Remember that scandal a few years ago, when, for a week, the real identities of Amazon reviewers became visible on their Canadian website? (Oh, Canada.) No? Here. If this doesn’t make you cackle with glee, I’ll eat my hat.
I’ll eat my son’s plastic Fisher Price hat, that is–the one that appears on his head in the photo above. (That’s my younger son. Hard to tell them apart when they’re identically dressed, I know.) For those just coming across this blog as part of Babble Voices, I’m the writer sometimes known as Irretrievably Broken, sometimes known as Divorced With Kids. And sometimes, due to a couple of hiccups on the Babble site, as Polly Tropos, which is not my real name. Confused?
When I first started blogging anonymously, I considered creating a fictive identity–a nom d’ordinateur, as it were–with which to sign my posts. I spent more time trying to pick a pseudonym for my blog than I spent picking names for either of my children, and in the end I rejected them all and just decided to be Irretrievably Broken on all fronts. But I had, at some point, created a gmail account for one of the lamer choices, and when Babble launched my Divorced with Kids blog, I gave them the address as a contact. No one was supposed to see Polly’s name. She was a secret wrapped inside an enigma hidden inside WordPress, until one day when I logged on and all my blog posts were listed as “By Polly Tropos”.
I wasn’t worried my real identity would be unmasked–after all, there is no Polly Tropos. What I did worry was that someone might see the name and realize what a pretentious twit I am. Brace yourself and I’ll explain.
In graduate school, I studied classics, as I’ve mentioned before. Classicists are the geekiest of all humanities majors, forever tossing off jokes about verbs in the aorist optative and calling their lexicons by pet names. (The Greek-English lexicon was edited by two 19th century professors named Liddell and Scott. There are three incarnations–a wee adorable baby lexicon (the Little Liddell), a medium lexicon (the Middle Liddell), and a lexicon so gigantic that it could stop a phalanx of Athenian footsoldiers (the Great Scott). That, my friends, is wit.)
Anyway, this is the mindset that informed my choice of pseudonyms. It’s not every day you get to drag out your dogeared copies of Aeschylus and Plato, looking for just the right alter ego. Unfortunately, brilliant female writers tend to go begging in ancient greek texts. And all of the really good names were raped by Zeus. Diotima? Way too obvious. Discouraged, I paged through the Odyssey. And there it was, right in the very first line:
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, polutropon
(Here it is in Greek. Swoon.)
Sing to me, Muse, of the man of many ways. Polutropos. Many twists and turns, as the brilliant Robert Fagles translates it. Well, I figured, you could do worse than have one of Odysseus’s epithets as your pseudonym. Polly Tropos! It wasn’t exactly a cool name, but no classicist would get hung up on a minor concern like that. I created a gmail account–I was practically hyperventilating with excitement–and proudly notified the Babble editors. Make it my user name! I crowed. This is what is known as letting your geek flag fly.
A while later, I came to my senses. Alas, it was too late to do anything but hide my username behind a thin scrim of code. And then, with a little tweak of the privacy settings that Babble assured me was an accident, Polly Tropos went live as my byline.
Now the whole thing has taken on a life of its own, and Polly Tropos is here, on Facebook. Babble has encouraged all its bloggers to promote our blogs via social media, and Polly is nothing if not versatile. She likes sailing and sheep, hates whirlpools and one-eyed giants, and never misses a class reunion. Won’t you be her friend?