Sometimes when you're out at a bar or whatever and a random male stranger starts aggressively chatting you up, you don't feel like giving your real name. It's not like they're going to be able to hack into your bank account or find out where you live just because you told them your first name, but when a guy gives off that creeper vibe, even telling them your name can feel gross and dangerous. Or other times, even if the dude isn't creepy, it's nice to give an alias instead of your real name, so that you can feel like you're putting on a persona-- in my case, the persona of a mysterious, cool girl who isn't afraid to talk to strangers in bars.
The name I use is Anna. It's a good one because it's a piece of my real name, so I'll respond to it if I hear it, and also because it's more common than Brianna, so hopefully it doesn't sound super fake. It is also useful because it is tied directly to my first memories of being afraid to give a guy my name, so it will always come to mind in the right situations.
I was having a sleepover at my friend Kitty's house the summer before we started high school. It was around two in the morning and we were hanging out in her front yard in our pajamas, because that just seemed like a cool thing to do. It was a warm night: I think I was wearing my Hello Kitty sleep shorts that are too small for me now. We heard voices way down the street and decided it would be funny if we howled at them, like wolves. So we did. Two young teenagers howling at the moon on a warm summer night in the middle of Kitty's posh, country-club neighborhood-- the perfect opening scene to a horror movie. When we howled, the voices we had heard stopped, and then howled back.
After a few minutes of communication via howling, two silhouettes appeared on the road in front of Kitty's house and approached us. They came right up her front yard and stood in front of us, looking down at where we were sitting on her stoop. We couldn't see their faces in the dark, but they were clearly male, and clearly older than us. I started freaking out right away.
"Hey there," they said. "What are your names?"
Kitty told them her name, like a normal person. But I stalled. I didn't want to tell them my real name. But I was a fourteen-year-old dork who had never taken any risks or told any lies in her entire dorky life and it was the middle of the night and I was wearing Hello Kitty sleep shorts in front of strangers and I didn't have a fake name ready and I panicked.
"How about you?" the guys prompted me, and I blurted,
"I don't have a name."
"Really." I couldn't see their eyebrows in the dark, but I could hear the judgment in their voices. "You don't have a name. Really."
"YEp," I squeaked, then started babbling. "It's pretty awkward, you know, nobody knows what to call me, they just refer to me as "that girl" all the time, ha ha ha, sucks to be me..."
Then Kitty stepped in and saved my ass. Bless her heart.
"Anna, come on, just tell them," she said.
That's true friendship right there, and quick thinking too. She respected my fear of giving my real name out to strange dudes who howled back in the middle of the night, but she also recognized that I was a fucking dweeb and would talk myself right into the ground if I was allowed to continue. Thank goodness for Kitty.
"Yeah, okay, you're right. I'm Anna." And my bar alias was born.
The creepy howling dudes stuck around a while longer, chatting with Kitty while I kept my damn mouth shut and hovered my finger over the emergency call button on my cell phone. I think we ended up showing them Kitty's treehouse, declining their invitation to come to a party with them, and then fleeing back into Kitty's house and deadbolting all the doors and peering out of the windows until we were sure they were gone. And to this day, if a dude ever sparks the same discomfort I felt that night, I say, "My name's Anna," and I feel a little safer.