01 July, 2011

A Daisy in Starbucks

Many people throughout time have adopted aliases. The Beatles wore technicolor ensembles when they transformed into Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Mary Anne Evans’  took on the nom de plume of George Eliot to get her literature published in the 19th century, Clark Kent took off his black plastic frames and saved Metropolis as Superman, Dr. Jekyll morphed into Mr. Hyde to live out his deepest and most dangerous urges, and W. Mark Felt tipped off Watergate investigators under the guise of “Deep Throat.” An alias can be a very useful thing to have.

In the history of me there has been no real reason to create an alias. I wasn’t looking to escape any kind of religious persecution, or unveil the true state of corruption in the quest for political freedom, or start a new life free of my past and damning indiscretions. I created an alias because I was just kind of bored. Boredom is the plague of a simple girl in a small town.  

Sometime during my tenth year on this planet I decided I was going to go by a new name and identity, Abigail. Abby to my friends. For nearly a week, I told family members, friends, next door neighbors, and random strangers I that passed on the street to call me Abigail if I happened to be wearing jean overalls and pigtails. “Abby” always wore overalls and pigtails- it was her poker tell.

Me, pre-"Abby" days
One would think that being a twin already I would have been content to switch places with her and call it a day, but no. The large part of my seemingly constrained ego felt that it wanted to forge its own path and entirely re-imagine who “I” was. So from a mild-mannered 5th grader in a ponytail and jean shorts grew an an outgoing, bossy 5th grader in jean overalls and pigtails with a “come-get-me-world!” attitude. It was a big change.

If I had been older this kind of behavior might be classified as “insufferable” or “schizophrenic.” But on a 10 year old, these grandiose displays of ego seemed “imaginative” and “endearing.” Unlike little ol’ me, Abby didn’t do her homework- she hung out with the boy next door until way past her bedtime instead. Abby sat in the back of the bus and talked back to her teachers, or as she called them, “teach,” when she felt that there were some wrongs that needed to be righted, classroom-wise. Abby was a short-lived concept. She spluttered and faded away amid a generous dose of after-school detentions and a month’s worth of groundings.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I even thought of re-adopting an alter-ego. It just sort of came out of nowhere. It was a Tuesday.

I was at a Starbucks in Chicago, buying an iced soy latte, a drink that I thought and still think is equal parts adult-like and delicious. At this particular Starbucks I was asked to give my name in order to retrieve my drink. I’d never been to a Starbucks that had asked my name before, and I was intrigued by the opportunity. Seconds passed, the sort of seconds that might indicate that someone has either had a severe bout of memory loss or someone is concocting a dastardly plan. I was undergoing the latter. In those moments, I was searching for a name that sounded creative, as though my parents were brilliant artist-types who didn’t want their youngster to be constrained by a common or predictable baby name. I needed something that was grounded, yet free-spirited. Uncommon, yet accessible. Above all, it needed to be plausible. It was down to the wire and I knew it. So I told the cashier, “Daisy.” He looked me square in the eyes and responded, “Whatever.” And that was that.

As I waited for my latte, I ruminated over how easy it had been to lie about who I was. Why hadn’t I done it before? No one was fact checking me here. No one cared if I was Emily, or Daisy, or Henrietta, or Marguerite. I could be from any city, any state, and concoct an entirely new backstory about who I was in this world. Sure, I wasn’t very good at accents, but that didn’t negate the idea that my parents could be born in exotic lands and had relocated to the United States to start a brand new life for their baby, me. There were so many new possibilities that, waiting for my latte, I lost track of time.

It took a full three times for the barista to call out my name before I realized that "Daisy" was "me." When I walked toward the counter to retrieve it, I was a little hesitant that some passerby would see through my rouse and call my bluff. They’d start cackling in that truly maniacal way that many devious cartoon villains and middle school queen bees have, that can make you feel two feet tall. Social ostracization, even if from a stranger, still sucks.

The long walk to the counter put me face to face with the barista, and there was a long moment when she looked me up and down.  "Yeah, you look like a Daisy." She remarked, to nobody in particular. She wasn’t necessarily looking talking to me or co-workers; to her, it wasn’t a big deal. To me, I was Thomas Crown and I had just stolen the San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk. It felt good, real good.

With that, Daisy was born. Birthing an alter-ego is much like birthing a real child, I suspect. Once it’s out there you can’t exactly shove it back in or pretend it didn’t happen. There it is, ripe with opportunity and waiting for you to cut the metaphorical umbilical cord and let it develop on its own now.

Since that Chicago latte, having an alter ego in my repertoire has done nothing but good for me.  Daisy is my handle of choice for coffee retrieval, nametags for events that I’m not particularly keen on attending, and boring bar conversations in need of some salvation. When I’m being bothered by an over-eager bro intent on striking up a conversation at a bar, I just defer to Daisy’s wide-eyed naivete. But to make myself feel better about openly lying, I like to imagine that these people’s lives have somehow been changed for the better. Perhaps later on in the evening, if Daisy is still fresh on his mind, that frat bro might try to facebook her and inadvertently message the wrong person. From there, they begin a tentative yet flirtatious conversation, and eventually decide to meet in person. She makes him want to rip off his puka shell necklace and become a better person. They start dating. One thing leads to another and they get married and produce lots and lots of little babies. Sure, I might not get invited to the wedding because I haven’t given any real contact information, but who says lying can’t be beneficial? I get to be entertained, and people find true love. You can’t prove that they it hasn’t not happened. And that is air-tight logic.