I met Beyonce once. Technically I met all of Destiny’s Child, back when I was eleven, but Michelle basically doesn’t count and Kelly Rowlands didn’t appeal to me until after she was a judge on X Factor, and it’s cooler to say just Beyonce in any case.
She asked my name, to which I dutifully replied. “Farrah? That’s a beautiful name.” I told her I didn’t like it because it was weird. “My name is weird too, but I still think it’s beautiful.”. We posed for a picture, backstage at the MEN Arena, and I galloped off, happy as could be.
Honestly, that was the first time I’d ever considered my name as anything other than something that couldn’t be properly pronounced, even by my sister. (Incidentally, I still occasionally get referred to as “Fa-rerr”). I became proud of my unusual name, as my new best friend Beyonce had taught me. Fast forward ten years, and I’m still happily proud of my name (or “title” as I sometimes like to think of it.)
Beyonce’s new tour, the Mrs Carter World Tour, threw up a few problems. As a feminist, was I supposed to be uncomfortable that such an amazing female role-model was announcing herself as Somebody Else’s Wife? Well, no. My feelings on this are wonderfully summarised in this Vagneda blog post, which basically said that she can do what she likes, she’s Beyonce for goodness’ sake. I’m too busy patiently waiting to buy all the tickets for her next Manchester appearance to consider the feminist impact of her show title anyway.
But it did get me thinking about my own name again.
Farrah Kelly, I like to think, has a nice ring to it. There doesn’t seem to be any one else with my name- not according to a quick Google-and it’s a solid part of my identity. My life’s work, however little of it there is, exists under that guise. Most importantly it cements me as one of the three Kelly girls; Diane Kelly, Bethany Kelly, and me. If, when my mum gets married to Steve, she changes her surname to Yates, I’d be thrilled for her. But I’d always consider her a Kelly girl. Mama Kelly. If Beth ever changes her surname, she’ll always be Baby Kelly to me.
If I ever marry, which I think is unlikely given my tendency to demand an entire double bed and to get unnecessarily outraged when Coronation Street isn’t a priority for others, I’m keeping my name. there’s no real question of it for me. It’s my name, always has been, always will be. This doesn’t have any direct links to my political beliefs, I’ve just never been comfortable with the notion of renaming myself. Plus just think of the admin. I have enough trouble remembering which of the eleven potential postcodes I’ve given as a billing address on Paypal, nevermind having more names to choose from.
My upbringing, as the eldest of a single parent, has had such a resonance with me that I’m wholeheartedly entrenched as a Kelly. It’s easily the strongest part of who I am, that little girl on Ashton Road East with a mum and a sister, and it’s uncompromisable. I’m not wanting to disregard name-changing as a negative thing, I think it can be romantic and practical and I understand the reasons behind it completely. It’s just not for me. In the same way, I understand why some people might paint their front door yellow, but that’s also a life decision I’m going to choose not to follow. As far as I’m concerned, in terms of seriousness these two things are on par.
When Beyonce said to me, all those years ago, that I had a beautiful name, I don’t think she understood that she set off a ricochet of identity in me. Maybe I’ll tell her so when I’m at her gig in Manchester. I’m sure they’ll let me backstage to have a quick pre-show chat about my life choices. We are best friends, after all.