My name is Pookie McNoodles.
It’s a name that keeps me remembering to look on the bright side of life when I’m low, which isn’t exactly rare. It’s a reminder that nothing should be taken too seriously in this big cosmic carnival. It’s me clowning for me when there’s no one else to make me laugh. It’s a cloak of protection my real name no longer gives me.
And should you feel that there is nothing left to life and all that you touch withers before you, and then you remember this name, how can you help but to feel touched by the multitude of small absurdities woven into every minute of every day? How can a smile not tug the corners of your lips?
Unless of course, you don’t like me, as a human. But for me, it’s my coping. It’s my artist identity. It’s my way of loosing a tendril of that fine absurdity into the world, so it can sneak up behind you and smash a glitter-bomb on your head. Who wouldn’t like that?
Pookie is a name that protects me from people who have done me harm in the past. When my given name didn’t feel safe anymore because of stalking, violence, and abuse, Pookie gave me safe haven.
Would you take that from me, knowing this?
MY NAME IS POOKIE McNOODLES.
It’s a name I can speak with confidence when I find myself experiencing the abject terror of being surrounded by strangers at a party. I’m good at faking social comfort, but without Pookie, I’d be standing in the corner looking for a cat or a five-year-old to talk to. That’s not to say five-year-olds and cats aren’t the best kind of company. But Pookie gives me a little boost, a little bravery. I step forward and smile.
“You may know me from Facebook,” I say, “I’m Pookie McNoodles.” And they usually do. And you know what? They usually remember me after that, and then there aren’t so many terrifying strangers left in the world.
I recognize in those who find joy and humor in my name a reflecting spark of the sweet irreverence for life that helps me know who my tribespeople are.
Now all those people who have met me and interacted with me under my authentic name have no idea how to find me. My business cards are useless. To my potential clients, I can no longer point to my rich presence and say, “This is how I am active online. This is my community. This is the hard work I have put into cultivating this profile and its content. This content is my opus. You want me because I am fucking good at this.”
Facebook decided to remove my account on what I am guessing (with a strong degree of certainty, based on an email I received) was the report of a butt-hurt bigot who didn’t like one of my strongly worded posts for equal human rights.
The person who reported that post for nudity (there was no image attached, by the way), could not simply block me because they found my language and views offensive. They needed to get my views removed from the world. And you know what? They did…for a minute.
I provided documentation that I use this name. I plead to be allowed to log into my account so I could re-admin all the client pages I was managing over to my account that has an innocuous-sounding, but legally incorrect name. I asked if I could just get in there and get some of my memories back. I would have liked to have visited the private pages of a couple friends who aren’t with us anymore just one more time.
The irony is that the name I’m using now for my base account isn’t my real name. I’ve used a first name I used to go by, and my husband’s last name. Someone didn’t like my opinions, so they silenced me. They destroyed my online presence for exercising free speech. Facebook was party to that. No, Facebook was, in fact, the real perpetrator of that violation. I wasn’t trolling, harming, or harassing anyone, nor violating a single community standard. My posts, more often than not, brought joy to my friends and were fun and engaging for most people on my friend list. A friend list, I should remind you, that was taken from me in its entirety.
It’s devastating when the digital scrapbook of one’s life is taken. It’s devastating for my business, that I have worked so hard to build for the past decade. It leaves me heartbroken and unable to connect with people I used to talk to often, whose pages have since been closed to new friend requests. And the pages of those who have passed away are closed to me forever now. I am gutted.
Furthermore, many of the friends I have who go by chosen vs. legal names have done so because they’re trying to rebuild their lives with some small barrier between themselves and people who have abused, raped, beaten, attacked, and harassed them.
One of my girlfriends was terribly abused by her father– sexually, physically, and emotionally. She should not have to legally change her name to use, on her social media accounts, a last name that is not his. It’s a name she hates. Maybe she’ll get around to changing it on paper one day. Maybe she’ll just continue using her mother’s maiden name online and when she introduces herself. But god forbid Facebook catches her and forces her to use her rapist’s name so “people can find her”…people like her fucking rapist father.
Facebook not only alienated me, but ensured that the dollars I once spent using its advertising services (and more) will no longer be spent — EVER, not by me or because of my recommendations to my clients. Facebook is responsible for the effect this has had on my income and livelihood due to my inability to access client pages to do my work as an admin for the companies I represent. Facebook may have never screwed over a bigger fan girl for less reason. I was a heavy poster, active in a lot of communities, and using Facebook to its full potential. It was a pointless exercise on their part that lost income and support for them in a very literal way.
Facebook’s authentic name policy doesn’t make any sense. It’s only enforced when some team of arbitrary minions doesn’t think your name is real, or when some dickbag who’s out to get you reports it for inappropriate activity, with no attention to the thousands upon thousands of people who are using pseudonyms that simply sound “normal.”
Upwards of thirty people I have real relationships with are using names IN REAL LIFE that are not on their birth certificates. Most of the people I speak of, I would call by their chosen names over those written on a legal document. Perhaps if every single facebook user was asked to provide scans of passports and drivers licenses, utilities bills, marriage certificates, and name change forms, as I was, people would stop to think about what kind of power we’ve given this “social media” site.
Changing your name legally is difficult. It’s time-consuming and can be expensive. Some people have performer names and names they use at the office. Sometimes, people don’t want those two lives to intersect, but that doesn’t mean both names are not authentic. Both are crucial to those people’s lives. Both often carry with them drastically different social groups that shouldn’t have to be mixed against a person’s will. Facebook demands this haphazard transparency on some users, but not all, and claims it’s to better connect people. They have destroyed my network and blocked me from the people who know me as me. Their alleged mission is failing miserably.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re protected just because your name is legit. Consider the story of a woman named Diane Sawyer, who told me yesterday that she has been forced to add her husband’s name (that she doesn’t share) to the end of her own in order to access her account, because Facebook decided she can’t possibly share a real name with a celebrity. Patriarchal oppression, much?
Not only that, but they can still destroy years of memories EVEN AFTER you provide the requested documentation. Facebook can and will decline one of the most powerful forms of ID — a US Passport, to be crystal clear — that exists on this planet, on their whim.
This is only inconsequential until it happens to you.
People have told me they thought it was urban legend that this is happening, but I am here to tell you, and I swear it on my authentic name, that it’s all too real. It’s not a myth that they ask for these documents. It can happen to you, even if it’s just because one of your shitty facebook “friends” decides they don’t like what you have to say.
They have emailed me to tell me my identity as Pookie isn’t authentic, despite my documentation. To them I would say, “It’s laughable that you consider yourselves to be judges of authenticity.” I would also add, “Eat the fattest dick on the planet, Facebook name police. I hope you all develop terrible, itching, purulent, incurable rashes on your genitals.” That goes for the person who reported my profile, too. I wish upon you voracious, blood-sucking vermin in surplus of one-thousand varieties to infest your mattresses and gnaw your supple flesh until the End of Days.
Pookie is never going away now, you can be damned sure of that. I speak for all the authentic hearts and legitimately named souls out there who are told that they are not good enough, not well-named, not valid in how they choose to know and be known. Will you join me and maybe help make our small voices bigger? I welcome you from the bottom of my grateful, authentic heart, no matter what your name.
Visit me here: https://www.facebook.com/therealpookiemcnoodles