thanks for the liebster love; let's have some more!

Thanks to follower .breaking into blossom., I've been nominated for something called a liebster award: a sort of  blog-based chain letter which encourages small bloggers to give a shout-out to/for other small bloggers.

I don't normally do chain-letter type things, but 
a) it was sweet of blossom to think of me (thank you!),
b) I just got back from vacation and I'm bored,
c) I like that the Liebster Award shares the same first letter as Lesbian.
So here goes.

It seems there are multiple versions of this "award" going around, but the one blossom is following instructs me to:
a) nominate eleven blogs with under 200 followers (I honestly don't know how you'd determine that, so I'm just gonna take a stab at it by choosing from the "smallish personal blog" category in my Feedly list)
b) notify said bloggers they've been nominated (hey bloggers! thanks for existing!)
c) provide answers to the eleven questions blossom posed in her own Liebster post, and
d) ask eleven questions of my own nominees, to answer if they so choose, along with posting their own eleven nominees (excluding the blogger who nominated you).
My Nominees in Alphabetical Order are.... (drumroll) ... 
  1. The Dirty Normal
  2. Eat the Damn Cake
  3. Fannie's Room
  4. First the Egg
  5. I'm Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write
  6. The Lesbrary
  7. New Porn By Women
  8. Radical Doula
  9. The Thang Blog
  10. Undercover in the Suburbs
  11. Walk the Ridgepole
My responses to blossom's questions...
  1. What comforts you most when you’re sad? Touch, particularly from my wife (doesn't have to be sexual). And reading familiar books.
  2. What would you do on a dream day where money and travel time were no object? Enjoy leisurely meals in the good company of friends and family (who are scattered across the continent), go walking in Cumbria in ideal weather, read intellectually engaging things in books, and enjoy unhurried sexytimes with my wife.
  3. Favorite drink (with or without alcohol)? Summer: Elderflower gin & tonic, Winter: Goat's milk hot cocoa made with belgian chocolate.
  4. What character trait (of yours) do you most struggle to accept about yourself? The fact that physical activity and exercise are not second nature to me.
  5. How much water do you drink in a day? Typically not as much as I should.
  6. If you’re a parent, what has surprised you the most about the gig? If you’re not, what do you like best about not having kids (right now or at all)? I feel uncomfortable framing non-parenting in terms of what's "best" about that aspect of our family life. In part, we're non-parents because we can't picture having enough hours in the day (around work) or emotional resources to parent adequately. So I guess I'd say, "it's good having enough sleep and down-time that we can function"? But I'd rather say that what's surprised me about non-parenting is that I'm okay with it. Growing up, I assumed I would be a mother. Life hasn't turned out that way, and it's surprising me that I'm as comfortable with that as I am.
  7. What (if anything) makes you feel insecure about either being a parent or not being a parent? Insecurity may not be the right term...but I worry about how to maintain cross-generational connections in the absence of parenting, as that is the clearest model I know.
  8. Top three four television shows of all time? Firefly. Mr. Rogers. Torchwood. The West Wing.
  9. Specialty dish (or baked indulgence)? Something you’ve made time and again. Moosewood brownies.
  10. Favorite thing about the person you’ve grown into? That I can always find something to be interested in and ask questions about.
  11. One simple, happy memory. Stepping off the plane in Redmond, Oregon, en route to visiting my grandparents and smelling the scent of juniper and lava rock dust.
My questions for the Leibster nominees ... (should they choose to answer them) ... 
  1. First library?
  2. A favorite childhood book or movie you're now a bit cringe-y about having adored?
  3. Earliest memory of the internet?
  4. Food you disliked in childhood but appreciate now (and why)?
  5. Books currently on your nightstand/active reading pile?
  6. A might-have-been from your twenties (job not taken, relationship not pursued, trip aborted) that you find yourself wondering about?
  7. Favored toothpaste, toothbrush?
  8. Have you ever burned/shredded/junked a piece of personal history you now regret destroying (if so, what and why)?
  9. Have you ever burned/shredded/junked a piece of personal history you have no regrets about (if so, what and why)?
  10. A strong childhood memory of world events?
  11. A project you hope to finish some day (but has currently fallen by the wayside)?
If you (the nominees) choose to spread the liebster love, now or at some later date, please link the post you create back here in comments so others can enjoy!

Again, thank you all for thinking and writing and sharing.


    a week of the commuting life [thoughts]

    So Hanna and I are back in Boston after a whirlwind week of California (Hanna) and Pawtucket (me, then both of us). The cats are contemplating forgiving us for our absence and the weather is gorgeous -- sun, warm-but-not-too, breezy, with low-humidity -- so in many ways it's good to be home to our urban apartment life.

    home sweet home
    Though I'll admit it was also hard to leave smaller-city life, and a week spent in a early-twentieth-century neighborhood of small apartment buildings and single-family homes, mature trees, walkable boulevards, and blessed quiet. It was really wonderful to have a table to eat meals at, a kitchen where two people could actually work comfortably, a washer and dryer you  didn't have to feed quarters into (or stand in line to use), a porch with a swing ... the sort of things that feel like "grown up" life to two people in their thirties who grew up in single-family homes (even if Hanna's didn't have a washer and dryer, and mine didn't have a porch swing!).

    Not that we need, necessarily, a single-family home or a very large space. After five-to-seven years in this tiny little one-bedroom we're starting to get restless for a less student-apartment feeling place. Which for us translates into maybe a two-bedroom space (one for office/guest use) with a decent-sized kitchen, a porch, maybe space for a pot garden or ground-garden. A space that has direct access to the outdoors rather than the negotiation of apartment halls.

    A space that gives us a little more privacy-negotiation room when we need it. A way to use spaces to move through different daily-life activities: cooking and eating, reading, sleeping and waking, scholarship.

    we don't need a literal white picket fence
    Of course, the conundrum in this region of the country is affordability vs. walkability. Right now, we pay to live within walking distance from work and other amenities, and in a robust (though it could be better!) public transit zone. We can live without  a car, and even increasingly without monthly public transit fees (thanks Hubway!). What we pay in rent -- $1295 per month -- we save in transportation costs.

    Work is in the urban center; affordable homes are on the urban periphery. I'm not even really talking suburbs or exburbs ... the neighborhood we were house-sitting in was maybe "suburban" when it was built in the 1910s but is now very much an established part of Pawtucket (bordering on Providence). There were shops and cafes walking-distance away, and grocery stores within biking distance; a crosstown bus stop at the end of the block. You would need a bike, perhaps a car for some things, but you aren't looking at a gated-community / food desert situation.

    The "urban periphery" of Boston includes cities in New Hampshire and Rhode Island and Western Massachusetts where people commute daily into Boston (or closer to Boston) and then home again. These places are towns, even cities, in their own right -- but their residents have often been pushed out of Boston because although our jobs are here we can't afford, long term, to live here. And I'm not talking about
    "can't afford" in the "I want a sprawling estate in the hinterlands" sense. I'm talking "can't afford" as in "current market prices for one-bedroom apartments in our neighborhood are pricing us out" despite the fact we're living in what is one of the more affordable inner-Boston neighborhoods and we're making what pass for firmly middle-class wages these days, for a family of two.

    We're hardly the only people our age who are feeling financial pressure to leave urban centers -- yet still need to work at our jobs in the city. Not everyone works in a high-tech-enabled, work-from-home, work-from-anywhere position.

    I had a lot of time to think about this core-to-periphery migration during the past week while sitting in traffic, or on the commuter rail, en route to Boston from Pawtucket and back again.

    In Allston, our alarm goes off at 6:30, we leave the apartment shortly after 7:00, and have Hanna at work about quarter of eight. We travel by foot. As I've written elsewhere, I can get from apartment to work and back again in twenty minutes by bike; about forty-five minutes by T. This means that our evenings generally begin about 5:30-6:00pm, when we get in from work and an after-work errand or two.

    Walking is free; our public transit options cost us an average of $30/each per month.

    In Pawtucket, driving in by car I got up at 5:30 and left the house at 6:00. I got to work at 7:45-8:15 in the morning, after a drive that at-speed would have taken fifty-odd minutes but in rush hour took 1.5-2.5 hours. By train the time is more commensurate -- leaving the house at seven put me on the 7:22 train to Boston and I was at work by 8:30. But this, like the drive, lost me exercise (walking or biking) at both ends of the day and added time in the evening commute (I wasn't back in Pawtucket until 7:00pm).

    Then there's the car, insurance, gas; and/or rail passes, plus parking -- which can be hundreds of dollars per month.

    Equally unaffordable, in many ways.

    Hanna and I are a year or two out from looking for our next Boston metro area home -- and probably five-to-ten years out from a major relocation. But it was useful to have this hands-on experience at the commuting life. I'm absolutely sure I don't want it.

    The sad thing will be if we end up looking elsewhere not because we actively want to live elsewhere (which may be the case -- we talk about Vermont and we talk about Oregon) but because we can no longer afford to live the life we want to here.


    houdini the adorable [video post]

    We're still on holiday, so here are some one-minute videos of Houdini being adorable.

    Our own cat-sitter, a colleague of mine, remarked on Tuesday when we crossed paths at work that Hanna and I don't actually have two cats: "You have a watch dog and a squirrel!" she said.

    I thought the descriptions were apt.

    Houdini vs. the Human I (Big Scary Toes)

    Houdini vs. the Human II (Big Scary Hand)

    Houdini vs. His First Jingle Ball


    pawtucket, rhode island [photo post]

    Hanna's in California this weekend, attending a bridal shower and enjoying a few days with our friends Diana and Collin. I'm in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, kitten-sitting for a friend who inadvertently adopted a wee kitten she found in the engine well of her car about six weeks ago (!).

    The kitten's name is Houdini because he is good at hiding and at getting out of enclosed spaces. He was deeply uncertain of me for the first twenty-four hours, but he is now willing to share the same couch and even sat on my lap for a few minutes, purring madly.

    He's the loudest, most automatic purr-er I have ever seen. If you so much as look at him, he starts up like a little motor launch.

    Hanna will be joining me on Tuesday, when she returns from the west coast, and we're going to enjoy a few days' midsummer getaway before heading back to Boston (although I'll also be experiencing the commuter life when I go into work Monday, Tuesday and Friday -- whee!

    This morning I walked the length of Blackstone Boulevard from Pawtucket into Providence. Lots of really well-maintained early 20th-century homes en route for my architectural-history gene to geek out about.

    In Providence, I made my way to the local independent grocers for a few supplies (you always forget something!). Though less proliferate than in Boston, there are really great food options here, including wildflour cafe where I got my morning's delicious coffee and a rosemary-onion savory scone, and three sisters where I went last night for kulfi ice cream (YUM).

    I'd be lying if I said I hadn't gone on Craigslist last night to check out the rental market in Pawtucket. Though Hanna and I have enough friends who do the to-Boston-from-Elsewhere commute to know we won't be moving Elsewhere anytime soon.

    Back to reading the draft of my friend Molly's parenting-while-feminist book project while the cat purrs at me from a suspicious distance!


    reality check [mcdonald's style]

    It's hot here, as it is pretty much everywhere in the States right now, and I had an iced latte this afternoon to see me through my evening shift ... so sleep isn't coming. Solution: blogging.

    I Tumblr-ed & Tweeted the link to this story earlier in the evening, but laying awake in the dark I was doing the math so here's an expanded/comparison version.

    The sample monthly budget above is courtesy of McDonald's corporation, composed by mad ferrets working for snails in their corporate offices as a teaching aide for their minimum-wage earning employees. See employees! Living in poverty is easy! All ya gotta do is plan.

    As the author of the post linked above, Robyn Pennacchia, points out this budget exists in a fantasy where things like food, gas, and heat don't cost anything -- or perhaps, can be squeezed out of that $27/day "spending money goal" at the bottom of the table? She writes:
    You may think that most of these minimum wage earners are teenagers. Well, 87.9% of minimum wage earners are over the age of 20. 28% of those people are parents trying to raise a kid on this budget. That is not a good thing for our future and it is not a good thing for our economy. In order for the economy to thrive, people have to be able to buy things. All the money going to people at the top does not help us. 
    I don’t want to live in any kind of dog-eat-dog Ayn Rand erotic fantasy. Human beings are worth more than that. Anyone who works 40 hours a week (nevermind 74 hours) ought be able to take care of all the basic necessities in life. Corporations shouldn’t be able to pay their workers nothing, keep all of the profits to themselves, and expect taxpayers to make up the difference with social programs. It’s not fair to the workers, and it’s not fair to any of us.
    Pennacchia has the (shockingly not-shocking) national stats; I thought I'd throw a little cold-water reality on the ferrets' fantasy budget by comparing it to what Hanna and I actually have to spend on the necessities listed above. Line by line. (I said I'd had too much coffee!)

    • Savings ...... $500.00
    The number above is wholly comprised of 401(k) with-holdings and the money we set aside to pay Hanna's self-employment tax in April. Some of that we get to keep, thanks to deductions, but it's not exactly secure savings. We'd put some by in our slush fund earlier this year, but that went to the cats' vet bills in June.

    I'm not saying all this in a poor-us fashion, I'm pointing out: $100.00/month in "savings" for someone making minimum wage probably isn't going into a retirement plan. It's likely in the sock drawer until they need to drive across the state to the only Planned Parenthood offering affordable healthcare services.

    • Mortgage/Rent ...... $1295.00
    We pay for a 1-bedroom in a cheapish part of Boston. I get that Boston is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the United States, but when I first moved here I was working a retail job at Barnes & Noble that paid $9.00/hour. That's only $0.75 more than the minimum wage. The idea of anyone making that level of income being able to afford a rent, let alone buy a house, is pretty laughable from where I and my compatriots are sitting. If you're putting aside $100.00/month you're not accruing anywhere near enough for a downpayment.
    • Car Payment Transportation ...... $175.00
    I got this number by adding together our monthly T pass expenditure (about $30/each), our monthly Zipcar membership ($75) and my Hubway membership ($7/month), with a bit of cushion for additional Zipcar fees when we need the car for more trip than usual (like to the vet). 

    If we lived in the more affordable real estate zones around Boston (i.e. a place where someone might be able to rent a studio apartment for $600.00/month. Maybe. Then we'd be adding in commuter rail fees or car maintenance, insurance, parking, gas. We've done the math, and it pretty quickly starts to cancel out any savings otherwise realized.
    • Car/Home Insurance Student Loans ...... $430.00
    So we don't have to pay insurance for a car (which we don't have) or a home (which we don't own), but we do have to pay a percentage on our brains. While we have relatively affordable student loan payments through the federal Income-Based Repayment plan, that's still a not-inconsiderable chunk of our income every month. Which might otherwise go toward that retirement TDA or eventual home ownership. Just sayin'.
    • Health Insurance ...... $225.00
    Hanna and I are both generously insured through our workplaces, with plan that are not only paid for pre-tax (the equivalent of a 20% reduction in premiums) but subsidized by our employers. Harvard University even reimburses us Hanna's copayments after she reaches $135/year (no small perk when you're talking about regular physical therapy or mental health treatments at $15/visit). 

    I was on my parents COBRA insurance for a couple of years out of college, and independent Blue Cross/Blue Shield catastrophic-emergency-only insurance a couple of years after that, before moving to Massachusetts and being poor enough to qualify for their state-subsidized insurance plans (thank you Ted Kennedy!). I know how even $225.00/month for a family of two is a deal.
    • Heating Gas ...... $30.00
    Our heat is electric (see below), and our water comes included with the rent -- but we have a gas stove and pay monthly for that, to the tune of $20-30/month. More in the winter when we're baking, less in the summer when we're too sleep deprived to cook in our non-air-conditioned apartment (which of course means we spend more on prepared meals...).
    • Cable/Phone/Internet ...... $70.00
    We get the have-a-television cable package for about $18/month, internet for $32, and a land-line for $28. I also maintain my old AT&T cell phone on a pay-as-you-go plan that costs us about $100/year in top-up fees.

    I don't think we need to go over, once again, why services like the internet and phones are basic necessities for even those who are homeless and poverty-stricken; without connectivity it is impossible to conduct business in the world, be taken seriously by potential employers, or -- hell -- just enjoy your downtime with crap movies. 
    • Electric ...... $62.00
    We actually do pretty well with our electricity, no that we pay a flat monthly fee that averages out the winter highs (over $200.00) and the summer lows that come from inefficient electric heat. We pay slightly more for wind power, though the differential is pennies at our level. I wish we had the option for solar, since our apartment building gets direct afternoon sun that could really dial the meter back if taken advantage of.
    • Other .... ???
    "Other"? By which you mean ... food ($800.00)? Or work-appropriate clothing (~$600.00 annually)? Professional development ($500 so far this year)? Union dues ($380 annually; and no complaints from this quarter)? 

    The compost collective we pay into for $20/month?

    Oh, I suppose you could mean Netflix at $7.99/month...

    ...and yeah, you probably look askance, McDonald's, at the $4.00 latte I bought this afternoon which is fueling this late-night verbiage.
    • Monthly Expenses Total ...... $2,562.00
    Or 2.03 times what that McDonald's employee working 74 freakin' hours per week is supposed to be living on. 

    You'll notice I haven't included anything as luxurious in here as weekend trip to Maine to visit the in-laws (about $300.00 for a car rental plus gas) or fun activities like a movie or the purchase of a used book.

    On the one hand, I'm grateful that both of us have found work with employers who value and foster our skills, who encourage our professional growth, who offer generous benefits, and who compensate us within the range of professional respectability. Our household income of about $3,625/month net last year* is a solid cushion above the minimum $2,525/month supposedly required by a household of two adults to get by in our county.

    On the other hand, I'm appalled that -- as a nation -- we continue to ignore the reality that is the increased cost of living well or even just securely. And that we continue to individualize a social problem -- pretending that just teaching people struggling to get by on what is patently not enough to craft and stick to a budget is somehow going to solve the problem of poverty.

    The only thing that will solve poverty is better-paying employment and a strong social safety net.

    And now I'm going to return to staring at the ceiling and listening to the cat hunt mosquitoes in the dark.

    *I took our Adjusted Gross Income from our joint state tax form, reduced it by 20% to account for tax with-holdings, and divided by twelve. Our AGI was $54,369.00 in 2012.


    bodies, state power, personhood [thoughts]

    Hanna and I woke up this morning to the news that George Zimmerman has been found "not guilty" of the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

    I haven't followed the trial closely -- only what we heard on NPR, and the coverage by bloggers I follow regularly -- so this is not a post about what happened and why. Others much more eloquent will do a better job articulating that (see the bottom of this post for updates as I read and link to them).

    What I want to say is this:

    On June 26th, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling about same-sex marriage that affirmed my dignity as a woman who has married another woman. I didn't need the approval of the Supreme Court to recognize that my marriage is valid. At the same time, there was something profound and powerful about an official state body affirming that my citizenship rights should not be abridged.

    The day before, the same institution decided the Voting Rights Act was no longer relevant -- because apparently the poor, powerless, and marginalized don't need additional protections from the powerful and power-hungry to ensure their basic rights and well-being.

    And the power-hungry immediately rose to the challenge and began abridging the right to vote.

    In the weeks that have followed, we've watched the Texas legislature ram through legal restrictions on women's access to basic health and reproductive services. Women in that fine state (Molly Ivins would be proud), including elected officials, worked hard to stop the further curtailment of women's agency and meaningful ability to determine their own reproductive lives.

    The legislation was passed.

    Simultaneously, Mr. Zimmerman was on trial for the murder of a young black teenager, Trayvon Martin, whose sole crime was walking while black. I don't know on what grounds the jury acquitted Zimmerman -- although I'm sure I'll find out in the days to come. I wasn't gunning for Zimmerman's blood -- I don't think further violence, state-sanctioned or not, is ever the answer. But when I heard on the radio this morning that the jury had found Zimmerman Not Guilty of murder or manslaughter, my first thought was this: that the verdict represents the opposite of Windsor. It's the erasure of the personhood of Trayvon Martin by the powers that be and by our collective racism.

    For if Zimmerman is Not Guilty of having killed Trayvon Martin, who is?

    Are we saying murder didn't take place?

    Are we saying it was a justified killing?

    Are we saying, regardless, that we simply don't care?

    I won't speak for anyone who knew Trayvon Martin personally, but for myself I can imagine that more than any punishment George Zimmerman may have faced upon a guilty verdict, hearing the jury speak his guilt for Trayvon's murder in so many words -- affirming Trayvon Martin's right not to be dead and the violation of that right which took place when George Zimmerman shot him -- would have been a powerful step towards truth and reconciliation. It would have been a group of fellow citizens, speaking with the authority of the state, standing up and saying this is wrong.

    That didn't happen.

    All of these events are profound and immediate reminders of the effect that state power can have, for good or ill, in supporting, affirming, protecting ... or erasing, negating, denying, the personhood of some people (queers, people with uteruses, non-whites, youth, the poor) in the interest of preserving the rights of the powerful not to ever feel afraid or threatened by those whom they don't understand or dislike.

    If the Windsor and Perry decisions reminded me of the positive power of state and majority power, Texas and Florida have done their damnedest these past two weeks to remind me of its dangerous perils.


    Brittney Cooper @ Salon | White supremacy, meet Black rage (2013-07-14).

    Though much of the mainstream media who have covered this case have convinced themselves that race did not play a role in this trial, a Black kid is dead because being young, Black, and male, and wearing a hoodie in the rain is apparently a crime punishable by death.
    James Baldwin @ The Progressive | A Letter to My Nephew (1962-12). via @jsmooth995
    This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. Let me spell out precisely what I mean by that for the heart of the matter is here and the crux of my dispute with my country. You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. 
    Ta-Nehisi Coates @ The Atlantic | Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice (2013-07-15).
    In trying to assess the the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, two seemingly conflicted truths emerge for me. The first is that based on the case presented by the state, and based on Florida law, George Zimmerman should not have been convicted of second degree murder or manslaughter. The second is that the killing of Trayvon Martin is a profound injustice. 
    *note: I apologize for originally mis-spelling Trayvon's name with an "e". Not enough coffee. Corrected.


    death-of-doma-day tattoos! [photo post]

    As previously mentioned, Hanna and I had a date with our new tattoo artist -- Thomas Gustainis -- on the afternoon of the day the Supreme Court released its opinions in Windsor and Perry. Which means that one part of the multi-faceted meaning of these tattoos, at least for me, will be entwined with memories of the day DOMA fell.

    The color on Hanna's lotus is as vibrant as the most brilliant Michigan autumn.

    And I couldn't be happier with my juniper branch, even if the placement means I only really get to see it in photography like this!

    The day after I had the work done, a volunteer at the Massachusetts Historical Society asked me, with slight alarm (though also no small measure of admiration) if I ever thought about what I would think of my ink when I was her age, in my 70s.

    Yes, I said. Because I have.

    But I wasn't sure how to explain to her, from there, that to me the tattoos on my skin are like scars or freckles or laugh lines. Yes, they're voluntary. Yet over time they become, literally, a part of my embodied self. They will grow old with me, and change meaning and character as they (we) do.

    This is my body now, I say to myself, when I look in the mirror every day. My physical self is a running, changing record of my life in this world. And the ink is, indelibly now, a part of that record.

    Maybe it's my historian-self that has learned to embrace such traces in the skin.


    married naming, nine months later

    In the months before we got married, Hanna and I decided we were going to combine our middle names upon marriage:
    • Elisabeth + Jane = Elisabethjane
    We even had our rings engraved with the word: a design we created ourselves by each writing the others' "maiden" middle name:

    I even wrote a guest blog post about our process for The Last Name Project, which I still think accurately captures our reasoning and the symbolism we saw in taking this approach.

    But then some things happened.

    First, when we went to fill out the forms at the town hall in Brookline, pursuant to obtaining a marriage license, there was no way to change your middle name upon marriage. The clerk didn't care. The bureaucracy only cares if you're going to change your last name(s). Which, practically speaking, means you can only change your last names if you want to change your names without additional cost and seamlessly with the marriage paperwork.

    "That's okay," I said while we were standing in the office. "We'll just take care of it later, separately." 

    We were going to have to file for two legal name changes, at $165.00 per person, in Probate and Family Court. With all of the other wedding-related details and expenses, it seemed like a detail we could follow up on later.

    Then, on the night before our wedding, Hanna suddenly realized it was important to her that we share a last name. "What if something happens?" She asked, into the dark as we lay in bed talking about it. "How will people know we were ever married? How will they know you belong to me?" 

    We had previously discarded the notion of hyphenated last names as unwieldy, though neither of us -- historians to the core -- wanted to walk away from our family of origin names altogether. So at the eleventh hour, we revisited the hyphen option and have settled on Clutterbuck-Cook as the shared last name we will eventually take.

    Eventually being the key word here, since nine months later we've yet to file the paperwork and pay the $330 in fees to get it all taken care of. Expense is a barrier, as is the lingering question of whether we'll move forward with our shared middle name plan, in addition to the last name change, or whether that's just too extensive for any one person to bear: Anna Elisabeth Jane Clutterbuck-Cook? I mean, it'll basically never fit on a form. Ever. Again. Not even the forms for effecting the change!

    And then DOMA was an excuse for not deciding. "We'll do it when DOMA falls," I said, eventually. It seemed like a good way to mark the expansion of marriage equality. And practically it seemed like the sensible thing to do. Why change our names when the federal government would refuse to acknowledge we were legally pledged to one another anyway.

    But now DOMA is no more (yay!). Plus, our passports are up for renewal, making a natural time to get everything formalized. 

    So I've been starting to just kind of play around with this new last name of ours. When I sign up for new accounts online. When I fill in a return address on an envelope. On Twitter. On my blog. Probably soon in the signature line of my work email:
    • Anna E. J. Cook?
    • Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook?
    • Anna E. Clutterbuck-Cook?
    • Anna E. Cook?
    • Hanna and Anna Cook-Clutterbuck
    • Anna and Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook
    Right now I have a handful of variations on this theme rattling around the Internet. Slowly, I think Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook is winning out, although part of me still wants to add the Elisabeth too. 

    I admit, part of the reason I'm reluctant to let go of the intertwined middle names is that it seems like an elegant and egalitarian solution. Everyone we told the middle-name plan to thought it was awesome and radical and why-had-no-one-thought-of-this-before? At the same time, like Hanna, I feel the undeniable pull of social legitimacy -- that thing same-sex couples, particularly, are both applauded and shamed for desiring. Like Hanna, I want us to be unmistakably married. And in modern, Western culture sharing a last name or names with one's spouse is a fairly unmistakable linguistic act: We two, together.

    (Or "we three," perhaps, for some -- though not us.)

    I don't think it's queer, or feminist, failure to want recognition or legibility for who we are. And the society (and legal paperwork) through which our lives are filtered shape our choices. 

    If the marriage certificate forms had allowed us to change our middle names, it would be done.

    But they didn't; because that's not how it's done.

    (That's not "how it's done" for straight men, either, in many states. Massachusetts law treats both spouses equally but in many states husbands who change their last names upon marriage incur additional fees or outright refusal.) 

    The Internet is strange, too. Do I just grandfather in my Twitter handle? Email address? Even my most widely-used internet handle, annajcook doesn't acknowledge my marriage linguistically. Do I ditch it and start afresh? It seems untidy, somehow, lacking in efficiency, either way. 

    Why can't everything magically switch over, like when you change your profile picture on Google and suddenly every platform shows the new you?

    But on the other hand, I like to think this period of messy uncertainty gives historians of the future a trail of breadcrumbs for us all as we move through the virtual and analog universe: Here we are, tangled together. Somehow. We're still working out exactly how. 

    But one way or another, we're going to make sure people know it's We two, together.

    photograph by Laura Wulf (2012)


    things we're enjoying [photo post + some words]

    Our 4th of July began with an inexplicably cuddly Geraldine. Going on three years with us this October, she seems to have finally sorted out that we're companionable creatures.

    Our weekend thing this summer has been to enjoy our coffee and brunch in the park two blocks up from our apartment, so we decided to do the same today, even though it's a Thursday.

    Since last summer, a new coffee shop has opened up along our walk to work, in what used to be a travel agency. We've discovered they make delicious iced lattes, as well as stocking gluten-free baked goods made by a local teen entrepreneur.

    Today, we watched all the neighborhood dogs cavorting and our local rising soccer champ practice his moves while we enjoyed our breakfast in the shade of the mature chestnut trees.

    (Bonus sneak-peak at Hanna's new tattoo!)

    I re-dyed my hair earlier this week, and am much pleased with the darker color this time around.

    This afternoon, as the temperature climbs into the 90s, we'll be chilling as much as possible in front of the fans, possibly even with an ice pack or two. Teazle seems to enjoy them too.

    I could also do an entire independent post on the theme of Teazle Up On Things, including:

    Teazle Up On the Roku

    Teazle Up On the Fridge
    Both of the cats visited the vet last Sunday and have been given a clean bill of health, though we're currently medicating Geraldine's right ear for a persistent infection -- she doesn't approve, obviously, but enjoys the cookies that come after.

    Now I think it's time to turn the computer off again and maybe watch some Fringe.