I’ve changed identities, names and hair colors many times. Sometimes I just want to look in the mirror and see someone other than me looking back.
It’s a Saturday night, my husband and I are watching a Swedish film. Not sure what prompted it, but I take an inventory of my appearance. Skin tight grey pants, form fitting white v-neck sweater, black three inch wedge boots, and short bleached blonde hair. My outfit accentuates every curve, and yet it is tasteful. I feel good in these clothes for the most part, except for the other part of my personality which lives at the opposite end.
Four years ago, I covered my hair with a wig, my shirts covered my collar-bones and elbows, skirts several inches past my knees. I was a different person. I had become an Orthodox Jewish woman, having converted to Orthodox Judaism. The uniform that I agreed to wear as part of becoming a Jewish woman never felt right, although I willingly morphed into Davida Shira, the name I had taken at the time of my conversion.
I felt like I was wearing somebody else’s clothes. At times I would walk by a mirror and catch a glimpse of myself wearing pantyhose and sandals, baggy clothes, and a synthetic wig, and wondering what the hell I was doing, because the image looking back at me in the mirror definitely was not the real me.
I have converted four times to three different religions; I converted twice to Judaism. The first conversion wasn’t valid in the eyes of the Orthodox community. In my late teens to mid-twenties I was a devotee of a guru. The same guru that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in Eat, Pray, Love. My spiritual name was Madri, meaning: happiness, joy, a good wife.
I was adamant when I took on a new name, I never wanted to hear the name Jamie ever again, I wanted to erase myself.
I have been a runner, running from one identity to the next. Always sincere in my intentions, but ultimately unable to continue what ends up being a charade. The real me, Jamie, the one I’m running away from always breaks through again.
There is the pious woman Davida Shira, the devotee Madri, the Catholic convert Veronica, the woman who took refuge in the Buddha Tenzin Dalma, and when I wasn’t completely Orthodox my chosen name was Hadassah. I picked the name Hadassah because of the movie Yentl and, yes, I realize that was a ridiculous reason to pick that name. I just really thought it was beautiful.
Get a new name, subscribe to a new religion or philosophy and become a different person.
And then there is Jamie, the real me, the person that I always end up coming back to.