the name game 1

“If I marry, should I change my last name?”

It’s a question that has become a part of women’s* culture in the English-speaking world, and one that some would say has no right answer but only wrong ones. (Because I’m talking about established traditions, I’m talking only about cis-het marriages.) (* Men can opt in but usually don’t.)

In this culture, the most common choices are: she keeps her last name; she changes her last name to his; she hyphenates the names. Other options include: he changes his last name to hers; he hyphenates the names (probably only if she does too); together they pick a new name that they’ll share.

I kept my name. When I was a child, I never expected to get married. My names — first, middle last — range from very unusual to unique, and I’ve always felt very attached to all of them (except when I was little and found my first name to be burdensomely weird, but I’ve grown into it). I’m an atheist and a feminist. Wolf and I were together for years in a common law relationship before we got married.

My mom changed her name at first. At the time, the law required women to change their names, and it was a legal hassle to keep your own name. She went back to her maiden name while she and my dad were still together, though they subsequently divorced. (Pretty sure the name thing wasn’t a factor!) She always felt that her own last name was part of her identity and resented being forced to change. (Also, her first name + my dad’s last name had an awkward rhythm.) She’s an atheist and a feminist. She’s married again now and kept her own name.

An acquaintance changed her name. She had been teased about it as a child and positively jumped at the opportunity to be rid of it. She married again, changed her name again. She’s now single but still keeps that second married name. As I understand it, the decision was primarily aesthetic.

My (half-)sister changed her name. I was very surprised, frankly, given our non-traditional, extended, blended family. I asked her why but her answer didn’t make a lot of sense. Her maiden name was her father’s (he and my mom never married, and it was mom’s idea to give her his name), so she argued that it was one man’s name or another’s. Perhaps, but only one of those names had been hers since birth, and our mother’s last name had belonged to our grandfather. Her answer struck me as justification rather than the real reason, which I suspect was that she simply wanted to change it but hadn’t really figured out why. She then got divorced and bemoaned the hassle of changing all of her ID and everything back to her maiden name. Even though an “I told you so” was hovering about, I wisely said nothing. She has just gotten remarried and this time kept her name, which I think suits her personality and worldview better. She’s also an atheist and a feminist.

Among my extended family (including relationships in which the woman is related by marriage), there are four women who kept their names and two who changed. There are no hyphenated names among the women but some among their kids.

I grew up with the idea that a woman deciding to keep her name was the new default. No one questioned my choice not to change my name, which I attribute to the fact that people either didn’t feel challenged by it or knew better than to say anything.

I have more thoughts on this topic, but they will have to wait.

I have Oxford on my mind

1

Wolf finished his thesis last week, and I insisted on proofreading until past my bedtime even though a deadline was looming. I hadn’t been able to help much with the doctorate beyond being a sounding board, but this was the assistance I’d been planning to give him since he first was admitted to Oxford. It was for him but also for me.

He emailed it off to the printer down the street from his former residence, and try as I might I can’t visualise the shopfront. Once printed, the readers’ copies would be delivered to the Examination Schools, another place I’ve walked past countless times. He’ll be mildly fretful about it until it’s successfully delivered, and so it’s on my mind too.

2

An acquaintance from sexy Twitter just ran the Oxford Half Marathon the other day. I’ve spent some time in the city and though I haven’t been there for the Half Marathon, I’m certain I’ve seen some other race there. I have a mental snapshot of runners in bibs, which must then date from May or June 2015. Where were they? Longwall?

 

3

Another acquaintance from sexy Twitter has family in Oxford and also studied there. We’ve talked about that a wee bit, and discussed colleges. No doubt some of his most vivid memories of the city are situated near some of my own. Like that evening when I saw an undergrad in a room above street level, carrying on with the music loud and window open, and wearing a bedsheet toga.

4

My mood is tenuous. It’s bedtime and I’m looking for a book to read. Must be fiction but there’s precious little new fiction in the house. I haven’t yet cracked the new Yann Martel, in part because the quote from a review on the front cover calls it “entirely heartbreaking”. Why did I buy this? So I look for an old friend and choose Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches, a goodly chunk of which is set in Oxford.

 

I’d spent time in the city before I first read the book, but only a couple of weeks by that point. My visual memory is shit and I could barely remember the things that I had seen. I reread the book in preparation for my trip in 2015, and then soaked up vistas, views and sights. Radcliffe Camera. The Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian, All Souls (all from the outside). New College mostly from the outside but briefly from the inside once to take in evensong. The Covered Market, Blackwells, Holywell Street. The river down to the college boathouses and beyond. On the second-last day of my two-month visit, I took a tour of the Bod and got to see the famous Duke Humphrey’s Library and the Selden End (alas, no photos allowed), where the Harkness book begins.

 

As a student, Wolf was in and out of the Bod regularly, though not this building. He has a few business cards and one of those makes an utterly perfect bookmark for this book.

5

When I arrived in Oxford that time, Wolf and I both had things to tell each other that needed to be said in person. We’d been living apart for the better part of three years, though our last separation commenced only about two months before. He told me that he wasn’t feeling well and hadn’t been for a few months already. He had noticed a problem soon after he had last returned to Oxford, so it must have been March. There wasn’t much to be done until we got home, but at least I’d already set up a checkup for him. Seven weeks after he went for that checkup, he was having open-heart surgery. The ends of the scar are still pink, the drugs a daily reminder.

It was all I could do to wait a week before sharing my own news. During that week, we fucked up a storm, jet lag and period notwithstanding. It was a delight to reconnect, and to connect sexually in a way that we hadn’t really ever before. I’d been busy having my epiphany and related revelations but I was at home alone most of that time. And when he had been home, he found it a bit overwhelming.

When I could no longer hold my tongue and finally confessed that Gawan wanted to come and meet me, it was very difficult and took quite a while for Wolf to process. I have a trip to visit Gawan in a few weeks, and my departure date is almost two years from the day we first met at my local airport. Gawan is now my dom, and though the distance and polyamory are a challenge, Wolf is comfortable with it now, which allows me to be too.

6

The book I brought with me to Oxford was Guy Gavriel Kay’s River of Stars. I’ve since given Gawan the previous GGK book, which he’s currently reading.

7

I’m not generally one for romance novels, but I found I enjoyed the romance element of A Discovery of Witches. The main character is a witch who has avoided learning anything about or using witchcraft and magic since childhood, and the love interest is a vampire. Leaving aside the issue of how vampires in literature (and other media) went from being terrifying to romantic, many of the little things he does are dominant; it reminds me a touch of D/s. One of the first things he says to her is that it can be pleasurable to let someone else take the lead, he’s protective of her, and following a bonding moment he declares that she belongs to him. And she agrees. He’s used to being obeyed. He also wears a lot of black, so there’s that.

a new approach to blogging

I haven’t been posting much lately. I had various things interfere, like fatigue, depression, and some of my old hobbies, including dance.

I’ve lost my momentum. I’ve started lots of pieces and my drafts document is overflowing, but I haven’t been able to sit down and work things up into actual posts.

Maybe my approach needs to change. Maybe I’m trying to write about things that I don’t yet know the answers to. I don’t like to post until I’ve reached a conclusion and maybe I don’t have any conclusions right now.

So I’m going to try something different and allow myself to be a little less polished, a little more stream of consciousness.

Another thing that’s been interfering with my writing is that this is a sex blog and my sex life is very quiet. My desire is low. I don’t imagine my depression was very helpful in this regard, and the medication I’m now on (citalopram) seems to have snuffed out what embers there were.

My depression seems to be under control: the seriously down moods are few and far between and I sometimes even get spontaneous good moods. I had been started at one dosage and then had it increased twice. Since the meds seemed to be increasing my fatigue and my mood was stable, my dosage has been reduced twice so I’m back at the low dose where I started. I’m happy to take the medication as long as I need it, but hopefully when I get off it, I’ll see some positive effects on my libido.

Another part of the problem is that I don’t really know what turns me on. I’ve always had a difficult time figuring out what I like and what I want, and only in the last few years did I even figure out that I should be asking myself those questions. I have questions but no good answers. Physically I can get turned on, but I don’t know what input I need to get there. So I don’t blame the medication for the whole problem, and I think it’s much more complicated and difficult to solve than just not taking that pill.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my next trip to see Gawan, which is less than four weeks away. I’ll be staying at his house again, no real travelling, and probably a lot of time in bed and/or in a state of undress.