Roo Green has realised that having multiple names can be an advantage, especially when there’s fake tan or gynaecology involved.
It’s 2001 and I’m in a beauty salon close to where I work as a radio presenter. Mid-star jump position, in paper pants, the woman rubbing tinted gel onto my bare chest reveals she recognises my name. She breezily starts chatting to me about my programme’s Secret Sound competition as I cringe and wish I had a different name for appointments like this.
Be careful what you wish for…
Our name is our marker on the world. We write it on forms, stitch it onto PE kits and wear it on badges at conferences over and over again. But the only time most of us give it more than a passing thought is when it isn’t spelt properly and if we get hitched.
One of the first things people asked me after I got engaged was, “Are you changing your name?” It’s not a decision to take lightly, especially if you’ve spent time building up a reputation in your field of employment. Some of us take the decision to retain our surname, others gladly shed it and adopt the one of our other halves and there are a good proportion of us who straddle the decision like a double-barrelled colossus.
I tried a compromise by retaining my maiden name for work and adopting my husband’s surname for home. There was an emotional pull, as I’d assumed we’d have kids and I wanted us all to have the same surname. His family’s name is unusual and while he was happy for me not to take it – he’s an excellent feminist like that – it was clear he wasn’t switching to Green.
I liked the idea that with an additional private surname I could go to a gynaecologist without them asking me why they struggle to get a DAB signal in their kitchen. But there was another reason to keep the Green in full effect for work: I’d already changed my first name to keep a boss happy.
“After a while I’ll tell you anything rather than have to go through the entire backstory. It’s tiring and I’m already using up all my energy correcting people who call me Ruth.”
Yes, really. Twelve months after the incident with the tanning and paper pants, I was asked to ditch my birth name of Rachel and change my name to Susan or Louise. I’d moved to a new radio station and there was already a presenter with the same first name as me. A consultant had been called in and after much deliberation he’d decided I should switch to Sue or Lou to rhyme with Morning Crew, which would help listeners remember my name.
By this point I’d been working under my own name for seven years and it was a big deal to make a switch. But it was intimated that if I cared about the show being a success, I’d do it, which is what nudged me to go ahead.
On the one hand I feel as if I should have stood my ground; on the other hand no one ever forgets the name I selected as a compromise: Roo. It didn’t sound too dissimilar to Rach; it rhymed in the way they wanted it to and I hoped it would divide up my work and private (fake-tanning) life. Plus it meant I could stop answering questions from Friends fans about how Ross is.
What I couldn’t have predicted is that it would also turn me into a compulsive liar: “Yes, I’m Australian”; “Yes, it’s my official name on my passport”; “Yes, Mum and Dad were huge fans of Winnie-the-Pooh”; “Yes, it’s short for Ruby.”
All utter bullshit but after a while I’ll tell you anything rather than have to go through the entire backstory. It’s tiring and I’m already using up all my energy correcting people who call me Ruth.
The compromise with my married name means my parents, family and oldest friends know me by my legal name of Rachel Pegutter, while I’ve carried on working as Roo Green. Simple, right? No. I’m currently juggling five names, which frankly makes Katie Price look like a rank amateur with her two monikers.
My husband had a choice of what to call me from the off (it’s a good icebreaker on a first date). He picked Roo because there was already a Rach in his family. When we got married, he and his family naturally started calling me Roo Pegutter.
Work has thrown up quite a few issues. I’ve had documents and contracts in all the names above, plus Roo Pegutter-Green, and a retro return to Rachel Green, as people often think Roo is simply a nickname that can be switched out for official paperwork.
It means every call to HR is sponsored by the Ting Tings (“…that’s not my name”) and my accountant receives stricken calls as yet another document has turned up in the wrong name.
Someone asked me recently why I didn’t just pick one name and make it legal by deed poll. But life is more complicated than that. I’m as much Rach to my family and old friends as Roo to my husband and work colleagues. The surnames float depending on which tribe I’m with – and they all fit in some perfectly imperfect way.
You know when your mum calls out the names of your siblings and you know she means you? It’s like that – all the time. The only downsides really are the lying, having to write Christmas cards in shifts (to make sure I pick the right name for the right person) and the fact the simplest question in the world is now the hardest to answer: Name? Er…5770 Views
Roo Green has worked in radio since all this was fields. She loves reading, eating and writing, and blogs at www.roogreen.co.uk. Paisley Park is in her heart.