A Wondeful Life
By Aaron Raz Link
change my name until I was almost thirty. Like sex, like your face,
like the small patch of skin at the base of the neck where people like
to be tattooed, a name marks the space where private meets public. Your
most personal possessions are the ones you only see in mirrors-- “Hi,
I’m Aaron, who are you?” That’s why I didn’t like the idea of changing
my name; I clung to the fantasy that I could see myself just fine without
a mirror, thank you.
What I finally changed was the public domain. It’s other people’s world you’re messing with. They might care. You have to request their cooperation. Ask for help with mirrors. You’ll notice that you look quite different in different lights. In certain lights, in fact, you’ll look exactly like an idiot.
The bulletin board in the county courthouse was covered with names. I had no idea so many people changed their names. When I held up my official notarized form, it was an impressive declaration of individuality, or freakishness, or something. Pinned up with a hundred others, it was anonymous. From a distance, they look a lot like ballots.
2) Divorced women: retrieval of maiden name.
3) Transsexuals: Dennis to Denise, Tracy (female) to Tracy (male), $15 extra for listing change of gender.
4) Miscellaneous others: change to last name of adopted family, official New Age new name, change to avoid former perpetrators or victims, change because former name was just too stupid. John Smith to Hafiz StarCrystal Chi’en Lung, Hafiz StarCrystal Chi’en Lung to Jane Smith.
5) New Category, exhausted Muslim men, heads down: Mufad (Bosnian) to Marty, Abdulreza (Iranian) to Al, Muhammad (American) to Washington.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Courthouse basement, window two.
Aaron Raz Link is a writer, performer, teacher, and curator. A Nebraska native, he grew up to become an historian and philosopher of science, working as a scientific educator with organizations including the University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, the Oregon Zoo, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. After the sex change, drag queens sent him to clown school, making him a graduate of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre.
* excerpted from What Becomes You, University of Nebraska Press