Anonymous in the Information Age (October 9, 2010)

The story above, about a 32 year-old Nevada woman who only discovered her real name after applying for a marriage license, breaks my heart. If the defendant in the case, Melissa Reed’s mother, is to be believed – and the article suggests she should – mother and daughter were forced into obscurity while fleeing a violent and abusive ex-husband. Living a lie to protect your family must be an unendurable experience, and I am sorry for all parties.

However, the part of the piece which amazes me is the following quote from Ms. Reed: “”I learned the reason that for all these years I have not had a proper ID or valid Social Security number for `Melissa Reed’ and why I could not get a driver’s license, bank account, passport or travel by plane, all because of my assumed name.”

How does a 32 year-old get to this stage of life without any of the conventions of modern American citizenry? Did she never work, never vote, drive or venture anywhere at all? It seems to me that the only way a person could accomplish this is through an acute case of agoraphobia.

I would think that somewhere along the way, this state of affairs had to raise a red flag for Melissa. She was six years old when she disappeared with her mother, according to the report. I would never suggest relying on the memory of a young child 26 years later to put together a case, but she really doesn’t recall anything? I am not bragging, but I can tell you what my favorite songs were at the age of two (for the record, there were three of them: “Ride Like the Wind,” “Xanadu,” and “Celebration”) not because I was told by my parents, but because of my vivid recollections of rocking out.

The Reeds are entangled in a huge legal mess at the moment, and the 57 year-old mother is looking at jail time. Once they sort that out, they have another challenge: years of therapy to process it all.


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