I have healed all my addictions - food//cigarettes// shoplifting// making up stories that would inflate my life// but I have not healed this one place - name - my very own personal kryptonite.
Twenty years ago, my friend and mentor Jan Barrett came over to my home and said 'My name is now Andrea Villanelle Christophe, Jan is dead.' And while I did not think it was a good idea to kill off a part of one's self, I got it.
Does anyone remember the show "Queer as Folk"? There was a scene in it that has not left me since I first watched it almost fifteen years ago. In this scene the actor Peter Paige was in a cemetery and was talking to an older man (who for some strange reason was wearing a fedora. The things one remembers, eh?) who told Peter that in the end, all that you have of your life, is your name.
I have tried for twenty years, to re-name myself. I have spent thousands of dollars on I.D bracelets; first gold and then, when I realized I could not stop at one (or twenty) I "graduated" to silver , thinking if I could "see" my name in print it would solidify the name in my body, somehow.
And did I not just last week engrave Charleston on a copper bracelet purchased from a sexy white haired woman at Pride? I did. I have now come up with rationalizations (how many of us do this?) to justify the name of Charleston, none of whom would hold up scrutiny to a six year old.
But still, I persevere.
I have changed my name legally twice. I have been stopped at the border on my way to Florida for having an expired passport, (because I was waiting for "my name" ) and held in a small room with no windows for three hours.( Very not good for this extreme claustrophobe). I still can't fucking get it. I was a pack a day smoker for twenty years. The day I found out I was pregnant I stopped. Over. Serious food challenges for almost forty years. Healed. Shoplifting was done occasionally and only in high stress moments, long long over.
I have changed my behaviour from crazy to calm, and still and still this one fucking elusive thing eludes me to this day. I thought that once I was published (I am honoured to be part of an anthology to be published in November) that I would be 'cured'. But no - I was name obsession free for about a week, and then I read a review of Harper Lee's new book and thought ; hmm... maybe Harper? Fuck me and my mother! I thought I was healed of this naming insanity. But this is much bigger than little conscious me. I get it. Intellectually a name is not going to bring me a good mother, or safety or -- but still, I search. I am sharing this here because I want my friends and strangers both to know that I am flawed and fucked up but always, every day, trying to be better, whole -er, happy -er, truthful -er (Important to me as I come from a family that lies like they breathe.)
So this is me, trying to be transparent in the hopes of:
A. Writing this might help someone else.
B. Writing this might help me.
My little hopeful bunny self is slightly excited today, because this morning I realized I was out of coffee and went to Starbucks in the Village (Jewish village, not Gayish village) and because it was an upscale 'hood they had specialty limited offer coffee and I had to buy it because it was small and cute and came with the letter R on the front. Immediately I thought "This is my letter!" (I am not certain that thoughts need quotation marks but just in case). Perhaps I have pertinent information now. I have been praying to the Grandmothers for help in this painful place, to find my true name. I believe they are showing themselves here; because my parents named me Rhona after my great grandmother Rchl (It's Yiddish and Yiddish does not have vowels). My favorite ex had written a story about us, and in her story, gave me the name Rowland. Perhaps I can go with that, after all I AM A SURVIVOR! (Kelly Rowland Beyoncé Michelle Williams)