Thursday, September 6, 2007

Introduction - My Name

Hi. You may know me already, but then again you might not. If you know me already, you are probably aware that my real name is actually Annette. And you may wonder why I use "Celeste" as my name here, and if it has more meaning. I sign "Celeste" since that's a name I've been called for the past couple of years by my closest friends, and I like it very much.

A bit odd you say? Why wouldn't your closest friends call you by your real name? Aren't these close friends people you spend a lot of time with? How did you introduce yourself to them anyway? Did they know you first as Annette?

Okay, that's a lot of questions to address. Let's start at the beginning. No, not that beginning, when we were introduced. Let's go back further, culturally.

In many cultures, it has long been tradition that as a child grew older, perhaps as they completed some religious coming-of-age rite, their name was changed, sometimes chosen by themselves. Even in American sports we have frequently seen nicknames given or assumed by players (Babe Ruth) and such names are commonly accepted and used henceforth by all.

So yes, it is an established tradition to have a nickname, but to my own personal experience, it is not a common practice among all persons. It is generally reserved for use within sports or clubs, not in everyday life (did Babe Ruth introduce himself at the market as Babe Ruth? Well, everyone knew him by that name anyway. Not a good example. hmm...). How many people do you know that go by a nickname - that you actually call them by their nickname? Joseph = Joe? Edward = Ed? Jacqueline = Jackie? Yes there are some, but I bet it's only about 20% of the people you know.

Then again, I may be starting to get trapped in circular or even contradictory reasoning here. Agh. Okay: I think it's growing more commonplace, but is still not a majority practice. By any chance have you noticed the increased inclusion of a "nickname" field on forms such as patient records, school records, and such? I have.

Um, yeah, sorry for the little tangent there. Back to the questions.

I was originally introduced to these people I call my close friends by my nickname. In fact, it was another nickname entirely, but then I grew to be called by my other nickname more frequently. I call them by their nicknames, too. Yes, I spend a lot of time with them, I spend an hour or two visiting with them almost every single night in fact (confused yet?).

"Wow, that's a lot of time with friends," you say. "You must have a noisy house! Do they take turns bringing snacks, drinks, whatever? How did you meet these people and why use a nickname? What do you do every night???"

Well, actually, it stays pretty quiet here, and we all have our own snacks and drinks. We talk a lot, yes, but if you were to actually see us, you would still only see me (and my husband) and would only hear my husband and I talking (unless we use our speakers instead of our headsets). Our friends don't actually physically visit our home, yet we do speak to them (yes, voiced!) and play games with them (think playing pretend adventures) and hang out with them (well, our avatars can stand/walk/run/dance/fight next to each on-screen while we really talk over voice software).

"Huh?" (fellow gamers are already way way ahead on this)

Okay, yes, it's a give-away in my mind. But to those who aren't familiar with online gaming, it's an odd world. But it is so similar to the more traditional in-person world that our parents knew, that the comparisons are eerie: our friends play games with us in our house every night (okay, my parents didn't do this, but I knew other people's parents that did), we talk about the weather, our jobs, our families, we catch up, and we have a great time.

What once could only be done in person, visiting someone's house, or sitting on their porch, can now be done "virtually." I think it's awesome. I have friends all over the world and can visit with them every night.

We all sit at our computers in our own houses, but we hear each other's real voices, we talk about real-life things, and we mostly spend a lot of time talking about the game we play together.

Okay, so yes, I have nicknames because I chose them when I created characters (avatars) for an online game. I first introduced myself as Mrs Deathscythe, as I am one of those old-fashioned stand-offish persons who really like using "Mrs" until I have gotten to know someone very well (and Mrs Deathscythe is actually one of my character names). Most of the group we met called me "Mrs D" for short and that stuck for a very long time (many in our group who don't visit with me so often still call me Mrs D).

But as we played more frequently together and I become more familiar with our new friends, I began to wish to be called something less formal, and so I tacked on Celeste to my nickname on the voice software we use to talk to each other, and soon it caught on, especially with the friends I played with most often.

"Celeste Driezon" was the name of another of my characters, and in fact, I continued to use Celeste with other names for subsequent characters that I created. I first chose the name simply because it has been a favorite name of mine since childhood. I was one of those who spent hours searching through books of names to find names for my dolls (or prospective name changes for myself*), and I tended to gravitate towards names with heavenly meanings or complex pronunciations: Aurora, Xenia, Estelle.

And so I have chosen my nickname, Celeste, and I have become so accustomed to it that I find myself thinking of myself as Celeste.

Now you see why my closest friends call me Celeste. They know me by that name. That is who I am. They only later learn that most people who see me face-to-face call me Annette. Yet the hours I have spent with my online friends calling me Celeste has led me to identify (more?) closely with that name instead, and I even like that name better than my "real" name. But I suppose that could be because I chose it, rather than someone else.

*You know, the funniest thing about all this, is that for my entire life I have had to deal with the inconvenience of having to explain I don't go by my first name, but that I go by my middle name (which is Annette), so I have already found the new inclusion of a nickname field on forms to be very convenient.... and for years I have been called in to see the doctor by my real first name but I tend to tune it out until called a few times because I am not used to hearing myself called that name so I have already dealt with this whole name identity crisis all my life.... but that's another story, for another day.

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