Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Who am I?

Who am I? I've been known by my married name of Golfer for twenty-odd years. I am the daughter of a Drinker (my father drank for Scotland, I'm afraid) so surely I am by rights a Drinker not a Golfer, now that my husband has died. The name Golfer means nothing to me - most of the time it conjures up an image of the ghastly in-laws - well, mother-in-law to be precise, who herself was widowed young, though not as young as me, and made us suffer for it ever after. Against that has to be measured my long and mostly happy marriage. But I'm not married any more.

When I became widowed it did occur to me that my maiden name might become more natural to me to use, in time. But what attachment did I have to the Drinker? I even thought about calling myself by my mother's maiden name but that meant even less to me. Then the very last member of the Golfer's family died and there was no-one left. If I continued to think of myself as a Golfer, who was I doing it for?

Then yesterday I was browsing the fiction shelves of my local bookshop, and as an aspiring novelist was imagining my blockbuster in its place on the shelf - as you do - and I thought whether I could see it more clearly amongst the Gs as a Golfer or with the Ds for Drinker. And I realised that I wanted it to be there with all the Gs. I've been a Golfer for longer than I was a Drinker, which is quite a thought, actually. More than that, I realised that at last I had found something I could do in memory of my husband. People, even much-loved and successful people, disappear off the radar of the community incredibly quickly after they die and I have been struggling with a way to keep something of him in the world. So when I publish that blockbuster - and you will all be the first to know when I do - I'll publish it as a Golfer.

Who the hell are we as women? We are the daughters of men and take their name. Then we marry other men and take their name. If I remarry, then I might take his name but if I choose not to, whose name do I retain - the man who was my first husband or the man who was my father? It is a puzzle. Names are so much a part of how we define ourselves. We take great care (most of us) when we name our children. It is most disconcerting to reach the nursery slopes of middle age and not be certain which tribe I belong to.

11 comments:

Greg said...

Those people who accomplish nothing in life are defined by their name. Only those who achieve success give the name meaning.

Puddock said...

Hi Greg - I'll take that as encouragement - I think...

It's a female thing. You are Greg Becerra, always have been, always will be. Even if you are not particularly attached to your tribe, it is who you are. Women, at least old-fashioned women like me, leave their paternal family name behind when they take their husband's name and that's when it starts to get complicated. Second and third marriages must add to the confusion.

I don't give it a lot of thought normally. I am the Puddock and that's enough. It was just when I was thinking about the name I would write under. My natural instincts are, as here, to protect my privacy so I had always thought I would publish under my maiden name (this is making the albeit huge assumption that I WILL be published one day)and so it was odd to suddenly feel that I wanted to use my married name.

I do wonder if that is a sign that I am moving away from my past life but that's another post.

toomanytribbles said...

i really despise this anachronistic habit of taking on a husband's name.

women in greece (where i've lived most my adult life) keep their 'maiden' (what a term) name, by law, and couples about to marry decide what their offspring's surname will be beforehand. while it's true that in a still-male-dominated society, this more-often-than-not means that husband and children will all share one name and wife will have another, it causes much fewer problems for women career-wise.

i don't think it's a female thing -- it's a primitive society thing where women are defined by their men and their work accounts for almost nothing. if a future-husband insists on sharing the same surname (although i doubt i'd ever consider marrying someone who would), he'll just have to switch over to mine. i've put way too much effort into my work.

Puddock said...

That's just how I feel now. I was so young when I got together with the Golfer that I hadn't even begun to define myself. Now that I am widowed I really want a brand new surname of my own, that defines ME, but I'm too lazy to be that dramatic.

Greg said...

What I am saying is that names don't really matter. What matters is you and your life. You bring meaning to the name. If the name is defining you or you become obsessed with it, then that is a sign that not much is going on in your life.

Here in the U.S. a name like Kennedy has some strength behind it. That is because of the efforts of John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. But others will get a free ride from the name and don't add anything to it.

You can always use Puddock as your pen name. Doesn't yet have that je ne sais quoi as say Voltaire, but it was Fran├žois-Marie Arouet that made that pen name into something.

Puddock said...

"You can always use Puddock as your pen name".

I think Puddock might be a bit fluffy for the socio-political thriller market, or even the bonkbuster!

Something French...hmmm...yes, I'll think about that...Grenouille perhaps?

toomanytribbles said...

names don't matter if you have the opportunity, like puddock, to have a fresh start and if it doesn't strongly reflect someone else in the society's consciousness.

i wonder if, one day, someone will make a name like 'hitler' sound positive?

sandwriter said...

i was born with a short and easy to spell surname, my given name was unusual and difficult to spell. i married a marvelous man with an impossible name. i have spent a good part of my life spelling my names! i was widowed five years ago and could, i suppose, revert to my (easier to spell) maiden name. quite frankly though i'm having enough problems deciding whether i am still a mrs or have i become a ms ...

M said...

It's funny, I never married, yet knew as a child that I would always keep my name even if I did marry one day. Women I know that have changed their names have always stuggled with it and yet did it anyway.

Probably the boldest step I know is a friend of mine who happens to be a man. After years of struggling with who he was, of not belonging to his family or himself, he simply changed his name. First, Middle and Last. For his surname he selected a noble animal he felt best represented him. He has never turned back. I knew him for years before the change. The name he has selected for himself is perfect.

Perhaps you should consider starting your own tribe.

Puddock said...

Hi sandwriter and thanks for your comment.
I can sympathise with the Mrs/ms thing. Quite soon after the Golfer died, it suddenly seemed pointless to call myself Mrs. It was just a reminder of what I had lost. Nowadays I tend not to put any title in front of my name unless it's insisted upon

Puddock said...

m...

I wish I was brave enough to choose a complete new persona. Don't think I'd choose puddock - that's frog in Scots dialect. Much rather be something enigmatic, like goshawk or salamander. But then you'd feel you had to live up to a name like that - what a strain!
But it would be wonderful if it became a tradition to pick a new name for yourself in middle age. You could have a ceremony. It would be a great way to declare that your life wasn't over.