My name is Marilyn but you can call me Teepee12. I am alive, if not entirely well. I plan to stay alive as long as the choice exists. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience my name or state of being might cause. Life is full of problems. Presumably my existence and name are not your biggest ones, so please deal with it yourself. I can’t help you. I lack the authority.
The other day I realized I’d gotten an award. I don’t remember which one it was, but it was addressed to Teepee12. I never intended to hide my identity when I chose this Internet ID as a username for my blog on WordPress. I chose it because I’d been using it since 2007 when my book was published. It was comfortable and familiar in an old shoe sort of way. Moreover, no one else seemed to want it and my real name was apparently heavily in demand.
I began using the Internet back in prehistory at the misty dawn of the space-time continuum. We were young then and modems ran at 1200 BPS. In those golden olden days, everyone had a “handle.” No one used real names. I began using Teepee12 after “The 12-Foot Teepee” was published and it stuck, though no one can spell it and auto-correct always changes it to Steeper (damn you auto correct!). I wish I could go back and do it over, using my real name or whatever close cousin to it I can get. There are dozens of Marilyn Armstrongs all over the Internet. Several of my namesakes died recently, so when I Googled myself yesterday, I found myself reading a lot of obituaries with my name on them. This can be weird or troubling, depending on the kind of books you read … but that’s the Internet for you.
I also discovered that I’m in my mid fifties (how nice!), have a Boston telephone number, own three houses, including one on Beacon Hill, and go by the Internet ID Marilyn00054. Hmm. Who’d have guessed? I’d like to see the place on Beacon Hill.
Doesn’t everyone Google themselves once in a while? No? You should try it if you haven’t. You’ll be amazed — and possibly appalled — at some of the crap you find out there with your name on it, unless you have a particularly unique name. My husband and I both suffer from common-name-syndrome, which means without a picture ID, no one is sure what information pertains to either of us rather than someone — not us — of the same name. Even when it does pertain to us, it’s more often than not, wrong.
A friend of ours was trying to correct the Wikipedia entry about himself. It showed him working at jobs he never held, in states he’s never visited, much less worked in. Wikipedia wouldn’t let him make corrections. It told him he didn’t have sufficient credentials to correct the entry. Being himself was not enough. You need expertise and me being me, him being him, doesn’t count. Yet I corrected a bunch of information about some movies we watch and my indicating that I have watched the movie a few times was apparently sufficient expertise for that. I don’t have a Wikipedia entry, so I don’t have to worry about it, but Garry’s brother does and I tried to correct it, but being close family doesn’t count as bona fides. Ah modern technology. Ah wilderness.
Being myself is insufficient evidence, your honor.
We have reached the point that being oneself doesn’t matter to anyone but us. Our identity is defined by electronic documents collected by daemons. Robotic data collection programs using set parameters determine Truth. No human beings review the data. If you find errors, you cannot correct them because being you isn’t enough. Human knowledge has no authority. I’d probably find that scary if I weren’t so damned funny. I know a lot of people who worry about keeping off the radar. But the thing is, the radar is so inaccurate, it doesn’t matter. No one will find you because your address is wrong, your age is off by ten years, you live in a house you never owned at the opposite end of the state and have a phone number that was disconnected over a decade ago. Your email address belongs to an ISP that went out of business in 1992 and it is spelled wrong anyhow. I think you might be safer on the radar than off.
I’ve been blogging for a while now and I can’t figure out how to get my name back. I’ve put my name on Serendipity’s header and in the “About Me” section. I sign my name when I write to people. But it apparently doesn’t matter. I have become a teepee and a teepee I shall stay. A 12-foot teepee, which is the smallest possible teepee that isn’t a miniature. It’s probably appropriate on some Karmic plane.
So, consider this my official coming out party. My name is Marilyn Armstrong. I wrote a book titled “The 12-Foot Teepee” and my online ID is Teepee12 whether I like it or not. Marilyn Armstrong is not available and I would have to be MarilynArmstrong00054 or MArmstrong876987 or something and that sounds too much like an android or robot … so for the forseeable future, I am a Teepee.
Teepee12 to you.
- How I Didn’t Set the Publishing World On Fire – The 12-Foot Teepee and Me (teepee12.wordpress.com)
- Aaron Swartz, Internet Activist, Dies at 26 (teepee12.wordpress.com)