“The story you’re about to watch is true, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent….”
That line used to open the old TV show, Dragnet. It’s been running through my head lately as I’ve contemplated how to start myself anew in Baltimore, after 17 years (!!!) in Milwaukee.
When I left Milwaukee the first time, I was married to my first husband, and went by the name of Christine Thomas. I loved that name. If I’m honest with myself, marrying Whatshisname Thomas had a lot to do with the fact that I hated my birth name, Christine Bojic. It was a name that was said with a sneer when I was a fat, awkward child and preteen, and was associated with a very painful part of my childhood. I dreamt of being a writer and taking on a pen name, something French sounding like Michelle Monteau. (I also liked alliteration.) There was no question that when I married, I would take my husband’s name – at least as long as it wasn’t worse than “Bojic.” (There are a few names that are – Anthony Weiner, for one.)
I was Christine Thomas for a long time and when we divorced, there was no question of my taking back my birth name. I had 1000 headshots that said, “Christine Thomas, Mezzo-Soprano” across the bottom of them. What was I supposed to do???? Besides, I had already done roles in Milwaukee and Washington as Christine Thomas. That’s how people knew me. And it was a great professional name. It was strong and confident sounding, and not more than a little WASP-y sounding, which for this Estonian/Slovenian First Generation American was extremely appealing.
And besides, a lot of people kept their first husband’s names when they made their careers. Susan Sarandon was married to Chris Sarandon briefly in the 70s. Demi Moore, married to musician Freddy Moore. And since I never intended to remarry, it was okay.
But I did remarry, much to my surprise. And I wasn’t sure if it was okay to keep using my first husband’s name if I was married to someone else. Bill said he didn’t mind, but I didn’t know. Then I ran into my ex-sister-in-law’s best friend, who informed me that Whosis was back living in Wisconsin with his parents. And that he wasn’t doing very well.
At that point, the decision was made for me. If I’d kept his name, he would probably see it as a sign that I wanted him back. And with him in the same metropolitan area? No thank you.
Most of you know that my performing career pretty much dried up in 2004, after doing the second production of A Cudahy Caroler’s Christmas. Those two seasons, playing Wanda Kazlakowski, mark the only stage work I did as Christine O’Meally. I did some concert work, but not a lot. All my major credits were as Christine Thomas. And that is how people know me.
A couple of years after my remarriage, I ran into someone who said, “Chris – you’re still here? I thought you’d moved!” And I always wondered – did my name change work against me? Did people stop seeing Christine Thomas in print and wrote me off as having left the area?
So after talking it over with my husband, I’ve decided to reclaim Christine Thomas as my professional name – as a performer. As a teacher, I’m probably better known as Christine O’Meally, and a lot of people know me by that name because of my membership in NATS, as a Somatic Voicework™ teacher, and as an active contributor to national and international vocal discussion groups. So I’m going to hyphenate for teaching purposes – at least for now – and be Christine Thomas-O’Meally.
This does not mean a change in my marital status. I am still legally Christine O’Meally and will probably stay that way unless I find it causes financial confusion.
I’m really excited about reclaiming the identity that I had during the time that I identified myself as primarily a performing artist. I feel like I’m taking back my power (if not my innocence.)
What’s in a name? Everything.
I’m gonna like the way that looks.