Andrei Greg and his two closest friends from grade school

Not quite 6 years; yet change is a constant.

On October 7th, 2010, I will celebrate an anniversary. Tangentially, it is related to my most amazing and loving wife with whom I share the dubious and Facebook-foisted dishonour of being labeled merely as “In an open relationship with.” I call it a dishonour because it’s not accurate. I’m assuredly married. If anyone were to try to mess with my marriage to Heather I’d assuredly take great offense. I don’t think open relationship is accurate either despite the fact that we are theoretically poly. I use the term theoretically because while we are in practice polyamourous and have carried on secondary relationships beyond our marriage, raising a child really does not give you much of a chance to date or form relationships. (I do not know how single parents do it!)

But as I said, this anniversary is only tangentially related to my wife and actually started 3, 5, 15, 43 years earlier. The anniversary is that on Oct 7, 2004. The California State Court issued my official decree of name change. This was the day that I laid Greg A. Tapolow to rest. Or so I thought at the time. Over the past year there have been some very interesting changes that once again cause me to look on the decisions and changes I’ve been through. And dear reader, less you panic, I have no intentions of changing it again… or back. Though as they say, “Never say never.”

The post was actually inspired by a letter I received this evening (of the writing of this post) from someone I knew briefly but not well in High School. “The marvels of Facebook.” People over 35 are no longer afraid of computers and everyone can find almost everyone. Everyone, of course, except for the one of two individualists who wish to hold out from the revolution much like Knox Overstreet merely to prove a point or by those who wish to blame Facebook for the loss of privacy that was in fact stolen away decades if not centuries ago. But I digress.

No really, a quick digression: I couldn’t remember the name of the character so I went to IMDB. There was a huge article on the casting of Carol Burnett in a show I really enjoy (Glee) and one thing led to another, and 45 minutes later and several web searches later, I closed my browser, saw this post and thought… Oh yeah… That’s why I opened a browser… Damned net. End digressions.

The E-mail talked to me about change and the estrangement from family; both of which I know all too well. Normally, when someone asks about my name change I have a simple link on LiveJournal that I send to him or her. (Ahh, LiveJournal… Remember when… No, no… not going there.) However, first I read over the 6-7 year old posts. This time they read very much as an incomplete book; it reads more like the early chapters alone. I suppose the change over the last year has definitely affected my views. At this point, I strongly suggest that if you haven’t read this link that you do so before continuing. Note: It reads best if you do so from the bottom post up to the top post.

Until about 6-9 months ago. Greg was a remnant to be discarded. He was someone that I paid lip service to as being my foundation but me being a changed person different from him. Up until 6-9 months I couldn’t or more properly wouldn’t speak his name. For a long time it was mental discipline. Thinking as an Andrei. Not thinking as an ex-Greg. I remember this time very much as I went through my own personal Liber Jugorum. Cursing myself everytime I turned and looked when someone called the name ‘Greg.’ Personally, I think the mental discipline can be done without self-mutilation.

I’m saying 6-9 months because there was a weekend where much changed in my life. It was very Dickensesque. In one weekend, my wife suffered her worst migraine, writhed in pain a lot, got introduced to the wonder that is vicodin and then I was contacted by my best friend from elementary school. And that weekend happened about a year in advance of the change 6-9 months ago. That however opened the floodgates.

I changed from Greg to Andrei to escape a very painful time in my memory. My father had a stroke when I was 11 years old. From that point forwards things in my household were never quite right again. For 11 years I’d been raised to be a spoiled rich kid with manners. I was the son of a prominent doctor in a small sub-suburb of Philadelphia. For the next 11 years things didn’t go as well. I would explain to folks that I’d spent a good bit of my late 20s and early 30s fixing the damage that had been done.

But what I failed to consider was those first 11 years. “Greg” to me had come to symbolise the damage of a decade or so and the repair that followed. It was also the closest thing. I’d moved to the West Coast, changed my name, and abandoned my estranged family (which for sanity reasons, has been an amazingly correct choice). I grew up. I felt I’d become a better person. But there was still the Greg who led a fairly well adjusted life as a child. And one person had called me on it.

My friend had found me on FB through a posting I made to a group for our rather small and private elementary school. He looked at the picture and instantly recognised me. For about 3 months there was a rush of enthusiasm to contact as many of the old group as possible. (I believe there’s got to be a slang term or sniglet for this phase) Over this time, I was reminded of who I was close to, who I didn’t know as well or specifically didn’t like. And of course the girl I (foolishly) adored who made my life miserable. There was also the girl that had I not been thick, would have realised from day one was absolutely the coolest person ever and potentially ended up dating her. (Too many stories there… long one short… she’s the one I got to see most recently and I’m thrilled to have her back in my life as a friend after 25 years)

These people knew a Greg that was a good person; a person who was taught to honestly say please and thank-you by age 4. By 4 I could read, spell, write very sloppily, and do simple math. (My son at three has far better penmanship than I ever will) So what was the magickal thing that happened within the last 12 months? Well, I think it was the last 12 months. I can’t for the life of me find a blog post on the topic. I really thought I wrote about it. Well… here it is.

With a wife living in Chronic Pain, A toddler, and a major layoff in 2009. (Eventually 2)… I was under a little bit of stress. Even before the layoff there was stress. I had a little bit of a crumble during this time and decided it was time to go back for counseling. Ironically the counseling started the Monday after the weekend of the migraine, vicodin, and FB contact.

Through most of my sessions, my name really never came up. Then at one point we talked about it. I inferred the name, I dodged the name, but in short, I refused to say the name and there was no good reason not to. I told her my full name. It was the first time I think I’d said the name aloud in about 8 years. (I could name the last time I’d said it aloud, but if I told you why, I’d have to kill you 😉 It was admittedly the death of me to do so.) It was odd saying the name. It was even odder talking not merely about Greg as another person, but taking the good parts of him back into me. The analyst suggest that I have a chat with Greg and find out what he’s been up to and how he feels about the whole thing. (Ah, just what I need Dissociative Identity Disorder… which some might say I already have)

I went home. Heather asked me how my session went. I looked at her and told her we’d been chatting about “Greg Tapolow.” Her jaw dropped. She’d never heard me speak the name in our entire relationship. It was a positive thing. It was the start of a new phase of my life. This phase, however, would ironically put me back in the den of the worst years of my life (early 20s) back in Pittsburgh.

Recently, I’ve taken more steps to … I guess the term would be ‘integrate.’ My FB profile now lists my “Maiden Name” (I really hate that term) I also especially hate government forms that ask for my wife’s maiden name but refuse mine. “Do you need mine?” No. “Well, why do you need hers?” Also, I’ve finally acquiesced to putting my birth name into my genealogy software. Users are supposed to be listed by their birth names (Which is REALLY going to piss of my cousins who changed their names when they were kids)

So now I talk about Greg. I’m still Andrei and really not planning a return. I will still correct people who call me Greg. I will still slack people who’ve known me since way before my marriage. It is however an interesting feeling to look back at the change I created and the motivation behind it. And how that’s changed from its original change.

I suppose no story is ever really complete until the last page.

P.S. Caleb – Does that answer your question or just create more? Feel free to send a friend request through FB for more chat.