Identity crisis

I’m sorry that my column is a day late but I’ve been having an identity crisis. Not really. I know who I am, it’s just that I’m not sure what my name should be. In the alternate universe of Facebook, I recently took the plunge and changed my online name to Biff. This is a name that was given to me by my friend Georgene Nitzsche a few years ago and that I adopted as my professional name when I became a tennis pro last year at the advanced age of 57.

The amazing thing about FB (as it is known to the cognesceti) is that once you change your name it goes back through all your previous postings and automatically changes your name. On FB, at least Corrin has been successfully killed off. If only it was so easy in real life.

Of course, I have a lot of experience at name changes since I was born and spent my first 18 years as Michael. I like that name, but I hated the diminutive “Mike”, especially when it evolved into “Mikey” after a certain cereal commercial. When I set out for college in the Fall of 1968, I adopted my middle name, Corrin.

In order to change your name, it’s best to have a new pool of people who don’t know your former name. They are willing to accept your new name at face value, while those who have known you before are often quite stubborn in wanting to cling to the name they are familiar with. (Especially my daughter Mary Alice, who I think is just jealous because FB won’t let her change her name to Malice!)

I had an opportunity to try this with Biff when I went to the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Eastern region convention a few weeks ago. Since no one there knew me from Adam, I had my name tag made out with my new four-letter name. Throughout the weekend, people were addressing me as Biff and I loved it.

The thing I like about being Biff is that people smile when they say your name. I’ve encountered the same thing at home ever since I announced my new name to the local tennis world last summer. People rarely say my new name without a smile and often a little laugh. It’s nice to bring a little joy into a very depressing world right now, so I’m going to stick with Biff.

The only problem is that, while Biff is a great tennis name, it doesn’t go so well with my other passion to return to a life of farming. Seriously, has anyone ever heard of a farmer called Biff? Biff connotes a boy of leisure who has nothing better to do with his time than to poke his head in the door and ask merrily, “Tennis anyone?” That’s a role I was born to play.

Farmer Biff is a harder sell, but I’ll work on it. BTW. Did you know that biff is an actual English word that means to punch or hit? So Biff Strong actually means to hit strong, which is why Batman’s punches were always denoted as “Biff, Bam, Pow.” Perhaps my farmer name could be Bruce Wayne.

3 responses to “Identity crisis

  1. Know all men by these presents – Corrin is now Biff. Hail Biff. The new moniker evokes pictures of a young child of privilege who frequents private clubs, attends boarding school and who has successfully attracted the lovely Katherine Beaumont aka Kitten or “Kit.” But can Biff ever really mature – morph into the family name Bifferly Case Castleman?

    I have a childhood friend, “Twig” who has retained her youthful nickname throughout her life. She just could not see herself as Sabra. None could have predicted that she would grow up to head the education area at a local prison. Hardened criminals have been reduced to using this term which surely must increase the pain of their incarceration.

    As for the acceptance of Biff by farmers, they are too busy sod busting from dawn to dusk to be concerned by a fellow farmer’s name. They judge their fellows on the results of their output not their a.k.a. They will welcome the new varietals such as the “Biff” tomato or the “Biff” bean.

    However, it is the non-agricultural community familiar with Corrin who will pause before uttering “Biff” in connection with the tall distinguished author, attorney, and country squire they have come to know. They will smile as “Biff” rolls off their tongues because of their inability to grasp a fiction while away from their novels.

    But in death, the “Biff’” fiction will end abruptly with an individual known as an executor. Legal precedent will force him to stand instead in the shoes of one M. Corrin Strong. And of course unless ashes are released on a mountain top or some other place of Corrin’s choosing, the headstone will memorialize “M. Corrin Strong” and not poor discarded “Biff.”

    In the end (no pun intended) the true benefit of being “Biff” would be the security of knowing that no respectable identity thief would steal away with the name “Biff.”

  2. Thanks for the rather ghoushish reminder of my mortality (as if I don’t get daily reminders of it from my aged body!). I hereby decree that my tombstone shall carry all three of the names I have used in life:
    Michael Corrin “Biff” Strong. Maybe I better put that in my will before I forget! Now back to sodbusting and inventing the Biff bean! I like it!

  3. I understand the sadness over your inability to reconcile “Tennis Buff Biff” with “Farmer Biff.” However, I wanted to remind you that your true namesake, Biff Loman, experienced the same quandary. From Sparknotes:

    “Biff Loman – Willy’s thirty-four-year-old elder son. Biff led a charmed life in high school as a football star with scholarship prospects, good male friends, and fawning female admirers. He failed math, however, and did not have enough credits to graduate. Since then, his kleptomania has gotten him fired from every job that he has held. Biff represents Willy’s vulnerable, poetic, tragic side. He cannot ignore his instincts, which tell him to abandon Willy’s paralyzing dreams and move out West to work with his hands. He ultimately fails to reconcile his life with Willy’s expectations of him.”

    I hope this helps.

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