I was born Rosa Carlotta Silvana Grisanti, but in the mid-Eighties,
I legally changed my name to Eve. No middle or last name. Just Eve.
She was the mother of the human race, after all, and I was a childless
thirty-three year old still hoping to meet a man I might like enough
to not mind him proposing, so I could say yes, so we could get married
so I could go in the babymaking business before I reached thirty-five,
that infamous dreaded midpoint when my eggs would expire, as my mother
constantly reminded. I wanted it all: the themed nursery, the yacht
sized stroller, one of those newfangled minivans, a brick house in some
neighborhood where the streets are named after foliage or seventeenth
century English poets. Everything not like my own upbringing in a single
bedroom tenement apartment in south Boston where the toilet was rusty,
and the cabinet doors kept falling off, and our next door neighbors
screamed murder at each other night and day, where my father delivered
milk for a living, and my mother, when she wasnt dogging my baby
sister and I, cleaned houses in Belmont and Brookline for a few bucks
Changing my name was an act of will, of independence, of self-determination;
an effort through which I might eliminate all that had formed me and
substitute someone else, with someone elses future. Rosa Carlotta
Silvana Grisanti might be too tall. She might have a big nose and a
forehead the size of the Sears tower. She might have 2E feet but hips
only as wide as a parking meter. She might have a father threatened
with Hodgkins, a sister who was a moron, second hand furniture mauled
by her cat, and unrealized aspirations to law school. But Eve was someone
else completely: an original; a spotless, unblemished beginning, rich
with unfixed possibility. That side of paradise.
Why Eve? my sister asked me. We were doing lunch
her suggestion about a week after I formalized the change.
Its protean, I said.
Angies eyes fogged. Her mouth opened. I could see a nut-sized
wad of grayed Juicy Fruit she held in her back teeth. With her index
finger she twirled the wavy black hair she used so often to garner illiterate
Thats why, I said.
Oh, she said and started chewing her gum again. Mom
is pissed at you, you know.
I shrugged. Let her.
No. I mean really.
I know what you mean.
I should probably admit that my mother was the single biggest reason
for altering my name. If I could do anything to punish the woman, I
would. What better way than to divorce my name from hers? If I found
a man it would be as Eve, not Rosa Grisanti. If I had a child, it would
be Eves child, not Rosa Grisantis. And not Vedetta Grisantis
grandchild. After all, this was the same woman who, during my second
year of college, drove me to a behavioral conditioning center in Medford
without telling me why. She only said Dont worry, well
pay. A doctor with a wispy moustache, turgid sea gray eyes, and
Eric Clapton bell bottoms attached electrodes to my head and held up
picture after picture of naked women striking centerfold poses. He kept
glancing at a machine next to him as it coughed up a printout. After
a minute, he raised an eyebrow.
I ripped the electrodes off my head and charged to the waiting room.
Mom, I shouted, you think Im a lesbian?
Shhh. Darling. Shhh. She waved her palms. Not here.
Damn right, not here. Are you crazy?
I just love you, darling. I love you. Ti voglio bene.
Her olive skin burned an actual red, hot as tears; her face was nothing
But you do think Im a lesbian?
You play basketball, Rosa.
And you enjoy it.
And you have no boyfriend. Youve never had a boyfriend.
Ive had dates!
I just want to make sure I have a grandbaby, un nipotino.
You understand, darling.
Im in college, mother.
When I was your age I was pregnant already. With you.
You werent in college.
So being a college woman means you are too good to produce children?
I didnt say that.
You implied it, Rosa.
Somehow the question of how she decided I was a lesbian and why she
thought it was her right to smuggle me to a perverted psychologists
chamber of tortures got lost during her fit of self-involved moaning.
That, in a nutshell, is my relationship with my mother. Meanwhile, Angie,
who at the time of my name change and our subsequent lunch together,
was living with a guy and so not into producing children that shed
had one abortion already, caught no flak. It didnt help my offended
sense of justice that all this was too typical.
Mom wants to know why, Angie said, so be ready.
She picked up her empty water glass, took in a mouthful of ice, and
started chewing, even as she held on to the Juicy Fruit.
Did she tell you to set up this lunch?
Angie glanced away. I kept my eyes on her, and my question, too.
Maybe, she said.
I sat back and let out a theatrical sigh. I made my shoulders droop.
Actually, I wasnt surprised at all.
What business is it of yours to act as her secret agent?
So why do you?
She paused. She spread her arms.
I dont know. Maybe I like it?
Her face was blank as dough. There was no sense trying to hold Angie
Tell mom my new name carries a lot less baggage than my old one.
Alarm passed across her eyes like headlights against a bedroom wall.
I dont think you want me to tell her that.
All right, I said, just tell her to call me.
No, mother. I dont want you to set me up.
Wed gotten past her outrage and were onto what really mattered:
Hes a dentist.
And hes divorced.
Thats a plus?
At least you know hes not gay.
Jesus Christ. Kind of a sore point.
And I dont think there are kids involved.
Maybe hes infertile.
No, I dont think thats it.
Of course she wouldnt.
But maybe you should ask him, she said.
On your date.
Im not going on any date.
Why not? Do you have a boyfriend, Rosa?
Thats my name. Get used to it.
But why Eve, darling? Shes not even real. Shes a
Oh, she said.
You better tell him my real name, mother. Tell him my name is
Eve. Tell him if he calls me Rosa one time, Im not going out with
him. Im never even speaking to him again. Do you understand?
I heard only silence, then a bothered stream of air.
Do you understand, mother?
Ti capisco! she cried, as if Id stabbed her
with a kitchen knife.