“Well now Fiona...” were the opening words in a letter from a friend I received just before Christmas.
Every year I send a card and letter about the year's events to my friends. Last year I wrote about the police investigation of my family and the collapse of the case. I also mentioned that in 2011 I would be changing my name, what I would be changing my name to and gave my new email in my new name for people to use. The letter I sent this year opened with saying that I'd changed my name in Jan 2011 to the name I'd said I was going to change it too. At the top of the letter I put my new name followed by (was Fiona Nicholson)” so no-one was left in any doubt. I also mentioned all the work I've been doing to get my mental health on a more stable footing and to start healing from the affects of the abuse upon my life.
When I sent out the letters I thought it would be interesting to see who replied and what people's responses would be. I'd already decided I'd automatically wipe from my Christmas card list anyone who didn't reply. I knew the likelihood was some people would not understand or accept it and I was prepared for that.
What I was not prepared for was this particular reply. It came from a long term friend who I've known for 26 years. She's in her 70's now.
I opened the envelope addressed to “Fiona Nicholson” in her handwriting and got a shock. Addressing the envelope to me in my old name was not an oversight or a mistake but a deliberate act.
I read the words “Now then Fiona” and was transported years back when those words meant I was in BIG trouble. Those words pushed many buttons that, quite frankly, I didn't need pushed. Those words made me feel like an extremely silly VERY naughty little girl. I went to a very dark place for a few minutes before I pulled myself back and read the rest of her very short message to me.
The message read “now then Fiona... about your name change, that was what really made me think I don't think we should continue this relationship, I don't think we should correspond any more. Thanks for all you've shared. Hope you don't mind.”
I couldn't take in what I was reading and had a “err what!!!!” reaction. I remember putting the letter down and my hands were shaking. My brain was in freeze mode and I told myself I must have totally mis-read it. She didn't really mean what I thought she meant did she? It was the last thing I expected from her. After 26 years I thought I knew her relatively well, although in relationships you only see things about a person they let you see. Even so, I thought she'd be supportive of me, at least.
It was a shock to realise she wasn't supportive of me and that in fact she was withdrawing from the relationship. Part of me wished she'd said something a year ago when I mentioned the impending name change. But she didn't. I dunno why, maybe she thought I wouldn't go through with it.
Once I got past the “now then” I came to my old name and that angered me. She deliberately chose not to call me by my new name but to use my old one. That made my blood boil. It was like she was deliberately disrespecting me, disrespecting my new name, disrespecting my new identity.
Even if she couldn't accept what I'd done in changing my name, to deliberately use my old name when she's been told I legally had another name and had been known by that name for nearly a year. Well, words fail me!!
The attitude that showed was shocking. I doubt if she knew that in doing that she was breaking the law. When someone changes their name by Deed Poll it is legally binding. Once a person has been advised of that legal change they are legally obliged to use that new name. To not do so is to not only go against the spirit of that person's decision to change their name, it also breaks the law. I guess a lot of people don't realise that.
So not only was she not accepting my new name, by choosing to address me using the old name was a mark of her disapproval as well as disrespecting me and the journey I'm on. What an attitude!
I can only live my life. She can only live her life. I can't tell her how to go about living her life and she can't tell me how to go about living my life. I might think some things she does and says are odd and may not always approve of things she does or says but that doesn't give me the right to judge and vice versa. But that is exactly what she is doing by her actions.
I'm not a child and have the right to do what I have to do in order to live my life. To refuse to use my new name is refusing to know or accept the person I am. There are people I know who have struggled with my name change and not fully understood. But in spite of that they've respected me and my wishes and adapted to it.
Knowing her though I reckon part of what's going on is a religious objection to what I've done. She's very religious and is a lay preacher in the Anglican church. One hunch I have is she believes I was baptised as “'Fiona' in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” and so I should keep that name for religious reasons. That is very narrow minded but I can hear her saying something like that. However, whatever her reasons for objecting and disapproving, she still has no business making her disapproval known by refusing to address me in my new name and withdrawing from the friendship. That is just total crap!!
It would actually have been far better if she hadn't sent me that letter. It would have been far better if she hadn't bothered to reply at all.
Part of me feels like writing a snotty letter back to her pointing out that she broke the law when she wrote what she did and saying something about kicking people when they're already down. But I don't think there's any point in doing that. I might write a letter that I'll not send. It's sad to lose the relationship but who wants friends like that. Not me!