Only On Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 07/09/2023

July Fourth happened, and what could be more American than shooting off illegal fireworks at a time of hire fire risk? 

I guess the only thing more American is passive aggressive notes left in mailboxes. An islander received this handout, which is just a printed email from VashonBePrepared with an added note on it saying that they’ll call. But they don’t say who they’ll call. Will they call you? Will they call the Pope? I hope they don’t call me. I hate getting calls after 7:00 PM. 

The poster ripped up the paper and left it under a rock as a sign of neighborly goodwill. 

Responses are of course mixed. Half of people say, for the love of dogs, don’t shoot off fireworks. The others say, and I quote, “Amen!!! Light em up if you’re a proud American!!!🎆🇺🇲🦅

It’s strange to me that the talk of fireworks is always about dogs. I love dogs and all, but my biggest worry is fire. 

But my fears are off topic. We were complaining, like we always do, about dogs. One commenter says,  “I lost my dog Bob here on the 4th several years back, and never saw him him again …. 😞 However, we did find Jake shivering in the middle of the pond the next day !!! 😀

Someone responds with, “should have locked him up, you would still have a dog.”

Damn! You just can’t win. You either need to be shooting off illegal fireworks as a testament to your love of our land and its laws, or you need to be hunkered down, lying down next to your dogs, singing them Enya to soothe them while they shiver in their crates. 

One person loves this country so much they point out that they don’t have to follow any law they didn’t personally approve, because that’s how society works, apparently. They say, “I don’t remember voting that into law. Free country last time I checked. 🇺🇸

And speaking of the Fourth of July, we had the Hydro Races, which led to this lovely anonymous post: 

“I have a question for the people who don’t like the hydro race on the 4th: Did you grow up on Vashon? If your answer is no, then shut up”

I’ve got bad news for everyone: I didn’t grow up on Vashon, but I have loads of opinions and I never shut up. 

We get into the same worn-out arguments about who does and doesn’t belong, why the culture is the way it is, how everything is bad now, yada yada. I refuse to rehash it. 

One commenter says, “Anonymous member I’m thinking you’re a newbie trying to root out old crusty islanders!”

The poster replies: “ I have very valid reasons to remain anonymous.” Okay, so what are these reasons? You’re an old-time islander, so that limits who you could be. And your post isn’t so scandalous that it would get you fired from a job. Maybe you have a spouse who’s also a long-time islander who hates the hydros? Maybe you love hydros but hate fireworks and put notes in people’s mailboxes? 

Someone referred to long-time islanders as ‘oldies’, which garnered this response, “I don’t think name calling is neighborly. You don’t have to like everyone but I imagine the Island “oldies” have traditionally been nice neighbors. My next door neighbor was a lifer and he loathed the fireworks but he was neighborly to his neighbor who used a cannon.”

Long-time islanders are CIVIL to each other. We would never go so far as to call someone a name. We would shoot a cannon off in the neighborhood, sure, but we wouldn’t dare call someone an ‘oldie.’ 

One commenter makes this point: “I have a question for the people who like Anonymous Member posts: Did you grow up on Vashon? If your answer is yes, then shut up”

Another says, “Real Vashonites (and especially those born on Vashon) don’t post anonymously. Viva la Hydros!” 

That’s right- there is only one way to be from Vashon. If you behave any differently, then you must be an interloper. 

And while we’re hating on all things new, we have this anonymous post about name changes

“Can y’all tell your kids they get 1 name change. They don’t get to change it every week. You can go back to the OG or keep your new one. You can even do initials, but for the love of God: stop. It makes it difficult to be supportive, even if we want to be. Yours truly, Anonymous”

After a lot of pushback, Anonymous makes this faulty analogy: “a name is just something everyone agrees on, so if I see a chair and you see a chair we will both call it a “chair,” but if Chadwick comes over and calls it a “garble” does it mean it’s both a “garble” and a “chair”?”

Comparing people to chairs doesn’t work because, and this may come as a surprise, people aren’t chairs.

A person can choose their own name, while a chair cannot. If the chair became sentient and told you to call it a garble—then yes, you should do whatever it said because it is a sentient chair and that’s a little terrifying. Why has the chair come to life? What are its intentions? Does it have a fondness for humanity, which created it, or a resentment for humanity for being used? I suppose you could ask it now that it’s sentient. 

Others point out the irony of posting this complaint under the name Anonymous. 

Anonymous isn’t done digging themself into a hole. They suggest “🤣but I really do think there are better ways to explore your identity. Maybe we should have them go by numbers when we’re talking about specifics. Keep in mind that no ideas are bad ideas, just spitballing.”

What do you mean there are no bad ideas? There are plenty of bad ideas, and yours is one of them. Also, we’re not calling you Anonymous anymore. Now we’re calling you Thirteen. 

One islander makes this important point: “Careless posts like these absolutely add to the mental load carried day in and day out by trans folks who are all very well aware that people don’t take [them] seriously or worse. In a vacuum this post might not hurt anyone, but in a deeply transphobic world this adds to an existing burden of transphobia.”

Another makes this point: “You seem like the kind of person who spends many productive hours at the park yelling at squirrels….”

My favorite thing is all the teachers who chime in to say they do the best they can to call kids by the names they want. One teacher says,  “Funny post. I’m a teacher and yep, it’s cray! BUT… I am 61 and still looking for a new name to change to! My first name is Dawn, I go by Kati and as a kid I played with spelling, k.t., katy, cate, back to Dawn, then Kathryn, back to Kati and now I’m looking for a new last name!! Hahaha. Yeah it drove people nuts so I probably deserve it in the classroom. It’s okay to be confused. Let them know you’re trying to remember but to be gentle with you as you try to keep up! PS. I really liked KT but teachers wouldn’t let me do it. My parents rolled with it. 🤪

Thirteen says,  “this comment is perfect. ❤️ a bit of compassion. I’m not actually angry, just confused as hell, lol 😂

That’s the beauty of teachers- we never stop learning from them.

One person says, “Sounds like a you problem.”  

Kids these days would call that “a skill issue.”  Maybe if you spent more time reading Russian novels where people were constantly being referred to by different names, and like, six different characters were all named Anna (because it’s objectively a great name) then you’d be more adept at managing remembering which name belongs to which child, and in which context any of a person’s many names should be used. 

Take for example Anna Karenina’s brother. His name is Stepan, but some people call him Stiva. His last name is Oblonsky, so others refer to him formally as that. But a bunch of people in the book are related and are also called Oblonsky, so you need to keep track of which Oblonsky you’re dealing with. So, if you’re having trouble keeping track of your kid’s friends’ names, take some time to read classic Russian literature to train your brain in the nuances of naming conventions and the social relationships and hierarchies implied by who calls whom by which name.

Mostly people are supportive of name changes. We recognize that we may get confused, and that’s okay, so long as we do our best. 

One islander with an incredibly cool, unique name says, “When I was in elementary school I wanted badly to be “normal”. I told everyone my name was Kelly LaDawn. (Wasn’t the 80s fun?! 😐) I’m glad it didn’t stick!”

Another islander with a cool name says, “ Having changed my name twice I can assure you that it’s an important part of figuring out who you are now as well as who you want to be going forward.”

The response from another islander: “and that’s the name you landed on?”

Can you believe the audacity?! They probably don’t even know what the name means. Google tells me it’s Old Irish for ‘Book’, which is super cool.

My name means something like “favored by God’ or ‘grace’, neither of which correspond with my life in any way. 

Another person points out that making fun of someone’s foreign-sounding name is the sort of bigoted thing you’d expect from a transphobic Facebook commenter. 

And one especially interesting name comes up. One person says, “I knew a guy named Dan who claimed he had no name. We called him ‘Nameless Dan.’”

Another commenter says, “As a trans person it’s really interesting to me that you focus on trans people here and not like… Divorcees who get remarried. That’s equally confusing, right?”

There are so many times in people’s lives when they change their name or go by a different name. Adults aren’t changing as rapidly as young people, but we still find ourselves accumulating titles, being called Aunty or Grandma or changing our last name when we marry/divorce/go into witness protection. One’s identity never truly solidifies; we are always  fluid. And because children are flowing at a faster rate, changing so quickly, growing and learning, they’re bound to change their names more frequently. And it may be a little confusing for us old fogies, but it’s not nearly as confusing as the existence of YouTuber as a career choice. 

Thirteen says, “Honestly, I’m really glad to be having this conversation. It is something I was not understanding and while trying to be supportive while confused, I don’t know if I’m making sense but I value what you brought to the conversation.”

So Thirteen grew and learned through this conversation. Good work everyone! Maybe we can post our way out of ignorance and into a kinder, gentler world. 

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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