Matt Forney
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What’s in a Name?

For the longest time, I hated my name.

It’s not hard to see why someone would hate being named “Forney,” what with all the ways that jackasses could twist it around; “Corny,” “Horny,” “Fornicator,” etc. It’s Anglicized from the original “Fournier,” a legacy of my French-Canadian heritage. French last names are pretty common in upstate New York and northern New England, though not as common as Italian, Irish and German names, and unlike those immigrant groups, no French or Quebecois culture has survived to the present day. “Fournier” would be a pretty good last name, but “Forney?” I hated the way it looked, I hated the way it sounded, and I hated having to spell it out every time I went to the doctor or gave it out over the phone. I don’t even like it when people call me “Mr. Forney.”

“Matthew” is a bit more complicated. For some reason, “Matthew” was one of the most popular names for baby boys in the U.S. in the eighties (I was born in 1988). In my high school graduating class, only about a hundred people, there were seven or eight Matts, including me. Meaning I was usually referred to as “Forney.” Fortunately, this abated in college, large enough that I could melt into the crowd. I was so happy to not have to be called “Forney” any more that I didn’t care whether people called me “Matt” or “Matthew.” Anything but that godforsaken surname.

So to recap, I had a last name that sounded stupid and a first name that was more common than dirt. Not a fun combo.

I envied my friends with their normal last names. Why couldn’t I have been Irish or something? My mom is Italian, and she has a really nice maiden name; why couldn’t I have something like that? Why did one of my illiterate ancestors have to spell it “Forney?” What was wrong with “Fournier?” Was it too foreign?

Naturally, I expected that when I started my writing career, I’d be doing it under a nom de plume. Something pretentious and unique, with three names maybe. Something cool. From the name and URL of this blog, it’s fairly obvious that I scuttled that plan. Why?

Because pseudonymity is just another form of escapism.

I’m not going to go on some “everyone who writes under a pen name is a coward” rant, because that’s not true. The only people who make that argument are feminists, liberals and other defenders of the status quo, who don’t suffer any penalties for being open about who they are. Were it not for the ease of being anonymous on the Internet, the manosphere wouldn’t exist, because voicing opinions contrary to the mainstream would be too risky.

For me, pseudonymity was escapism. It was another way I could avoid facing my reality, pretend I was someone I’m not. This is why I couldn’t do it; because in order for me to change myself, in order for me to be honest, I couldn’t hide behind a made-up name. I couldn’t dodge accountibility.

So I’ve made my peace with my name. It’s not what I would have picked, but it’s what I’ve got, and I’m sticking with it. Besides, as it turns out, there are dozens of Matt Forneys out there already. If they made it just fine, I can do the same.

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