What’s in a name?

Hello, reader of this blog. I’m Jemma (with a J). Officially, according to my passport, I’m Jemma Penny, but for the purposes of this website and for anything I may write in the future, I’m Jemma Saunders.

I was (officially) Jemma Saunders for almost 29 years, before I got married last summer. My lovely husband had no qualms about whether I chose to take his name or not; he said it was completely up to me. As I’d already written two books as Saunders, I always knew that I’d keep this for anything else I might write, which is partly why I so readily said I’d be Mrs Penny. It didn’t feel like it would be such a big deal – after all, it doesn’t change who I am. I also hope we’ll have children one day, and even though I know it doesn’t matter in the slightest, I think it’ll be nice if we all share the same name.

So we headed towards July 2017 and I knew that at some point thereafter, I’d begin updating documents, bank accounts etc. with my new name. And suddenly it occurred to me that I’d need to change my signature. Change my signature? But two Js and an S always flow so smoothly from my pen, as I strike the bar across the JJ and transform it into the top curve of the S. How would that work with a P?

I spent some time experimenting with ways of signing my soon-to-be name in the back of a diary. Even after almost eight years together, knowing full well for a lot of that time that we would get married one day, I’d never actually considered what ‘Jemma Penny’ would feel like to write down, or see on an envelope. I still could have opted to remain Saunders for everything evermore, but I wanted to take Tom’s name. (Yes, it’s the 21st century. I know full well there’s no obligation, and also that he probably would have changed his name, if I’d really wanted it. But for me, it felt like the right thing to do, so I did).

Our wedding day was wonderful. I could gush for pages about how it was the happiest day of my life, but now is not the time. I signed JJSaunders in the register, and we danced the night away as Mr and Mrs Penny surrounded by everyone we love.

The ‘lucky penny’ place names my Mum made for our wedding

There have been times in the last six months where I’ve griped about my decision. Not regretted – Penny is a cool name in spite of the seemingly endless wordplay jokes it prompts – but it’s such a faff (and expense) paying for special delivery every time you send the marriage certificate off. And I did have one wobble on our minimoon (I was very tired) where in my hyped emotional state I suddenly realised that I no longer had the same name as my Mum, Dad and brother. But, as Tom so wisely pointed out and as even I had the sense to state earlier, I’m still me. I can be Jemma Saunders and Jemma Penny, and that’s pretty cool. Marriage doesn’t mean my degree certificates are no longer mine, just as it doesn’t lessen the pride I feel when I see articles I’ve written online, even though the named author isn’t the name in my passport.

It’s occasionally confusing (who’s Mrs Penny? oh wait, that’s me) and I fully appreciate that switching between the two is inconsistent and goes against all the rules for building a ‘brand’. But, as far as I’m concerned, they’re both my names: I will wear them as I choose and answer to either. I’ve even perfected a second signature with a loopy JJP. Just never refer to me as Gemma, for that is another person’s name entirely.

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