Changing Your Name
“A while ago I decided to go by my middle name instead of my first name just because I like it a lot better and I think it fits. Now I know that Gala Darling is probably not your birth name 😉 and I was wondering how you managed to go through with the name change. I’m moving to France in a few weeks and of course I am going to introduce myself to everyone with my middle name but back home it probably won’t be as easy. I’m really shy so I don’t know if I can just tell everyone “Oh, by the way, that’s not my name anymore!” How did you do it? & does your family call you Gala? I don’t think my family could ever get used to it!!”
No, Gala Darling is not the name I was born with! I had never really liked my name — it bored me & there were always other people with the same name in my classes at school. I think using the internet so much at such a young age made me aware of the fact that we can be anyone we want to be. So few people use their actual names online, & so I was always using some different kind of alias, from the crass (fuckerina, anyone?) to the bizarre (TheWizard was my first nickname on Microsoft Comic Chat, ack!).
I had decided a couple of years prior to my name change that I really wanted my first name to be Gala. I don’t really remember why, I just knew that it appealed to me & I felt a connection to it (though the connection with Salvador Dali didn’t hurt!). I liked the meaning — festive party, joyful, merrymaking or singer (in Scandinavia). I wasn’t sure about the last name though, nothing was really coming to me, but I had this idea that maybe my name would come to me in a dream if I allowed it to. Sure enough, one day I had a nap & awoke with the phrase “Gala Lumière Darling” in my head. I wrote it down & knew, instantly, that I wanted it to be my identity.
I requested the necessary form, filled it out with much excitement & trepidation, & sent it away (along with a cheque). A couple of weeks later I received my new birth certificate in the mail! I mentioned that I had changed my name in my online journal & my father sent me a text message asking what I had changed it to… so I called my parents to tell them.
I wasn’t sure how they were going to react, but I was immensely relieved when my mother expressed her support (she thinks it’s “fantastic” that I changed my name, & says she wishes she was that confident at my age) while my father thought it was mildly confusing but didn’t really mind one way or the other. Names are such a funny thing, & I was idly concerned that they would be offended or disown me, but it was all for nothing, so I guess that was fortunate!
A few people balked at the news that I was changing my name. One person said they thought Gala was an “ugly” name & that I would “regret it”. (My response was something along the lines of, “Oh, good thing you’re not the one changing your name then, huh?”) One of my ex-boyfriends said I would always be (my old name) to him. Another ex — who I don’t speak to much — said he thought it was “hilarious”. But, you know, people have their opinions & love to spout them off! It’s our choice whether or not to take them on board, & as you can probably guess, I chose not to.
Most of my friends manage to call me Gala. There are occasional slip-ups, but it’s not a big deal. One of my friends apologises profusely whenever she messes it up, which is very cute! My mother almost always call me Gala, & my father has pretty much always called me Darling anyway… so it has all worked out pretty well!
Another way in which I was fortunate was that my name change came through in April 2006. In August that year, a paltry four months later, my boyfriend & I went on a world tour & moved country! When you’re meeting people for the first time, it’s all completely new, so everyone took my name at face value & we went from there.
It’s funny how quickly you adapt to a new name, actually. When I had been in Melbourne for about two weeks, I went to a hairdressing salon & the girl behind the counter seemed to recognise me but thought I was named something else. I assured her I wasn’t who she thought I was, when my boyfriend pointed out that my name used to be what she called me… I apologised & then realised we had attended school together years ago!
In doing all of this, I realised the worth & value of names, & how they shape us as a person. Changing my name really woke me up to how we are in charge of our own destinies, & having a name that was entirely mine made me feel like an intrepid traveller, in a sense. I mean, of course I am my parents’ daughter, but I don’t have their name — or the name they gave me — to hide behind any more. I am me, I stand up for myself, I have my own convictions & goals & for some reason, shaking off the baggage of my old name really crystallised things for me. It’s definitely one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Not to mention, having a name you adore & are proud of makes you feel fabulous.
These days we have the power to be whoever we want, live wherever we want, love whoever we want. I endorse seizing all those opportunities & really living.