The other day, just on a whim, I decided to indulge in that favorite author pastime known as To Google One's Self. The whim wasn't that I indulged in this -- I do so far more regularly than I should. I Google my name, my book's name, my characters' names -- even though I have Google Alerts set up precisely to do this for me. Mysteriously, I often find an entry that does not show up on said alert, and I have no earthly explanation for why this happens. It just does.
No, the whim was centered around the name that I Googled. Now, I possess many names. I'm not talking about the usual "Mom," "Hey, you," and -- as my husband is fond of introducing me -- "My current wife." I happen to use a pen name now, which I didn't for the first part of my career. And, like many women, I also have a married name and a maiden name.
The other day, I Googled my maiden name. Now, I say -- modestly -- that back in the day, I was a fairly known quantity in the off-off-off-off-off-off-off Broadway theater world of Indianapolis, Indiana. My face was in the theater section of the paper regularly. I didn't always have to audition for plays; sometimes a play was selected JUST FOR ME TO STAR IN. (Yeah, I said it. I was awesome.)
So I was fairly certain that if I Googled the name under which I was so well-known, I would find myself wallowing in nostalgia, remembering past glories, maybe even finding ways to catch up with former fellow theater geeks.
Well, friends. This did not happen.
I Googled my maiden name. Nothing came up. (For me, I mean -- there are other women walking around with the same name, obviously.) Nada. Zilch.
And I had the oddest reaction.
I felt as if, for half of my life, I hadn't really existed. If I wasn't on Google, it was almost like I'd never been anywhere at all. All the memories, all the remembered glories, friends, loves -- all vanished. Simply because I couldn't instantly retrieve them with the click of a mouse.
Now, after thinking it over, I realize that for many of us -- and women, I think, in particular -- if we married before the age of the Internet, this is going to be true. We didn't have The Knot, The Nest; we didn't put the photos of our wedding showers on Facebook. At the most, we garnered a tiny little mention in the nuptial section of the daily paper.
Whatever name we were going by when the Internet really took off (and for many of us, that is not our maiden name) is the name by which we will always be remembered. And so my feelings of loss, of confusion; of amnesia, actually. It was as if half of my life has been erased. Not from my memory, of course -- it will always be there. But compared to the generation growing up cataloging their every movement online, Tweeting about it, Facebooking about it -- I have lived half a life.
Fortunately, my writing career took off post-Google, and so my pen name -- the name by which I truly want to be remembered by the most people -- is well-represented in cyberspace. This part of my life exists, and not just in my memory; in the memories of many, many others, as well.
Still, I mourn for all that I've done that will never be known by so many people -- the great reviews I received for my earnest thespian attempts, my past glories in high school, my wedding announcement. Never much of a keeper of things, I don't have a lot of reminders, myself. A couple of very yellowed newspaper clippings, some publicity photos. Neither my husband nor myself remembered to cut out the wedding announcement. In actuality, the age of Google is perfect for us; it helps us live an uncluttered life, storing our memories for us. So I shouldn't complain too much.
But it's a very strange thing, this world we live in. It used to be that the most real moments were the ones between us and a very treasured few. Now, I fear, the most real ones are those we Tweet about to total strangers. And I'm as guilty of this as the next person.
Why do you think the first thing I said to myself, after having this epiphany, was, "Wow. What a great idea for a Huffington Post blog?"