Browsing around through the blogosphere, it becomes clear that safety and security are top of mind with many writers. Many so-called Mommy Bloggers, especially those with young children, refer to their kids by aliases. They often photograph their children from the back, or with their heads cut off. No doubt they have read cautionary tales about photos of children being copied by scurvy scuzzballs in this nation and abroad, photoshopped in deplorable ways, and emailed to despicable people.
Likewise, many don’t refer to their children by their real names. They use cute aliases or children’s book names, like Puppy and Kitten or Hansel and Gretel or Snip, Snap, and Snurr.
As you may have noticed, Emily and I don’t bother with this layer of security. First of all, we don’t think anyone would want to kidnap our children. And secondly, it’s too much trouble to have to remember what fake name we’re supposed to be calling our boys. Hard enough to come up with their real names.
I am reminded of one of my father’s early childhood memories. When the entire nation was abuzz over the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, my father, just a little squirt at the time, began to worry that he would be next. When his older siblings learned about this fear, they responded with love and compassion, manifested by derisive snorting and scoffs of “Who would want to kidnap YOU?” He went from fearing that he would be snatched to feeling rejected by would-be kidnappers.
Malcolm made a similar point recently, when we were telling him about all the security in the obstetric wards of hospitals these days. He asked skeptically, “Who would want to steal a baby? They’re such a burden!”
But back to the odd business of pseudonyms. This came up again in the book I just finished reading, Imperfect Endings. It’s by someone whose name is truly Zoe Fitzgerald Carter, and it’s about how her terminally ill mother decided to end her life, and how Zoe and her sisters were caught up in the ensuing drama and anguish. In the book, Zoe’s sisters are Hannah and Katherine….but wait, a note to the reader says “Everyone in this book has been given a pseudonym, with the exception of a few public figures and myself.” So her husband isn’t Jack, and her kids aren’t Clara and Lane, and her mother wasn’t Margaret? Who are they? And did any of this really happen? If you’re going to spill your guts about a real event, why sprinkle in fakery? There’s something terribly inconsistent, even cheapening, about the whole device.
On the one hand, yes, Zoe Fitzgerald Carter is writing about a private emotional ordeal. On the other hand, she’s publishing a book about it, so how private could it be? On one hand, she’s trying to shield her sisters. On the other hand, since Zoe Fitzgerald Carter is the author’s real name, everyone who ever met her will know who her sisters really are. Even if you’ve never met her, in this Google age, detective work is a matter of a few mouse clicks. I would guess that it takes about, oh, three seconds to track down the actual names of the sisters and husband.
The business of the fake names seems coy at best – and a totally lame half-measure at worst. I was disappointed by this revelation. What was in many ways a beautiful, shiningly honest book began to take on the tarnish of untruth.Where do you stand on the alias issue? Does it bother you to read blogs with fake kid names? Do you think Emily and I crazy to use the real names of our sons?