New York Diaries 1609 to 2009: I was once called something else

Before I was myself on the Internet or really knew that what I wanted to be doing was writing about and making pop-culture, I named myself after a character — a surly, teen hermaphrodite with green eyes in a world where green is the color of death — from Elizabeth Hand’s Aestival Tide, and spent a lot of time documenting my life on the Internet.

It was a pressure valve more than anything else when I chose that name in 1992, but it was also an early experiment for me with ideas about branding and fame and just not being able to shut the hell up. I didn’t know how to see myself or other people at that age without telling a story, and, in truth, in many ways, I still don’t. Eventually, though, I felt neither that young, nor that self-revelatory, starting going by my real initials online instead, and became both less and more my public self.

But I was still Reive, barely, on September 11, 2001. And I wrote about it, some of it, anyway, because that’s what there was to do. Every time we’d show up at the muster sites with supplies, they were the wrong ones. I remember, standing on a corner, carrying a couple of cases of bottled water and talking business with some dominatrixes while they walked their dogs. The Twin Towers were burning, but dogs still needed walking.

A few years ago, I got a note from an online friend who also uses the name Reive as part of his online identity. An editor had contacted him, thinking he was me, to get permission to publish one of my old LiveJournal entries about that period. Eventually, the editor and I were put in touch, I signed something or other, and that was that.

Well, apparently, the book is out! I just received my copy of New York Diaries 1609 to 2009 edited by Teresa Carpenter for Modern Library, and I’m in it — absurdly, alongside people like Noel Coward and Keith Haring and Kurt Weil — with the last thing I’ll ever publish as a person I never was.

It wasn’t a good time in my life, that year. And I tend to think people mostly have unpleasant memories of who I was when I was Reive. I’m more than a little ashamed of her — of me — and of what you might think of me, or think you know about me, if you read the entry, so littered with nicknames for people, like Sir.

But it hardly matters, all the people you’ve been, when you live and write about a place like New York, full of terrible creatures and brilliant illusions. Apparently, some girl who wasn’t quite a girl and named herself Reive was once one of them. Mostly, I try to be okay with that.

6 thoughts on “New York Diaries 1609 to 2009: I was once called something else”

  1. It wasn’t a good time in my life, that year. And I tend to think people mostly have unpleasant memories of who I was when I was Reive. I’m more than a little ashamed of her — of me — and of what you might think of me, or think you know about me, if you read the entry, so littered with nicknames for people, like Sir.

    When reading that entry and the years on either side of it, I come away with the sense that at the time you were happy to be who you were then, and people who knew you were also happy to associate with the then-you. What do you think the odds are of you looking back on the now-you and saying you’re “more than a little ashamed” of who you are now, of how you live now?

    1. I was making some actively appalling choices in my life at that time, and I am good at putting up a front. I remember being unhappy, a lot. And I was a pain in the ass in the years before.

      Do I think I’ll look back on my life now and think I was a pain in the ass and could have been kinder? Sure. Are there things in my life I wish I knew how to navigate with more dignity? Always. But Patty is a great good thing and so is our life in Brooklyn. So yeah, no. My 20s were pretty spectacularly chaotic by any standard and even without hindsight.

  2. That year seems to be a bad year for a of people.

    I lost a good friend in January of 2001.

    Then my mother suddenly fell ill in July and passed away August 27th. Her memorial service was Sept. 8th. One of the places she & I had visited when she came up to see me when I first lived in NYC was WTC. So I had planned to come visit when I was up for my vacation that fall. Suddenly, it was no more and I was worrying about friends up here.

  3. Names are weird things. I can’t stand to hear almost anyone call me the name I went by in grad school, I’ve comfortable with the one I was given at birth, and I’m happy to answer to the one I took for myself, too.

    I have only nice memories of knowing you-as-Reive, but I knew you on the edge of that, much as you knew me on the edge of my fannish life, too. I think it’s tempting to castigate ourselves for uncomfortable behavior and ugly interpersonal choices, but birth, change, and creation are messy. When you’re constantly in the process of growing and learning how to engage with the world, that doesn’t happen neatly.

    When I decided I wanted to start writing Snape/Hermione fic as opposed to the wholesome canony stuff I’d been writing for the previous year, I decided that I needed a new name. Two of my co-mods on the Yahoo!group we ran for our shared works also had other names for writing smut (Serenity and Charity, I think) and I felt my own should fall in the same vein as theirs. I grew into it rather than out of it. Names are weird *and* powerful things.

    Congrats on your publication!

  4. Racheline, Ellen K. sent me the link to this lovely essay (and I’ve already ordered New York Diaries to read your piece!). I’m honored that a fictional character was able to lend a name, however briefly, to someone with such a brilliant preence in the real world. I hope all your years are better ones from now on.

    Liz Hand

  5. I remember you when you were Reive- it’s when we first “met” online. And I have only good memories of you. I missed Reive for a long time, still do sometimes; I miss that intimacy and how unseriously you took yourself. It was different than the official Racheline Maltese: RM is building a career, Reive was just having fun. I love RM too, though 🙂

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