Mondo Resolutions . . .

When new Choos aren't enough

Sometimes the rut you're in is bigger than all that. Sometimes it's deeper and wider than just Whoa, I wear too much orange or So there are other channels besides the Spice Channel? Sometimes that rut you're in is so huge that getting out of it entails not just a ladder but crampons, carabiners, and altitude sickness. It's more than a new hobby could fix, or a new piercing, or an inflatable object of any kind.

Sometimes your whole life is the rut.

So sometimes your resolution means getting a new one.

And while the prospect of total change is always out there, beckoning and pulsating in the vague half-light beyond the next hill like the Blob, usually you toss your head and laugh and pretend you don't see it. And shuffle on. Because even though you'll regret not making that major change, even if you can picture yourself on your deathbed eons from now thinking Damn -- you can also picture how your friends and family are going to react, what your co-workers will say when you walk in tomorrow and insist that they call you Captain Haddock from now on.

Often the hardest thing about changing is what everyone says when you do. The looks on their faces. The recriminations. The questions in shrill, escalating voices when you announce that you're going to live in a cave, or in Madagascar, or castrate yourself. Their snorts not merely of surprise and certainly not encouragement, but rage. Because they think that this thing you're doing to yourself is really about them. They think it's because of something they did or didn't do for you, or to you, or with you. They think you're trying to punish them. Or escape them. When really this decision is all about you and is not some sort of labored, irreversible, expensive act of vengeance. It's not some belated touché.

Or a joke. In which case, why are some of them laughing?

Play the Name Game

We acquire our names via a process not unlike waking up and discovering that, while you slept, strangers sneaked in and cut your hair into a mullet and dyed it blue. The difference is that mullets grow out and names are forever. Or are they? Your name is such a crucial part of you, like the URL of your whole identity, repeated constantly all day in every tone of voice, and yet you had no hand in picking it out. And what if, just what if, you hate it?

It's not only criminals and newlywed brides and enigmatic singers who change their names. And it's not only last names that can be changed legally; it's first names, too. Which doesn't mean you hate your parents -- though it's only fair to say that, yes, at least for a while, they'll probably think so. Name-changing laws vary from state to state, though nationwide they've been getting easier and easier over the past few decades, thanks to skyrocketing divorce rates. Ex-Mrs. Grossman's pain is your gain.

In Arizona, an application must be filed in Superior Court in the county where the applicant resides. This application requires that an applicant state why the change is being sought, so it pays to sound as grown up, sane, and law-abiding as possible. In some cases, applicants are required to serve legal notice of the change, in a newspaper or by other means, and then attend another brief hearing. If the simple statutory requirements have been met, the court issues an Order for Change of Name of Adult, and voilà, the applicant is free to be Amanda. Or Che. Normally, it's a pretty easygoing process, though in landmark cases Americans have pushed it by legally changing their names to things like Santa Claus and a row of numerals. Last year, a New Yorker named Jose Espinal changed his name to Jesus Christ.

But dude. People are going to whisper this in your ear, in bed. Okay?

Learn details and view the application forms at www.uslegalforms.com/arizona-name-change.htm and www.namechangelaw.com/states/az/arizona.htm.

Make yourself scarce

Nothing says freedom like pulling up stakes and vanishing. Into a tent. Into a cave. Beyond the sea. Bye-bye.

The tug of everything familiar, and everyone you know, is a force of gravity that you take for granted. Yet inside how many Durango drivers, how many Frappuccino quaffers, how many Target shoppers, beat the wild hearts of beachcombing expats and hermit monks?

It happens. Saint Anthony lived alone in an abandoned tomb for 20 years in the Egyptian desert in the late third century, sleeping three hours nightly and wearing a hair shirt. The 12th-century Japanese poet Kamo-no-Chomei fled Kyoto and played the flute in a 10-foot-square mountainside hut that could be folded up and moved about. Though it's harder to find these days, total solitude still tempts the spiritual seeker. Or sage. Or misanthrope. The trouble is getting it. Getting away, when everything is bright lights and disco balls as far as the eye can see. Yet even though you can't see it -- which is exactly the point -- a hermit movement is afoot right here, right now: a secret un-club whose members want nothing more than never to see each other. They've slipped society's chains, bought little swatches of wilderness. Or they've gone expat, to those sandy, palmy places where prices are still so low that you almost can't afford not to go there. They plant, hunt, pick, and fish. Or the nearest store delivers. They write. They carve. They program. They thank God for Caller ID. Stock up on tips -- but don't try to make any friends -- at www.hermitary.com.

The ultimate bod mod

Autocastration is the mother of all makeovers. The last body-mod hurrah. Beyond ritual scarring. Beyond tongue-forking. Beyond tooth-filing and lobe-stretching and devil-horn implants -- miles and miles beyond. It's beyond gender transition. Depending on how much gets excised, it's beyond gender.

Arguments rage over whether castrating oneself or one's friends or even having the procedure done by a trained professional is safe and sane, especially when the person in question chooses to become a "nullo," which means all external genitals removed, the incisions sutured to heal smooth except for a tiny hole -- like those drink-and-wet dolls you or your sister used to play with. This is one New Year's resolution from which there's reallyno going back. And yet as the eunuch community grows, it's a resolution that many will make in 2006. Meet them at www.eunuch.org. After that, any resolution on Earth seems like a snap.

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