They were to written out to pay me – Jessica Milln: the same name as on my birth certificate. However, when I handed them to cashier she started to get a bit twitchy.
“I’m sorry, but the account number you want to pay these into doesn’t have this name,” she said, “I’ll have to call someone.”
There were two of them now peering at the computer screen and speaking in low tones to one another. I was beginning to feel that any minute now a security screen might suddenly draw down at any second, the alarms would ring and some burly security guard would come and haul me away by my arm. But hang on, I’m thinking, how can I look like any kind of dodgy fraudster? I have a child with me for heaven’s sake?
“Erm, why do you have a problem?” I asked. “I’ve been paying in cheques into this very bank – my local branch – in that name since I was sixteen.” I took out my bankcard with – Jessica Milln – printed on to prove it.
“Look, look! It shows who I am. Look, see!”
“But your account is in the name of Mrs. F.”
“Well, yes, I am Mrs. F as well.”
“OK, now that you are married, we can change the name for you on your account, that will solve everything.”
“I want to have both. I don’t want to lose Milln.”
My protestations aren’t sounding very good. Since 9:11 people aren’t supposed to go around masquerading under dual identities for security reasons. As long as I insist on being both it must be because I have criminal intent and I’m in cahoots with likely terrorists.
“I’ve been married for 15 years and kept two names on my accounts.” I want to add accusingly that some chauvinist at the bank has obviously changed things recently on the system with telling me. “It’s not been a problem before…” But it’s pretty obvious that the prevailing attitude of this bank is that married women should not go on clinging to their maiden names.
“Look,” say I, “It’s a work thing. What’s mine goes to Milln and what I share with Mr. F is Mrs. F’s. I can’t remember account numbers so it makes it simple for me to separate accounts with different names.” The explanation doesn’t do me any favours. I’m beginning to sound like a dimwit too.
The identity that names give us are important and mine with a lifetime of “Oh, that’s and unusual way of spelling MILNE!” reactions has given it a certain memorable notoriety. (Well, actually sticking an ‘e’ on the end can’t be right for pronunciation at all. My Dundee ancestors were right they were just out-numbered.) So, if I let the bank slip anonymously into being Mrs. F, I’ll first share my name with my mother-in-law and then I’ll become one of hundreds of thousands of other Mrs. Fs.
I hung around in that bank for far too long, taking umbrage.
“We’ll accept them this time,” they said. Which wasn’t good enough for me.
“So do I have to go through this all again the next time?”
“You can only have one name.” The bank had decided I, as married, should default to Mrs. F.
“So, how about I change all my joint accounts to Mr. F and Ms Milln – can I do that?” But, I know what Mr. F’s take on all this would be…and it would probably involve a lot of ‘f”s… He’s not entirely sympathetic with my semi-name change when it suits me attitude.
The bank manager gave me an exasperated look. Yes, I’d been busy working my way up through the ranks!
“The simple solution (I noticed that he didn’t attempt to address me) is for you to bring your marriage certificate it to prove that your name was Milln.”
Well, I gave up then, grumbling to my poor son who’d been witness to the whole episode. He’d once thought my only name was ‘Mummy’!
“It’s easy for you, you’ll always be an F!” I told him.
My identity crisis got worse later on – like a bit of extra salt in an open wound – with a forum opening up on Bounty discussing: “I got an e-mail the other day from mother and baby saying that they still needed some testers for toys….and then I got another one with them asking for testers for cribs. But it’s not fair ‘cause they never say I’ve been chosen even when I emailed them.”
It’s not as if I didn’t introduce myself or explained the vast number of applicants to the small number of testers required etc. I signed myself off ‘Best wishes, Jessica Milln’
So, there you go.
But if you are e-mailing me because you want to be a tester, please try using my name. I’m much more likely to remember you.