Hi, I’m Dawn.
Last September, I got married to Andrew Melby and I have since taken his name -BOOM- Dawn Melby. Pleased to meet you.
Before the feminists start rolling their eyes - and this begins to reek of long-winded biography - it seems relevant to point out that, if I had an awesome maiden name like Dawn Knight-Rider, I would have kept it. As luck (and the general cultural make up of Central Wisconsin) would have it, however, I was born Dawn Krzykowski. It’s pronounced: Kriz-cow-ski if you’re from Wisconsin, or Kir-chevski if you’re from Poland… It’s not a bad name, but you should have understood sentences ago why it can prove exhausting.
This is why, in part, for the 15 years prior to marrying Andrew, I was known by most people as Dawn Brodey - my stage name. Even my dearest friends still refer to me as Brodey. It wasn’t really deception on my part, once Brodey was the name on the headshots and facebook - it is naturally what one hollers to get my attention in a bar. -BAM- Dawn Brodey. Done deal.
Prior to last year, I would have told you that there was no real or existential difference between Dawn Krzykowski, Dawn Brodey and (tob-be)Dawn Melby. Although I am a long-winded artist who delights to wax poetic about subjects like essence and identity and blah-blah… When push comes to shove, I’d still have said: “I am not a trinity - I’m always the same Dawn.”
But then, friends, I moved to Hollywood as a life-experience-packed adult, on the eve of my wedding, and in the age of the internet. Holy Hannah, the question of ‘who are you?’ and ‘what is your name’ took on a whole new, and often deafening, resonance.
It really started when I was hired at Universal. Big, new, super-social job and due to the security measures on the backlot, I was required to use my legal name for everything. It felt so odd to hear it and say it again. Other than to the tax-man, I hadn’t been Dawn Krzykowski for over a decade. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but it just wasn’t my name anymore.
And then there's this ol’ familiar script:
THEM: (Some unintelligible mash-up of consonants)?
ME: You’re close. (6th time) Kriz-cow-ski.
THEM: (Giving up) Is that Polish?
ME: Sure is.
THEM: I know another Polish person and they *also have a stupid name. (*or a nicer version of this.)
But more than the conversation speed bump, the tech-savvy-millennial-pals I’m making are as wont as the next guy to google a new friend - connect on social media - and thus find out who you ‘really are’. When they did, they found [Dawn Krzykowski] to be serial-killer-non-existent. No facebook, twitter, website, movie or theater credits. Not tagged in any photos or videos - in short, a google search that looks a lot like your grandparents’.
[Dawn Brodey], on the other hand, is the one who is a Mary Shelley expert, food-blogger, and lived aboard a houseboat for almost a decade. IMDB knows who she is and she has real friends and dogs and blogs and has done cool stuff. The cynic in me had tried to dismiss it all as a meaningless online footprint, under a fake name, in virtual reality. But it’s more than that.
I won’t go so far as to say that the flickering photos and 140-characters we choose to put out there are a better or more complete portrait of a person than an hour of face-to-face conversation. All the same, this is the world we live in and one’s online identity - or absence of it - is tremendous. It’s a time capsule. Even if it’s bullshit, it’s one's specially-crafted bullshit which is still telling.
From employers to online match-makers, we all seem to know that your ‘real self’ is in that on-line life somewhere. So I’m not putting Dawn Brodey to pasture just yet. She’ll continue to be the one who shows up to auditions and answers to Jimmy Fallon.
Mrs. Melby is a whole new thing. Don’t really know her yet. Her name is next to my face on my drivers’ license and my bank knows her credit score. My husband still blushes when he says it, though, and if you call her name - I still may or may not turn my head.
I will, however, always answer to Dawn Knight-Rider. Who wouldn’t.
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