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.


I Looked the Other Way

What do you do when you see an old friend? Someone you haven’t seen in years. Someone you used to spend so much time with. Someone who you once thought was your lifeline to the world.

I don’t expect people to recognize me. I’ve either gained a lot of weight or lost a lot of weight, depending on how long ago we knew either other. My hair hasn’t been this short in close to twenty years. I have visible tattoos. And I look happy.

So when someone I haven’t seen in forever is shopping, I’m usually the one who has to call out for notice. And I do, fairly often. I’ve seen former coworkers, former bartenders, even former friends. Usually, it’s a no-brainer whether to call out to them or not, a decision made in the split second before I realize I’m making one.

Today was different, though. Today I saw a different kind of former friend.

I saw him, and I recognized him immediately. He looks exactly as I remember him, exactly the same as he did twenty-something years ago. He’s with his wife and youngest daughter.

I talked to him briefly about a dozen years ago, and nothing since then. It was almost pure reflex to turn and put my back to him.

I don’t regret it. Even now, hours later, after reflection and writing this post. I don’t regret it.

Some sleeping dogs are better left to lie, and this was one. We were best friends once, he and I and two other teenagers, but when we split up, I was left on the other side of the rift for too long. We have little in common now, aside from being alive.

I think it would be different if circumstances had been different, if he and another friend hadn’t gone out of their way to make me feel like an outsider. I know that’s not exactly the case, but that’s how it felt then, and that’s what I’ve moved on from.

I know if I greeted him, he would have kindly introduced his family, and given me a hug, and we would have laughed about the time he told me that if I ran away and lived in the woods he would bring me food. And it would have been sincere, at that moment, but it would have rung false in my memory ever after.

We were all friends, and we all loved each other, but none of us is the same person we were then. I can’t speak for him, but it was easier for me to let him pass by without seeing me, to keep those memories as they are and not pollute them with false pleasantries. To remember what was and turn a blind eye to what might have been.

Easier, and sweeter, without bitterness.


Changing the Recipe

Margaret glanced surreptitiously over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching. The coast was clear, so she added her new special ingredient to the stuffing before putting it in the oven. 

It baked innocently alongside the chicken until both were done, and Margaret chuckled quietly to herself as she transferred each to a serving dish before bringing them to the dining room. 

Harvey was already waiting at the carefully set table, his phone before his face. He didn’t notice Margaret’s chuckle. 

She sat the Harvey’s left and began serving the meal. She had to nudge him twice to attract his attention to the dinner plate before him. He dug in without a word. 

Margaret watched carefully as Harvey stuffed his face before smiling contentedly. 

“Does everything taste fine?” she asked as Harvey’s lips began to swell. 

He coughed, and lifted his hands to his throat. 

“Too bad you’re allergic to bell peppers,” she snarled as he struggled for breath. 

After she leisurely finished her own plate, she dropped Harvey’s phone in the trash before calling 911. 

TBP


New Year, New Post

Let’s do the Daily Prompt, shall we?

If you could spend the next year as someone radically different from the current “you” — a member of a different species, someone from a different gender or generation, etc. — who would you choose to be?

Radically different? Maybe not so much. Hipper? For sure. But keep in mind, my teen years were in the nineties, so depending on your age, it’s possibly quite a different definition of ‘hipper.’

When I was twenty-two, I dyed my hair pink. It was hot pink for about a month, then I bleached it to a light baby pink. I loved that hair. It was against my employer’s dress code, but my manager didn’t care, so I got away with it.

I had a silver sequin dress that I loved–and looked pretty hot in. I wonder what happened to it.

I’d like to go back to that look, but keeping some of my current me.

I stopped biting my nails and have amassed quote the collection of polish, so I’d stick with that.

I follow a ton of makeup artists on Instagram and have become a pretty good hand at winged eyeliner, so I’d definitely stick with that as well.

As far as personality traits go, I’m okay with what I’ve got. I’ll just leave that bit alone.

So, bright hair, sparkly clothes, and pretty nails and makeup. That sounds good.

Or maybe I should go with wigs. That would save my poor hair.

What would you change?

Happy New Year to all!


A Letter to J in Indiana

I used to fret over a mess in my inbox. One of my goals last year was to make it a weekly ritual to empty the darn thing completely. And while that is a lovely sight to see, I haven’t had an empty inbox since February 4, 2014.

Such a specific date, you may notice. Surely there is a story behind this, you may think.

There is.

Sometime last summer, I subscribed to the Listserve. Thanks, Justine! It’s an email lottery with (as of right now), 24,556 subscribers, each of which has a chance to win every day. The prize is a single email sent to everyone else. So every day I get an email from someone, somewhere.

My absolute favorite came on February 5, titled a change in my life. In its entirety:

for a long time, i needed the attention of strangers on the internet to feel good about myself, but i don’t anymore.

have a good day,

j

Indiana

This single sentence is the most profoundly hopeful message I have ever read. Every time I read it, it affects me again as strongly as it did the first time I read it. On the rare occasion I briefly ponder what I might write about if given the chance, I think how could I ever come close to this?

Thank you, j, for your words. Thank you for encouraging me every day with your message of change.

I only wish that you had included an email for me to thank you directly.


Welcoming Myself Back

It’s time to return. It’s time to get back to writing. It’s time to get back to feeling like myself.

It’s been so long!! I’m sorry–to you, my friends and readers, and to myself. I made a mistake.

At first I thought the mistake was in going back to my old job in the first place; sure, it was nice to have that extra money, but *cue drama* at what cost? I dunno, it was fun for a while. It was fun at first, and then it just had its moments. I think the part that I missed was the competition.I know I was the best assistant manager in the company, mostly because I had absolutely no ambition to move up, so I could throw everything I had into improving the store where I was instead of being distracted by keeping a lookout for who I could steal a job from.

By the way, this is past tense because–dun dun dun! I quit last month.

Anyway, no competition. And then I had enough of the backstabbing. And then I just couldn’t take physically being there anymore, constantly reliving the Very Bad Time (©SRB) from 2009.

But the competition. I need that.

I mean, who can I compete with around here for the title of best wife/mom? It’s me by default, and that’s not how I like to win.

I can come back home, here, and write. I can compete against myself again, participate in challenges, stuff like that. Yay me!

It feels like quite a few of my blogging ‘class’ is on hiatus right now. I’m not the only one who thinks of people that way, am I? The first bloggers I befriended/befriended me. You know what I mean.

When I read Kathy’s most recent post I felt a little better, for not being the only one who feels this way.

This is so hard. I used to just sit down and whip out a few hundred words at the drop of a hat, for crying out loud. Look at me now, a good twenty minutes in and struggling to keep my head above water. I don’t know the last time I felt so awkward at a keyboard, even a pen and paper. My fingers want to go all out, but I don’t have any messages to send them to transcribe.

But what else is a new year for? Objectively, it’s just a day like any other day, but subjectively, it’s different. It’s time for change and goals and all that happy crappy.

So here.

I keep seeing this Zero to Hero thing from WordPress–I’ll start with that.

I’ll go back to all the things I promised to share with you, well, over two months ago. And share them.

I have this vague idea for a fiction bloggy collaboration kind of thing. Anyone perk up at that?

And I’ll finish that damn sequel. After I get it off Lappy and bring it over to Lappy 2.0. Eventually.

Good? Good. Let’s-a go! Sorry, too much Mario around here lately.