“Why would you want to change your name?”
“Ooh, did you get married?”
“Did you get divorced?”
I’ve changed my name twice before in my life. Once when I was adopted, then again when I got married and briefly adopted my husband’s name.
One of the things I know, then, about changing your name – it’s SO obvious. You can’t subtly change your name and assume nobody will notice. Everyone notices.
So… I’ve changed my name.
Why did I change my name?
It’s something I’ve been considering for a while. I know it’s not that uncommon. Apparently, 15,000 people in the UK have changed their name in the last ten years. And actually if you added in people who change names because of marriage, divorce or adoption, I suspect the figures are higher than that.
In my case there’s no wedding or divorce. Just a change in our family circumstances, three years ago. We had a family dispute and part of my family cut us off. Three years on, I’ve realised that while I can try to understand their issues and forgive people for their actions, there comes a point where I’m no longer interested in trying to persuade them to be a part of my life, or my daughter’s life.
At the same time, I’m not interested in dragging around a name that only reminds me of people and situations that are sad or toxic. If nobody in your life uses a name, then why keep it?
I discussed the change with my parents, who were really supportive. My Mum said it is actually quite exciting, choosing a new name for a new phase in your life. She remarried 30 years ago, so doesn’t share my name, anyway.
I discussed it with Flea, who LOVES my new name. She’s 16 and makes her own choices, but has changed her name so she’s using just her Dad’s name.
Since this involved Flea, I also discussed it with Flea’s Dad who rolled his eyes and called it, “your latest ridiculous project.” But actually, he’s supportive of anything that puts space between our child and anyone who treats her badly.
How I changed my name
Practically, changing my name was pretty easy. You can write your own deed poll, and it’s free. Follow the online templates, create a form, have it witnessed, and you can use that form to change your name with most organisations.
As an adopted person it’s a little bit more complex, and there are some extra stages, but nothing too onerous. The hard bit was settling on a new name. To begin with, I narrowed my name choice down to 3 or 4 options.
I wanted a name that still felt like a ‘family’ name and referenced a connection with my parents. I tried out a few different names, using various older family middle names, surnames and the like. I narrowed it down to three options, and asked a few trusted friends for their opinions. Not gonna lie, I did also check which Instagram names were available because it’s 2022, and nobody wants a weird Instagram handle.
Choosing a new name
In the end I came up with… Sally Cameron Ross.
Cameron is my grandmother’s maiden name. My grandma was an incredible person. She was smart and brave and went to university when women didn’t really go to university. She was a bona fide hero, once swimming out to sea to rescue people from a shipwreck. She loved to swim and most of all, she loved to read. And she loved to encourage me to read. I love the idea of having a name that remembers her, and I think she’d have liked that, too.
Ross is the name of my late brother. After my Mum, Ross was unquestionably the most important person in my childhood and 20s. He was kind and forgiving and loving and protective, and he balanced all of that with a sense of humour. He was my protector and my best friend, and I miss him every day. I love the idea of carrying his name and his memory with me.
Still, it felt nerve-wracking to make such a big change in public view. I waited until all the paperwork was signed and witnessed and the deed poll submitted to the court. But actually, the minute I started changing accounts over to Sally Ross, it felt like the right decision for us both.
It’s a name that makes me smile. It reminds me of people who taught me that I do matter, that we all do, no matter what. Who wouldn’t want a name like that?