My mother kept her maiden name and I didn’t lose my sense of identity



I’ll admit, I have a complicated name. I’m one of those people with two official sets of ID but that’s not the worst of it – my mother you see, kept her maiden name and so I also have a double barrelled surname, but not a hyphenated surname, because my mother argued, even back in the 70’s, that her and my father were two separate people, with two separate names. The government however did not agree, and made my mother make her maiden name one of my middle names.

So for the first few years of my life I was Louise Marguerite Woodruff Sanz. My mother however stood by her maiden name, never becoming a Mrs Sanz and sure as hell never answering it to it. In primary school I remember her refusing to answer my friends when they would refer  to her as Mrs Sanz. As far as she was concerned it wasn’t her name. She preferred everyone to call her by her first name, which believe it or not, even my teachers preferred than having to address her as Ms Woodruff  – her actual legal name. It was that look of discomfort I recall the most. That educated, regular people would prefer to call my mother Mrs Potato than by her maiden name. It was the sort of thing 1970s German dissidents did, not middle class mothers from Brighton.

Contrary to the popular rhetoric I even hear bandied around today, I didn’t grow up as a rudderless child, without a sense of place or identity because my mother didn’t share the same name as my father, I actually did ok, more than ok really. To be honest  I was more affected by the knowledge that when my father immigrated to Australia, he was made to change his name from Miguel to Michael, because Australian’s couldn’t pronounce Miguel. My father was forced to change his name because apparently the Australian tongue struggles with the letter ‘G’. Tell that to all the Gerry’s, Gerald’s and Greg’s you know.

I was always insanely proud that mother had her own name (she was also a vegetarian – I didn’t know Mexican food came with meat options until an ill-fated trip to a Taco Bill in the late 90s). She explained her choice to keep her maiden name as ‘easier’. It was on her driver’s license, all her legal documents, to change it would be too much of a hassle. And then what if my father and her got divorced, more paperwork, but most importantly, it was her name. She’d had it for 25 years when she met my dad and it wasn’t something she was willing to part with it.

As I got older, I got more emboldened to move my mother’s name out of the ‘middle name’ abyss it had been relegated to and put it into everyday life. At 12 I was signing my homework off as Louise Marguerite Dymphna Woodruff Sanz, much to the horror of my teachers, who constantly felt the need to raise this in every parent teacher meeting – again more concerned by the incorporation of my mother’s maiden name, than the latest addition – my Confirmation name – Dymphna, Patron Saint of Incest Victims and the Mentally Ill.

By the time I was a teenager and had started writing soppy teen memoirs for other teenagers to act out on stage, my mothers name was now part of my surname, even though, legally it was still my middle name, that is until the law changed and no longer did it need to be hyphenated.It was free. I was free. My brother and sister never really seemed fussed, they liked being Sanz’s. It didn’t bother them, which only made it cooler, cause it now meant in my family I was the only Woodruff Sanz, that, along with my teen moustache set me apart from everyone else in the world.

Things however got complicated when I was granted a Spanish Passport. My name was changed to Luisa Margarita Sanz Woodruff. You see in Spain, the mother’s maiden name comes after the ‘family’ name. Given I had a Spanish Passport before an Australian one, it was now my only official form of ID, aside from Double Dare Champion Card from 1993 and so when I got my driver’s license I went in with my spanish passport and to this day, 16 years later, that is still the name on my driver’s license.

As I writer nothing gave me a stronger sense of satisfaction than to play with all my names as I signed off a ‘Written by’ credit. There was L W Sanz, L Woodruff Sanz, Louise Brandis, Mrs Jonathan Brandis, Louise W Sanz, LMW Sanz, Louise M Woodruff Sanz, LMD Woodruff Sanz. The possibilities were endless but then I started doing stand-up and introducing Louise Woodruff Sanz proved troublesome.

If I’d thought the pronunciation of ‘G’ was hard for people try W’s and S’s and Z’s. After a while, to make things ‘easier’ I shortened it to Lou Woodruff Sanz. It was still too hard for MC’s who were often distracted by mic stands, warm beer and the glamour of stage life. So I went with Louise Sanz. Nup, still too complicated. And so it was with heavy heart it went to Lou Sanz. Like a vegas headliner and just ambiguous enough so as not to reveal my gender before coming out on stage. It was inevitable then that confusion began. People were now getting frustrated, concerned even betrayed. Was the writer Louise Woodruff Sanz the same as emerging comedian Lou Sanz? Was this a Jeckyll and Hyde kind of thing? Was she transitioning? What the fuck was going on!? Who did she think she was!? And even though I was following a long line of people with stage names, mine was not because I didn’t like my name, it was because I wanted to make things easier on everyone else. After all that struggling I went back to Sanz because it made things ‘easy.’

But of course legally, I’m a Woodruff Sanz, so now I have alias’s. I have files that say ‘Lou Sanz, legally known as Louise Woodruff Sanz, also known as Luisa Sanz Woodruff.’ It can sometimes make getting things like credit a little complicated as nothing sounds dodgier than listing all the names your account could be under. Everyone just wants me to make it easier on them, change my name so that don’t have to press the space-bar more than they’d like .

A friend of mine though pointed out that when I get married, things will get easier, because well, you know, if you decide to have kids it’s important they know what family they belong to. That we all share the same name, so it’s only natural that if I chose to have kids with my partner we’ll have to have the same name.

‘You’re right’ I said, ‘but I worry about all the paperwork my husband will have to go through. He’d be better off keeping his own name. It’s easier.’

‘You’d make him change his name?’ she asked, not amused by my killer come back.

‘If your main concern is my hypothetical families unity and sense of identity, then it shouldn’t matter whose name we use.’

She was stumped…I knew why, when there are articles on the internet titled ‘How to let people know you’re keeping your maiden name’, I often forget how very far we’ve actually come since the days my mother decided to go against convention.

I was making things awkward…and I’m probably always going to. It’s ‘easier’ for me.

Sexy adventures with Cankle Lady

Coming home from a gig on Saturday night realising that if I managed to make it home by 9pm The Bill would be in full throttle and even with my comprehensive knowledge of back-story I’d struggle to keep up, I stood waiting for the illustrious No 19 tram. Not to worry, I wasn’t alone. I had the luck of keeping company with a couple of teenagers/burgeoning football team and when I say a couple I mean not enough to terrify me into a gang bang, but enough to have quite clearly justified their purchase of two slabs of Jim Bean & Coke.

Not that I’m a snob in the traditional sense, but yes I will admit, a couple of slabs of some sort of pale ale and these young men would have easily transformed in my eyes from just sex offenders to alleged sex offenders.

One of them spat in front of me or threw up (I’m finding it harder and harder to tell these days) before asking me how my night was, well that’s what I thought ‘…avin a good night…cat…apper…penis’ meant.

Having promised myself not to get herpes in this lifetime I stepped back from him and then watched as he tried to chase a car packed with ‘the ladies’ down Sydney Rd egged on by his friends in a way a dog might chase a car, a dog whose parents paid for it’s private school education.

I noticed a girl in the mix drinking a Red Bull with her hair pulled back into a sensible ponytail. She watched the idiots around her and for a moment I was reminded of a young me. One of the boys kept pulling her hooded sweat, trying to drag her over to him like a caveman but to her credit she spurned his advances as he tried to whisper something in her ear. She pushed him away.

‘No Tony, I’m not giving you a hand job.’

You go sister I thought as I smiled to myself.

‘Last time my hand cramped and I couldn’t text for like hours and you didn’t even cum, f**k that.’

How I yearned for those curious fumbling years…

Finally the tram arrived and we all climbed on board, the teenagers by now figuring that if they sat at the back of the tram they’d come across less like drunk dickheads and more like hip urban commuters. I moved to the front as I heard a conversation about ‘how to spot a tardo’ fade into the distance.

Deciding to stand for the next few stops, I noticed an older woman staring at me and found myself wondering for a brief moment if the No 19 was the tram of choice for lesbians to cruising away their Saturday night. I didn’t have to wait long for my answer as the woman came over to me.

‘You remind me a lot of myself when I was your age.’

Now I don’t know about you but I’ve never been into the idea of hooking up with people that look me, admitting though that I was yet to come across 5’3 curvy Latino type gentlemen who couldn’t grow a decent moustache, but hey, the night was young.

‘Um, thanks’ I replied to her, not that it was a compliment she’d paid me as I looked down at her cankles.

‘Back when I was your age I tried to kill myself, didn’t manage it mind you. Just ended up alone.’

My eyes drew away from her cankles and elasticised Susanne Gray pants and I suddenly realised how sad a complete stranger could make me feel.

I didn’t know what to say and my overwhelming curiosity to ask why she hadn’t kept trying was threatening to leap out of my mouth at any moment.

‘Um…I’m sure someone loves you.’ I offered.

‘Does someone love you?’ she asked.


‘My parents I think.’

‘Doesn’t count.’

‘Some of my friends?’

‘Doesn’t count.’

‘What, you mean like a boyfriend or something?’

‘I knew the touch of a man once, his name was Tom. Full of cock and confidence Tom was.’

‘What happened to Tom, did he die in the war or something?’

‘The war? I’m only 37, he was only 17.It was the love that dare not speak its name. Don’t be stupid. Died in the war. No, he just changed schools. It wasn’t meant to be.’

‘That’s a shame.’ I muttered, looking at this woman, this broken woman. Why had she been so unlucky? Would I have the same fate given I once admitted to a crush on the red head from Harry Potter?

‘If you don’t mind my saying your fringe makes you looks like a guard at a women’s prison.’

Oh, this must be why no one loved her.

I pulled the cord announcing my impending stop.

‘Ok, well you have a good night then.’

‘You don’t work in a woman’s prison do you?’


‘Would you like to?’


‘Ok, no harm in asking.’ And with that she started up towards the back of the tram looking to acquaint herself with some of Jim Bean fuelled football team.

As I hoped off the tram I heard her turn to the girl I’d seen earlier.

‘You remind me of myself when I was your age.’

‘I’m not licking you out or nuffin’ the girl spat back at her.

You go sister I couldn’t help but smile to myself.