I write a lot for work. This writing is meant to seem neutral, like white walls, in order to enhance and not to distract. Written and edited to appear authoritative and authorless, I compose these texts with clear and concise descriptions, factual information, and as little opinion as possible. (If an opinion is asserted, it is usually in disguise.) It took time to learn how to write in this institutional voice, but I’ve gotten used to it; I even enjoy it. I’ve found ways to make it my own; to control it through the histories I chose to tell and those I chose not to, and through word choice. I like to think that cumulatively, these choices can affect other people’s perspectives.
To author something in this way feels anonymous yet powerful, like a wizard behind a curtain in a nightmare/fantasy. I can easily pathologize why I enjoy this anonymity; I’m the child of an extreme extrovert; I was closeted for almost a decade; and (perhaps most importantly), I’m a woman. It is easy to write in an assertive voice under the guise of the non-author. But in reality, writing cannot be authorless or neutral. And, no matter what I choose to write or how, the institutional voice is anything but impartial. Like all authoritative voices without a known author, it assumes a gender: male.
Here, I seek to write in my personal voice; to be seen. Yet I also fear being exposed. I have always feared self-expression, and spent many years assuming that my opinions and feelings were not as important as other people’s, to the point that I questioned the very validity of my voice. This is partly why I have always sought the confines of the institutional setting: There is safety in teamwork, in being a non-author.
I thought about writing under a pen name, because I was afraid of the consequences of this vulnerability. Instead of Sarah Marcy, I would be Samantha Maud. You see, I was named after my maternal great-grandfather, Samuel, and my paternal great-grandmother, Maud. But instead of Samantha, the feminized version of Samuel, my parents chose Sarah. Instead of Maud, Marcy. I always felt that my parents made a fundamental mistake with my name, and I grew up believing that if only I were Samantha Maud, things would be different. In this fantasy, Samantha Maud would have been uninhibited, confident, outgoing. She would be Sam to friends, an out dyke from a young age. She would be assertive; even aggressive.
Sarah Marcy, on the other hand, is another story. Sarah is the biblical foremother best known for her relations to men—wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac, who laughed when she heard of her outlandish pregnancy. But worse, Eve, the first of our rib-formed kind, ate something, and the punishment was not only exile for her and her lover-maker, but also painful childbirth for all women for the rest of humanity. How sick is that? In this story, in the beginning, god made woman from man, robbing woman’s power as maker of life, and to add injury to insult, also defined that same pilfered power as punishment. Sarah was punished—like Eve—like all women.
Perhaps this is why I have always fantasized about Sam, neither entirely masculine nor feminine. And I like how Samantha’s “th” sound followed by a sighing “ah” are like the serpent’s words, cunning and calculated. And Maud; I can’t explain my admiration for the name from a young age, but I know it was solidified by the geriatric film character copulating with the pubescent Harold in a perverse and unlikely love story.
I would write as Samantha Maud, but it would only be another disguise; an erroneous attempt to elude a story that is unavoidable. I am Sarah Marcy; a story that has been taught and studied and worshiped for thousands of years. I choose to own that name and to rewrite that narrative, even though it was assigned to me.