Let me introduce myself.
My name is not Frances Henry. After years of blogging under my actual name, concern for my career has led me to adopt this pseudonym. Maintaining the illusion of professionalism became important to me only recently, as I realized on my 30th birthday that I had no career and it was time to get one. I spent most of that day singing, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be bloggers” to myself while deleting six years of web archives with tags like “alcohol poisoning,” “unemployment” and “cheating.” I’m not ashamed of my past, at least not all of it, but I don’t necessarily want future employers to know about the time I smuggled a Tylenol bottle full of urine into a drug test or how I once got in a drunken bike wreck and told the ambulance drivers who scraped me off the road that my name was my ex girlfriend’s name.
It’s been seven months since I deleted my blog, and it took working for free, sending out dozens of resumés and sitting through nine painful interviews, but I did find a career, and soon I’m moving to a new city for my new job. I don’t know that this would have happened had my new bosses read my story about going to work too stoned to realize that I’d already called in sick. Thus, Frances Henry.
There are other benefits to using a pseudonym — for one, I get to choose my name. My actual first name conjures a bouncy, blue-eyed teenager who makes good grades and washes her hair every day, which has never really fit me, and my given last name is German and weird. I also like the idea of a pen name because that hallowed rule of writing — write like you don’t have parents — is difficult to follow when you do have parents and they have a Google Alert for your name. My parents should know better than to read my work because when they do they just worry, but Mom and Dad can’t stop themselves, which I understand because I can’t stop looking at my ex’s Facebook profile in the hopes that she’s gotten fat. Every once in a while, I’ll get a text from my mom referencing one of my essays, like one she sent last week that read simply, “office bong?”
I tell my parents that I write fiction, but no one believes me. It’s a dilemma — I would like my parents to know that I’m putting my degree in creative writing to good use, but there are things they don’t need to know; for instance, that I’m sleeping with a polyamorous anarchist with a small arsenal of firearms that aren’t kept in a gun safe. I have parents to shield; Frances Henry does not.
The other reason to write under a pseudonym is named Hana and we haven’t talked in six months. Our breakup was both unexpected and unexplained, and it sent me into a downward spiral of anxiety that I last experienced when my first girlfriend left me for someone we both had a crush on. That time, I treated my heartache with a month-long bender that ended with the aforementioned bike wreck and waking up in the ER with my ex’s name on a hospital bracelet around my wrist. I didn’t go on a bender this time, but I did track down some Mormons and give them Hana’s address and tell them that she was having a crisis of faith. She might be pissed about this, but she would be more pissed to know that I’m writing about her. Hana values privacy, and while I might respect this, Frances Henry is kind of a bitch.
The one disadvantage of a pseudonym is significant: the only writers who support themselves on a freelancer’s income either live under a bridge or divorced well, so I don’t do this for the money; I do it for the attention. It’s a chore, putting words on a page when I could be smoking weed and watching Law & Order reruns, and I’ll miss the satisfaction of a byline. But I’m 30 now, with a new city and a new job, with parents who are alive and know how to Google, with a polyamorous gun nut for a lover and an ex-girlfriend I’d rather not know the truth, so Frances Henry can take the credit. It’s time.
Check back for more blogging from Frances Henry.