What's in a Name?
Jane! My God, Jane! Who would curse a child with such a name? Simple Jane, plain Jane. Jane who'll marry Bob, who'll never be rich; sweet, good Jane. Jane, liable to explode into fits of song, because every ballad and nursery rhyme has their own Jill or Jane—
And how I detest
My parents who left
Me with a name as plain
As boring and dull as Jane!
Ahem. Thus I demonstrate. Sometimes I can't help myself. My inner Jane takes over, and suddenly, I'll get the sudden urge to become a schoolteacher, or redecorate the entire house in cream and mauve. And there's no warning. One minute I'm minding my own business, NOT redecorating the house in cream and mauve and it'll burst out of me—
And suddenly I'll have to sing,
Grab the paint and start redecorating.
Oh God it's happened again
I really hate this name
O, to the heavens I lament; my inner Jane can get bent!
…It's over? Yes? Good. What's even worse is that my full name is Jane Dow. But at least if I'm murdered the cops will get a good laugh out of it. I know my parents did. I am destined to be as anonymous in death as I am in life. You like that? My therapist didn't. What's in a name, she said. Said what's on the label doesn't have to be the same as what's in the tin. I told her folks wouldn't be too happy if they bought a tin of beans and got stewed prunes. She said I was missing the point, but really, prunes on toast? After that she recommended an extra session a week, but I wasn't too sure till I burst into a spontaneous limerick about my love for net curtains.
However, a few weeks ago I figured out a solution to fix all this; I'd get my name legally changed! The only thing was, to what? I was thinking something exotic, but then again, I'm not that fond of curry's. So then I thought, Florence, but that's the whole net curtain issue all over again. Lily is lovely but I've an allergy to them and likewise if I called myself Candy I'd spend far too long painting my nails and reading OK magazine.
You see my problem, don't you? My therapist was banging on that I'm an individual and I shouldn't be ruled by a name, but then she's called Azula, so she would, wouldn't she?
But I bit the bullet. I wasn't going to marry Bob the plumber; I refused it! So last week I whipped down to the magistrates office and had my name changed to Deborah Chudley.
The only thing is, Deborah doesn't 'whip' anywhere. She toodles. Or preferably pops.
And suddenly I was toodling down to the school yard to stand in the damp with the girls—I mean, the Mums—to talk about how troublesome they can be at that age, and Yes, Mr Community Officer, that was my 4 x 4 on the zig-zag lines, but no, it's not obstructing anything. The parking here really is atrocious, you know! And I had to be here in time to pick up my Jimmy.
I'd already organised three cake sales and a play date for my son with the child of a dar----ling lady called Laura, when I popped in to see Azula and she reminded me that I actually, I don't have a son.
"You give him back this instant!" I exclaimed tearfully. "You won't get away with this. My husband is the chief of police, I'll have you know!"
Azula, again, calmly reminded me that I don't have a husband.
"You fiend! You shan't get a single penny out of me, if that's what you're after. We don't give in to blackmail; and I'm not breaking into Jimmy's trust fund!"
It should also be said that though Deborah is a fairly placid housewife, she's the kitten that turns into the tiger if you law so much as a paw on one of her brood. Safe to say that I wrestled Azula to the ground, and safe also to say, that I spent the nights in the cells.
"But I'm the victim here!" I howled, as I was manhandled into the police station. "She's got my Jimmy!"
"Yeah, yeah, boozy," said the officers. I asserted, with dignity, that I had not been drinking. They asserted, with a finger jabbed in my chest, that I reeked of sherry.
"But it's cooking sherry!" I moaned. "I have just baked five hundred butterfly buns for the bake sale."
"Hey, that's the one!" the community officer exclaimed. "She blocked off the whole of Tumbledown road with her inconsiderate parking. She almost knocked over the lollypop man."
I was thrown unceremoniously into the cell, while the officers checked my records, saw my name change, and discussed the likelihood that I was a criminal mastermind, and checked the records for Jane Dow's on the criminal mastermind list. I didn't sleep a wink; and spent all night deciding which government body's I was going to write an angry letter to.
In the morning Azula came and explained everything, I was frogmarched down the magistrate's office by two burly policemen.
"It is in the public's interest and safety," they announced to the gurning crowd, "that this woman changes her name." That was how I changed my name to Spike McMillian.
"Unhand me, you brutes!" I said to the thugs restraining me. "Chauvinistic pigs! Using brute force to make women do as you please. I said, unhand me!"
The patriarchal bullies let go of me by sheer force of surprise and I strode home to work on my feminist theories. I jabbed at my paper; the men who reinforce inequality by means of the 'glass ceiling…' I rubbed out 'men' with my eraser. Furiously. Wrote 'pigs' instead. Reluctantly, added in 'men' again. The force of my pen breaking through the paper onto the next page. I got so mad that I went and gave myself a buzz cut, marched out for a night on the town at Double Lips, the local gay and transsexual bar.
The woman on the end of the bar was mesmerising. Pink, heavy lips. A regal nose. A jutting chin, the kind of chin that didn't take no for an answer. A cascade of blond hair. Strong, supple body, sliding down off the stool, swaying towards me.
"Jane, love, what have you done to your hair?
A felt a flicker of recognition; everything else was wrong, but that chin, that nose…
The handsome woman pulled off her wig. "Jane, it's Bob."
The words spluttered out of me; "B-Bob? But you're—you're a plumber."
Bob scratched his head, embarrassment tingeing his cheeks red. "Well, a man can have hobbies, can't he?"
"But—" it was important he understood this, "you're a plumber. Plumbers don't do things like this. They—they fix taps, and get married to women called Jane, have three children and go to car festivals, spend too much time at the pub and have rows with their wives."
Bob sighed and slid into the seat next to me. He replaced his wig, patting it down, admiring himself with a compact mirror. Once he'd done this, he placed his hand over mine; he'd even painted his nails, a vivid pink.
"Honey, I'm sorry but I think you've been stereotyping people. Tell me, what are you doing here?"
Straight away, as though from a script I said; "Because I changed my name and I am Spike McMillan, a militant feminist who hates men and picks up chicks from bars."
"But you're not Spike," Bob said. "Even if you change your name, you're still Jane."
"But… Jane wouldn't visit a gay bar," I whispered.
"Jane can do whatever she likes," Bob said. "Though I do wish you hadn't chopped off all your hair. It looked really nice on you, you know."
I blushed, just a little. "You really think so?"
"Sure. You're a beautiful woman, Jane. I just wish you'd let yourself be the woman you want to be."
I bit my lip, and I whispered; "I have a secret. To be honest, I really do want to paint my house in cream and mauve."
I have another secret now too; Bob and I are dating. Turns out he's not the man I thought he was. Turns out I'm not the woman I thought I was, either. I changed my name back to Jane, and we redecorated the house together. And I only sing when I want to, now!
But actually, it can be quite fun
To sing out loud, together, all day long!
And, oh! I've one more thing to tell you. Did you know I'm going to be famous? Azula's getting a book published next month and, apparently it's about me. I can't quite remember what it's called, but I think it's something like, The Dangers of Stereotypes.