new us, new me

we’ve gone around and around about the question of marriage-related name change, chris and I. it’s kind of funny– it sort of felt like a non-issue until his family raised the question– and even then, at first, I was all “of course I’m not changing my name.”

more than anything it felt to me like just so much bureaucratic hassle– and for what? well, there are the identity and affiliation questions, obviously, which, I must admit, I was initially slow to grasp. there is, on some level, residue resentment of the one-sidedness of the naming tradition in our culture– all patrilineal representation with matrilineal influences disappearing into a palimpsest of occasional token middle, and to a certain extent so-called christian, names– the elizabeths and katharines in my family, the “one L” russels, my own holmes– but less substantive and resonant, ultimately less legal. hard to really do anything real about, given the long run of generations.

so I suppose I have, historically and somewhat by default, laid claim purposefully to my full given name, that sarah holmes townsend, as some type of enduring token of identity, wholly mine, unmoved by the shifting of emotional, psychic, and experiential influence. even willfully to spite the, koff koff, crappy monogram.

until now.

because I’ve changed my mind. that is, I’ve decided to change my name. to take on, with marriage to my fascinating and fitting partner, his name along with a commitment for the remainder of our lives. but I’ve also asked him to take on mine, as well– for us both to adopt townsend as middle and reiser as surname (thanks to tammy and by extention aleah for the suggestion).

now, I realize this tactic doesn’t touch the whole patrilineal/matrilineal naming convention question– and, ultimately, I suppose I’m throwing up my hands on that one as simply too big and deep and unmanageable to tackle (too further complicated by a heritage of multiple maternal lines through adoption). and despite how chris explained it to his dad yesterday, it’s not even so much about fairness in the final analysis for me as it is about doing it intentionally and together as a genuine gesture of our union– so that what results is a kind of townsend reiser team sans the unwieldy mouth-jumble of hyphenation.

I do understand that through use and in the course of things this townsend middle name will likely fade into something of a remnant, becoming less present and apparent over time– and I will probably become increasingly this new person myself, this sarah reiser, who currently feels like something of a stranger to me. I guess I’ve decided these things are just fine, too. I am become a neologism.

words, and all the more so names, are important to me. I tend not to use them lightly or effortlessly. I’m not so much a woman who bends easily with the groove of convention or external expectation– I resist and question and insist on finding my own right way, often taking my good time to do it. I kept my given name throughout the course of my first marriage without a second thought. I have a first cousin I’ve been closer to and distant from on and off over the years who at one time taught me something real about the resonances of renaming oneself, of laying claim to a matrix of familial and associative identities. I continue to decline to endorse any fixed right way— only the right way for each of us, felt in our bones and executed to the very tips of our nerve endings.


I miss vox. today I deleted the contact for vox blog posts off my cell phone. been awhile since I used it– still the residue of habitude was there.

I’ve been spinning in my solitude and transitional semi-idleness. it’s true, I’m semi-idle. it’s embarrassing to be not-busy– my work ethic throbs– but I am busy honoring an inner compulsion to lie fallow and let something sprout.

tonight I was drooling over letterpress accoutrements on ebay, getting starry-eyed over lead typefaces and the idea of building a shop, working in it all the live long day.

I’ve been spinning, unreconciled to the viability of any vehicle, uncertain of my desired destination– writing or drawing or collage or whatever I trip across seems less than a substantive means of occupation. I imagine what it would take to bump it up to a level that rendered the feeling of viability– and then I throw jacks under my own bare feet, object that I haven’t the nuts to manage it, frankly. stick-to-it-tiveness they used to call it, those field hockey coaches and math dinosaurs, outliving their due extinction long enough to sling final lethal commentaries.

in other news– my single argument thus far against the civil wedding ceremony as an ideal vehicle for accomplishing official bliss: one really shouldn’t have to have bureaucrats handing one any additional necessary paperwork, apart from one’s marriage license of course. I’m the type of bride who feels that’s enough to ask. as it was the groom’s brother spirited that away for safekeeping, and it was conveyed to me securely after the fact in a sturdy plastic bag. when the scolding lady handed me a tiny slip of paper amidst all the chaos, the fact that I happened to be carrying an outfit-matching pink handbag I could slip into this itsy smidgeon of printed matter outlining steps one should take to obtain a legal copy of the marriage certificate– well, suffice to say: I’ve lost it. onto the labyrinth of poorly-designed and -architected civil bureaucracy web pages I go to track down the answer.

touching base/wood/the keys

ah, man, I’ve missed my little ibook– chris got it working again just last night and then was off to work super-early this morning, so here I lie, having my old type-in-bed time once more. an indeterminate brain is confronted by the opportunity…

honestly, I’ve felt a bit adrift without the tether of words composed here– facebook brings something else entirely– reconnections, semi-connections, a superficial sort of webbing, but webbing nonetheless– it’s brought me back into some form of contact with more than one lost friend, for which I’m enormously grateful– but the writing medium is altogether different, requiring by custom if not strict technical limitiation (as twitter) a tendency of hyper-abbreviation. this tenor is most surely the coin of the realm more generally, but as an expressive form it does little for real mulling through– my milieu. yes, I know, it isn’t as if vox (or for that matter wordpress, blogger or, heck, my trusty paper journal) has gone away, only myself that has elected to neglect the form– the medium itself remains available throughout my various distractions.

and to what do these distractions amount? little coherent cumulatively, I fear. there’s me, always inclining to weigh and measure. recently here and there been torturing myself for no good reason with google searches for people I no longer need any connection with– wretched, idle hands. I know better. well, at least the killing curiosity is soon exhausted with lack of any relevance, but it’s a waste of energy. and other wastes as well– time and self spent merely watching video, tuning out, dialling down the day. then there’s been some good reading (margaret atwood– and attending her gorgeous many-voiced book launch event downtown on friday). a weekend full of sleep, fighting off one of the many seasonal bugs flying around. glorious golden autumn days. car repairs etcetera.

adrift. diffuse. in need of locating a likely thread to stitch it all into some sense.

one thing tho: we’ve begun to plan weddinging for 2010– in our own idiosyncratic way, with sites of celebration in chicago and northern michigan– we’ve started sketching it out for ourselves, what’s wanted, what’s not wanted, how to accommodate the needs versus desires of those we love, how to make something authentic and real and delicious and right for ourselves, to relinquish any mar from the past’s damaged expectations– to begin anew, rightly and brilliantly, for ourselves.

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of summer and friends and babies

golly. it’s the first time in what feels like a Very Long Time that I have lain in bed in the morning and tippity-tappety meandered around catching up with people in the virtual realm– especially my mom- and mom-to-be friends jen and laurel and hanh. I expect the evident common denominator here is more than a little attributable to being a woman of a certain age, entering a domesticating stage and considering issues of, well, just what many of the women I know are doing around this time of life: having babies, writing, juggling various identities.

also, likely, due to the fact that I’m on the cusp of my first real roadtrip vacation in a very long time, all based around a dear friend’s wedding– next week we’ll be hopping in the car and meandering out to new york for my gorgeous friend thisbe’s backyard wedding hoo-ha! I’m totally totally excited for the free time and excursion with my darlin’ and the chance to see good old friends who live too far away to visit more frequently. we’ll be going into manhattan for a couple of days of art museums and staying at the home of one of my very oldest and dearest friends masha, with whom I went to boarding school. right now both chris and I are busy trying to tie up loose ends and arrange for backup on work projects while we’re gone– it’s a bit of a scramble. and for some reason or other I bought a gallon of milk the other day right before vacating. silly sarah.

we have a new tent and a new air mattress to put in it, and we will be kamping at the KOA kampground right near the wedding site along with a slew of other revelers. I’m having gleeful visions of firepits and smores and jumping in the swimming hole out back of thisbe & jay’s place. proper summer. I’ve been craving it. for all my proximity to a great lake, it’s a doggone shame that I haven’t thrown on my suit and jumped in it since last year. swimming and sloshing around in great fresh bodies of water is without a doubt my A #1 favorite all-time activity. the unfortunate thing is that the lifeguards on the chicago beaches won’t let you go out above where the water hits your knees– very aggravating, though I do get that they have a job to do and a swarming populace with iffy water skills to manage. but sometimes you just really want to get in over your head, yknow?