the Susurrus of Names

I paid them their 18 dollars, so it’s a website now. liesoflovelace.com  A very final decision, made impulsively.

The first many results that come up when I put “lies of lovelace” into Google are about Linda Lovelace, the porn star. My mother is Linda Lovelace, but not that one. She used to get calls from men with boners, or men hoping to have boners, who had found her in the phone book. Presumably they thought they’d found HER, the one with the deep throat, but maybe they didn’t really care.

I imagine some called to remonstrate the sinful Linda Lovelace for her wickedness. I imagine some of those had boners too, or were hoping to, and they also didn’t care much whether it was the right Linda Lovelace or not. Sometimes the caller wouldn’t say anything, but my mother would his breathing across the line. My mother told them all, “you need Jesus in your life. Let’s pray together.” She said this because she believed it, and also because she believes that Jesus is a turnoff. She says it worked.

I don’t know. My mother is prone to exaggeration. She is prone to putting in details which are probably very like the details that actually happened but which she no longer remembers. Then she believes her telling of it, and belief replaces memory, and she embellishes the new memory in subsequent retellings, till the story has become something very unlike what actually happened. A lie.

I like to think I came by it naturally.

Still, it seems a certainty that, after that movie came out, some men would’ve gone through the phone book, calling any Linda Lovelace they could find. It seems very likely that she would tell them, with poorly suppressed glee,  that they needed Jesus in their lives’.

When she tells this story she sounds disappointed, a little, that they stopped calling. Still she seemed genuinely upset when the Lindsey Lohan biopic on the other Linda was coming out, and genuinely relieved when it bombed. Even if she enjoyed telling people about it.

I enjoy the idea that the other Linda Lovelace may be buried by this website, articles about her pushed down by my occasionally mentioning my mother.

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Lovelace is as an English name going back to the middle ages.  People sometimes confuse it with the more common Loveless. My mother would always say, “No, Lovelace, we have Lacey love, not less love.” Generally I’d say, “No, I love my shoelaces,” but I once told a teacher “No, Lovelace, like the 80’s porn star.”

But the mispronouncers are right in a way. Lovelace comes from Loveless, an alternate spelling from before Mr. Johnson’s dictionary standardized spellings. Both derive from the old English lufuleas, meaning “free from love.” It’s unclear exactly how this was intended to be taken, but my favorite guess is that it meant the name bearer was in control of himself. Mr. Lewis said (rather later) that “the head can, and should, rule the heart.” Had he been born in an earlier time, we might share a surname, because that was the idea. A Lovelace makes decisions according to  reason, not emotion.

Jonathan Lake Lovelace. Jon means son. Nathan means “the faithful one.” So my name comes out to “Son of the faithful one (a body of water larger than a pond but smaller than a sea) who is controlled not by passions, but by his own self.

The first part is fine. My parents are indeed faithful: my father, excessively so. I like the middle. But the last part is best, because it’s, like all the best stories, a bald-faced lie.

Etymological meaning is interesting, but what of cultural associations? There is an erotic book called Love, Lies, and Lace. The author’s profile informs us that her sexually repressive Christian upbringing “contributed to her wicked imagination.” My sexually repressive Christian upbringing did no such thing for me, but as they say, it takes all sorts to make the world go round, and perhaps I too will one day be a writer for Bondage Bunny Publishing.

Love of course is the motive force of the Jesus she and I were both raised to believe in, and also the motive force of Dawson’s Creek. The word is often written not with letters, but with a stylized Valentine’s Day heart. Lace is a fine fabric for the rich and Victorian, and for women’s undergarments. When I hear my name I imagine a heart, wet and purple and anatomically correct, the valves and chambers on full display, bound by black lace, so tight that its squeezed, the lace digging in. Bondage Bunny Publishing indeed.

I think of my supposed ancestor, Sir Richard Lovelace, who wrote “stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage,” and fought for the King against Parliament.

Lately I think of the cartoon movie Happy Feet. It stars a dancing penguin named Lovelace. I have not seen the movie, but it was directed by George Miller, who made the Mad Max films, so I feel that George Miller, Fury Road, Imperator Furiosa and action-movie feminism have all placed their blessings upon me.

I wonder if it matters. There was a study that seemed to show it does a little, and a second study that seemed to show the first study was wrong. I favor the first. Our names are not silent, only quiet, casting a faint, rustling murmur across the backgrounds of our lives, not unlike the harsh breathing my mother used to hear over the phone.

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