Some of us have three, some four or more: a first, a sur, possibly hyphenated from two, and maybe a middle or middles. However long, that name becomes your identity from when you are born or the moment you assume that name. You answer to it, introduce yourself with it, and brand yourself by it. Your name becomes the so-and-so people talk highly, or lowly, about (“have you heard about so-and-so?”), you don’t want to tarnish it, and you do everything you can to protect it.Growing up, I hated my name, Alison (sorry, mum). None of the popular older girls in my school shared that name, there were no pretty celebrities named Alison, the only popular Alison was Buffy’s sidekick, Willow, and she didn’t even spell it like me so that didn’t count. Plus, she wasn’t the beautiful badass vampire slayer, she was the character that provided comedic relief, and to preteen Alison, humour was not an attractive trait I wanted associated with my name. In 1990, Alison was listed as the 347th most popular name for girls – how was I ever going to be popular with a name that was so far from cool? (I bet you can guess the most popular girl name in 1990 – I always knew my lil’ sis was way more popular than me, and this stat just proves it!) Fast-forward thirty years (gasp), and I can proudly say, I love my name, it just had to grow on me.
So, what is in a name? Names humanize a person, and are a crucial part of a person’s existence. After recently binge-watching Fleabag on Prime (if you haven’t watched the show, then you’re later to the party than I am, and need to do so asap), I was curious as to why some characters were left unnamed, such as Fleabag, the Godmother and the Priest. I was also questioned whether or not her friend “Boo” was actually her real name, or a ghostly trait of the friend that haunts her memory. I am interested in hearing the thoughts from those that watched the show on why viewers are not privy to these characters’ names, yet are invited in on Fleabag’s inner, most secretive thoughts. By not giving someone a name is a way to keep them at a distance, to not get too attached to them, think Holly Golightly and Cat from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. By not saying someone’s name is to remove the power they may have over others, think He Who Must Not Be Named from the popular, and much loved, Harry Potter series. My argument on why these characters are nameless is that they are everyone, they are not just one person – Fleabag is not only a Jessica, Alison, Claire or Boo, that character is everyone – all of us are Fleabag. Same with the Priest and Godmother. The personalities and actions the Priest, Godmother and Fleabag exude are real and raw human behaviours and actions that we all experience and commit.
Which leads me to ask, why are we (women) asked to change our name after we have spent x-amount of years claiming it as ours? As some readers may know, I recently married my person, and with that, comes the name change, which is a decision I’ve been struggling with – my last name defines me, it’s who I am and I’m scared that I will lose a piece of myself once I give it up / replace it with that of my husband’s. The easy solution is to hyphenate our last names, but that mouthful will eat up 22 spaces, not easily fitting in any box that requires one to write their surname. Add to that all of the paperwork that needs to be completed, the updating of accounts, the changing of email addresses. Oy, bring on the headache and the martini. Needless to say, all of this leaves me in a name conundrum. Again, I pose the question, what is in a name? Simply put, a lot.