Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Haunted by Henrietta: My Lifelong Struggle with Torment

Haunted by Henrietta: My Lifelong Struggle with Torment
Thursday, 22 February 2024 01:29

The Name Game: Navigating Identity with Multiple Aliases

My name? Well, officially it's Jemima Lewis. But if you check my birth certificate, you'll find Henrietta Lewis stamped in bold. Confusing, isn't it? Henrietta is technically my first name, yet I've always gone by Jemima, my second name. And when I tied the knot, I became Henrietta Dimbleby, opting to take my husband's surname in anticipation of a simpler life—a decision I now rue.

You see, with my first, middle, and married surnames thrown into the mix, I'm practically a walking cipher, boasting a whopping 32 potential combinations of nomenclature. It's a bureaucratic nightmare. I jest that I'm akin to a spy or a master criminal, but the reality is far from glamorous. Instead, my multitude of aliases has only ever brought me vexation.

In Japan, where married couples are legally obligated to share a surname (typically the husband's), the plight of women battling paperwork woes resonates deeply. Machiko Osawa of Japan Women’s University aptly notes the time-consuming ordeal of altering names across official documents, a process that not only breeds confusion but also perpetuates gender subordination.

My own saga began with my mother, who bestowed upon me a first name she never intended to be my primary identifier. Her reasoning? Well, it's as mysterious as it is frustrating. She once quipped that if I turned out to be a towering lesbian, Henrietta might be a better fit. Oh, the hours wasted over five decades, grappling with the repercussions of this whimsical logic!

Every form, every doctor's visit, every travel itinerary—each necessitates a laborious recounting of my convoluted naming saga. I recall a particularly arduous episode where I spent two days shuttling between bank branches, armed with a file of official documents, pleading for the release of Henrietta Lewis's life savings so that Jemima Dimbleby could secure a house deposit.

In a world where identity is both a personal and bureaucratic labyrinth, my tale serves as a testament to the absurdity and frustration of navigating multiple aliases in pursuit of a coherent existence.

Naming Conundrum: Embracing Henrietta Amidst Identity Dilemmas

Push, Henrietta, push!" cried the midwives as I labored through childbirth with each of my babies. Yet, amidst the throes of agony, I found myself gasping to correct them, "It's actually Jemima," only to launch into explanations of the peculiar hierarchy of my names between contractions. The awkwardness extends beyond the delivery room; even among friends, the revelation of my first name, Henrietta, elicits skeptical glances, as if I've been harboring a secret identity.

So that's your real name?" they inquire, prompting my reassurance that it's merely my first name, overshadowed by a lifetime of being addressed as Jemima. Yet, I sense their suspicion, as if they suspect a clandestine name change by deed poll.

Oddly enough, I had the chance to bid adieu to Henrietta for good when I assumed my husband's surname. Amidst the bureaucratic shuffle of paperwork, it would have been a pragmatic move to streamline one end of my convoluted appellation chain, even if it made the other end messier. However, the notion felt like a betrayal. Henrietta, despite being a phantom, an irritation, and a parental quirk, remained an integral part of me throughout my life.

In the labyrinth of identity, where names serve as signposts of selfhood, Henrietta persists—a constant reminder of parental idiosyncrasies, familial ties, and the intricacies of personal history. So, while the world may know me as Jemima, Henrietta remains an indelible facet of my being—a testament to the complexities and contradictions inherent in the human experience.

In conclusion, the saga of my name—Henrietta, yet known as Jemima—reflects the tangled web of identity and the enduring influence of familial ties. Despite the challenges and occasional awkwardness, Henrietta remains an inseparable part of my essence, woven into the fabric of my existence through a lifetime of peculiarities and quirks. While the world may perceive me as Jemima, Henrietta serves as a steadfast reminder of the intricacies and nuances that shape our sense of self. In embracing the complexities of my name, I find solace in the richness of my identity, a tapestry woven from the threads of history, family, and personal experience.


Akhil (Singer)
Wednesday, 17 April 2024