Change my name

Written in response to: Start your story with “Today’s the day I change.”... view prompt

10 comments

Fiction

My name is Jackie Jean Smith, or at least it was. I never liked my name. It was picked out by my father for the express purpose of calling me JJ. He wanted a son; I was a girl. Though I was very much a Tomboy as a child, I liked my long hair, the only girlish thing about me, at that time.

From the day I was born, Wacky Jackie the Spacky was a common nickname. I was not “normal”, not like other children, though I now know this is because I have autism, in the ’80s, this was not a common diagnosis, especially for girls.

So, I grew up feeling very horrible inside myself like I should be someone else I could never hope to be because how can you change aspects of yourself that have to do with a damaged brain?

At the age of ten, my mother, fed up with me constantly coming home with nits, made me cut my hair off. Wacky Jackie was then shortened to Jack the Spack and though it hurt, I learned to get used to it.

Once I was an adult, Jackie became JJ and that’s what my friend Julie has known me as the last fourteen years. Progression and the changing times are not something that Julie adapts to very well and this I knew, but I wasn’t prepared for the showdown that happened at Christmas dinner last year………

***

6pm was when everyone met for dinner, my whole family and friends had gathered over Christmas to celebrate with me as I lived in a state that had been hit harshly by covid-19 and we didn’t get to spend time together very often.

Dinner itself was at a lovely little Italian restaurant called Mamma’s located on the beachfront at Redcliffe, I was by this stage well out of my tomboy phase, having worn a dress and makeup, knowing that this would be the night I would tell my loved ones about the name change.

After drinks had been ordered and delivered to the table, I held up my hand to make the announcement. In my head, I had rephrased a thousand times what I would say and how, having come to the moment my speech would be delivered, however, I froze.

The words stuck in my throat as I looked around at these beautiful souls who loved me, accepted me, why could I not get the words out, what was stopping me? Then I looked at Julie and I knew that’s why. I knew she would hate this, and I hadn’t prepared her.

Taking a deep breath, I said, “Before I start, I want to thank you all for being with me tonight. Christmas, as you know, is always my favorite time of the year, and having you all with me is the greatest gift I could ask for. However, this Christmas I decided to treat myself to a gift. Something that will be lifelong, and something I will never fall out of love with…. I put in the paperwork yesterday to officially change my name by deep poll…I will no longer be Jackie Jean Smith…I am now Jaycee Marie Shanahan.”

Silence descended upon the group, looking at each other, at me, jaws dropping, hands frozen on glasses, it took what felt like an hour but was only a minute before my sister, who has also changed her name, jumped up and grabbed me.

“It’s about time, I reckon! You beauty!"

This broke the silence and everyone rushed to hug me and offer their congratulations.

All bar one person, Julie.

Still sitting there, still not saying a word, Julie kept her head down and only mumbled something to the waiter as he came to take our meal order.

I could no longer stand the look of anger on her face and sharply stated that this was my lifelong dream and that I can finally be happy, be free.

Looking at me finally, directly in the eyes Julie says, “You were born Jackie. I have only ever known you as JJ. Now everybody must get used to calling you yet another name. And for what? You’ll never be happy by changing your name because you have already done it once. So what if you went through crap as a child? A lot of people have, you don’t see them changing their names to escape it, it doesn’t change what happened to you, it doesn’t change you as a person, so no, I will not be calling you by another name, you are JJ to me, and that is what you will stay.”

The atmosphere was tense. Nobody, including me, knew what to say. She knew my past, she knew the horror my name had caused me, she knew that no matter what I did I would always be known by a boy’s name, whether it be Jack or JJ. This is not who I was anymore, and I am proud of my autism, but not the connotations of my name.

I explained this all again once I found my voice but it did me no good, Julie had it in her head that I should always be the 23-year-old young Aussie tomboy she had met fourteen years ago, not the 38-year-old woman I had grown into.

There were twelve people at the dinner table that night, my mum and dad, Dad accepted me as the woman I had become and couldn’t have imagined me being a boy now if he tried, Mum had always felt guilty about cutting my hair, and expressed sorrow at the flack I copped for it. My sister and her husband, my other three best friends, my brother and his wife, my niece, Julie, and myself.

Everyone bar Julie had a positive opinion about what I was doing for me. Nearly eight months have passed since that night, yet everyone still talks about how dinner was ruined by Julie’s attitude, her screaming at everyone, and us being asked to leave.

The fact I lost a 14-year friendship that night makes it, for me, the worst dinner I have ever and will ever attend.

November 01, 2021 08:38

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10 comments

Dhwani Jain
14:29 Dec 29, 2021

That was nice, it was fast paced, maybe you could have slowed down a bit during the dinner and the reaction part, but it was good.

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Dhwani Jain
12:45 Nov 15, 2021

Hello all! https://wp.me/pd3y1A-fD Please check out my latest post, THE VIRUS, YOU AND ME, a podcast. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did writing it! Dhwani Jain Dream DJ {https://djdhwanijain.wordpress.com/}

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Ivy Spade
14:41 Nov 11, 2021

Grammar mistakes: Instead of: "Once I was an adult, Jackie became JJ and that’s what my friend Julie has known me as the last fourteen years." It should be "Once I was an adult, Jackie became JJ. That's what my friend Julie has known me for the last fourteen years." Instead of: "He wanted a son; I was a girl. Though I was very much a Tomboy as a child, I liked my long hair, the only girlish thing about me, at that time." It should be "He wanted a son; I was a girl. Though, I was very much a Tomboy as a child. I liked my long hair that was...

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Jexica Marcell
17:26 Nov 10, 2021

Oh my goodness, I love your bio! Im a Gemini too!!!! Lol, Im starting a Gemini Cult/Group/Fam on Reedsy And your name is literally so cool :)

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Akshara .
09:57 Nov 25, 2021

hehe. #geminigang

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Graham Kinross
12:19 Nov 08, 2021

Wow. Like other people are saying it's really easy to imagine myself there. This made me think of my friend James, who is known as JJ by most and Jim by others, rarely by his actual name.

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Mariah Cheng
18:57 Nov 02, 2021

Well described; you put me there. Thanks!

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Elliana Ramirez
07:29 Nov 04, 2021

Thanks for the thanks Mariah! 💕

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Keya Jadav
16:50 Nov 02, 2021

Aw, I feel sad for Jackie/Jaycee. Though neither of the two friends could be put to blame. The flow of the story is smooth and the descriptions totally hold on to the beauty of the story. It's great how you described such a small incident so amazingly. Great work! (A small suggestion though: I felt this a bit irrelevant to the prompt. It says the story needs to start with "Today's the day I change". Rest is great)

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Elliana Ramirez
17:28 Nov 03, 2021

I'm not really following the prompts anymore because of the new Reedsy updates. :) But thanks so much Keya!! That's so nice of you to say to me! Glad you commented! 💕

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