Why do we accept our given name, without question?
Usually, our first name was chosen by our parents, based on what they liked and wanted. While our second name is passed down from our father; which has been the case since we began living in a patriarchal society.
Have you ever given your name much thought?
Do you feel connected to it? Does it fit who you are, or the woman you want to be? And do you ever find yourself feeling distant or estranged from it?
When I started writing, and publishing my work online, I made the decision to shorten my name.
My family have always called me “Shani,” so that felt natural. While the surname “Jay” is a much shortened version of my inherited last name.
I made this choice for two reasons.
One, it’s far easier to spell and pronounce; which makes it easier to type into an internet browser (if someone is looking for my website, my writing, or my books).
Two, my older brother has a public career in a very different field to me, and I decided I did not want either of us to be linked. I want my success to be on my own terms, and I also believe this is better for both of us.
My dad wasn’t too happy about my decision, and he more or less suggested that I am embarrassed of my name and my heritage.
To begin with, this hurt me, and made me question myself. Was I actually embarrassed about my name?
I explained my reasoning to him, but at the same time, I didn’t owe him or anybody else an explanation. It’s just a name, after all. It means very little. People change their names every day; often to something wildly different.
A few years have passed since then, and I’ve had even more time to ponder over this, and the idea of our names.
So many women are choosing to double barrel their last name when they get married, but their kids still take the man’s last name. And we don’t question this. We just blindly continue this archaic tradition that we’ve been born into.
Why do we do this?
I also realise now that my dad is emotionally tied to his name, the way that most of us are. He sees it as a part of his identity—where he has come from, and who he is.
So naturally, me ditching his name felt like a betrayal, or even an insult. I’m his daughter, and I’m meant to carry his last name around with me; at least until I get married and take on my husbands’ instead.
How fucked up is that?
I don’t owe my dad, or my future husband (if I ever get married, which I’m not sure I will) a name.
If my partner and I ever have kids, I would like to give them a mesh of both our last names put together; because they truly will be a mix of the both of us, in equal measure.
And as for my name, I’m not tied to it. I never chose it, so how can I be? I don’t love it, I don’t hate it—I guess you could say I’m indifferent to it.
But if I did loathe it, I don’t see why I should feel bad about letting it go and choosing again; choosing something I feel connected to and resonate with.
It’s just a name. And at the same time, it’s a name you have to live with for the rest of your life. So I think it should be something you love, something that fits the woman you’re becoming.