We use a category of expected choices within our culture to redefine our identity throughout life, and this is common and good and people gather together on the occasion of such a choice. We celebrate and acknowledge the change with rituals of transformation, such as graduations, housewarmings, weddings and retirement parties. This type of change is expected and supported, and therefore makes sacred transitions more powerful and less difficult for the transforming party.
Photo by Benji Cabellojauregui
There are other categories of choices, though, which bring much power into someone’s life, but which are questioned instead of being venerated. They are put under scrutiny disproportionately to categories of expected choices, and deemed questionable. The shun-able choices! Some choices simply do not work to increase the Gross Domestic Product, and we’ve been thus commercially trained to discriminate against them: not having children, living a life of little means, relaxing. Another category of choices that is stigmatized instead of revered are those that constitute the deconstruction of an expected change, such as abortion, divorce, ending college without a degree, and changing careers.
Aesthetic choices are yet another category of personal choice, and these demand almost nothing of others, except to see with fresh eyes someone they have already known in a certain way. These include piercings (weirdly, ONLY piercings other than in girls’ ears), tattoos, the pronouncement that one’s gender is different than was assumed based on their genitals, and the change of a name (other than during the marriage of a woman). These changes do require others to have a certain base consciousness (i.e. that on this day, something is aesthetically different from a previous day). But people have proven capable of that ability through their response to expected changes like the career, address, car, or outfit of another person. When someone moves, you don’t spend 10 years repeatedly hounding them about how difficult it is for you to get used to their new house.
Why are these aesthetic choices shunned, then, especially when they are deeply personal and so truly not the business of any other person? Perhaps it is because, in this particular category, the permanent aesthetic changes made by oneself to oneself have an independence attached to them, a proof of autonomy, a spiritual knowing that belongs only to the changing one. Ah-ha! The word just came to me. For the first time in 11 years since I changed my name, all that scoffing and disregard, I may perchance call IT by a new name. Envy.
I daresay it may be envy. Not that it is SO special! It is indeed truly ordinary—to pierce through or revise our body or how we are called. What a suitable, external process to align with the internal processes of our souls? A human mind is so expansive that it experiences, in the course of a lifetime, the equivalent of Earth’s seismic tremors and tectonic shifts. These transformations are fantastic, and leave us rich, with the mountains and gold of personal evolution. Maybe that is frightening to others, and maybe they feel a little left out. Let’s keep on evolving, and mark it all over our skin or nomenclature if we need to, but as for the naysayers, go easy on ’em. Autonomy is a wild and coveted road.