On Naming Women and Mountains

image courtesy of Lonely Planet

On Naming Women and Mountains

“The truth was more complicated. In my mind, Lucy Rebecca Bryan and Lucy Bryan Green represented two disparate identities. Lucy Rebecca Bryan was the girl who once argued that everything in the world was either black or white, right or wrong—self-righteous enough to think that she knew the difference. She was the teenager who sustained a series of flirtations in hopes of converting her crushes to Christianity. She held the incongruous (and equally offensive) beliefs that she deserved all the good things in her life—loving parents, a college education, thick hair and long legs, intelligence, sorority membership—and that God had given them to her. It took my husband to drag me out of that box of my own making.

It was Lucy Bryan Green, not Lucy Rebecca Bryan, who learned to embrace feminism, pacifism, and non-consumerism; who dared to befriend gays and liberals and atheists. She was the one who wrote a novel, who learned to garden by trial and error, who trekked all 212 miles of the John Muir Trail. The man whose name I took played a fundamental role in me becoming that person. I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to move forward.

I also wanted to take responsibility for my contributions to the mess that my marriage had become. Anger that would boil into door-slamming, hair-pulling, glass-shattering rage; my need to control everything, down to what time my husband woke up in the morning and the clothes he wore; my anxiety, which made basic tasks like doing the dishes or shopping for groceries seem insurmountable—I wanted to work on those problems as Lucy Bryan Green.

And I still liked my name. It didn’t seem fair that he could take it from me. He’d already taken the canoe, a whole bookcase’s worth of books (along with the bookcase), half the set of glass nesting bowls, our nicest chef’s knife, two watercolors I’d painted, our cast iron patio furniture, our Honda CRV, the pine bedframe we’d stained by hand, all of the power tools, and most of the money in our bank account. Those were just the things. When he left, so did his family, many of our friends, my sense of security, the belief that I was unconditionally loved, my trust in God, my identity as a married woman, my plans to have children, and my sense of self-worth. I wouldn’t let him have my name. He’d taken enough.”

Another wonderful essay about the power and privilege of names. I love the metaphor of women and mountains; the lyricism and imagery are especially moving.

(See also: What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name)

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