Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

Gandhi: An Autobiography – The Story of My Experiments in Truth

I have terrible recall memory. It allows me to enjoy movies and books again, as well as conversations. It’s questionable how enjoyable it is for others. Because of my memory, I don’t dare brave a review of Gandhi’s autobiography but I can’t help celebrate a few of the items that really had me thinking.

I read Louis Fischer’s The Life of Mahatma Gandhi about four years ago. Reading about Gandhi is an overwhelming task. Those who knew him and have written about him are absolutely exuberant in their praise. Being the constant comparer that I am, it gives me a great appreciation for just how small I am. I am okay with that. Don’t call the self-worth police. Gandhi was just an overwhelming sort of dude. What I find most amazing about him is his personal appeal: people showing up in droves to hear him speak; people actually changing their views on very entrenched ideas; people often disagreeing with him but loving him in a very personal way; and his ability to do it all with such love. That’s a kind of gracious, self-interested power that I can actually get excited about.

Then I read this autobiography. I thought it would iron out the kinks in Fischer’s work, the apparent inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies that I couldn’t grasp. It turns out that that’s Gandhi – inconsistent and idiosyncratic; hard to nail down; hard to understand; sometimes, hard to agree with. The man was an enigma. He evolved much throughout his life. He went from sex-starved maniac (in his own words) to someone who expected celibacy of many, and later lightened up on celibacy for others. He went so far as to say that he would have had time and energy to teach his wife to read if he wasn’t such a slave to his libido. Really!? The term “experiments in truth” is a very consciously chosen, and accurate, title.

Gandhi stunned me at every turn, as much because I didn’t always agree with him as for any other reason. However, his capacity for love, leadership and ideas were endless. But two things stood out for me. Two of his thousands of pearly thoughts stopped me, requiring me to read them time and again.

The first statement, I think, is a fantastic image of or own tendency to judge harshly. While often, we are our own worst enemies and critics, too often we are also far too quick to criticize others, whether we know anything of their burdens.  Gandhi gives us a way to deal with this imbalance:

Only when one sees one’s own mistakes with a convex lens, and does just the reverse in the case of others, that one is able to arrive at a just relative estimate of the two.

I’m struck by the conceptual tool but also by how true this statement is of two people in a dispute. If we looked at the other person’s perspective with the understanding and zeal with which we justify our own, it would be very difficult not to change our point of view. I think about those two lenses all the time now.

The second statement goes more to the substance of his life’s work. Not all of us are navigating the difficult moral maze of civil disobedience on a daily basis. Still Gandhi’s words about when a person can justifiably judge laws rang true:

A Satyagrahi[*] obeys the laws of society intelligently and of his own free will, because he considers it to be his sacred duty to do so. It is only when a person has thus obeyed the laws of society scrupulously that he is in a position to judge as to which particular rules are good and just and which unjust and iniquitous.

This quotation explained clearly to me that we can only judge laws’ value if we follow them faithfully. I also found it a spot on reminder that you shouldn’t piss on anything until you’ve taken the time to understand it deeply. His language here, at least as it is translated, reflects part of his charisma. The words he chooses don’t alienate. They are collective words. They speak of us as one, both in our beauty and our error. To me the choice of words like iniquitous, rings of poise and conscious decisions. In short, I like it.

* Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase “passive resistance”, in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word “satyagraha” itself or some other equivalent English phrase. – M.K. Gandhi, Satyagraha in South Africa, Navajivan, Ahmedabad, 1928, pp. 109-10.


May 9, 2012 Posted by | Books, Doing it the hard way, Politics | , | 4 Comments


Now that I’ve expressed my extreme hesitation in posting this teen diatribe on mortality, I feel better about posting it. It’s funny how that works. I don’t take much stock in what I said below, but it expresses the sadness I felt at the time in the way that I knew to address it: anger and morbidity.

So, my dad’s got a cane now. Next it’ll be a walker, then a wheelchair. His walk is now much more laboured. He lifts his leg a foot in the air to take a step. Two weeks ago I would have just thought I was imagining things. This is going to be quick. Yes.

Funny, when I was five and my brother graduated I found out that the guys dance with their mothers, girls with their fathers. Then I figured out that my dad would be sixty-three when I graduated. I figured my dad would either be dead or decrepid by my graduation. Now, I was only five but when I have insight, I have insight. I hope my brother’s a good dancer.

Post-script: Dad and I couldn’t dance at graduation, but he was most certainly there. I later learned that he was impressed at my lack of embarassment when I wheeled him out for the grand march. I never minded sticking out a little and he always liked a good ride.

February 2, 2012 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Doing it the hard way, Writing | 9 Comments

A Brief Hiatus

OK, the time has come to admit temporary defeat. Exams are next week and very little preparation has been done (by me, that is). I am reinforcing my tired old procrastinating student pity me campaign: “Oh, I have exams, isn’t it terrible? I would like back pats for failing to do my work all semester and cramming information into my brain while dealing with the pain of sitting in a chair 12 hours a day…”

I consider this official notice that I do not expect to blog for approximately 10 days. I’m sure you’ll make it through but I’m sad about it. Do not be alarmed, I read the odd blog while I eat. I may comment, too. Don’t judge 🙂

I shall return without dirty study band in short order, for better or worse!

If I go from looking like this...

...to this, I'll let you know.

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Mr. Lonely | , , | 11 Comments

Trespassing Prey – Part 2

 An adoring fan (I kid) inadvertently encouraged me to put up more of this story I wrote a number of years ago. You can find the introduction here, if you’re so inclined. In the interest of avoiding a 12-post series, this section is lengthy. It’s also from a less succinct period of my life. I seek forgiveness.

As always, the first kilometre was tough, finding a rhythm and warming our muscles up to the idea of a good deal of work ahead.  We breathed the air in deeply, enjoyed the scent, shared our excitement, and thought about cougars.  For a while, we used a good deal of energy avoiding baby frogs that were making the journey from their nesting place to their new marshy home. They lightly hopped across the trail.  We enjoyed their energetic movements and cracked up about being easily distracted, lacking diligence in our attention to potential cougars.

After a brief break at the three-kilometre mark, we hiked on.  Here, the real work began, the climb became much steeper, which I hate, and covered with small fallen trees, which drove us crazy.  Every fallen tree required a strategy.  Most were a metre or more off of the trail – too high for either of us to straddle, very difficult to go under with a full backpack. We were further delayed because we had to stand around and complain before and after, again and again.  Luckily, a cougar did not choose such an opportune time – with one of us caught under a tree – to come sniffing.

Along the way, we fantasized semi-seriously that if a cougar were to attack us we could slay it with ease using the knife provided by Beth’s dad.Beth would keep the head as a trophy.  In a stroke of serendipity, the cougar would be female and lactating, to ensure that I could have some milk afterwards, for my stomach. Especially in the absence of my stomach medication – yes, that’s right, in my late night stupor the stomach pills had not made it into the backpack. Sigh.  This tidy cougar-hunting scenario amused us for quite some time as we hiked, satisfied with our plans.

After another 5km or so consisting of fallen trees, steep terrain, the inconvenient realization that I’d also forgotten my cell phone and our ride wouldn’t know when to pick us up, the trail levelled off and we came to a clearing with a cabin, thus concluding the lower portion of the hike.  We intended to drop off our wares, do the second leg of the trail and come back down to the cabin to sleep.  Our plans were foiled somewhat. The cabin itself did not have hospitality written on it – anywhere.  It was dank and dark, and seemed to host many visiting/nesting/pillaging creatures. Our tent was far more appealing and we set up camp in a nearby clearing.

But first, we had to find the trail to the peak of Mt. Cartier, which would apparently make the arduous hike entirely worth it.  Everyone had told us that after the cabin, the trail continues, but try as we might, we found nothing. We could go no further without a severe fight with some devil’s club.  After a number of attempts, we despairingly gave up on reaching the peak and glimpsing the fantastic view of the entire valley. No cabin, no peak, no view.

We didn’t pout for long before we quickly set to work making our home.  The sun shone, I started building a fire, and Beth, wielding the cougar knife, began preparing our tent site.  Each of us was quite happy to do our work. We pitched our tent, enjoyed the view and our dinner in the sun and chatted about nothing particular. Though it was most certainly on my mind, we still had not talked about the date. We were holding a stubbornness contest and neither of us wanted to be the first to bring it up.

After dinner I took it upon myself to figure out how to get our food and toiletries up a tree so that no bear would make us into a grocery store.  I threw everything in a garbage bag, tied a rope around it and looked fruitlessly for THE TREE.  Very few of the trees had unobstructed branches that I could manage to get the rope around. But oh how I tried. People always made this sound so easy when giving “bear aware” instructions, how hard could it be?  Very, apparently.

Eventually I picked a target, setting my sights on a branch approximately 5 metres above my head.  I wished myself luck, cocked my arm back, and threw the rope as hard as I could.  In a moment lacking triumph of any kind, the rope peaked a metre below the branch and fell limply to the ground at my feet.  Not to be deterred, I tried again, with a similar result.  I had no more success the third time.  Or the fourth.  I quickly became frustrated; my patience for my own failures is quite limited. I had no hope in hell of getting that garbage bag up to somewhere that a bear could not reach.  The fallen trees that we had been cursing along the hike now seemed very appealing – at least I could stand on one.

So I settled for an even lower branch, perhaps two metres above my head.  Pathetic.  I threw the rope, angry at my failure, hit the branch and almost knocked myself in the head with the rope as it came back down.  We were sure to be robbed tonight.  But refusing to sink further into patheticness, I threw the rope again and thankfully (for my self esteem), it came down on the other side of the branch.  So I pulled the rope, heaving the garbage bag mightily into the air before relishing in my heroic moment. I had Amazon woman strength.  Proud, I lowered my gaze from the glorious branch and looked straight ahead.  Sigh.  My heart sank.  The bottom of the garbage bag hung directly in front of my eyes.  Any heroism left in my feeble body was swiftly deflated.  How lame!  A two-month-old squirrel could have used the bag as a piñata.  I might as well have left a stick beside it to make things easy.  Alas, I assumed that this was better than having the bag in our tent and gave up, shamed and perplexed.

Exhausted and fearful of getting attacked (by mosquitoes as much as by cougars) we crawled into our tent to start one of those classic too early to sleep sleepover-type discussions. Beth’s mind, like mine, is over-active at night and we both struggled to find even a fitful rest.  I had silly dreams about dates and frogs and cougars and woke up every ten minutes changing positions. Every time Beth’s foot kicked the corner of the tent, the opposite corner, at my head, would pucker and scare me, waking me up frightened and sleepily alert. Beth got even less sleep than I did, disturbed by my kicks and tossing and turning at every sound and silence.

In the morning, we woke to a warm tent.  The daylight brought with it, as it always seems to, a sense of relief and safety.  We were alive.  Not even our toes had been gnawed off, and though uncomfortable and tired, we woke in good spirits, pleased with our adventure. This air of reassurance unfortunately was soon challenged by my physical condition.  The warm tent, the excitement, the lack of my usual milk remedy and stomach medication was starting to take its toll.  In search of some soothing protein, I found and delved into some peanuts.  I’m not sure where the peanuts came from because the food was supposed to be hung, but they were there and I ate them desperately.

Regardless, I was soon rushing to unzip the tent – the date’s tent, conveniently.  I mostly managed to direct the pathetic contents of my stomach away from the tent but to my horror was not completely successful. Is it a bad omen to throw up on the tent of the person you went out with 36 hours previous? Between “moments” I managed to get dressed and go sit by the fire pit to spare Beth any more of my scent.  I did my best to feel better, eating and throwing up alternately, while she packed up our entire camp without complaint.

… Stay tuned for trespassing, paranoia AND police.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Hiking, Wild Animals, Writing | , , , , | 4 Comments

Woe is Blog

Dear Readers,

The time has come for me to admit a problem.

I am halfway done my semester and about 10% done all the work I will have to do to be finished. (insert English alarm bell sounds here). That’s a bad thing. Not unusual, but bad. A huge paper for a professor I really respect, a large-ish assignment and 3 exams in classes I have done almost nothing for loom large. I have been at my most distracted, no thanks to my rejuvenated blogging and blog-reading effort. I am burnt out. There are a million ways to be ineffective. However, many of them involve the computer. Things I’m not supposed to be learning are just so very interesting. This is difficult when work also involves the computer.

I realize these are privileged, poor educated self types of problems. I am a truly decadent whiner. I can only hope to be a more useful and less self-absorbed being in 6 weeks. Right now it’s all I can do to keep fed and watered.

So I’m bringing some new rules into effect. These rules are boring and you don’t need to know about them, except that if I tell you I am more likely to be accountable. So here you go, lucky for you.

1. I am only allowed to blog twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays me thinks, but don’t hold me to it) between now and December 16th. 😦

2. I am only allowed to read and comment on people’s blogs as well as check for responses to my comments three times a week (Monday, Thursday, Saturday?).

3. The only other time I am allowed to sign on to wordpress is to respond to comments. (eep) I can do this whenever (quickly, without looking at other tempting items).

Please forgive my lower level of blog-ocity.


Rose (the brain weary)

P.S. Even after this period is over, I am going to have to determine some sort of blog boundary. While I think it’s fabulous to indulge in something I enjoy so much, I have to find a better balance than losing myself in people’s blogs and random Internet searches for two hours a day every day for eternity. Learning is good but so is not sitting in a chair. Wish me luck!

October 28, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Irritated, Self-reflection | , , | 10 Comments

3 Memorable Bike Crashes I Could do Without

I have never been a physical activity hero. In fact I’m the kid who wheezed around the school field every day in P.E. for all of elementary school. Mercifully there was a little less wheezing in high school. Unfortunately, there were other more painful sources of embarrassment.

Cycling, however, has always been a relative strength of mine. This may well be because cycling doesn’t take much coordination and because when I was five and learning to ride my bike I didn’t yet think I was an exercise-leper. I just had to learn like everybody else and I worked at it. And learn and work I did. I’ll never forget my red and white banana seat, my dad steadying me and feeling the wind through my hair (back in ye olde time before helmets were de rigueur).

Not surprisingly, I’ve been in a few scrapes in my time. Thankfully, to date, none of them have involved cars (knock on wood, pay homage to the universe). From about 5 to 10 I’m fairly sure I walked home once a year wailing all the way from the end of the back alley having scraped all my knees and elbows on the gravel. But there have been three particularly inglorious incidents.

Episode #1: Dogmeat

It was a fine fall evening. I was headed home from my friend’s house. She was seeing me off, waving, as her excited dogs dashed and pranced around her. The wind was once again blowing through my hair as dusk hinted at its arrival. The evening was always my favourite time to ride. I felt grown up, free and fast riding along the relatively deserted roads. Despite the increased traffic, I still love those late rides. As I said, there was waving, wind blowing and prancing. For some reason known only to canines, my friends’ dogs became very interested in me, my bike or something across the street. I tried to brake or swerve, but it all happened too fast. I struck the shelti right in the ribs. She skittered off looking at me like I had some sort of attitude problem, as light on her feet as always. Meanwhile I had gone ass over sissy brakes, but forgotten (somehow) to let go of my bike. I landed face down on the pavement with a fine set of handlebars cushioning the blow right across my thighs. In retrospect it’s better that my thighs were cushioned than my face or my shins, but I didn’t appreciate that at the time. I can’t remember if I told my friend her dog was stupid and got all huffy, but I know I wanted to.

Episode #2: Hayfever

Once again, I was at a friend’s house. It was a glorious summer day – August 22nd to be exact. We were playing in the field beside her house playing the game we’d recently invented. In the game, we imagined we were rent-a-cops on bikes. We would ride through the streets in her neighbourhood noting infractions to one another and taking our bikes to “the shop”. I’m not sure what we were doing in the grassy field, but I am sure it was riveting. We were about to set off to patrol the area. I was straddling my bike, not yet standing on the pedals. I couldn’t get my front tire to straighten out in the long grass. I lost my balance somehow (being me) and my bike tire, doing what bike tires like to do, rolled to the right. I fell with my bike. You may be wondering why I haven’t gotten back to tales of neighbourhood intrigue given that I fell off my bike from a standing position. It’s a fair question. The story is worthy because somehow – heaven help me – I broke my freaking arm in this fall. In two places actually, almost clean through. My arm looked like someone had taken the letter “s” and pulled on each end, but only a little. I passed out. I woke up and screamed bloody murder. I wore a cast for 13 weeks. It’s a wonder I’m not a hall-of-famer.

Episode #3: Superpavement

Just a few days ago (you knew where this was going), I was racing myself home, trying to beat my previous times. I was going about 20km/hr. It was definitely time to ease up on my racing goal, as I was about 100 metres from my front door, but hindsight is always 20/20. In yet another glorious cycling move, my tire got caught on the outside lip of the path I had been using. In that inexplicable way that one can do the same thing right 99 times out of 100, but be guaranteed to do it wrong every now and again, instead of just steering into the grass, or braking for that matter, I kept trying to get back on top. And boy, did I. My bike told me where to go and I flew like superman, arm extended, wind rippling. Too bad that instead of gliding through the air I was skidding along the pavement, helmet bouncing (yup, finally integrated the helmet). After what felt like an hour, my body stopped. My superman arm was exploding with pain. Kind people stopped to help and thankfully I was so very close to home. My shoulder on the other hand is pretty sure that superman sucks and I should never extend my arm again. Hopefully it’s wrong.

Just picture more pavement below.

* This may in fact be the crudest chop job of all time. With no photo editing software I had to get creative (i.e. even uglier than a purposefully ugly superimposed head should be).

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Cycling, Doing it the hard way | , , , | 4 Comments

Anything I set my mind to – Part 2

Silly me. My last post, Anything I set my mind to – Part 1, was so titled because I had a clear, sequel type idea that I wanted to explore in a follow up post aptly entitled Part 2. In a twist of “see, I told you I was a scatterbrain,” I have absolutely no idea what that brilliant thought (aren’t all forgotten thoughts brilliant?) was.

I do know this. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. I wanted to do other things too, some that involved writing, but I always wanted to be a “writer”. And to me that meant something relatively specific. I wanted to write a novel, and sell it, and people would read it, and at least a few people I’d never met would like it. Ideally that would happen more than once. A repeat cycle. The problem? Never really thought I could do it. Never willing to take the risk. Always wanted someone else to discover me, like some model standing in line at the grocery store. I also didn’t want anyone to be right about how dreams and artsy fartsiness don’t pay the bills.

It’s funny. Instead, I did what I thought at the time was the practical variation of writer: Communication Studies. To an awful lot of people that would be pretty darn hillarious. I’m all for the liberal arts degree, and verbally smack people who talk about it as a go-nowhere, employment killer. But it’s not nursing; it doesn’t set you down in some obvious “practical” positions. Socrates and Marshall McLuhan (the medium is the message guy) do not a clear path make.

Aspiring writers are not a vanishing breed in the blogosphere so I don’t want to dwell on this self-imposed barrier. I consider myself relatively aware of my weaknesses and very practical. These two traits can be healthy but are difficult to reconcile. I truly believe that we all have things to contribute. But there are so many good stories out there, vast experiences and important memories. Isn’t it a little self-indulgent to think that I could make a contribution to that discourse? I’ve met me.

Thankfully, never doesn’t last forever. But I can see how never really believing – the art of the possible or whatever – can definitely slow these things down.

I’m maxed out on self-indulgence for now. Saying goodbye to my brilliant thought.

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Doing it the hard way, Self-reflection | , , | 4 Comments

Anything I set my mind to – Part 1

I’ve always felt conflicted about that child-encouraging adage: “you can do anything you set your mind to [doing].”

At the risk of sounding like Ms. Negative, can you really?

On the one hand, I think that the support and faith that this phrase reflects is fantastic. I certainly wish someone had taken me aside and told me this when I was 5, 8, 10, 12, 16, 22 – repeatedly. [This is a rare case of me not blaming my parents. This was so far outside their cultural experience, I could not expect it. But if someone had taken it upon themselves to let me know, I would have been quite pleased.] I truly believe that being told this has empowered people around me, given them confidence and drive to pursue difficult, mysterious, and seemingly out of reach things, and find success in that pursuit. If we set a goal, pursue it doggedly, take initiative, share our passions, there is a great deal we can accomplish.

On the other hand, I think that treating “you can do anything” like dogma can get us into some disconcerting thought patterns. Some people face extraordinary barriers and some do not. Many who do have barriers overcome them fantastically. They contribute to their community and the world in ways we would have never imagined. But some don’t. Maybe I’m being too black and white about this but, isn’t there an implication that if we believe anyone can do anything they set their mind to, and they don’t achieve that goal, that their failure is somehow their fault? That if that person had just tried harder, they too could have been a star on the path of their choosing? In revering those who can, are we shaming those that can’t or don’t?

To give a concrete example, I was talking with a colleague of mine about people with disabilities who have to advocate for themselves for the accommodations they require to succeed academically. Some are able to do so and in the best case scenario, are accommodated accordingly. One can easily recognize their ability to overcome adversity. In some cases, others who were not in a position to so advocate, struggle more to do so, or give up on accommodation entirely, are not given the opportunity or are seen as having failed in some way. We may think that they don’t have the valiant spirit necessary to succeed.

Is it helpful to tell a person with severe depression that they’ll feel better if they make it their goal to do so when just getting out of bed may be a daily struggle that person faces? Can we help but wonder if another person in a similar situation was able to do it, why can’t they?

I  suppose it’s complicated. I suppose the real message is that we should set our sights high. I suppose we should similarly be able to accept when we fail, or at least forgive rather than blame ourselves. As humans, we have limitations. Where do they fit in?

October 11, 2011 Posted by | Bad TV References, Childhood Complaints, Doing it the hard way | , , , | 6 Comments

California Part 3: lived myth

The trip from Yosemite back to the coast (Monterey) was mostly uneventful. Mostly:

Not an event exactly, but warranted u-turns and picture-taking

Once we reached Monterey, and thereafter, I was no longer in completely uncharted territory. I felt so veteran, so in touch with being a tourist in California.

Therefore, having spent a total of 12 days in California in my life I am qualified to write as a California know-it-all. In my presumptuous Canadian fashion, I’m about to tell you what California is. Conclusively. No really. I’m positive I understand it all. By “all” I mean the coastal portions along the remote, harrowingly winding roads of the number 1 highway, with grazing cattle, crazy post offices, and pavement known only by those who spent way more time in the car than, well, anywhere really. Ready to learn?

California stings

Monterey Bay Aquarium lion's mane jellies

California educates

California  mystifies

Seahorse magic

California emancipates

California inspires fashion

California thrills

Santa Cruz beach carnival along the boardwalk

California disappoints

In my carousel inexperience and excitement, I picked a dud horse

California nourishes

Yummiest store ever with reasonably priced foodie options of all kinds

California goes under cover

I promise, it's the Golden Gate

California glamourizes

California hollows

Drive through a tree? Check.

California ensconces

The hospitality of ancient wood

California awes

Looking up a lightening scar

California dominates

California ends

Finally someone else taking a picture of a state sign

I can’t say much for the urban pulls of California. Seascapes, rolling hills, rock formations, and endless remoteness bowled me over. For a state with so many people, there’s a heck of a lot of space to just be. I am grateful for the utter miracle that is the expanse of undeveloped, or little developed coastline. Shh. Don’t tell anyone.

October 6, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , , , | 4 Comments

I Prefer My “Maiden” Name and You Can Too (or Not).

I cannot express how excited I am. I am ridiculous.The wheels are in motion for me to return to the surname I enjoyed for more than a quarter century. And no. I have no confessions of relationship drama or emotional turmoil, which makes this much more fun. So why is this coming to a head now?

I’m quasi close to graduation and even closer to actually getting my degree (not online, you’ll be saddened to know). In a field where people actually do hang their piece of paper on the wall, I’d like to awkwardly change my name back only once. Now seems like a good time. But the other, maybe more important reason, is that some 4+ years ago there was an agreement between me and hypothetical people. “Good. So we’ll go with the name change. But you can change your name in five years, if you want.” I sent an ashamed email to a friend I knew would sympathize/scold me and thereafter, for practical purposes, owned the name change whole heartedly.

I had completely new documents and a corresponding new personality (I kid) within a month. I’ve been uncomfortable about this deal ever since. Not in a dramatic, “what have I done” sort of way. In more of a genuinely confused, send my mom a card with the wrong last name on it kind of way. Seriously. Cause if my name’s different, then my mom’s must be too, right? The point being, I have not embraced (or understood) with whole heart this new me.

This of course, is indicative of the negotiations and starting positions. I never thought I was going to change my name. Hypothetical people never thought they would have a partner who didn’t. What were a lover of tradition and a lover of her name and its meaning to do? As I understand it, some level of standoff is not uncommon. A friend I know characterizes it this way: her otherwise progressive and awesome partner turns into a neanderthal about 10 seconds into a discussion of why a woman needn’t change her name. Thankfully, I haven’t witnessed any cave-burning or club weilding.

It hasn’t escaped me that my name is my father’s. I get that that raises its own issues about patriarchy. But that doesn’t change that I feel more connected to his (my) last name than any other. I was also named in the traditional Portuguese manner, which means that my mom’s name also made the cut: Rose [Mother’s hard to pronounce maiden name] [Father’s Surname]. While my mom’s team doesn’t get listed in the phone book, it is still in there, which I’ve always liked.

Just to be clear, I’m not invested in how other people deal with this issue. In an ideal world, I suppose, I would prefer that there was at least a conversation, that people didn’t just assume that in the straight marriage scene every woman should and would change her name. There are those who keep, those who take, those who long to take because they hate that freaking name, those who keep and then take, those with different work and personal names, hyphenators, combinators and those who challenge marriage as a patriarchal institution and reject the whole deal. In classic liberal wishy-washy fashion – I dig. Name yourself as you will.

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Doing it the hard way, Hypotheticals, Portuguese-ness? | , , | 11 Comments