Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Identity Crisis

M’problem, m’Lord, is that my real first name is easy to shorten. So although I have the longer, formal name; I also have its friendly diminutive as well. Growing up everyone used the latter and the former was only uttered In Times of Dire Peril (e.g. by teachers when I was in trouble).

As I got older, it became completely associated with formality – banks and the like – and I tended to forget I had this longer name. Once, in an early job, someone rang for me using the full name and a colleague asked me if I knew a ‘__’, to which I gave a blank stare until recognition washed back a brain cell. ‘Oh – that’s me!’ I said, sheepishly taking the call.

It’s not like the real name is a fantastical name, like Petronella or Eglantine. It’s a nice, ordinary, name. But somehow I never associated it with me. I picture owners of that name as very confident, power-suit dressed females, who wear court heels every day and tap blackberries (phones. Not fruit. That would be wrong). They don’t wear paint splattered jeans, carry a Tabby cat on their shoulders, get lost in bookshops or trawl London in search of a cupcake. (And admittedly I don’t do all these things at once.)

However, there is a slight problem with the diminutive name. The worst problem at first was that other people with the name tended to sign off with an ‘ie’ and draw a little heart over the ‘i’. I do not sign off with an ‘ie’ or draw little hearts over my ‘i’s. One is not six. (Of course one is not six. One is one. But you get the gist.) The other problem, which grew into the worst problem over time, is that hardly anyone takes that name seriously. My diminutive name gets put on hold, gets lost in call queues, gets fobbed off by secretaries. My power-suit wearing name gets put through to the boss. It’s the same thing with email. Power-suit goes straight to your Inbox. Diminutive gets to play with Viagra in your spam box.

And in-between both these names, is Jayne. Jayne is, fittingly, my middle name, and was created purely to frolic online, un-tethered by power-suits and fwuffy puppies. There are reasons, boring self-esteem-ish reasons why I came here as Jayne, but here she is... I am, rather. And here be my problem.

Who the hell am I?!

Am I power-suit? Am I fwuffy pup? Am I Jayne? None feel quite right, yet somehow, inexplicitly, I am all three.

(Ferst is not my surname either. Oh how complicated I make things for myself!)


ER King said...

I've never dealt with an identity crisis; however, a few years back "Emily" was the top girl's baby name, so now everywhere I go I'm answering to mother's yelling at their daughters, "Emily come back here!" It's very irritating.

Kit Courteney said...

Weeeeeeeeeeell (she says, trying to think of something terribly amusing), those who go messing with their name are just bad, bad, bad.

Ok, fair cop.

I agree with you about the non ie name. It's fun and friendly. The sensible version is sophisticated and, well, more sensible.

But I do think 'Jayne Ferst' is a cracking literary name.

Is it a problem being all three? Why?

(I think you must be terribly clever having three names. I know I'd end up on a funny farm with three. Two's enough for me. Kit for writing. Claire for not.

Simples. As they say.)

Now, stop worrying. Hildegardeney is a lovely name.

Jenny said...

I don't know, I think getting lost in London bookshops while looking for a cupcake and wearing paint spattered jeans and a cat on my shoulder all at once sounds like my idea of a perfect day!

I don't have the option to choose a shortened version of my name. My parents meanly made it "Jenny" on my birth certificate instead of "Jennifer". You can imagine the fun and games when the school people and doctor's offices and legal sorts called me Jennifer and I didn't answer! Very frustrating. And my middle name isn't even a name, so that made it all the worse!

I wasn't happy with all of this, so I made up a nickname for myself in high school that most of my peers used til college. Now I choose to complicate things further by having an alter ego when I sew and create things for local festivals and such. If Lucy Jane Pennybright ever says hi to you, it's ME! :D

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Most people call me Pamela.
A few call me Pam.
My husband calls me Elf.
Go figure.

Talli Roland said...

I can't think of you as your real name! It's just not you. You will forever be Jayne to me!

helen tilston said...

I splurted my tea on my shirt when I read your email get buried in spam playing with Viagra. Too funny.
You have a perfectly beautiful name.
Mine is Helen and people always tell me they have a late aunt or grandmother by that name. Like our looks, we do not get to choose our names. I knew a girl who legally changed her name and that costs money and hurt her mother's feelings.
Helen (not of Troy)

Giles Hash said...

I think you are who you choose to be. Not what your name implies, just the choices you make. How you treat people. What you like to do, eat, watch, read, your beliefs, fears, joys, etc.. :)

Old Kitty said...

I'm drawn to the fwuppy pup name. I like fwuppy pup names! They may seem all cuddly and sweet but i suspect there be lions roaring underneath such veneer. I think so anyway!! I say go for the fwuppy pup name!! And Jayne with a y! :-) take care

snafu said...

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Out on the prairie said...

I laughed at the being called your full name when in trouble.I take a shortened version myself.

Deniz Bevan said...

Lucky for me, my name is nearly impossible to shorten. Unlucky for me, everyone assumes it's the French Denis spelled wrong, and constantly refers to me as Mr in written correspondence. Waa! I'm a girl!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Sounds painful, just enjoy your existence, whoever you are. :0)

Peggy Eddleman said...

You are hilarious! I really love your writing voice. I'm not quite sure what my name does for me. I just know it's all mine, and that hardly anyone else in the world has it. Good enough for me!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I have a nickname too and hardly ever use Elizabeth except on documents (and, of course, for my writing.). Since I've started blogging, I'm getting more used to Elizabeth, but off line, I.still have a tendency to forget to answer to it. Ironically, I went to the nickname because Elizabeth was such a popular name -- always two or three in my classes, etc. Now I notice that there sure are a lot of Elizabeths in the writing and blogging world, but I don't think my nickname would work as an author name.

Dolly said...

What a great post, I enjoyed this. i changed my first name (the real one) in 1983 when I separated from my first husband. I actually made it longer (adding an "na") because the original sounded too old-ladyish. Now, only my mother sometimes calls me the original. Even my Dad quickly got used to the new name. Any friends post-1983 don't even know my name now is not my birthname. And I never think of myself as anything but the current name. Names are fascinating things

Tina said...

So nice to meet you. I've only read this one post, but your (and this is a compliment, btw) quirky, funny style drew me right in. As to the name thing, my first name is only used with banking and bill paying and such. My parents nicknamed me Tina at a very young age. The only person to ever really use Katrina was my Swedish grandma, and it was always in love, not in "you're now in trouble." Middle name? It's Mai, as in May, but NO, they couldn't spell it correctly. I don't know if I've ever seen it anywhere but in my name. The Engineer has a kazillion nicknames for me, I never know what's going to come out of his mouth...
Tina @ Life is Good

Katie Anderson said...

Not that I'm trying to play detective or anything... but your name/diminutive name/'ie' situation sounds like you could have the same name as me....!