Day Four: A New Name

posted November 20, 2017

It took me fifty years to really love my name.

I was thinking about this after seeing the luminous, hilarious, almost-perfect film Ladybird, about a girl named Christine who re-christens herself. What “Ladybird” means is never explained, and I am trying to slow down enough to think about all the reasons why she might have chosen that name. I never (really) tried to re-name myself, though I have thought about it. Once, a newspaper typo-d my name as “Ngrissa” which I loved so much that I wished I could change it to that. It’s got a good growl to it. I picture Ngrissa as an African warrior princess. I hear it pronounced in a Nigerian accent, with a rolling “r” and a long “i”, like “Lisa.”

The trucks are back. The burly surly men are digging the foundation as I write this. I wonder what they think of me. By accident, I said the word “Trump” when I meant to say “stump” (as in, “I wonder if now would be a good time to take down the stumps around the fence”). They all looked uncomfortable. I know my contractor didn’t vote for 45. But I can’t say the same for his crew.

I wish there wasn’t this discomfort. I wish politics was something we could work around, ignore, see as something abstract, the way I see people’s religions (or lack thereof) today. Right now, I can’t.

Both of my beta-readers have given me an extraordinary amount of their time and attention. I have some good solutions to some problems that have dogged my book. I want to push everything in my life to the side right now and focus on my novel. I am so close, and it needs me! But today, I need to call the Parlor Room to schedule our Christmas Show (Dec. 16 at 2pm in Northampton, so glad you asked). I have to clean my house. I have to go to my voice lesson. I have to pick up the dry cleaning that I was supposed to pick up 10 days ago. (This is why I never ever ever dry clean anything). I have to get Roxane Gay’s Hunger and Ruth Lehrer’s Being Fishkill from Broadside Books. I have to get my nephew some birthday presents, and I have to go to Trader Joe’s. Tonight, I will write.

Yesterday, Tom and I pushed aside all of the everything else, and drove up to West Cummington for church. The morning sun was incredible against the stormy sky, and I just watched it light up the lichen on the bare trees. It was like the best movie, ever. I played “Imagine” and “Hallelujah” on the grand piano and listened to Steve talk about male violence, and how that is at the root of everything wrong with the world. “Why do we think ‘women’s issues’ are education and health care?” he asked. “When women’s issues are men.”

Just as we white people need to shut up and listen to black people, men who consider themselves pro-feminist may need to step back and listen for awhile, Steve said. Yup. I love the men in my life so much it makes my soft palate ache. There are so many good, gentle, funny, humble men that I have been blessed to know. Even so, these days, I want to wear a necklace of bones, like Kali. I am even angrier this Thanksgiving than I was last year at this time. I think I will bring Ngrissa along.

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