I remember reading that if you are writing a book, you should remove all but three descriptions of dreams. And then, when you edit, you should remove those.
I had a very odd dream the other night. I don’t remember dreams much – I don’t think I can be having many, given how little I sleep – so this was unusual.
I never changed my name when I married. Not only because I like it (it’s unusual and goes with my first name) but because I didn’t see why I should, just because I married. I was still me (I thought). I admit that the surname of my ex didn’t help (it is very, very dull) but I think I would have kept mine all the same. He did say he was willing to change his name to mine, but I was appalled by the suggestion. Not because he is male and ‘men don’t do that’, but because he is definitely NOT a ‘Feynman’. When our children came along, their dad said that he wanted them to have his name. I replied that I thought that very reasonable and that I felt the same way. So they got both.
As well as being very, very boring, his is also the name of a common brand of a food item; so much so that people often used to find it amusing to point this out on first meeting us, and apparently it was my ex’ nickname at school. Or something. Like I said, very dull.
I think my ex had died – for some reason I was talking to my former sister-in-law, who has steadfastly ignored me for years and years now in my waking life. And she was revealing to me something that in over 20 years of marriage, I had never known: that she and my ex were heirs to the fortune of this food company.
When I woke I found this hilarious, not least because my ex is apparently penniless, which is equally improbable. I mean, considering he is a banker with a home overlooking Hyde Park and an office in nearby Mayfair. Anyway, it cheered me up a little, this idea that all along, he was rolling in it, and I never knew.
And it had me thinking about names, which have been playing on my mind lately.
Two of my children have dropped his part of their surname in casual usage, while the one who lives with him has dropped mine, though it’s the more interesting (and I am not a liar and a cheat who stole from them and continues to do so). She has also changed her first name.
A few months ago she telephoned me for the first time since she left years ago. It was to tell me that she was going to change her name by deed poll. She said she wanted to make her new preferred first name official before starting uni. But to do so aged under 18 required the signature of both parents, she said. ‘Sure’ I said. ‘No problem’. We talked about her choice of name. She asked if I would like to have some input into her new middle name. She told me she would not be changing her surname, but would be keeping both parts of it. A few months passed, and then her twin, who has been recently unblocked by her on FB, told me she had posted a photo of the official document showing she had done it. I, of course, could not see it because I remain blocked. I don’t like her new first name. I don’t like her new middle name. She’s dropped the ‘Feynman’ despite what she said, so that leaves her with a surname I don’t like either.
What I have found surprising is that I care. I respect absolutely her right to change her name. I understand as well her preference for a name which is gender neutral. Yet I have found that I don’t like to use her new name. As a mother, there is an assumption that you chose the names of your children, and I don’t like the feeling that people might think I chose hers. My reluctance to use it reminds me that the first name I chose for her never got used either (though I now think it suits her). I noticed my own and everyone’s reluctance, and we quickly changed it before her birth was registered at a few weeks old.
I have a friend who has children that she adopted. My friend is very cultured and the names of her children are cartoonishly common. I often wonder how she feels about that.
And to return, as ever, to the subject of my ex: I wonder as well, whether the fact that I never liked his first name either may have had a conscious or unconscious part to play in the downfall of our marriage. Of course you can’t change the name of your spouse, but I knew what Will Self meant when he wrote a whole article about how nobody named Tim would ever amount to anything. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the internet and general good egg, Tim Peake the astronaut, Tim Parks Tim Farron (current leader of the Lib Dems), Tim Minchin (the show Matilda and staunch atheist) and so on notwithstanding. Some names are like that, aren’t they? It’s the name you give to an idiot, if you are writing fiction. Tim Nice-But-Dim, case in point.