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Alone on Valentine’s Day

14 Feb
Source: Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America on Flickr Commons

Source: Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America on Flickr Commons

The post has been and gone. My message box is empty. The telephone remains silent. What else could it be but another typical Valentine’s Day, a manufactured marketing ploy by cake, card and confectionary companies to maximise profits. A day in which it seems that the entire world scrambles to find some smattering of affection and goes overboard with public displays of affection to prove just how ‘special’ their relationships are. And yet, in spite of my deep-rooted cynicism of the whole tawdry thing, I can’t help but take my outsider stance as proof of my own failure.

With the exception of a few years in the mid 2000s, my Valentine’s Days have been pretty miserable. I’m either a definite singleton, or I’ve been in an unhappy place with the person I’ve been seeing, and the whole thing becomes an overpowering chore. In the past I’ve sent cards to women that I’ve been harbouring crushes on, but the overwhelming silence and/or rejection that follows means I am no longer likely to do this. Its kind of creepy anyway, especially if one does it anonymously, and in our days of psycho stalkers one has to be mindful of respectful distances.

This year has been harder. I’ve been dreading it for months, and that hasn’t subsided. Mostly because I found myself falling for someone last year, and those feelings have refused to shift in spite of all attempts to do so. Unrequited love is a painful pleasure – the euphoria of intensity of feeling is at loggerheads with the excruciating agony of rejection and rebuttal. Its not as if I’ve had my affections spurned before, I have, but the way this has been handled and where it has ended up doesn’t make sense. It’s perfectly possible to remain friends with someone you’ve declared an unreciprocated interest in, or had a relationship with. And it isn’t like I haven’t made inroads into moving on from that relationship either, but you can’t help how you feel, and I’ve no desire to bury those feelings because they’ll just sit there stewing and eventually will erode anything else that comes along. Better to be honest, to embrace them, to see what happens.

I suppose I must have had a tiny hope that perhaps things would change. That this wonderful woman that I still have a bubbling chemistry with, might have taken a (second) chance on us, but instead its gone the other way and I’m deeply saddened by the extreme measures taken. Not because we don’t get on, not because we don’t like each other, not because we couldn’t actually be friends, but it strikes me because of all of those things. The positive attributes are exactly the reason why she isn’t talking to me. And that’s especially awkward because our circles are closing in on each other and eventually paths will cross in the flesh again. As long as she’s happy and doing what she wants, that’s all that really matters. My personal happiness isn’t dependant on her, but she definitely brought a great deal of happiness to my life. I just wish she was part of the 2017 me, a much improved take on the person she knew. Though every bit as sincere.

Damn regrets. I tried so hard to keep a safe distance only to find myself slipping deeper and deeper into a vat of affection until I was washed with love. I always seem to fall for the wrong person. People who live impractical distances away, or have unworkable schedules. Social and economic backgrounds and thinking that struggle to accept mine. People who are also damaged, kindred spirits, who are hell-bent on rejecting something with potential because it scares them – only to seek out the same sort of damaging relationships that have ruined their lives and selves in the past. I’m trying not to be that person anymore myself, trying not to repeat my mistakes.

So today I allow my mind to wander for a period through bittersweet sadness, heightened by an unnecessary silence. I distract myself with music and writing and memory. I’ve no friendly benefits to claim, no cuddle buddy to snuggle up to, no human touch. I don’t really know any better. So you can take your Valentine’s demonstrations and keep them to yourself. Unless that is, you want to share them with me…

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You’re asking the wrong question 

8 Jan

You know how it is, you have to weigh up the possibile outcomes of a given scenario and determine the risk and whether it’s worth it. “What’s the worst that can happen? ” you utter. 

I do it myself. I open the argument with a negative possibility and instil a fear of bad things. If it’s something I care about there’s a good chance I won’t risk it. 

But we’re asking the wrong question – especially if the risk is big. Stop. Think. Now ask yourself this instead…

“What’s the best that could happen? ”

The worst might be pretty crap, but if the best is infinitely better then maybe that’s where we should be looking. A positive outlook and goals to aim for. A radical rethink and something to get excited about. I think I’ll take my chances on the best outcome… 

Escape and Healing

24 Dec

domestic-abuse-birmI want to move on from some of the discussions of the last while on here. With a desire to regain some of my privacy and to move on in my own healing I intend this to be my last personal comment on my experiences of abuse for the foreseeable future. As Christmas is a time of high-stress, high alcohol consumption, and a spike in domestic abuse it seems like an appropriate time to bring this personal thread to a close.

Stepping forward and naming the abuse I experienced for what it is, is important. While it was happening I spoke about it,  I documented it,  I reached out for help – privately. But there was also an element of shame, a fear. I’m a man who was abused by a woman, we aren’t often believed, as a society we’ve been programmed to turn a blind eye to many telling signs that someone’s relationship is less than healthy; statistically men are more likely to be the abusers but not all men.

Fear is a powerful weapon. And so is shame. And many abusers use variations on gaslighting to make us question our sanity and reality. Psychological abuse is perhaps the deepest wound of all, prodding us for ages to come. If we doubt ourselves,  how will anybody else believe?  Add to that the shame of mental health issues and it becomes intensely unmanageable.

So for me, writing about the affects the situation has had on me, and on my mental health, this is my resistance. My way of saying ‘no,  this isn’t on’. It’s about being strong, standing up to the bullying and distortions, even though I live in constant fear of them intruding into my life again.

For now I am content that I have it on record that these things happened to me. Both in this heavily redacted form and in more detail through official channels. It has meant I am no longer hiding from it all. I am not living trapped by the unknown retaliations and ambiguous threats.

eggshellsEscaping Abuse

My advice to anyone living with abuse is to talk. Get your safety net around you. Friends, family, professionals will all be able to help monitor you,  and can assist when you decide to escape. You’ll almost certainly need them. Even if you’re holding back on details, they’ll be better prepared for the revelations to follow. It may be that some of them are victims or ex-victims too.

Speak to organisations who help abuse victims. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to the police. They’ll advise and when appropriate they will investigate and arrest. Things may get worse before they get better,  but don’t back down. Once you start to wrestle back control of your life abusers will intensify their rage but you’ll have started the clock on your freedom. Going through legal channels can be challenging and time-consuming but you’ll be adding to your safety net.

Talk to your GP. It’s a private situation and you can hide your purpose in visiting easily. If you’re being physically hurt, a GP can see the evidence for themselves and record it. Similarly any psychological matters.

coerciveRecord incidents. Write down the details, store it in a book, in a private google doc, whatever means is safest. Details of what happened, when, how its affecting you. It may be that you aren’t prepared to admit a relationship is abusive until you actually can see the pattern of behaviour for yourself. Its also really useful to have a diary to refer to when someone is making false accusations about your whereabouts. Most people have an audio recorder on their mobile telephone these days – you can always secretly record rows and conversations for evidence. And where possible save and record any abusive voice messages you receive. One of the scariest thing about many abusers is that they flip all your criticisms, all your allegations back on you in a bid to discredit you and make you ponder reality. It disarms you. But its like a child simply parroting your language, fingers in ears, and saying “I know you are but what am I?”

It takes most people a long time to get out of an abusive situation, and you’ll need help after too, but it is there. It might sometimes feel like a ‘he said she said’ situation, but honesty will see you right in the end.

breakthesilenceHealing

I’ve heard enough people trying to tell me that friends believe my version of events, but that isn’t enough. In order to put a stop to these behaviours it isn’t your friends you need to convince. I’ve been manipulated so many times that I have wondered if things were really as bad as I say. Time will do that to you, it can numb your memories, as you try and put the bad stuff behind you. I’ve gone back through my notes, emails, texts, recordings and legal documents. Every time I do my head is taken right back into that particular quarter of hell. Doing it over the summer helped push me into the worst breakdown I’ve experienced in years – reliving experiences while not being monitored was risky. My therapist asked me why I did it, when it was more than clear I’ve been telling the truth. But I’d received messages that suggested I was making everything up, that none of the things I alleged ever happened. More gaslighting. But its there, in black and white. And the evidence is backed up, and supported by numerous individuals and experts.

To heal, I cannot keep getting dragged into this. I can’t have my abuser hanging over me like some spectre from the past, a shadowy cancer on my sanity and sense of self. No amount of trolling is going to silence me. No threats will have me pretend these things didn’t happen.  Readers of this blog don’t have a clue regarding the full details, the context, or the individual (verifiable) incidents in a lengthy campaign of abusive behaviour.

I know that I am angry that I have not and will not receive any kind of justice for these wrongs. I will never get so much as an admission of wrong-doing, let alone a prosecution or peace of mind. Instead I have witnessed bursts of intimidating behaviour, my sanity has been continuously questioned, and I continue to be on my guard. I accept the failings of a system that has allowed this to go undealt with. I have long recognised the relationship with my abuser as being particularly poisonous. I accept that my abuser either cannot see the wrong in their actions towards me, or can but daren’t risk admitting any accountability.

If it comes to it, I am prepared to elaborate my claims with supporting evidence in court. Not that I want to embarrass myself on network tv either, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve considered a polygraph test and the Jeremy Kyle show either. I know that my abuser has spun a different story about what happened – I’m sure it has elements of truth, but lacking context, alongside fabrications and slanders, and like good friends and relatives I am sure she has her own network of people who believe every word uttered. I have no reason to lie about what happened to me, but I suspect that strangers are less likely to believe the word of a man than a woman in these matters. Until the Northern Irish government catches up with the rest of the UK and introduces legislation on coercive control, thousands of men and women like me will continue to suffer.

bccdvgirl-4Being an incredibly self-aware person, much time has been spent working through my experiences, sometimes too openly and honestly, but always sincerely. I take ownership of my failings, my errors in judgement, my poor handling of personal and professional situations. I’ve taken ownership of my mental health issues, I’ve got support in place now for any time they should ever spiral out of control again, and I’m working round the other issues that I can. Me now is not me six months ago even. I’ve come to recognise my negatives and my plusses. I’m still incredibly anxious about relationships, but I’ve learned that I can manage them, I can be a normal human being and not feel guilt or fear. I’ve learned to trust people again. And I’ve also learned to feel love for another human being. That didn’t seem possible a year ago. I am sorry for bringing so much of this into other relationships, friendships etc., it puts a pressure on people I hadn’t realised. That’s why healing is important – it takes the burden from others to pick up the pieces.

I will never completely heal. Abuse victims don’t. We carry our scars like barely healed wounds. The right scratch and they open up again. But we can monitor them, we can ensure we have the right medicine and aftercare in place. The right friend on the end of a phone, or a needed hug. A counsellor, medication, the authorities, a blog. All have their place and are part of our arsenal.

For now I have said about all I can on my matter. All I want to say. I don’t intend to dwell on this unfortunate past any further. Because it is my past. It is not my present and will not be my future. It happened, but it does not define me. I define me. I am bruised, not beaten; damaged but not broken; flawed, but a gem, precious if you would but look.

 

NOTE: The images here are from various campaigns across the UK to address various kinds of abuse. If you recognise any of these from your own or a friend’s experiences, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call. The Police service across the UK will give advice on the free non-emergency 101 number. Or in the case of emergency, call 999.

The thing about the movies… 

19 Dec
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

The thing about the movies is they perpetuate an impossible promise about people. They suggest that hope doesn’t die,  that redemption is always possible and reconciliation is only a meaningful glance away.

They tell us it’s OK to bombard and harass our exes to get their attention. They teach us that we should never take no for an answer. They delude us into a belief that there is one magical moment in which our futures are clinched.

Loneliness is a temporary state and secret admirers are waiting for us to see they exist. Friends are waiting to bed us if we’d only look up. Mistakes happen and are admitted. Lessons are learned. Changes are made. And everyone gets a happy ever after.

They don’t teach us the real pain of rejection. The crippling agony of feeling for someone until it hurts and them feeling nothing back. The way a photograph,  a sound,  a scent sends us into a spiral of pain.

All those happy endings tell us pain is an illusion, worth it,  that we’ll find release and understanding. But that’s not always life.

Films may give us a warm sensation of acceptance, and optimism,  but they don’t warm our beds or our bodies. They don’t satisfy the craving for mental and physical stimulation. When they end, we can hit replay and experience it all over again. When our relationships end we can’t do that – we can spot the things we did wrong,  what should change,  but we don’t get a second shot,  no matter how strongly we feel about it.

So much of actual life involves the absence of hope. We’re programmed to think we’ll get what we want,  a perfect partner, one who accepts us and who we can feel for completely. Life is about compromise and imperfect people and chance. Chances are you won’t find a happy ever after,  you’ll be let down by those you focus on.

I’ve stopped hoping. I’m still feeling. I ache. But it doesn’t matter. No words from well-meaning friends and observers can mend me. Time doesn’t heal – it just lets you remember differently: perhaps you’ll forget, maybe you’ll remember. For a while I was alive – more intensely, more fully than ever before. Now I am as Cesare, sleeping through my existence. I want to feel again. I try to feel. But no conversation, no interaction, no thought hits me in the same way. I have loved before, but it was not this.

I heard a voice in the darkness and my brain fired up, every spot on my skull spluttering into life, a cacophony of sound and sensation. A Vertov stimulus. A euphoric beginning that builds but gets no release. A nitrate fire fills my head, and nobody can prevent the combustion.

Being gaslit was easier than this pain. This pain that will not end. That I cannot control. That leaves me spent.

Cinema teaches us to be voyeurs, to watch complicit other people’s relationships, to engage vicariously with their worlds. But that is not this one, a world in which we have ceased communications, in which my name is no longer on your lips, in which our time isn’t even a memory. I am the spectator, unable to view, forced to replay the memory of a past, seeking a conclusion denied, a sequel impossible. These remakes and reboots are pale imitations, the casting feels wrong. There’s no chemistry on the screen. The characters lack conviction.

I don’t want to be a script doctor, helping other people’s stories flow. I want my own story, my own happy ending. I’d take the grief if I thought that was next. From childhood the screen says: boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy gets girl back again. This act 2 has fallen flat, I thought you needed space to make your own film, but we should have stopped sizing each other up and just collaborated. I know there will be no act 3 for me, and I sit in the theatre, watching a darkened screen with tears cascading down my cheeks. I accept everything about you, I love it all, I see your potential and I’m proud. I wish you could see and accept mine; I’m worth the investment – the hard work has been done already. No cinematic edits to colour the narrative needed – I relish every frame of the rushes, the raw material from which something magical is constructed.

No blue pages to take account of my changes, no pink to rework the ending, no yellow to line up the next installment. Oh for a romantic comedy to accompany our heartfelt drama. But its all dreams, fantasy and wishful thinking and no amount of rewriting can change your mind…

 

Trigger me this Facebook

16 Nov
A LIFE magazine still for Hans Richter's film Dreams That Money Can Buy (1946)

A LIFE magazine still for Hans Richter’s film Dreams That Money Can Buy (1946)

Trauma and depression are difficult enough to live with, the scars left by episodes remain raw no matter how long the healing has been. The tiniest scratch and the wound starts weeping. Before you know it, you’ve been transported back to another place and another episode is in full flow. At least that’s my experience.

You will no doubt be familiar with the idea that certain smells in particular can transport you back into your memory banks – that waft of perfume as you walk along the street, an odour in a restaurant – but it isn’t unique to scent. Images and sounds can do the same thing. I’ve written before about the importance of memory and images, and there are songs that take me back to very specific moments in my youth and revitalise long-forgotten feelings. While this can be a therapeutic and pleasant experience for those of us who have lived with abuse, or suffered mental breakdowns, memory is a tricky terrain to negotiate.

Social media is rich with trigger potential. Many of us share the sort of insights into our private lives that a decade ago would have been deemed inappropriate. We detail our travels, our partners, our dinners, our very bowel movements. Go far enough back into our public profiles and we’ll find traces of a life we’ve moved on from – our younger selves, warts and all.

Facebook in particular provides a daily digest of memories without any sort of filtration system at all. Their ‘On This Day‘ brings up posts you made or were tagged in on/around today’s date in years gone past. Among the cute pictures of animals and family and work outings are things I don’t wish to recall, let alone reshare with those around me. This time of year it turns out is packed full of them, and those Facebook memories are at least partly responsible for triggering my last break down.

I like to recall nice memories, but I’ve been on social media long enough now that there are also memories of previous partners and my lives with them, which played out at least partly in a public/semi-public sphere. Friends/spectators will recall at least some of the drama, but generally have the good decency not to bring it up when we meet. Unlike Facebook, which deems it appropriate to regale me with anecdotes from not only the partners I remain fond of, but also those I am not.

Today’s memories include jaunts to London (no change there then), moving house, publicity on the magazine I edited that I later learned was being published by two con-artists, photos of my abusive partner and examples of comments that might have come across to some as wit, but which read now like mild examples of the abusive treatment I lived with for too long.

I cannot completely avoid this. I’ve untagged myself from various things, made other images and posts private. But I also have issues with denying the past ever happened. Much of it is a matter of public record anyway, so editing seems somehow disrespectful and false. And unhelpful to my healing. Being reminded of the shit that was foisted upon me simply serves to strengthen my resolve, but there is a cost. Some of the memories trigger further memories and its frightening. I don’t want to delete my profile and start again because within the memories of abuse there are also stories of friendships past, loved ones lost and much positivity – how to balance that? A friend of mine with very similar experiences simply deleted their profile completely – too overwhelming was the triggers from the past, the negative memories. For me doing that would remove what little good I had from my own period of abuse and would run counter to my policy of being open as a coping mechanism.

If I’m completely frank, I fucking hate this. I never know which memories are going to be revived on which days. I don’t know which will trigger a period of negative association. Sometimes I can see a photo from then and its fine. Other days, I’ve encountered other triggers and the cumulative effect becomes too much to handle. My abuser has always denied any form of abuse took place (a common practice with abusers it seems). But images provoke strong memories from me. And sometimes the words, photos, video, audio files support my memory of events which causes even more triggers.

Immediately before I had my most recent breakdown I had been going through old files. A bunch of Facebook memories had started the process, then I came across a set of old photographs – images in that tricky area of not being enough to set off a trigger by themselves, but in association with other data they do. And then there were the recordings – listening to my own voice filled with terror and anxiety, voice mails left by my abuser – I daren’t even contemplate it deeply because of how they set me off last time. That narrative I have repeatedly been told (by my abuser) that suggests I am a fabricator of facts, quickly vanishes and accompanied by solid proof I recall exactly how things were. How alone and fragile and scared I was. How vulnerable it has made me today.

Our social media accounts are usually rife with false positivity. We cultivate an online image that presents ourself in our best light. We admit to our successes and over-egg minor achievements and ignore our failings, our stresses, our depressions. Consequently when the shit hits the fan, those around us sit bewildered by the sudden change. The late Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner used to remind audiences that ‘the memory cheats’, and the same can be true of Facebook memories. The false positivity can ignore much of the problems, and the casual observer might be lulled back into a false sense of nostalgia and lost hope. In an instance of an abusive partner they might forget the problems with drink or drugs, they might overlook the coercive controlling behaviour, and almost certainly will never find a trace of the physical abuses suffered. We forget the warning signs and we end up repeating our mistakes, and push away those who offer an alternative. Certainly I’m scared of those in whom I recognise myself – but they’re the only people who really get it, because they’ve lived it and neither they nor I wish to suffer like that again. Others can be sympathetic, but they lack the true empathy needed to keep us strong.

My own social media history fluctuates between the brave face of positivity – and I can usually tell when I’ve been coerced into posting something vaguely positive – and out and out cries for help. I’ve seen them come up in my feed before – moments where I’ve been threatened, where I’m struggling to make sense of a relationship spiraling downwards. Times where I’ve outed myself before some dark aspect of myself is utilised as a weapon against me. It still happens. I’m free of my abuser, but not their impact on my life. So afraid have I been that I’ve been overprotective of myself, family and potential partners. Just when I think I’m okay again, Facebook reminds me of what I went through at their hands and why I remain on my guard.

For someone who has made his professional life based around the past and nostalgia I am at a loss for how to proceed with my own past – particularly one which social media has decreed I must recall when I really don’t want to. Deletion is denial. It absolves those who persecute our thoughts. Admission provokes anxiety, tension and further depression.

Self-worth

5 Nov
Stairway. © 2016 Robert JE Simpson

Stairway. © 2016 Robert JE Simpson

How we view ourselves very much affects the relationships we form. Our potential for eternal happiness is shaped by how we feel about ourselves more probably more than how we feel about our partners. Somebody suggested to me that as a nation we get the politicians we deserve. The same could be argued for out objects d’amour.

My self esteem isn’t great. For all the performance-based work that I do, I have a low sense of my own worth. I find it hard to sing my own praises, and tend to shy away in the corner. I find it difficult to take compliments. I love receiving them, but am overcome with a sense of embarrassment when someone tells me how gifted or pleasant I am.

It is I think ruining my chances of a relationship.

I find that I am overly cautious about setting into something with another person. Part of that is the hard-learned lessons of life experience, but most of the time I simply can’t believe that anybody would actually find me interesting enough to want to be with, attractive enough to want. And so I inadvertently make the whole damn thing more difficult than it needs to be. I struggle with PDAs, because I don’t think I deserve them. I put myself down. I find excuses for things not to work out. I place hypothetical obstacles in the way – not helped by being an over-thinker anyway. I give them all the space in the world to leave, to not have to commit to this fuck up of an individual. That becomes very difficult to take after a while.

Essentially I don’t think I’m good enough to warrant happiness. I don’t deserve to find the solace of a loving situation. I must feel pain and rejection and disappointment. For the bleakness confirms my darker thoughts about myself. It sustains my senseless solitude.

Constantly there is a battle within me to find a balance. Because while I do myself no favours, I do have a heart – I know deep down that I am a good person, capable of loving and deserving of someone else’s love. In the right nurturing environment I could be an excellent partner, lover, friend, father. But to get there, I need to feel comfortable. And to feel comfortable, I will probably test your patience, your views, your sincerity. I will test me, my interest, my trust, my willingness to compromise. I can live alone. I spent years in isolation. But I don’t want to live to my life end alone. I want to have someone to share it with, a companion, an intimate. That’s a normal human desire. I just don’t think anyone has quite enough patience to see us through the more testing days.

Dating as I’ve so often said, is a nightmare. I don’t make first moves as a rule. A lot of that is down to issues of consent and not wanting to be misunderstood, but it is also because I don’t believe people will think I’m worth it. I’m too much like hard work. I have little self-worth.

I suppose this is what manifested itself a fortnight ago when I had my breakdown. An overloading of self-doubt that had been building for several months. I loathe the ineffectual nature of my self-hatred, my insecurity. I talk about it to counter-act the affect it has on me, but still it wins. I drive the people I care about away. I worry that one day I’ll end up ageing and desperate and cling to a poisonous abusive partner because they will once again remind me of how useless I am, how worthless my existence has been and how nobody else would want me. Someone I am with because there is no choice left. Because the people I would have chosen rejected me because I am me.

A rose by any other name…

5 Oct

Rose in Winter. Image © Robert JE Simpson.

It’s a matter of public record that I am a divorced man. There’s little escaping that, and I will be reminded of it from time to time in legal matters. But I’m lucky. There’s nothing to tie me to that past, no messy alimony or children or shared property to deal with. And so, I don’t see why that former contract should define my existence.

I don’t get why (at least in my situation) I need to fill in forms or declare myself as ‘divorced’. I’ve had other relationships that lasted longer but they aren’t acknowledged in any way formally, and yet people can look at you a little different when they know you were married. Breaking apart from a long term stable relationship doesn’t carry the same taboos or connotations. Is it because with formerly married couples there is often a baggage of financial and domestic ties? I have friends who were never married but who carry similar experiences, so why this prejudice? 

If asked to define my status I would say ‘single’ because that’s what I am. I might be dating, seeing someone etc, at any given moment, but I’m not quite ready to say this is me in the throws of full-blown relationships. Unless I am, in which case I’d probably make that clear. The mental scars I carry from the past are hardly unique to ex-marrieds. 

One of the problems with relationships is that people do tend to view you purely within the context of that coupling and loose sight of you as an individual. Asserting independence is desperately important. You’re with someone (hopefully) because you like them, because you enjoy those shared experiences, but you have to keep a sense of self that exists outside that coupling. 

Marriage as a convention still places emphasis on the mingling of individuals – fusing them together in a display of patriarchal persistence. It remains the man’s family name that becomes adopted by spouses (in heterosexual marriages) and there is a sense of giving over to that. 

I’m still surprised by the number of strong feminist friends that have bought into this status quo. I wouldn’t want to change my name for a partner, so why should we men demand that our women should?

Regardless of my relationship or marital status I remain me. I carry the name I was given at birth and which identifies me. But for a woman it can be more complicated. Statistically nearly every other marriage ends in divorce. So adopting the name of your betrothed can lead to an association that lasts long after the decoupling, maintaining a psychological and perceived tie that is potentially harmful. 

I can just about understand why partners of some celebrities have kept their married names – it gives them a weird celebrity status by proxy and can ensure a career in the media (Angie Bowie for example – a woman from whom husband and son both have distanced themselves).

Beyond the marriage it might suggest a stability and dependability that is otherwise undermined by the embracing of a maiden name. Certainly flitting back and forth as relationships come and go could get complicated. It’s for these reason I wouldn’t ask a partner to take on my name. Kids might be different – and I might be more likely to suggest double-barelling and creating a new dynasty with a unique identity.

Names have meaning, and a change of name may indicate a different aspect of personality. Maybe a nom de plume for creative purposes? A way of avoiding unwanted intrusion into one’s private life, or to evade perceptions.

Being the third person in three generations to carry my given name it’s little wonder I cherish my middle names as my personal identity stamp, but to be subsumed into that of another, no thank you.

Ultimately does it matter? One can change one’s name or status as one might an outfit or hair colour but there’s no hiding the person inside. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.