A Three-headed Superhero with Glasses

Colleen Cusick, Writing Fellow, Doctoral Candidate in English

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I am a three-headed superhero with glasses.

3Head_1

Okay, if forced to adhere to the strictly literal, I must confess that I only have one head and no eyewear of any kind. I will further admit that my only claim to superheroism lies in my co-authorship (with two other writers) of a weekly advice column on names and naming. But much like Clark Kent disappearing into a telephone booth, I become a different person when I sit in front of my keyboard at a local coffee shop and transform, for an hour or two, into: The Name Maven!

The Name Maven is bigger than I am, a Superwoman of the online naming advice realm (a more cutthroat world than you might suspect). She is world-weary and wise and not only because her persona is imbued with the life experiences, educations, and personal histories of the three quite different women who write wearing her metaphorical cape. She lives in Chicago and has traveled the world; she possesses an enviable touch with home décor, a knack for controlling other people’s children, and a pair of cat-eyed spectacles. She also, in the style of superheroines everywhere, enjoys a nice pair of knee-high boots.

In ordinary life, I’m a Peter Parker, not always sure about my own opinions and worried about stepping on other people’s toes. But as The Name Maven, I can solve any crisis, swoop down and execute daring rescues, and always have a quip at the ready – as long as the emergency involves names, of course. A limited skill-set, but not any more so than the ability to shoot webs out of one’s wrists. It’s good for superheroes to specialize.

Superheroes rely on anonymity to fulfill their duties. Bruce Wayne knows that only as Batman can he whip Gotham City’s underworld into order. Likewise, I need the anonymity and authority of the Name Maven role to justify inflicting my opinions on an unsuspecting public – without her, I’m just another girl with a blog and zero qualifications.

But the true power of a superhero lies in something even more profound than an alias and a costume – the power of the crowd. 
After all, how could Superman hope to spend decades – nearly a century! – fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, approaching each new adventure with his stalwart strength and firm jaw and pages of illustrations in vivid red, yellow, and blue, without the legions of unacknowledged cartoonists who put the words in his dialogue bubbles and the color in his leotard? These writers and illustrators had styles and visions of their own, but they adapted themselves to the Superman or Captain America or Wonder Woman aesthetic. As a result, our superheroes have the power to live for something resembling forever.

The Name Maven may not have that kind of longevity (though as long as there are personal names, I’m guessing there will be confused people seeking some guidance on how to choose them). She’s outlasted most online advice columns, though, and shows no sign of slowing down. She may not win me fortune and glory, but the chance to wear her magic boots makes the anonymous toil worth the effort.

I’m a three-headed superhero with glasses who’s going to try to live forever.

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