Pleased to Meet You.
Originally, I wanted to publish under the name Jean Waighan. It is my name scrambled, and an androgynous, racially ambiguous name. I knew I needed to publish my book, but felt immense pressure to deliver something beautiful, and I didn’t think I could do that. So I thought I’d hide my words behind a fake name.
This is my first book and words don’t come to me as I imagine they do to true writers. I have to search for them, plead with them. Even then, when I read them back, I sometimes cringe with judgment.
Even if I don’t have the most lyrical words or the most grab-you-by-the-cheeks phrases, I have something I feel I have an obligation to say. After much reflection and research, I know I want to bring more connection—more understanding with and reliance on people—into my life and into the lives around me. I’d like to look at why so many of us feel the pinch of anxiety when we see people, or why we feel drained from spending time with friends. I want to explore what happens in our bodies when we feel disconnected, and I want, with blazing fire, to figure out how to help us integrate intimacy into our modern-day lives.
My hope is that placing the idea of connection into the spotlight can lead people to more well-rounded lives, padding the uncertainty we all sometimes feel with the understanding that their experience is anything but just their own.
Around the time of writing, I came across the story of Colette, an early twentieth century French writer. She wrote a series of fiction books about a sexually free woman named Claudine. Colette’s husband, though, took credit for her writing, explaining to her that no one would ever take a female writer seriously. The books sold with enthusiasm and Colette’s husband felt the glory that came with it.
Colette and her husband had several affairs, including one with the same woman. When they courted different people, they even went on a double date vacation. It was rumored that she did care for him, but she was a rich, layered person with many sides to her and just as many needs.
Different people helped tend to each of those needs. One fostered her adventurous side while another stroked her defiant side. Her husband, for some time, helped her live the marriage dream she’d built and served as her editor. While most of us won’t venture into multiple romantic relationships, Colette understood that she needed many people to help her feel whole.
Over time, though, Colette realized she didn’t want to write to give a man glory. She divorced her husband and, in direct defiance of his belittling words, published under her own name. The new book exploded in popularity.
This story—Colette herself—has convinced me to hold onto my own name. For too much of history, men were given credit for what women did. In a time when women can publish freely under their own names, it’s only respectful to those brave, enduring women to keep my own.
I’m Neha Gajwani. Pleased to meet you.