I was 18 or 19 when I gave someone a fake name for the first time. I don’t remember how old I was precisely – I know that my high school sweetheart and I weren’t together at that point in time, but we were allowed to smoke in the bars, so I had to be under 20.
Like most little shithole towns, mine had a bar called The Zoo. It was typically shitty – the carpet was ancient and so sticky that you could slip a high heel off, stretch your toes, and your heel would be exactly where you left it, the pool tables warped and faded, one of the ladies’ toilets stopped flushing years ago – and it’s been a very long time (like, I think I was 24 the last time I was there) but I still remember the layout. They used to put up a stripper pole a few nights a week, used to truck sand onto the dance floor a few times a year (for a beach party!), and it was your typical shithole bar. It was my shit bar. I loved there, I fought there – generally with the same person.
This particular evening I was likely having a smoke with my beers (I was a social smoker. Altogether now – ewwwwww) and this guy slid up next to me. He was older than I was, but I didn’t recognize him. He made my skin crawl, but I couldn’t walk away easily because of a small wall between us.
“Hey, cutie. Howzit going?” His breath full of smoke, his eyes droopy from the drink. “What’s yer name?”
A fake smile. A realization that I couldn’t move away from him easily.
“Luke,” I yelled over the music. A lie. A joking nickname one of my high school friends gave me due to my riding shotgun pretty much all the time until I was allowed to take my dad’s truck more often.
See, if I’d given my real name, he would have leaned in closer to try to get it right. He’d have blocked my exit more than he already was, gotten close enough for me to smell the nicotine seeping from his pores, maybe would have put his hand on my lower back to steady me as I repeated my real name until he got it right.
Since then, I give Luke out when I’m too tired to talk about my name. Coffee shops, creeps in bars (you’d be surprised at how many people believe that Luke is short for Lucinda, but I disgress), you name it, I’ve given my fake name there. I even used to have a flask that read LUKE in all capitals letters, given as a goodbye gift from a friend in Australia. It’s particularly lovely given my introversion.
However, since entering my profession, I’ve gotten more careful with my name and pictures of myself. I’ve curated my online reputation to the point of lunacy, I’m sure. I tend to be anal about Googling myself (every 6 months or so), to ensure that nothing new has cropped up. My privacy means a lot to me (especially since the business intelligence team. It’s alarming how easy it is to find someone.) and I protect it fiercely. Triply so since this whole terrible terrifying encounter.
So, what does this mean? It means that I don’t use my full name on Facebook (and, in fact, am debating changing my name to its traditional spelling to hide further). It means that there is no photo or detail on LinkedIn until we connect. It means I use a bastardized spelling on Instagram, and I’m named nowhere but on media releases and for volunteer activities. My Reddit account is tied to me in no way, ever. Period.
Now, however, I’ve found myself embroiled in an unusual situation, and the media wants to talk to me. And I’m torn between rioting for this unusual (for me) cause, and protecting my privacy.
I bought a place a few years ago, and until now, we have been allowed to smoke on our personal patios. Frankly, that meant sweet fuck all to me. I don’t smoke, precious few of my friends smoke – but we were allowed. And now, in a knee jerk response to the legalization of marijuana, my condo board (who are, with the exception of one truly lovely soul, a pack of judgmental assholes) has decided that the entire property should be grow and smoke free. The level of Reefer Madness has reached feverish heights, and the bias being shown by the condo board is unbelievable. Like, if you smoke pot clearly you’re a criminal levels of bias. At an “informational meeting”, one of the directors was giving her absolute bullshit opinion on medicinal marijuana and how you can take different things to get the same effect.
I’m a bit pissed. I don’t smoke a lot, but it’s none of anyone’s business whether I do or not. I have no desire to leave my home to go for a walk, or to a smoke shelter (where old men in my building can sneer at the “dirty hippies embroiled in the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle” as they stroll past). I don’t want to host a gathering of friends and police them – “Sorry, I know that you smoke cigarettes but you need to leave my house and property in order to do so” – let along be fine with my neighbours propping doors open. There are security risks, safety risks, and all this board cares about is banning cannabis. They are saying it’s because it’s a fire hazard, but are doing nothing to prevent the smokers who are currently tossing their butts over the balcony railings. And even though the most vocal people are ANTI this bylaw, and even though they are using skewed data to support this decision, the board isn’t saying anything… I’m furious.
First, I’m aware that I’m at the mercy of multi-housing living. I do realize that. I did join the board for a time, but literally couldn’t handle the stress of it all – the continued drama and flat out lies told by the then-president. And this just….
Makes me want to riot.
I went online awhile ago and asked for options. “Does anyone else have some ideas how to deal with this?” I got railed on a lot, and was given a really hard time by a few, but now a reporter wants to talk to me about this. Frankly, I’m debating publicly shaming my board. I’m debating tying my name to the “Hey, I smoke pot sometimes!” article and speaking my rage to a paper to be published for the city to see. Right now, she and I have gone back and forth on it – she can’t grant me anonymity, but wants the scoop. She messaged me again this morning. And I want to do it. I want this reporter to call my property management company and demand answers, and then destroy them in print.
Except it’s in ink. The internet is ink, and my name will be tied to that position forever. My real name, which most of the people reading this blog already know. But I’m sure that I’m surprising people that I’m on this side of legalization (hey guess what, I also staunchly support the legalization of prostitution! Surprise, y’all!) and it scares me that my position on a smoke and grow free building will be freely available. I don’t want my colleagues knowing that I dabble or support it.
Ugh. I don’t know what I’m going to do.
But, here’s a happy tune to end with. Happy Friday – may your beer be cold and your decisions wise.