Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On Picking a Name -- For Me

I was a bit stunned and humored some years ago to learn that my eldest daughter had turned to the internet to ask her friends -- and total strangers -- for advice naming her newborn daughter. In fairness, she had picked out two names but she was stuck deciding which one. She liked the ring of both but worried that one would be the baby name-of-the-year. And she worried which one felt just right. What would her child's identity be?
Now, I'm laughing at myself! Because I'm reaching out for help, too. And for much the same reasons.
Except it's about me. How can it be that at this stage of life, I should worry about my name? my identity?
Recently, I signed a book contract. With the paperwork came a piece of paper asking me what name I want to use for the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress!!
Decades ago, newly married, I made a major turn in life when I was confronted with the question of my first byline at the long defunct Philadelphia Bulletin. My editors convinced me that my maiden name was too convoluted and I should just go with the simple: "Dorothy Brown." Reluctantly, I conceded, though I always much preferred "Dotty," which is what I chose three years ago for my  blog name.
Now I'm pondering: For my book, for the Library of Congress, should I be "Dorothy Brown"?  (Why walk away from a byline I've built up over the years, one friend advised.)
 Or "Dotty Brown?" (It's a "good name," my book editor said and UnRetiring has given it a presence on the web.)
Or use my maiden name in the middle? (For her book, Arlene Morgan told me she added  "Notoro" to honor her parents. Also, my brother liked that idea because, he said, "When people google you, I'll come up!")
I took to the web to see which of my personae could most easily be found. Under "Dorothy Brown," using specific additional search terms (which probably only I know), I did find some of my travel stories:  traveling with grandkids to Italy,  hiking across England on the coast-to-coast trail , or great bike rides in Philadelphia, including "Larry's loop," the directions for which have been lost from the web. (I'll email them to you if you want.) I also stumbled on an article by the late and much beloved Inquirer editor Jim Naughton that mentions me, in 2001, as one of the few remaining people then at the paper who had edited a Pulitzer prize.
But on Google, I'm sandwiched between many other Dorothy Browns, including a Philadelphia woman who is in legal trouble running a charter school. She even has my middle initial!
On the other hand, "Dotty Brown"  is a major purveyor of fabrics in England. Only after you get past her, do you find some of my blogs.
The last time I fretted this much about my identity was when I bought my last car! One person had scarily told me it could, in fact, be the last car I buy.
Is there an afterlife in a book? Or on the web? Should I care? Or should I think more about the good works I do that live after me.
Hopefully, some day, when I cradle my new creation in my arms,  I'll finally be comfortable with who I am.

1 comment:

Dotty Brown said...

So, I finally decided: