Identity Crisis? No Problem. Just Change Your Name.
When I showed up to work in September and saw they officially changed my name I almost vomited all over my laptop.
I agreed to this back in June and I wasn’t even drinking at the time. Then I kind of forgot about it. I didn’t think they’d actually do it!
How do you reconcile two clashing identities? Easy. Just change the name of one of your identities.
Up until recently my writing has largely remained in book form, loosely autobiographical in nature. My book, The Prairie Bridesmaid, contains explicit language, profanity, sex, drinking – and deals with the subjects of domestic abuse and mental illness.
Awesome…except that I’m a teacher. I’m supposed to be out there, in my high waist cotton pants, ridding the world of dangling participles. Not penning sex scenes.
As a teacher, I’ve largely been left alone about my writing because quite frankly you’d have to go to the trouble of reading an entire book if you wanted to object to it. Who does that anymore? The few parents, students, staff, school trustees who have read it (not just the first 3 pages) have supported it because they’ve read it in its entirety and get the big picture. The overall message is positive, honest and rah-rah, especially if you are the proud owner of a vagina.
If you were one of those book-banning pundits, you’d just rattle off the page numbers you didn’t think were inappropriate for any teacher to have written. Let me save you the trouble – p. 201-202 is the lesbian sex scene and there’s a fuck about every 5th page.
The book I’ve just finished writing (not yet published, and, um, available if you are a publisher looking for a great new book) is also a darkly, comic novel about the escort industry and will probably land me in a whole other world of hot water. But, like my first book, when you read the whole thing, it’s about finding one’s humanity and capacity to love, and no one is jetting off to sell her body based on anything I’ve written.
Ahh, then there’s this whole damn online world. I launched this website and blog (along with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts). Since my novels only come out every five years, it’s fun to have my own space to mess around with my writing and observations.
Sometimes my posts are good clean fun - funny shit my kids say and do. Other times I have full-blown conversations with my vagina. If I’m on a summer-long camping trip with my family and haven’t had access to a shower for weeks, my snatch is going to have something to say about this! My friend Kieran says my vagina is like a character on my blog. Man, and here I thought I’d been holding back. At any rate, these things are all part of life. My life. At the core of it all is truth and heart.
I think that I’m a good teacher; I even received a teaching award once (but I’m pretty sure they made a clerical error and gave it to the wrong person).
There’s some value in having an English teacher who cannot only blab on about books, but who has actually written one. I have high standards when it comes to writing and I can address writers’ perspective and intent in a very real and practical way.
THE IDENTITY CRISIS:
All was well in my world when my identities remained separate and untangled. But I suppose that it was only a matter of time before people would start bleeding them together thanks to my “writer” presence in the online world. And the fact that reading a Tweet or blog post requires far less commitment than a whole book!
Alas, a while back some of my posts had been called into question and drew a bit of unwanted attention from the teaching side of my life.
Is what I have to say as a writer, a person who makes and shares observations about the world at odds with my identity as a teacher? You Betcha. Am I allowed to Tweet that my four year old just told me my nipples look like bits of ham? Nope.
This is the reality of the world we live in.
Every time I put up a post I worried that I was being judged as a teacher through my writing. Wah. Wah. Wah. Not fair.
Want to know what kind of teacher I am? Stop Twitter-stalking me and skulking around on my blog. Come hang out in my classroom for the afternoon. Want to know what kind of writer I am, don’t hang out in my classroom!
One part of me TOTALLY gets it – no parent wants their kid’s teacher posting about puking in the tulips. (That post was ironic by the way, and I’d never dream of puking in my beautiful tulips even though patrons of the Osborne Hotel up the street feel okay about doing it all the time. But it’s okay, because they’re not teachers. ) Like it or not, being a role model comes with the job.
For a while, I started to censor myself. And my identity. My voice as a writer was being filtered and hacked away. I removed a bunch of Tweets, I asked students, for the love of Pete, to stop following me on Twitter. (I didn’t follow my teacher around in the mall when I was in high school, why some feel the need to find their teachers on social media confounds me.)
I quickly realized this compromise wasn’t really working for me. Or anyone.
I changed my teaching name. It’s totally crazy, but I wanted to protect and delineate my writing and my human identity from my teaching one.
I know that women change their surnames all the time and that’s the beauty of the world we live in: choice. But that’s something I always said I would never do because I’ve always attached my name to my identity and that’s a non-negotiable thing for me.
But we don’t live in a compartmentalized world anymore and attitudes and expectations haven’t evolved as fast as technology and social media have. If you have multiple identities, maybe you need multiple names.
If it means that I get to keep writing about conversations that I have with my vag…then heck, yeah, change my name.
It’s been six months. My students pretty much think I’m slow or stupid, or maybe don’t hear well or something, because I still don’t answer to my new name most days.
"Ms. Krause…Ms. Krause, excuse me, MS. KRAUSE!!!”
“Huh? Why are you yelling? Who? Me? Right. What?”
“Are you going to clean that puke off your keyboard?”