Here's the latest column, published in The Perth Courier on its new day and time: Tuesday, Feb. 3/09. This piece may mean more to folks who have been reading the paper for years and who are used to me using my maiden name. Anyway, here 'tis!
Who is this strange woman writing?
I changed my name. Did you notice?
I changed it almost 13 years ago, but sharp-eyed readers may have spotted it for the very first time in this space last week. I snuck it in there.
I’m a Libra. I’ve come to understand (perhaps incorrectly) that this makes me indecisive. Whether that is truly a Libra trait or not is irrelevant – the point is I often waffle. (Maybe I should have researched that Libra angle a bit more. Oh, it probably doesn’t matter – the point is I can be indecisive. But the research might have helped. Or maybe not. I dunno.)
Anyway, when Groom-boy and I got married I struggled over changing my name. On the one hand, I was born with the name “Strachan” and, in addition to familiarity, identity and the pride of ancestry, it also comes with rampant and persistent mispronunciation issues. It’s Strahken, not Strawn. I grew up in this small town but, no, I’m not Bob-the-former-county-engineer’s daughter (although they’re lovely people, those Strawns), I’m John-the-former-conservation-officer’s daughter. We’re also lovely people.
But I digress.
My married name, Gray, is rarely mispronounced but is frequently misspelled. Despite this it fits nicely on most signature lines, which is a bonus. Hyphenating the two names was rejected due to the sheer number of letters. My arm would get tired just thinking about signatures – and don’t think I didn’t practise before I decided.
So, I went with tradition, at least in Ontario, and changed my name. Legally, at least. The Grays, after all, are also lovely people.
A way back when I got married I still worked at The Perth Courier. In those days, the newsroom consisted of three people: Groom-boy and I were the reporters and Maureen Pegg was editor. Those were heady days, but I digress.
Adding to my indecisiveness was the fact I thought it might look funny to have so many Grays writing for the paper. That would be misplaced nepotism because Groom-boy had nothing to do with my hiring, nor any perks of the job.
Ultimately, Strachan stuck around professionally. As a reporter I was Strachan. When ordering pizza, I was Gray. As a result I lurked around town wearing a trench coat and dark glasses. Naturally. I’m not the only one who does this (I mean the name thing, not the lurking). Another columnist in these pages uses her maiden name professionally. Together we sneak around the community, completely incognito because of our tricky names in our columns. Oh. Except for that whole photo-in-the-paper thing.
Understandably (perhaps), when I left the paper a few years later to pursue Great Writing Dreams, I didn’t know who the heck I was. I’d be hired to do editing or writing jobs with no by-line and I would default to Gray – the legal name – because that’s who got the cheques.
Eventually, the only place Strachan appeared was on my column. I started thinking about throwing Gray into the column header a while ago. I was talking to some of my Algonquin students, who know me as Gray, about my column. They had read it, but didn’t realize right away it was me (the picture musta needed updating).
I did some research because I am vain – I mean, um – because I am thorough about everything except astrological signs. I Googled my two identities to see what appeared. The Stephanie Strachans, apparently, are quite sporty, with several pages of stats popping up. That is definitely not me. The Stephanie Grays, according to Google, include a significant pro-life advocate and a bunch of athletes and artists. Punch in Stephanie Strachan Gray and up near the top of the list is my blog. Phew! I exist!
I pretty much forgot about the name thing until last week when Groom-boy ended his time as editor of the paper to embark upon Great Astronaut Dreams – or something. “Hey!” I thought. “The Age of Nepotism That Wasn’t Really Nepotism is over! I should change my name and move past the identity crisis.”
It seemed like a logical time, and so I did it – sort of. I’ve just added Gray to it (without the hyphen) so’s not to confuse my millions and millions of fans. (Brother.)
I didn’t change the column photo – baby steps, right?