I’m Changing My Name Again And Here Is Why

I am quite happy with my first name. At birth, I was given the name Ann, an English variation of the Hebrew name Hannah, named for my father’s mother who was killed in the Holocaust. I changed the spelling to Anne to mark a milestone in my life – loyal readers of Love and Medicine know all about it, wink-wink. Anne, or Áine is also the name of an Irish Celtic Goddess. I’m good with Anne.

As an aside, Ann’s height of popularity was in 1959. It has now fallen from the 539th most popular name to an abysmal 1299th…

When I became a writer, I considered pen names like Soferet Tova – I know, so bad, but I was 10! I also considered pseudonyms like Irene Drive – for the subliminal message. A pseudonym was tempting as a writer with young children wanting to write about racy stuff. By the time I finally published my first word on Love and Medicine, my kids were old enough.

Under the 14th amendment, every U.S. citizen is guaranteed the right to change his or her name at will.

I never for a second considered changing my name when I got married. I can’t understand why any woman would choose to follow that patriarchal custom. But let’s move on…

My father was born in Czechoslovakia and given the Slavic name Ludwig Kopolović, pronounced Koplovich. He entered this country in 1947 after WWII. He spelled his name Ludwig Kopolowitz “because they didn’t know how to soften the C”. Americans can’t deal with accent symbols. Right all you Esmé’s out there?

A few years later his brother Benzion Kopolowitz  shortened his name to Bernie Koplin, at the urging of his wife who felt Kopolowitz was too long.  It was important to Bernie that as brothers they share the same name. My dad was reluctant but eventually changed his name to Koplin.

Koplin has always been a pain.  No matter how many times I say “with a K”, it is spelled with a C. It is invariably pronounced cop-lin but it is supposed to be cope-lin.  It has no meaning whatsoever. I feel no connection to the name. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just nothing.

The name Kopolovic, on the other hand, “immediately places your origins in Eastern Europe,” according to my dad. It has depth, history, meaning. My sister, brother and I are seriously considering a name change to Kopolovic. Our kids aren’t thrilled and have no plans to change theirs. That’s fine with me. We don’t have the same last name now either.

My dad might secretly like the idea but gives his usual poo-poo reply “eh, too much trouble, what do you need it for?” That is his response to anything related to the past; like my idea to pursue EU citizenship based on his country of birth and to finally request reparations from Germany that he deserves as a holocaust survivor.

According to research on name changes later in life, it is best to start using the name prior to pursuing it legally. Once we get a consensus on how to pronounce it, you may see my new name appearing first in my writing. My sister is starting with her doorman. In New York, when in doubt, the doorman is a good place to start.

Have you ever considered a first or a last name change?

What Is Mercury Retrograde And What Does It Have To Do With You?

Love+Medicine - Mercury Retrograde

I went to the librarian and asked for a book about stars… The scale of the universe suddenly opened up to me. There was a magnificence to it, a grandeur, a scale that has never left me. Never, ever left me.

Carl Sagan

Mercury in retrograde comes up in conversation too many times for me to ignore. It seems to be the default scapegoat when you’re having a bad day, your computer crashes or if you have to explain doing something really impulsive (like texting an ex). Before we start judging it as fact or folly, L+M wants to know what it actually means. It suits me as a once aspiring astronaut who always wondered about astrology.

Mercury Retrograde. Take a deep breath. And don't text your ex.

Mercury is a tiny planet that moves super fast. When Mercury zips around the sun, as it passes Earth it appears to be moving backwards, from Earth’s vantage point. This optical illusion is what is known as Mercury retrograde. This happens about 3-4 times a year and lasts three weeks each time.

Stargazers have always been fascinated by retrograde motion. “As above, so too below” is the cardinal astrologic rule. When Mercury speeds by, it creates a sort of disruption or turbulence that is thought to affect us on earth. In astrology, Mercury is associated with communication, relationships, travel, contracts, and computer codes. The 1st century poet Marus Manilius called it the “inconsistent, vivacious and curious planet.”

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THE WAY TO A MAN’S HEART*

*it’s not what you think

Little did I know that going through my old cookbooks would be so thought-provoking. Going by the “one year rule” – tossing whatever I haven’t used in the last year – these cookbooks should have been donated years ago.

The One and Only Settlement Cookbook

Let’s start with The Settlement Cook Book. It was first published 118 years ago. It was written by Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Black Kander, a social worker in Milwaukee. She taught cooking classes at the Settlement House – an organization that helped poor European immigrants find their way in America. She believed Jewish women had an obligation in “advancing the history and customs of their forefathers.” Her thought was that if these women knew how to cook and clean, they would be rewarded with a happy husband and a happy life. This woman was no suffragette.

Mrs. Lizzie Black Kander

The book’s tagline was “The way to a man’s heart”. Besides the recipes, it gave strict instruction on how to set the table and clean spills. Kander wanted the man to..

“be surprised and pleased when he gets to the table. That is where he should forget all of his worldly cares”.

This part is great:

The hostess should serve the soup, salad, dessert and coffee, and, at a family dinner, the vegetables and entrées. The host serves the fish and meat.

The first copies sold out within a year. It was a way to reach the ultimate goal – finding a man and taking care of a home. Cooking gave women the means to assimilate while still maintaining a connection with their roots. The advertisements in the book are classic:

A Good Milkman
The beer that made Milwaukee famous!

There have been at least 40 editions since that time. By 1991 the sexist tagline was gone. The Settlement House was renamed the Milwaukee Jewish Center and then the Jewish Community Center ( AKA the JCC, or for the real old timers, “the Center” ;). Most of the women I know have a copy right up there with The Silver Palate.

As dated as it is to the point of absurdity, the housekeeping and cooking duties are still done by women in most American homes. For some this is out of choice, to those I say ‘sababa’! They may see cooking as a means of creative expression and culinary art. There are women who do love to cook and clean. I love to cook – not every day- and hate to clean.

For others it is a pattern dictated by gender alone. It is an added job for the woman at the end of a long day. Sure, the men do the classic male stuff – they are in charge of the barbecue of course or the grocery shopping if the woman makes the list. This is true even if the woman works and when she is the only breadwinner in the family.

My cookbook collection…

Women come up with all the excuses – I don’t trust him to buy what is in season, he doesn’t know how to cook, he can’t boil an egg, he doesn’t keep the house as clean as I do – without actually saying how much it sucks and you hate having to do it all the time. This is the quintessential “problem that has no name”, described by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique from 1963.

People ask me how to raise a feminist boy or girl? The answer is by example. Build a home without gender-dictated roles and your kids will learn.

The Settlement Cook Book started with the goal of finding a man. Considering its humble roots, it now it holds a place as one of the greatest American cookbooks of all time. The schoolteacher language of early editions has softened. Non-kosher recipes appeared among the traditional kishke, kreplach, borscht and kasha varnishkes. I don’t use my Settlement Cookbook much, except during the Jewish holidays when I’m feeling the diaspora blues.

Hummus with Israeli pickles

I’m proud to say my mom was a true feminist and one of the later contributors to The Settlement Cook Book.

Do you own a copy of this legendary book? Who does the cooking in your house? Who “mans” the barbecue?

Magic Dust & Artichokes

When my year of no shopping ended, like a prisoner released from captivity, I couldn’t wait to bust out and buy something. I fell right into the trap! What a sucker. You wouldn’t believe what my first purchase was: Dust. I did not know that Gwyneth Paltrow touted it in her painfully misguided bullshit celebrity retail outlet called Goop. I read about it on a blog I once respected, called Cup Of Jo. There was one line…

“Psst, my friend says this …really works,”

…with a handy hyperlink directly to the Nordstrom website. For $39 I was the proud owner of a tiny jar. My partner just heard me reading this aloud and mumbled, “That useless shit was $39”?

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