For my first post proper on this blog, I want to deal with one of those things that I’ve meant to write about before but has always seemed too petty. Indulge me while I go a bit Nicholson Baker.
One of the trickier aspects of getting older is whether to change your name. All Davids (except the insufferably up themselves ones) are Daves in their youth, and remain ‘Dave’ to people who have known them since then. But, at some point, we ‘Dave’s have to decide what name to go by professionally. As a schoolteacher, in my mid 20’s, I chose to go by ‘Dave’. It would have felt pompous to do otherwise. Then my first short story was accepted for publication. A fortnight later, my first novel was commissioned. I told Ambit who published the story, to call me ‘Dave’. Only when it appeared, a few months later, they had put ‘Dave’ on the Contents page but ‘David’ under the story itself. And you know what? I kind of preferred the latter. Then the cover of The Foggiest by Dave Belbin arrived and it was time to make a decision.
My partner, who has always called me ‘Dave’ felt I should go for the full name. So did most of the friends I consulted, except for my oldest friend, Mike/Michael (who, oddly enough, has always called me ‘David’). But possibly he was taking the piss. My late mum, the one member of the family who usually called me ‘David’, said I had to go by ‘David’, because ‘it’s your name’. So that was decided then.
Except, that’s where the trouble began. Because, from then on, some people started to call me ‘David’. At first I’d say no, it’s ‘Dave’, but a few of them would insist on ‘David’ anyway, which was fine. And, of course, I’d always answer to ‘David’ in public appearances and sign novels ‘David’ unless they were for friends. Fast forward a few years and I’ve turned forty, got a job teaching at a university, where a few people already know me as ‘Dave’ but most don’t. On my first night teaching on the MA, I told the students they could call me ‘Dave’ or ‘David’, I wasn’t bothered either way. And all but one of them called me ‘David’. As did/do most of my colleagues, at least in the work context. Why? Because it sounds better. Because it’s my name. And also, I suspect, as a mark of respect. Which I appreciate.
To sum up: my name is David. It’s how I answer the phone. It’s the name I use professionally. Casually, it’s more difficult to say. If I’m introduced to someone at a gig, it tends to be Dave, because most of my gig going friends have known me for aeons and think of me as Dave. In writing circles, how I’m introduced depends who I’m with. These days, I’ve almost stopped noticing what people call me. There certainly isn’t a friendship sliding scale, whereby you get to call me ‘Dave’ after a certain period of time. The only pain, sometimes, is remembering what people prefer to call me, so I can remember how to sign an email or a copy of a novel. Sometimes I take the easy way out and sign off ‘D’.
Dave or David? Both. I hope I’ve cleared that up. Next time I promise to talk about something more interesting. And, as the photo above is meant to say: ‘Cheers!’ Thanks for reading my new blog, which I intend to post on much more regularly than hitherto. Come again.