been some growing pains since, but they all seem to have been worth it, as now I feel that I am no longer hiding as much of my real self from those that know me IRL.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing all of this and for being you D! xoxo

  20. I have a confession to make – I figured out your real name a while ago by using Google…When your grandmother died, I wanted to read her obituary and I was able to find it online. From that, I found out your name and your mom’s name…I also figured out The Pioneer Woman’s real name way before anyone else and before she revealed who she was because I happened to do a summer internship in DC with another college student who grew up on a huge ranch in OK…and PW’s ranch seemed similar – and sure enough, I googled, and my friend is her husband’s cousin. Of course, I don’t do anything with this knowledge…I just spend way too much time online and I’m a very curious person (and former reporter) so I like to find out who my favorite bloggers are in real life. Anyhow, I hope you write a book and use your real name. I think you could write a great memoir; your story is very interesting – esp. about how the blogging community helped you have your son.

  21. Hey, Dresden! I’ve known your real name for a while (since you disclosed it to me, for which I feel honoured and say thank you again), and love it. I love this post, and I love you!!!

  22. I met and fell in love with Calliope…and the woman behind the pen-name, Dresden, is my beautiful, brave friend. Thank you for sharing yourself with all of us xo

  23. “A rose by any other name…” etc. etc. ; ) It will take me awhile to get used to the new/real name, but whatever you prefer to be called, it doesn’t change the fact that you are an awesome blogger. : ) I agree with Solitary Diner, I would love to know how you got the name Dresden. It’s as or even more unique than Calliope!

  24. Wow. A stunning post. I read this very late last night, on my iPhone in bed, and it’s still swirling around in my head this morning. Aliases are particularly pertinent to me right now too, so this also grabbed me at that level. Fabulous writing and expression – I was holding my breath throughout. You were the first blogger I found who did what I am trying to do at a similar age and that just meant the world to me and it still does. This post has invoked all of my admiration for you.

    Thank you, Dresden, for writing beauty, truth, love and freedom on the interwebz.

  25. I am so late to the party, but this is so great! A lot of the things you mention are things that hold me back from blogging — what if someone finds me? But who cares! Isn’t is about just being who we are? I’m very happy for you.

  26. I’ve known your “real” name for a long time. Actually it seems like you told me your last name before I was “gifted” with your first name. A part of you will always be “Cali” to me. I completely understand the alias thing. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t blog very much anymore. I’m terrified of what people will think. I need to just get over it and be as courageous as you are! I’ve been a reader of yours since close to the beginning of your ttc journey. I’ll continue to be a faithful reader..no matter what name you use ?

  27. Having been there through several of Cali’s online transitions, I am so happy you have decided to integrate your whole self into this experience. Many hugs to you, Dresden, my friend.

  28. Dresden, nice to meet you. I’ve had my blog since 03, and I still struggle with the alias thing. I was not anonymous from the beginning, but went that way, and I find it hard to undo it, given how frank I’ve been on my blog. I commend you for coming out.

  29. It’s funny but for the longest time I thought Calliope was your name. Once when I was talking to Bleu and she called you Dresden I had no idea who she was talking about. Until she told me that was your name.
    I’ve went back and forth with the anonymity of blogging. When I first started I think my name was on my blog. I also was willing to share my blog with most anyone. Then after thinking about various members of my family finding my blog and reading it I went through and pulled my name wherever I could find it and became battynurse. Now I can’t say that I care all that much with the exception of one person. A cousin who I’d just as soon not read it. Not because I really say much of anything about her but because she’s spent so much time in the past disapproving of me or trying to tell me what to do I try to keep her input in my life to a minimum.

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  33. Thank you. I needed your story. Today I stumbled across you while looking at hallmarks website. I too am grateful for your courage. Your honesty. Your conviction. Thank you for being true to yourself. It is your story which is inspiring me to jump a hurdle.