I quite often have people tell me what a great name I have. And they’re right – I have a fucking awesome name. It sounds nice when you say it out loud and it looks neat written down.
It’s no wonder I’m pleased with it – I chose it personally, after thirty eight years of carrying a name that didn’t suit me. When I tell people this, I get one of two reactions:
RESPONSE 1 – ‘Eh? You can’t just change your name for no reason!’
Subtext – therefore you must have a reason, and it’s probably a sinister one. Well as it happens, anyone can change their name, to whatever they want*, and they don’t even have to pay for the privilege. All that UK law requires is that you declare your intent to use the new name from then on – you can write it on the back of a cornflake packet if you like, so long as you get it witnessed.
My own name change actually came about over a period of time. I joined an online forum in 2003 and, needing a username, named myself ‘Fenn’, after the actress Sherilyn Fenn. I made many real life friends from that site, all of whom call me Fenn to this day (in fact I can pretty much carbon date the length of any friendships by the name they use for me).
‘Violet’ is one of the names my youngest son would have been given had he been born a girl – ‘Mina Violet Peaches’, if you please (Peaches after musician Merrill Nisker, not Bob’s daughter). Seemed a shame to waste it, so eventually my forum name expanded to Violet Fenn. Around this time I set up in business making custom plush toys, and it was a natural progression to use the name that most online friends already knew me by.
Around 2007 it occurred to me that more people knew me as Violet than as Andrea (my birth name), and maybe it would be simpler to just legalise it. Contrary to what has occasionally been assumed, there was never any intention of hiding my original identity – in fact my legal name is now ‘Andrea Jayne Violet Fenn’, so all that changed was my surname and I added Violet into the middle. My family and oldest friends have always known me as Andie – and as much as I no longer identify as that name, it would be unfair to expect them to change the habits of a lifetime, so Andie I remain. My friends list on Facebook includes plenty of people who have known me from babyhood, through all of my identities. I’m the same person, whatever you call me.
Plenty of people change their name to one of their own choosing, simply because the original one didn’t fit their self image. Think about it – your name was probably chosen before you were born, by people who didn’t even know you. Why should you be obliged to fit into the mould you were given, if you’d rather be a different shape?
Sometimes people give real practical thought to a namechange. The model Agyness Deyn was born plain old Laura Hollins in 1983. From Wikipedia:
Deyn’s name was apparently coined to further her modelling career after she consulted her mother’s friend, a numerology expert, who advised her of the most ‘fortuitous’ way to spell the name ‘Agnes’. It was reported that her mother Lorraine and sister Emily have both changed their surname to Deyn, while Lorraine has changed the I in her first name to Y.
It worked for Agy, so why not you?
RESPONSE 2 – ‘That is AWESOME, I wish I could change my name!’
You can. As I said before – it’s really easy to do your own deed poll arrangements in this country. There’s loads of companies that will do it for you, but all they’re actually doing is typing it up onto a pretty piece of paper and getting it witnessed. My own deed poll looks very pretty indeed, but all I did was download a template from the net and print it off at home onto decent quality paper. Banks do actually prefer heavyweight paper to cornflake packets, I’ve found. Bloody snobs.
Name changes don’t have to be dramatic – you might have been born Tracey but always felt like a Kate. Or maybe you much prefer your middle name (in which case just get and use it, especially if it’s properly ridiculous – the world needs more Hepzibahs, in my humble opinion).
You don’t have to fit anyone else’s mould – define yourself on your own terms.
Be the You that suits you.
*the UK has pretty much the most liberal naming laws in the world – you can call yourself or your child anything you like so long as it isn’t blatantly offensive. If you’re a music fan in Sweden however, you might be disappointed to learn that Metallica and Elvis are against the rules.