I’ve watched too many makeover shows on television. Between home renovation, fashion faux paus interventions, and Dr. Phil prestidigitation, I expect there to be some major overhaul after 30 to 60 minutes of sweat equity and personal introspection. I’m hoping that you are also primed for the startling “after” picture, because today I am presenting you with the Terri LaBonte Big Reveal.
The Terri LaBonte Big Reveal is that…. I am not really Terri LaBonte. Well, I kinda am. Let me explain.
My parents named me Dorothea Therese Goodness. That name sounds more like a pseudonym than Terri LaBonte, doesn’t it? My mother initially planned to name me Penny. She probably should have. Dorothea Therese was kind of a mouthful for such an itsy-bitsy baby. I can’t imagine my parents ever referring to me as “Dorothea.” It just seems absurd. That may be why they started calling me Tinker Bell. At any rate, before any rendition of the name Dorothea had time to stick, my brother was born. His name was Ernest Anthony Goodness. My grandmother took one look at him and declared, “he looks like an Irishman; you should have named him Timothy Patrick.” The family immediately started calling him “Timmy.”
This kind of solved the whole name thing for me. “Timmy and Terri” sounded so cute, my extended family decided to ignore my first name altogether and focus on the Therese part. I was Terri for several years as a little girl.
This was fine until I started school. When the teacher called roll on the first day and got to the end of the list without little Terri responding, she was flummoxed. Apparently, Dorothea Goodness was absent, but this random child Terri had shown up. Given that I didn’t know my own name, the teacher questioned my kindergarten readiness. When she called my mother in to discuss my apparent backwardness, my mother realized I could not continue to live a double life. She promptly returned home, taught me to answer when someone called me Dorothea, and sent me back to school the next day. To the outside world, I was Dorothea from that day forward.
The name Dorothea was still way too long for me. I was always an impatient kid, hurrying from one activity to another with no time to form eight whole letters each time I had to write my name. I shortened it to Dorry when I was about ten. I made peace with my non-Terri existence and enjoyed being Dorry through adulthood. I married and acquired the Curran family name. When I divorced, it seemed like too much trouble to change it back to my maiden name. Besides, when you change your name to Goodness, everyone notices and I was too ashamed of getting divorced to want to call attention to the fact.
When I started writing the blog, I debated what to do about my name. I legitimately wanted to retain some anonymity and privacy on the internet. I was cracking open my life on cyberspace. It seemed wise to erect some sort of security wall between me and random strangers who might decide to get a little too up close and personal. Also, I have to admit to some desire to stave off too much vulnerability. I was going to write about some pretty personal stuff and I wasn’t quite ready to completely own it by acknowledging it with my real name. I decided I wasn’t brave enough to use my real name and would use a “creative name.”
I resurrected Terri from my childhood name. LaBonte is the French version of “Goodness.” Family folklore says that my first ancestor to come to the United States was a French-speaking Swiss national who entered Ellis Island as Monsieur LaBonte. He left Ellis Island with the more “American” name of Mr. Goodness, courtesy of the good civil servants in charge of Immigration Inspection who did not speak French. I am not sure if this is true or not, but it makes a good legend.
You may wonder why I am disclosing all this now. I’m excited to tell you that my book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement will be released within the next couple of months. I decided to publish my book under my real name, Dorry Curran. I want all my dear cyberfriends to be able to find it, which would be difficult if you think Terri LaBonte is the author.
There are other reasons why I thought it was time to come out of the Terri LaBonte closet. I have been writing the blog under the name Terri LaBonte for over two years now. Soon after starting this project, I felt like it would have been better to use my “real” name right from the beginning. It was sometimes confusing when I had to explain who Terri LaBonte was when talking to potential readers who knew me by my real name. Besides, using the name Terri LaBonte felt sort of like using the cyberspace equivalent of a fake ID to buy beer. It had its advantages, but there was also a downside. Yes, it is wise to be cautious about giving too much identifying information on the internet. On the other hand, it felt sort of deceptive and cowardly to hide myself behind a fictitious name. I try to write from a place of courage and honesty. It felt incongruous to deny the value of my truth by denying the name of the person who wrote it.
I’ve thought about sharing this story with you before now. The thing was…. by the time I realized it would have been better to use my real name, I had become kind of attached to Terri LaBonte and didn’t want to give her up.
You see, my legal name may be Dorry Curran, but Terri LaBonte is still very much a part of who I am. In fact, I may be more Terri LaBonte than Dorry Curran at this point in my life. Some time ago, a reader commented that, even though he had known me for many years as Dorry Curran, he found it interesting that he had absolutely no trouble at all thinking of me as Terri LaBonte. Terri LaBonte has always lived inside my soul. She just didn’t get much playing time in my younger days. Maybe people around me recognized her more than I did.
Terri LaBonte is confident enough to dance to her own music throughout her own life, whether anyone is looking or not. Terri LaBonte is visionary enough to make a reality from the blueprint of a dream. Terri LaBonte is brave enough to create something wonderful.
Terri LaBonte is also generous of spirit. When it came time to publish the book, she abdicated authorship to Dorry Curran. After all, it was Dorry’s dream first.
Quick, somebody say something! Now that I’ve revealed this big secret, I find myself feeling extremely wobbly and nervous. My stomach is somersaulting its way all over my innards, like some sort of demented pinball. Please, leave a comment to help me put on the brakes before my ricocheting guts do internal damage!!!
Seriously, I hope no one feels deceived or misled. I humbly ask your forgiveness for any offense or discomfort I caused because of the “fake” name.
Please share your perspective by leaving a comment (please, please, pretty please!!!). In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a wonderful day!
Terri/Dorry (seriously, I don’t even know how to sign my name now…. Maybe Derri?) 🙂