Nom de plume: A friend of mine I’d not spoken to in decades recently asked about my last name. I think he was concerned that my husband’s name might be “Lloyd Lloyd.” I told him it was a long story. Here it is….
I have a confession to make: Delia Lloyd is not my real name.
I felt like I needed to come clean because I joined Facebook yesterday. (Yes, I’m one of those octogenarians driving up the average user’s age.)
And because for me, Facebook is primarily a personal social networking tool (at least for now), I decided to join under my legal name, which is….drum roll please…Delia Boylan. So just in case you cyber-stalked me in the last 24 hours and noticed the same head shot, same bio, same appallingly bad taste in music: Yes, it’s me.
The whole process of coming to that decision made me think, again, about my name.
I’ve always hated my given name. For starters, it makes me sound like an Irish scullery maid. And then there’s the small problem that no one—in the U.S. at least—can seem to remember it. I’ve grown accustomed to answering to pretty much anything that begins with a D, including “Dee.”
When I was a kid, I disliked my name so much that once—during a high school production of Dames At Sea—I was given the chance to make up my own name for my part in the chorus. While the other girls selected things like “Tiffany” and “Sparkle,” I chose—wait for it—Ann. That’s right. Ann. I was dying to have a normal name.
Later on, when I got married and had made my peace with Delia, I still had the (easy) opportunity to change my last name. And while loads of my friends weighed in on the politics of whether or not to take my husband’s name, that was an easy one for me. I didn’t like his surname either. So I stuck with Delia Boylan.
But then, round about 2001, I changed careers and decided that as part of the psychological move out of academia and into journalism, I would take on an entirely new persona. And whether because of an inspired moment or because I simply lacked much imagination, I chose my husband’s first name, Lloyd, to use as my last name professionally. (I like to tell people that it’s post-post-feminist…no one knows what to do with that).
My old boss once asked me how it felt to use the name Delia Lloyd, to which I responded: “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” She looked a bit puzzled. So I sheepishly added: “I mean, next to having my two kids and marrying my lovely husband and all that.”
But it’s true. Whereas once I felt a little pang every time I had to utter my real name, once I started using “Delia Lloyd” on a regular basis, I found that I loved it. (And as a producer for a daily talk show on radio I spent eight hours a day on the phone, so I quickly got a lot of practice…)
There aren’t all that many things you can change about yourself once you grow up. You’re pretty much stuck with your hair, eye color, stature, etc.. But adopting a new name, even if it’s a nom de plume, can be really liberating. It’s like changing careers. You get to reinvent yourself and that very fact introduces a little frisson into your life.
As for me, right now I’m really loving the opportunity to move between the two faces of Eve Delia. Its just one more variant on portfolio careers!
Image: Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
July 9, 2009, 7:10 pm
Great post, Delia! I really enjoy reading your blog. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, my 10 year old nephew Dmitry desperately wanted to change his name to Michael and his national identity from Russian to Italian! Dmitry is 18 now, still living in Brooklyn, but doesn’t mind his name at all.
July 11, 2009, 6:14 am
I have an unusual name and despite the fact that I have had apply opportunity to change the name people call me (moving, school, or starting a new job) I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe one day…I can see how it would be extremely liberating. My restaurant name is Jane.
July 11, 2009, 9:02 am
welcome to our club, jane.
August 26, 2009, 6:26 am
Enjoyed reading your post.
September 8, 2009, 8:31 pm
October 28, 2009, 3:32 pm
April 23, 2010, 7:40 pm
April 24, 2010, 1:58 pm
I have a dear friend, tall and lanky, whose about-to-be second wife encouraged him to choose a new name. He’d always hated being ‘Bone’ due to the obvious teasing he got in school. Together, they chose ‘Barrington’. He’s always looked like a Barrington to me. Great idea.
April 25, 2010, 9:30 am
May 3, 2010, 4:08 am
Delia, I have known many women who have not only changed their surname but their given names as well. Childhood friends (sisters) Edna and Shirley became Jennifer and Jessica just because they hated the originals so much. As long as you’re not hiding from the authorities, go for it!
BTW, I have never known a man to do this. I hate the name Howard but have grown used to the convenience of never having to give my last name on the phone because there are so few of us in the world!
May 3, 2010, 8:37 am
Love the Howard story, Howard! Thx for dropping by!
August 17, 2010, 3:32 pm
December 1, 2010, 9:57 pm
July 19, 2011, 1:39 pm
It finally dawned on me last night that you were using Lloyd’s first name as your last. It was nagging in the back of my mind that something didn’t seem right. Finally II had an epiphany… then I read this blog.
Growing up I was always “Jennie with an i-e” — always spelling it I certainly didn’t feel compelled to take Jacques’ last name when we married. But when we had kids I didn’t want to be “Jennie Daniell, Nicolas Belissent’s mom.” I didn’t want to have to explain myself. And, I was also changing careers. So I took Jacques last name. But I couldn’t be “Jennie Belissent”. Say it. Sounds like “Jenny Belly…” some kind of candy. So I became Jennifer Belissent. Sounded so much more sophisticated. The new me. But now I live in France, surrounded by friends and family who knew me before we married and I’ve now become what I tried to avoid 12 years ago. “Jennie Belissent” And, at 44 years old, I’m OK with it.
Thanks for sharing your story.
July 19, 2011, 2:16 pm
ha! love this story, jennie belly. Glad to hear that you’ve come to terms with it. FWIW I think it sounds quite elegant. Thx for dropping by!
May 23, 2015, 9:30 am
How about this? Take on the ‘Gruber’ but change it slightly to ‘Groover’? Groovy or what?!