Thursday, April 29, 2010

How old is too old to change your name?

Posted by lea at 11:05 PM
I realised a few days ago, with utter clarity, during a conversation in which my friend repeated my name several times in the span of a few sentences, that I don't like my name.

Leanne. Leanne. Leanne. Leanne. Leanne. Leanne! Weird isn't it?
When I think of Leanne, I think of a plump, white, middle aged woman from middle-America with permed hair and a nice smile. None of which is me.

So I wondered, how old is too old to change one's name? Is it weird to suddenly say, 'Oh by the way, my name is so-and-so now.'?

The whole history of my name is a bit unorthodox anyway. My birth name was Jae-Sun, apparently bestowed by a traditional Korean name-giver (imagine that as a job!), but my mum didn't like it so she decided to call me Hyun Joo. So until I was around 6 years old, I was called Hyun Joo at home and Jae Sun at school (often 'Jason' in sing-song by some uncreative teasing types). Then my parents decided we should assimilate at school with Anglo names and told us we could choose our own. My brother picked a sensible Simon. My sister chose Leanne. I chose to be named after my favourite flower of the time, Rosie.

Then suddenly there was a last minute change.

My sister had a girl-crush on her teacher Glenda Bell, and decided to make herself her namesake... but she didn't want to relinquish Leanne. As both of us already had two Korean names apiece, a fourth name would be a bit ostentatious, so she decided to do me a favour, and bestowed Leanne on her poor unsuspecting little sister. Goodbye Rosie, hello Leanne. Leanne. Leanne. LeanneLeanneLeanne!

So if I were to tell you that I've changed my name, would you think I was weird? Is it too late to make you call me something else? Because remember, in the words of Shakespeare, 'a rose by any other name would smell as sweet'. Even if that rose was called Leanne.


Caesar on April 30, 2010 at 12:32 PM said...

As long as it's not something bloody stupid like "Trout Fishing In America" I won't make too much fun of you.

From the first time we received a prank call ("Mr Wong! Mr Wong! I've lost all my traveler's cheques!") I've wanted to drop my surname, but considered it a bit too wanky to be counted among the likes of Cher, Sting, Prince, etc. I've also done everything within my power to expunge my Chinese name (Chun Tao), and to date the only places it appears is on my passport and letters from the ATO.

If Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea is anything to go by, maybe we all have a "true" name in addition to our "use" name. I've variously been told that I should have been Matthew, Peter, or Pooflicker.

If you're still pondering what to change it to, then I'll offer you my sage advice from decades of experience: pick something that you wouldn't hesitate to give when ordering a Boost Juice. I never use my own name because (a) they mishear it and I'm forever wondering why my drink isn't turning up (b) they misspell it, misread it or both - "order for... er, cay-zerr?" - or (c) I get stupid meathead jokes - if not salad, then "heil Caesar" (the fact that Caesar had nothing to do with the Third Reich notwithstanding - it's "Ave, Caesar", peasant...)

Um. I think my reply is starting to become longer than your post. I'd better stop.

Lifeworks on May 1, 2010 at 10:56 PM said...

I feel like I have entered into another world...kind of like Alice in Wonderland. blogging ie. It is lovely to peek into your beautiful mind Leanne... and when I think of the name Leanne I think of peaceful meadow. I can almost see you lying there with a book in your hand munching away strawberry dipped in chocolate.... and wait I can also see a ball heading straight for your head... your name says it all. we wouldn't it have it any other way!!

Marly on May 2, 2010 at 5:10 AM said...

Hi there! I love the topic of changing names. I changed my name in my 30's. I started talking to other people who've changed theirs as well. I know of one woman who changed hers in her 60's! It's never too late. I say - go for it! Life's too short to live by the wrong name. Check out my site - I have information about names.

snowdomes on May 3, 2010 at 12:41 PM said...

jothinksaloud eh?

Anonymous said...

LOL to Caesar's comment!

When I was growing up, I wanted to change my name to Lynn because I didn't like my name either... but then when I realised that no one else had my name (bar the Ling Lu in my grade who won all the academic awards, grrr!) I changed my mind. I like being unique! :)

I've known a few people who have changed their names since high school but I kind of feel sad because it's like farewelling an identity and getting to know a whole new person even though it's only the name that's changed. What does Nat think about you changing your name?

lea on May 13, 2010 at 10:56 AM said...

Nat's the first person I asked and he reckoned that after high school, you'd best stick with the name you've got.

I briefly toyed with Jo for a night (few friends + wine = Jo) but stopped when they started calling me JoGo (Jo Gomez). Not what I was gunning for. I think I'll stick with Lea for now... :)

Anonymous said...

My parents named me Lynn, but it seemed more like a girl's name, so later in life legally changed it to John. Having never had a common name, became disillusioned with John, though I stuck with it. Only one other name is yet a possibility. My father was crazy about the name Zachary. His mother said, "Don't name him that, they will call him Zach!" It's taking me a while, a few years in fact, but I'm trying to get up the courage to make one more name change - using Zachary online sometimes to get the feel of it. I loved my father - he taught me something special about life that I've been extremely and increasingly grateful for - going with the name he wanted seems a way to express the love I feel for him, and to honor him. Like the author I feel it's never too late.

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