Freak show

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ferris wheel at night

Jane got her apostrophe today. Or, I should say Jan’e got her apostrophe.

The whole town came out for her renaming ceremony. Turned it into a bourgeoise spectacle of avarice and ego. If her parents had their way, the diacritical would have been interpolated two places and not just the customary one.

Instead of the dignified ritual that a renaming should be, Jan’e’s parents hired a carnival. It was a circus sideshow and Jan’e was the headliner freak.

What should have been a day of city-wide celebration, was overshadowed by my mother’s distress over a slight against me. Six months older, she felt I should have been given tribute before Jan’e. For the past month, it has been an omission that I’ve heard about on a daily basis from my dear, sweet mother. Who also loves to remind me received her apostrophe early too.

It’s an old-fashioned, misogynistic ritual. I don’t care how often the ruling class tries to tell us that it’s an enduring, matriarchal honorific. It’s really only a way to set the woman apart, and against each other. Why else tie the renaming to some arbitrary caste criteria and not simply age. I’m sure money changes hands on more than a few occasions too.

Jan’e’s mother will be pleased with the audience turnout. She can flaunt their new, elevated status, even though it reflects more on her daughter than herself. My mother, who cried the entire time she primped for the occasion, was even more concerned over public opinion and her perceived demotion.

She blames me, of course, and my unrepentant criticism of the oligarchy leaders.

“I’m not concerned about the delay,” I lied. “Honestly, if I’m never elevated to patriciate status, I wouldn’t care.”

“Be very careful what you say. If the elders hear such sacrilege, you could get your wish.” My mother’s shock was genuine, even if her maternal concern wasn’t.

“I don’t believe anything changes with the designation. So, it doesn’t matter to me if it never comes to me.”

“Of course it matters. Without it, you will never be paired with a suitable husband, you’ll never be placed in a desirable occupation. You could be alone and destitute forever.”

My mother believes the propaganda, thinking without official recognition, and renaming, I would be consigned to a life of persona non grata – penniless, companionless and childless.

“The only reason you care is for the added prestige you would receive.”

With that final insult, she left me alone, the cacophony of Jan’e’s celebration heard blaring from city loudspeakers, rattling picture frames on our walls.

Once I knew she was gone, I went to my locked desk and took out a letter from the City Elders. Dated nearly a year ago, it was my official notification of Renaming. The triple diacritical, a rare recognition, changed my birth name from Sara to S’ara.

The change was legally registered, regardless of whether I had a renaming ceremony or not. The benefits from the change were many and lucrative, yet I had not cashed in on any of them. I had told no one in my family, nor any of my friends.

A recent, second letter from the City Elders was also in the drawer. A veiled threat… either I schedule a public renaming ceremony, or they would release the information to the media. They conferred the most prestigious tribute upon their most vocal antagonist. I’m sure they considered it a very effectual blackmail scheme. Once the renaming was made public, the Elders expected me to be rendered completely impotent in my fight against them.

What the Elders didn’t account for, was that by giving me such esteemed status, it would work in my favor. My efforts towards change will be taken more seriously by the masses, as if I was given the Elders’ blessings. They created what they feared the most… a champion.

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