(This happened before you were anything.)
The man got more belligerent as the game progressed.
The bar, which Albert Cadabra calls “The Regal Beagle” (what’s its real name? Doesn’t matter, we both know what we mean) is a few blocks from his apartment in Queens. Three of us, two burlesque performers and a magician, stumbled in late one night, a final stop on a bender. The man, a stranger when we walked in, had joined us for a two-on-two game of pool.
His frustration had nothing to do with the game. As we played, he asked us the same question over and over, with rising intensity.
“No, but what are your real names?”
Those are our real names, we had assured him, supporting our introduction with business cards, websites, google searches, and even recent issues of Time Out. Those are the names we call each other when you’re not around. Those are the names by which our friends know us, the names by which the vast majority of those who know us, know us.
“Why can’t you just tell me your real names?” he demanded. “I told you my real name. Just tell me your fucking names, what the fuck?”
“Calm down, man,” said Albert. “Everybody calm down, it’s a friendly game, okay?”
The man became more insistent. We were messing with him, insulting him, disrespecting him. WHAT ARE YOUR REAL NAMES? It bordered on threat. I dropped the stick, and stepped in close. (Yes, darlings, I can be butch upon occasion.) We stood face to face. Perhaps we could feel each others’ breath against our skin.
My diatribe, framed in the clarity of cold anger, went something like this:
“Who are you? No, not what’s on your driver’s license, who are you? Who? That’s a job, not a person. Who? That’s something your parents gave you, not who you are. Are you happy with your life? (Not really.) Are you happy with your job? (Not really.) Are you happy with yourself? (Not really.) Me, I’ve worked hard on my life, worked hard making this name for myself, a career I love, building the person I want to be, not the small pink thing that got shoved into this world and designated before anyone even knew him. This name wasn’t handed to me as a gift at birth; I made this name, I built this name, I’ve worked hard for this name, and I’ve earned this name. I’m proud of this name. It’s mine; it’s me. You’re insulted? You’re insulting us, insulting our hard work, insulting our lives. You want my real name? I’m Jonny Porkpie, pleased to meet you. You want to ask again?”
He did what Albert and the other performer did not expect, as they hovered close, ready to break us apart if it got physical (for my sake more than his, I would imagine.) But I knew he would, I could see it in his eyes.
He apologized. To me, to Albert, to the other performer. He apologized profusely, and he meant it. He understood us now, knew he knew our real names, which is all he wanted. We finished the game friendly. We might have played another. I don’t remember his name. Perhaps if it had been more like him, I would.
Facebook, you’ve got less sense than a drunk guy at the neighborhood bar.
(P.S. When you take into consideration the much more important issues not addressed above, of safety and gender identity, Facebook, you go beyond lack of sense into depraved indifference.)