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Syd is starting the process to change his name, not because he doesn’t like the name Syd and not because he doesn’t want to be called Syd, but at least in part to get away from the Dreaded Middle Name. He’s chosen Henry.

Having been Janet all my life, I find it hard to imagine changing my name. Not that I’ve ever loved my name. It’s the kind of name the less-attractive roomie gets, the kind of name that the old faithful servants in outdated British novels get, the kind of name that belongs to a generation, in general, older than I am. When I started the job before this one, I toyed with the idea of introducing myself as Jan, just for different, but there were already two other Jans in the office. Not worth the trouble.

I was given the name for a reason. My great-grandmother was Elizabeth, my grandmother Jane, my mother Betty Jane after the two of them. I’m Janet Elizabeth after the lot. Parents do agonize over names, trying to find just the right one, the one that honors a favorite relative, invokes a hero, or sounds like someone who doesn’t get beat up on the playground. Syd and T. both got names that came out of that kind of thoughtful process.

I suppose I could go through the process for myself, but I worry. When I was little, I had a doll whose name changed regularly, as the mood inspired me. I don’t remember all the names she had, but at some point my mom, frustrated by trying to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of my imagination, told me to stop changing her name. So I did. And her name was stuck on Sandy, which I no longer liked, in spite of the fact that it ended in y, which is a pleasingly curly letter. I could end up similarly stuck with a name that I don’t like, that doesn’t fit, that Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.

People that I know and love have changed their names while I’ve known them. Each of them had good reasons. It didn’t change the things I love about them. And really, nothing could change how I love Syd, no matter what he wants to be called.



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