Those of you who know me from my previous work at Entertainment Weekly or SexyFeminist.com, or those of you who know me from real life, might notice a new addition to my name at the top of this website. I’ve decided to incorporate my new Dharma name — which signifies my recent taking of the Zen Buddhist precepts, a.k.a. my becoming an “official” Buddhist — into my professional name. There are a few reasons for this. I hadn’t even considered this as an option in the months leading up to my Jukai ceremony, even though I was excitedly anticipating getting a fun new name that people at our Zendo would call me. But when I heard our abbess, Roshi Enkyo O’Hara, announce my new name, “Keishin,” in the ceremony, I suddenly wanted it in my everyday life. First, it’s pretty. Second, it means something along the lines of “relentless pursuit of truth,” which is both a reflection of the non-fiction writing I do, and the standard I want to maintain when pursuing it. It’s a constant challenge to bring Zen principles into one’s everyday work, especially work as noisy as pop culture writing, and I appreciate the reminder. Third, I’m tired of being mixed up with the bazillions of other Jennifer Armstrongs out there, especially the ones vying for top billing on the Internet. I am not a storyteller/musician (actually, I sort of am, but I am not this awesome-looking bagpipe lady), nor am I a children’s book author, a historical novelist, or a very prolific local news reporter who’s been clogging up my Google alerts lately.
I used to swear I’d never change my name, not for marriage nor for anything else. Jennifer Armstrong is simple, strong, and all-American. I loved it as a byline name for the past 15-plus years of my career. But then the Internet came along and wrecked all that. And Buddhism fixed it. Everything balances out in the end.
So I now give you my new name: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.