Monday, April 02, 2007

Identity Crisis

I've always been a little quieter than my brother, David. He was simply blessed with a more outgoing personality than I was.

When my family moved down to Utah (right before Pioneer Day, July, 2000), the boys headed down a week or so before the girls. I don't really remember how much earlier they left; I'd have to check my journal to make sure. Anyway, by the time I got down here, David already had made friends with just about everyone there was to make friends with and I was stuck with being "David's Little Sister."

Oh, I made a few of my own friends, but a lot of my friends I simply borrowed from my older brother. I've done that my whole life. It's easier. Just be the little sister. No one can resist a younger sister.

So all through my first year of High School here I was "David's Little Sister."

I'd be walking down the hall and hear, "Hey, David's Little Sister!"

I'd stop walking, take a deep breath, roll my eyes, turn around, and say, "I have a name, you know."

Not that it mattered. I continued to be David's Little Sister in grade 11 even though he had graduated. No one really knew my name unless they were on the dance team (even then, Steve Howell called me, "Nan," as if he had any right to use that nick name, or "David's Sister") or they were a year younger than me and thus had no chance to know my brother.

When I started college, I kind of grew out of this stage. People started using my name. David was on a mission, and I had no one to fall back on for relationships and had to branch out and make my own friends. I therefore spent a whole lot of time studying and not a whole lot of time hanging out.

Don't get me wrong. I had friends, just not as many friends as I would have had, had I been hanging out with David.


I've lost my identity again.

Now that I work in Special Collections, I have two identities. Three, if you count my own identity, but that rarely comes into play.

Here, I am either, "Myrna's Daughter," or I am asked the question, "Do you know Matt Heiss?"

I know that I look like my mom, but really, we don't look like twins. People I see will often say, "Hello, Myrna's Daughter," if they happen to notice that I'm not my mom. If they fail to recognize that I am 5 inches taller, have lighter hair, am 26 years younger, and am 6 months more pregnant than my mother, not to mention that we have different colors of eyes, then I hear, "Hello, Myrna."

I'm almost to the point where I've stopped correcting people. I wear two name tags, for crying out loud, including one with photo ID! And I wear my name tags on a lanyard that reads, quite plainly, "L. Tom Perry Special Collections." My mom works in the Music and Dance department, so I don't really see how people can miss that little fact.

In short, most everyone I meet in the library confuses me with my mom.

It's when I work with external folks that I get tagged with "Matt Heiss's niece." At least people don't get me mixed up with him. That would be just too much. I can understand how everyone I would chance to meet in this line of work would know Matt since he works for LDS Church Archives and we work rather closely with them here at BYU, most notably in Special Collections.

Every time I meet someone though, I have the same conversation:

Stranger: "Your last name is Heiss?"
Me: "Yes..." (I'm wearing two name tags and we've just been formally introduced, so yes...)
Stranger: "Do you know Matt Heiss?"
Me: "Yes, he's my husband's uncle."

And then we have a short conversation about that.

Once someone even broke the pattern and asked, "Are you related to the Matt Heiss?"

Before I answered that I had to verify that it was "the" Matt Heiss that worked in Church Archives because I had never before heard him referred to as the Matt Heiss.


In a way, I suppose it is kind of nice to automatically assume such a good reputation without much work of my own. Both my mom and Matt are remarkable people--it's kind of daunting to be tied to their names, actually; it leaves little room for errors. But, everyone I've met has thought highly of them.

Imagine how awful it would be to have people turn up their nose and say, "Oh, you're related to so-and-so? Ugh."

Yes, that would be much more horrible than being tied to people I look up to.


  1. Have you ever seen "Everbody Loves Raymond?" Well, know you know my life.

  2. Oh...BTW, I did a training session for the "reference" workers. David happens to work reference for special collections.

    Well, their supervisor says, "Does everyone know Nancy?"

    One girl says, "Yeah...she's David's sister, right?"

    Will it ever end?