"The strongest force in the universe is a human being living consistently with his identity." So this week I'm asking the question: Who Do You Think You Are?Read More
One Halloween, I dressed up as Cinderella, a different time- a nurse, but my all-time favorite costume was an old lady. I wore my hair pulled back into a bun sprinkled with baby powder. I wore a crochet shawl and walked hunched over a cane. Was that offensive? Was that ageism?
According to some, dressing in a costume that is other than what you are should be avoided.
But isn’t that what dress up is about? Isn’t it about trying on something different than who or what you are?
Some schools are advising their students against borrowing from other cultures. See- The New York Times article: Costume Correctness on Campus: Free to Be You, But Not Me.
The message: It is dangerous to pretend.
Was it sexism when, at 18, I dressed as a black cat wearing only a black leotard and stockings, high heels and a tail? I looked more like a Playboy Bunny.
But Halloween was the time I got to pretend or play I was something I wasn’t. And it wasn’t pejorative or prejudice or mockery. It was curiosity.
I have a male friend who, one Halloween dressed as a mutual female friend. He wore a long blonde wig.
But this year, according to the above-mentioned article, it’s a no-no to dress in drag or as Caitlyn Jenner.
The associate editor of Lenny, an online newsletter, wrote in an email, “Dressing up as Pocahontas (or sexy Pocahontas, let’s get real), is offensive because it takes the whitewashed version of a whole group of people that have been victimized and abused in their own land,” and presents it as “ a thing one can try for a night.”
Yes! That’s the point!
That’s why we dress up, starting in pre-school. Play is essential for children. (See- Let the Children Play.)
But it is also important for adults.
Stuart Brown, president of the National Institute for Play believes after decades of research, that there are dangerous long-term consequences of play deprivation. And he believes play is essential for all people, at all ages, at all times.
Dressing up is a form of play (role play) that requires imagination, fosters learning and may, actually, increase empathy.
When you dress up you are stepping into someone else’s shoes, or trying to, even if for just for one night.
Of course there are people who use Halloween as an excuse to ridicule and that’s never acceptable except for the time when someone I know dressed up as Sarah Palin.
That was mockery. (And totally acceptable.)
But is it ridicule when a young child, in an elite private school, wears a toolbelt and dresses up as a carpernter?
Where do we draw the line?
Nobody wants to be accused of ageism, sexism, racism or being insensitive.
So let’s use our heads.
When my daughter (who is white) wanted to be Scary Spice (who is not), it was all based on awe and admiration.
She didn’t want to be Baby Spice.
Should she not have been allowed to explore the Scary Spice persona?
In my mind, it would’ve been discriminatory, and just plain wrong, to tell her she had to be one of the white spice girls.
As children try out different roles (karate kid, superhero, celebrity, carpenter, doctor, nurse, chef, mother) they are solidifying their own identity.
Maybe adults are too.
There are many stories attached to my name; but the one that I recently discovered not to be true is the one in which my not then married father flirted on a beach with an attractive girl and asked for her name. She said, Corie.
In the real version, he was at work, and no flirting was involved.
A true story is that my father’s mother’s name was Celia; and it is Syrian tradition to name a first-born daughter and son after the father’s parents.
My parents broke tradition in naming me Corie. They simply used the “C” from Celia. (It was the 60’s.)
No one ever called me Celia. Not once.
And no one ever spelled my name right. No, I mean, NEVER. Cory, Corey, Cori, Corrie- are just a few among many variations.
This drove my mother crazy. I don’t know why, but I didn’t care.
On top of all the misspellings, Corie is sometimes a boy’s name; and in sixth grade when my hair was cut short, very short, at a Broadway show, while visiting Manhattan, the usher called me Sir.
When I was fifteen, I went for my driver’s license. I presented my birth certificate as identification and so my license was issued, Celia Corie Sutton.
This was an identity crisis in the making. I then had I.D. with a name I’d never used.
A few years later, I got married. My marriage license said, Corie Adjmi. My passport said, Corie Adjmi. My American Express card said, Corie Adjmi. (Actually, it says, Corrie Adjmi.)
And so of course, spelling continued to be an issue. (Go spell ADJMI correctly.)
“There are no vowels,” I heard over and over again in regards to my new last name. And “What an unusual name. Where is that from?”
“Syria,” I’d answer, my identity shaky once again because I didn’t feel connected to my Middle Eastern heritage. No one ever questioned Sutton.
I got into a routine. I simply spelled out my first and last name before giving anyone a chance, or offered to write it myself; and the fact that all my identification didn’t match didn’t matter for the next quarter of a century; but everything changed after 9-11.
Soon after 9-11, at the airport, because my ticket was issued Corie and my license said, Celia, I was frisked as if were a national security risk, violated from head to toe. My carry-on was dusted with white powder and then unpacked on a metal table in front of everyone, bras and all. They detained me for half an hour and I had to beg to be let through. Thankfully, security relented, although I wouldn’t take that chance again today. Now, I issue my tickets accordingly. For domestic travel, I use my license and I am Celia. International, a passport, and I’m Corie.
But my airport problems still linger. My husband and I recently applied for TSA PreCheck.
He was approved. I was rejected.
And the reason given was that the names on my I.D.s didn’t match and apparently that appeared suspicious. While my husband breezes through security, I wait in long lines and get felt up, barefooted. He smirks on the other side, relaxed and drinking coffee, reading the newspaper; or he browses in Hudson News deciding if he should buy raw almonds or cashews.
Fed up, I went to motor vehicles. (And I resist going to motor vehicles as most people resist being brutally beaten and interrogated.) Armed with my social security card, my passport and my marriage license, I thought I could change the name on my driver’s license to Corie. I was informed that unless my birth certificate and passport matched, there was nothing they could do.
I applied for a name change. Even though I didn’t want to change my name, I convinced myself it didn’t really matter if I was Celia Corie or Corie Celia. I guess the heavens (and possibly the spirit of my dead grandmother) disagreed because the paperwork, which I completed, was over an inch thick; and at least four court appearances were required. I gave up thinking I’d rather be strip-searched.
Not too long ago, I submitted a short story, That’s How It Was With Howie. And it was published in Verdad. The story has a male protagonist and, as requested, I submitted my bio in third person. The editors at the magazine assumed I was male, and the bio printed at the end of my story, reflected that assumption. Again, I didn’t care. I took it as a compliment. I’d nailed the voice of the main character. (But that’s me, I guess, whoever that is- always looking on the bright side.)
But this is the craziest part- I did it again. (The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.)
About two years ago, for writing purposes, I started using my maiden name. I went from Corie Adjmi to Corie Sutton Adjmi and in the age of the computer these might as well be two different people.
And so the trouble with my name continues because I’ve tested out different names like I’ve tested out different hairstyles, which is to say, without much forethought. But I’m figuring out, okay slowly and the hard way, things get complicated when you change your name like day of the week panties.
According to tradition, when either one of my married sons has a daughter, her name will be Corie.
One name. One identity.
And for a moment, I am happy for her, thinking this is a good thing.
But really, if I’m honest, I like being more than one person. Or at least, pretending I am. Maybe this is the sign of a personality disorder but I prefer believing it’s because I’m Aquarian.
Like a butterfly, I flit from project to project, always changing jobs.
I moved four times in the last four years, constantly changing my home zip code.
Why not my name?