Dropping names

Posted by jdg | Monday, October 22, 2007 |

This whole thing started years ago on a near-empty 4 Sutter bus somewhere between Fillmore and Presidio, the kid asleep in a bjorn on my chest, the three of us returning home from some sortie into the Tenderloin; in those few short blocks, my wife suggested that we start a blog. I had been reading political blogs for years, and she had grown hopelessly addicted to reading the ones kept by new mothers when she was pregnant and had nowhere else to look to catch a glimpse of what her life might become. "What would we call it?" I asked.

"Sweet Juniper," was her first suggestion. I immediately agreed. Despite a general annoyance with exclamation points, I suggested we add one. That way it seemed more like a curse, an exclamation, either way, more than just something about the nature of our hippie-named daughter: It was a battle-cry, a barbaric yawp. Removing a shitty diaper? Sweet freakin' juniper berries! Toddler refusing to eat that tofu-and-pea scramble you just made her? Sweet juniper, why in the hell won't you eat this, it's covered in melted cheese! No longer able to differentiate between diaper contents and tofu-and-pea scramble covered in melted cheese? Sweet juniper, get me a vicodin and a gin and tonic.

"It will be good for you," my wife said, "To write again."

"What will we call ourselves?" All the political bloggers I read used aliases, the interesting ones at least. They seemed to recognize that blogging was inherently an embarrassing activity, like designing clothes for K-Mart or ripping wet farts on a public toilet. These were things best done anonymously, without announcing to the whole room who you are. I never had the foresight to think that more than a few close friends and family members would ever read this site, but I did know that if I attached my real name to it, it would be googleable, just like the names of all those poor second-year law students I used to interview every year (though when I found one applicant's blog entry about dropping acid every day for a week, I actually viewed that as a positive thing: "Very openminded," I wrote on his review. "Willing to experiment and consider new ideas.") Truthfully, I wasn't so worried about future interviewers as I was about old friends from high school or college googling me only to learn that I'd become that guy. As I wrote to a friend a few weeks before the kid was born: "Well, I'm about to turn into that guy who says, 'you just can't know until it happens to you, but it's the most beautiful thing in the world, etc.' It was nice knowing you." I felt relative anonymity might help prevent everyone who's ever known me in real life from gagging up their lunch in disgust, or worse: delight.

"I'll be Wood," she said, which was easy: it's the first syllable of the last name she never gave up when she married me. I have never had a nickname. I tried to think of something about me that was as lame as the very idea of having an alias. "I'll be Dutch," I said. The newly-christened Wood approved. It was that poorly thought out. And for more than two years now, this name has been the freakin' albatross reminding me of how lame I have become. Well, I've been thinking for some time about giving up the pseudonym for good. It only makes people from the internet I meet in real life uncomfortable addressing me and it makes me question my own sincerity when signing e-mails. Besides, there are plenty of people now who know my real name is Jim.

But that brings me to the bigger issue, and that is once child #2 is born, should we or should we not change the name of this website. I am inclined to keep it, because I'm lazy and can't think of anything better. Besides, I paid for the domain for like five years, and though I may slowly drop the pseudonym Dutch, I can't as easily rid myself of the cheapness in my Dutch genes. On that bus, years ago, we never set out to have this site be as read by as many people as it is now. I just thought of it as a place to write about the things that were important to me while I worked a job that wasn't. Now it has become something else entirely. As time goes on, I plan to write less and less about my daughter, in order to respect her privacy and protect a child who is no longer a baby. We may decide to change the name, eventually. Either way, we feel extremely blessed and lucky to have these issues to work through.

We will still write about life with our daughter. We will write about how a second child changes that life. But I can't deny that the Nerve Media nightmare a few weeks back really rattled me. I'm going to be more cautious. One good thing that whole mess did was make me turn the camera away from the kid a bit, and find some inspiration and beauty here in Detroit. I've been sharing those images on Flickr, and I will continue to post three new pictures there every day. And I will continue to post pictures of Juniper. Just not as many.