Why Changing My Name Was Feminist

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When I got married, I didn’t change my name. It wasn’t any sort of grand gesture, no middle finger thrown in the face of the patriarchy. It was simple laziness.

Do you realize how much of a hassle it is to change your name? It’s so much worse than an address change. If you forget to change your address with a company or two, they’ll eventually get it right–not that it matters, since the post office will forward it to you as long as your name remains the same.

Although in Louisiana, changing your name at the DMV does not change it for your voter registration–as I learned the hard way when my jury duty summons went to my old address with my old name. Fortunately, my brother-in-law lives in our old house.

And besides, changing your name most places is as simple as saying or writing this is my name now. So for three and a half years, I answered to two names. Which was fine. Sometimes it’s easier to have the same name as your spouse, and sometimes it doesn’t matter one bit.

The reason I changed my name had absolutely nothing to do with anyone besides me and my husband.I’m glad I didn’t change it, because after the shit hit the fan, I had the option of an outward change to reflect an inward change, and that’s something I always recommend for anyone. It’s easy enough to say you’re starting over, that today is the first day of the rest of your life, but when you’re reminded every day, every time you sign your name, every time you check the mail, every time you pay a bill or use your debit card, it’s more meaningful. It’s greater reinforcement.

So I decided to change my name.

I did get a few odd looks from officials when I presented my three-year-old marriage license, but no one took any issue with it. I’m far from the first person to be a tad behind in keeping my paperwork up to date.

The first stop was the Social Security office, because I needed that to change my driver’s license, which I needed to change just about everything else.

And on the way home, we pulled over and had a fight. And for a moment, I regretted changing my name. Why did I even bother? And that thought hurt me. I thought of tearing up my paperwork and tossing it to the wind. I don’t know if I said any of this aloud; probably not, because I’d already learned well the lesson that nothing can be unsaid.

That fight was the one and only time I regretted my decision. And then, eventually, things were okay enough for me to continue on the name-changing odyssey, that pro-patriarchal adventure.

I joke about that because I’ve been given a hard time for changing my name, but at the core of the situation, my name change was feminism. It was a choice I made by myself, for myself, without permission or coercion. It was an option available to me which, by its existence, improved my quality of life.

I’m not a slave to my husband, not a possession. I changed my name to remind myself that I am part of a team, and more a part of this team that I ever was of the team I was born into without a choice.

So many valid reasons exist for any person changing their name. Their differences don’t invalidate them; rather, the opposite. If there is only one valid and mandatory reason for a name change, the concept of choice is completely removed from the equation. It is only when any and all reasons are valid and acceptable that equality is found.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter the reason that I changed my name. It only matters that it was my freely-made decision.


Giving Up the Ghost

Have you ever had a job that you went to, faithfully, every single day, until that one day when you said screw it, I’m done with this?

Have you ever had that letter, that phone number, that photograph that you carted around with you everywhere until that one day when you said screw it, I don’t need to ever hear from this person again?

Have you ever carted around emotional baggage from a traumatic event until that one day when you said this doesn’t define who I am anymore?

I have, as you may have guessed.

It sucks to find out your husband cheated on you. It sucks more to find out he knocked her up when no amount of trying is going to knock you up. Maybe some amount of trying–I still have that shred of hope, you see.

A few years ago, I wrote:

Oh, it takes two to five years to recover from an affair? I can work harder at it than anyone, I’ll blow that number out of the water. But I can’t. I can’t do that when I have to keep starting over. Sometimes I feel like I can’t make any progress, in spite of knowing that’s not true.

I had a hard time separating the two demons of his infidelity and her pregnancy. That’s perfectly reasonable; you can’t have the latter without the former. And from this side, that two-to-five sounds pretty fair for your average adultery survivor, as long as that special caveat is fulfilled: no contact. God, I could have gotten over this in months.

But no contact is impossible when there’s a child involved. The geometry goes from triangular to whatever crazy shapes inhabit four-dimensional space. Even so, those shapes would still be navigable if all the parties involved were reasoning adults.

We’re very obviously short one. Reasoning adults tend not to argue with judges in their courtrooms.

It inevitably becomes a self esteem issue. The what’s she got that I ain’t got mentality. This can only be worsened by shit-talking. It becomes she’s so bad, but I must be worse. Shit-talking is bad. Just leave it alone.

But anyone can deal with a bad hand for two to five years, right? Of course, right. Students do it all the time.

I was like, really depressed when that five-year deadline came and went, and I wasn’t recovered. And the longer it was, the worse I felt. As if I could somehow bullshit myself into believing that a month or two months over five years was close enough, that I could still count it as plain old five years, and feel like I’d made it under the wire.

Until one day, there wasn’t any wire anymore. The deadline didn’t matter; it was some arbitrary crap I’d found on the internet, for crying out loud. Sure, I’d found it in two dozen different places on the internet, but still. It’s just a statistic. It’s only true when it’s true.

Like being one in eight.

Then the one day came. And it wasn’t just the deadline that didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t matter anymore.

It doesn’t matter anymore.

I still know where that part of me is, the part that warned and worried and wondered and kept me awake at night. Sometimes I check in there, just to make sure, and it’s empty. It’s smaller, shrinking from disuse. Because that doesn’t define who I am anymore. The rest of me is filling in that space, because this is who I am. Not a victim, but a survivor. A winner.

But, always a but. But what’s the timeline on Ian’s guilt? When will he believe me when I say that it’s okay, that it doesn’t matter anymore? Because it doesn’t.

It doesn’t matter anymore.

I just want it to be okay. I know it can’t all be okay, not right now, but just this little part. When the next big ole turd hits the fan, Ian, I don’t want you to apologize because it’s all your fault. The guilt for what we’re dealing with now does not lie with you, and you know that. It’s not your fault. Your mistake was six years ago, and it mostly involved not doing a background check first.


The Scenic Route

For backstory, I’ll give you this: my friend was having some problems and needed a ride. Fifty-nine miles away and in another state.

So I was driving.

I’d started the trip thinking about how I’ve become completely unable to resist someone in the midst of a crisis, simply because no one had been there for me in the midst of my own. If you call me crying, and I care the least little bit about you (which of course I do, because otherwise you wouldn’t have my number), I’ll do whatever I can to help you. It’s the fault in my stars.

As I neared the state line, I stopped thinking about that, and moved on to my surroundings. I passed an old abandoned hotel, named after the hamlet in which it was located. It only had about sixteen rooms, and may in fact have had less square footage than the home I’m living in now. Most of the rooms were open to the elements, either with wide open doors or missing them completely. I thought about what an incredibly tempting place to explore that would be, were it closer to home. I wondered who had stayed there, who had owned the place, and what they had been like. I would have stopped for a picture, but remember, I was on a mission.

So I kept going.

And I passed more homes, out in the middle of nowhere, some with cows or donkeys or horses grazing, some with rusted out old cars, some with nothing but woods nearly up to the house.

I passed a blue and white plaid couch on the side of the road, upside down, discarded amongst the trees.

Then I crossed the state line, and I entered the land of county roads, where there are so many they don’t even have names other than their numbers. Narrow and bumpy and pitted, these roads still led to so many homes, so many people.

And for the first time that I can think of, I wanted to know about their lives. Not just their big adventures, but their small, day-to-day ones as well. I wondered about what they did when they woke up in the morning, and what their fondest memories of childhood were, and how often they rearranged their furniture.

I’ve driven the roads around here so many times, they’ve become so familiar, that I don’t think about the people whose homes I pass every day. Their places are my places; we share convenience stores and movie theaters and restaurants. I don’t know them, but I’m sure I’ve at least seen most of them with my own eyes, somewhere, sometime.

This was all new to me, and suddenly, these people who have lives just like anyone else’s seemed shiny and new and interesting. Even though it isn’t really that far, and I do live within the sprawling suburban fingers of their nearest big city. I probably have seen some of them on the road or at a festival or a casino. But I didn’t think about any of that right then.

I only wondered.

I wondered who was going to write their stories. And I thought about how dearly I’d love to read them.

Especially that hotel. It was a hulk, but it was beautiful.

I should have taken a picture.


Synchronicity

Yes, it was the topic for this month’s NaBloPoMo that drew me in to immediately sign up, but as I scanned the prompts, one stuck in my head:

Is there anything you would erase from your mind if you were given the option to forget something completely?

I’ve been waiting to get to this one, to really dig deep and put some serious thought into my answer, which is definitively yes. Only the memory remained in question.

And oddly enough, as I read some old posts while writing last night’s load of fun, I came across something perfectly appropriate from last year:

I wish I could go all Johnny Mnemonic and selectively dump a chunk of long-term memory. And it would be every second that had anything to do with that counselor.

I’m gonna stick with this one.


Ghosts of Milestones Past

I haven’t really been on the ball with my blogging milestones.

A few months ago I realized that my five hundredth post and my three year blogoversary would probably hit right around the same time. Hm, I thought, perhaps I should plan something nice.

I didn’t.

I did think about it a couple more times, but no more than in passing.

It just doesn’t mean as much to me as I’d like for it to mean.

I think blogoversaries were ruined for me when we got that stupid biased report on my first.

This post is about to go to a dark place. This is not what I meant to celebrate lots of words with. This is not where I planned to go today.

But here I am.

Three years ago last week I started an infertility blog.

Two years ago last week we got a tidy little twelve-page fax in which a ‘professional’ repeatedly stated that I ‘can’t have children.’

Five years ago last week I was blissfully unaware of my husband’s lying and cheating. Okay, not blissfully. But at that point, unaware.

Yesterday I published my five hundredth post.

And now I have that tight ball of fuck this shit in the pit of my stomach. That weight of it’s not fair pushing on my chest. That mass of unscreamed screams in my throat.

Happy blogoversary, indeed.


Getting Real

There’s a challenge going on over at veggie sausages: who needs it? It’s all about the clutter.

Challenge number two is about the emotions behind clutter and decluttering. I have a few, here and there.

I haven’t chosen an area to do actual, physical decluttering, because, well, screw it, that’s not a priority right now. R. Sativus is. OMG, I just totally put myself first. Sorry, that realization is a little distracting. But trust me, I have done a lot of decluttering in the past. Ian may have moved in with a TV and one box of stuff, but I happen to have years and years of junk accumulation experience. I promise, every time I move, I toss a bunch of crap. But I’ve always replaced it. And of course, we’ve added to it plenty over the past almost nine years.

Most of it, sure, no big deal. Sort and trash. Done. But since 2009, a lot of that junk has taken on a whole new meaning for me, not in a good way. I remember the first few times I ‘went through’ stuff. I kept and filed away all the things I’d written, the letters to Ian, the letters to myself, the pages of my side of the fight from that day I was physically unable to speak due to fury/grief/who-knows-what. The few things he’d written in return. I kept all that hate and bitterness, because it was something real. When your world is completely smashed to bits, evidence of reality becomes exceptionally important.

After I quit my job in 2010, there was even more. I’d had to keep all my uniform shirts and hats and name tags, the jacket I’d received from the company for my first Christmas, the fancy World Record Breaking hat from the event I’d participated in (one of two in the region), my 30 second pizza pin (only one in the region, y’all!). Slowly, that stuff became less important as a reminder of what I’d done and more important as a reminder of what he’d done. So one day I threw it all away. And it felt good. I went through every room in the house to make sure I had it all, and I bagged that shit up like nobody’s business. It was freeing. It was glorious. It was a big fuck-you to everyone there who’d given me a hard time. Even better than the high school ex-boyfriend photo bonfires we used to have. You remember those.

The car was another thing. I can’t take credit for getting rid of it, but that was another day of emotional decluttering.

But the words were another story. Words are precious to me, even those horrible ones. I still needed them. I still needed their reality. So I kept keeping them.

Until I didn’t. We were in counseling, and I thought I was finding out the things I needed to know. I thought I was finding our new normal. It doesn’t matter that I was wrong. It matters that I could go home and throw all of that paper away. It mattered that when, on occasion, I happened across something else that belonged in that file, I didn’t even need to read it anymore. It could go straight in the trash without having the chance to hurt me again. It was still real, but it wasn’t now.

I’m glad I threw all of that away. There have been plenty of days since then that I would have dragged it all out to read, to make myself even more miserable. It’s better that I don’t have that option available. I can understand that, and I can even say that it’s been a while since I even thought about being able to do that. So that’s good.

Getting rid of bad stuff is good. And it makes me feel good.