Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Who Am I?
To be a Jones, or not to be a Jones, that is the question.
So, I’m getting mazzered in 252 days, which means that potentially, in 36 weeks, I wave goodbye to Kim Willis.
I did not choose to be a Willis. I could have been named anything and I’m sure I would have loved it. Except, possibly, a Wiper, which is an actual real surname belonging to a friend of mine. That name I don’t think I’d have worn as quite the badge of honour he wears it, but then, he wears red trousers and has turned Wiper into a part of his quirky identity.
But any other name, tagged at birth and never having known any different, I’m sure I would have loved. As it was, I was given Willis. It’s my dad's name, and traditionally in my country of birth, the United Kingdom of Crap and Boring Names, the father’s surname is given to descendants.
I grew up a Willis and that meant being good at sport, winning, hosting great parties, never cheating or stealing, talking too much and too loudly and having a penchant for boats. That’s what it meant to be a Willis and I was proud of it.
Now I’m 29 years old. I’m no longer age zero, accepting the reality of the world to which I was presented. I’m now very much defined by my name. You can Google me if you want, I come up as number one. Unless you’re in America, in which case some religious nut comes up as number one. But I’m chasing her tail.
When I was a little girl, it dawned on me that women changed their names upon marriage. Nope, I thought, the mutineer in me already stirring. My name isn't going anywhere. Unless I marry someone with the surname Slazenger. I liked the letter Z, see, and thought it was a cool enough name to lose mine for. But anything less than Slazenger, no thanks.
Only slight problem is I’ve never met a man with the surname Slazenger, let alone fallen in love with one. Which makes the whole name change thing tricky. The man I’ve decided to marry (alright, he decided to marry me, but I still had a say) has the surname Jones.
Now, apologies to anyone reading who has the surname Jones, but it’s not exactly exciting. Catherine Zeta added the Zeta just to jazz it up a bit. She probably shared my fondness for the letter Z and was lucky enough to have a grandmother with a zeddy name she could borrow.
Gareth’s name is Gareth Iwan Jones. That’s quite fun. I could nick his middle name and be Kim Iwan Jones. I’d need a hyphen though, so people don’t think I’m a boy. But then I’d still have a different surname to Gareth anyway, mooting the point.
I continued to flip between throwing caution to the wind and accepting Gareth’s name, and being an insubordinate woman who refused to surrender my identity, with all the gusto of the rolling tides, while Gareth paid not a blind bit of notice. He couldn’t care less what I decided to do.
I looked at friends who had recently married. Some had changed their name, some had double barreled and some had steadfastly very much not changed their name. I respected the name changers for the romance of the notion that you ditch such a crucial part of your identity for love. I respected the name keepers for the defiance of tradition and expectation. I didn’t respect the double barrellers. Come on people, pick a lane.
My musings continued. If we’re going to have kids, I’d like to have the same name as them. Like my mum, who, despite 30 years of divorce and countless marriage proposals, chose to keep being a Willis. I like that about her, we’re a family. Although she probably just did it because she has the world’s snazziest signature. What she’s done with the word Willis I can’t even begin to attempt. But then, I’m left handed, it’s as much as I can achieve to not smudge the ‘W’ by the time I get to the ‘s’.
Then, t’other day, Gareth and I were discussing it again and we hit upon an idea. He did not feel the same allegiance to Jones that I felt to Willis, so suggested we come up with a whole new name, just for us. What a fantastical idea! Combining Willis and Jones to make Jillis or Wones is just silly, and Slazenger got vetoed for having no sentimental meaning beyond my childhood penchant for the letter Z, so we decided to look into our family trees and see if there were any names we fancied bringing back from the grave.
I was as happy as a clam by the very spectacle that Gaz was so free spirited and unbound by ego as to willingly change his name to something with a bit more pazazz. I got to thinking. In my immediate family history I’ve got a Van Humbeeck, Ornstien, Osbourne and Le Seelleur.
Hold the front page, we've found a contender. Le Seelleur. How awesome. I know it’s got no Z, but it’s Le Seelleur! Gareth started to imagine what it would look like on his website, I started practising my new signature.
Nonchalantly, Gareth agreed it was pretty cool, but asked, would we have to spell it out to people ten times a day? Who cares, better that than having the same name as everyone else in Wales, I retorted. Le Seelleur. Awesome. I saw us a year from now, signing our names with nothing less than a fountain pen. We’d probably start smoking skinny cigarettes and watching subtitled films.
Then, my god damn future husband changed his mind. That’s right, he changed his mind. ‘It sounds like ‘The Sailor’ he said. ‘It’s ridiculous.’ Then he made a joke about calling our first born Sinbad and ruined all my fun.
And so I’m back to fretting about my identity. Panicking about changing who I am. Pondering if the kids would really give a hoot what their mother’s name was. Wondering if I can spell it Jonez.