February 27, 2013

Duck, muck, tuck...

February 27, 2013
Yoshitomo Nara-ish?
Last Friday, absurdity hit.

"As a wife", read the letter signed by the court's legal aid department, "we need you to provide further proof of income for 2012-2013". 

On an island where unemployment benefits or cash-in-hand jobs are a way of life for many (who occasionally combine the former and the latter) and anyone with a college education earns at the very least USD 4,000 a month (says the job center advisor who, during a routine interview, advised me not to undersell myself – based on my British degree, skills and experience – yet never once let reality or basic human needs like food and shelter get in the way of her patronizing ad-libbing), my application for legal aid must have looked just as unbelievable as a multilingual journalist working an unskilled, minimum wage hospitality job.

Of course, if letters after one's name were alphabet soup, graduates would never go hungry, would they?

Consequently, it is possible that the legal aid department was surprised by my frank disclosure of very limited means that put me well below the poverty threshold (my pay slips are part of the case file) and quick to assume that, because I had a double-barreled surname, I must be married. Therefore rich. Therefore – gasp – a liar.

With resilient despondency, I sent the court registrar a copy of my 15-year old divorce paperwork and a pithy note stating that there appeared to be a "misunderstanding" about my marital status. I stopped short of explaining that I had elected to keep my ex-husband's surname (instead of just my original long foreignnameski patronym) as it made for a much shorter and easily memorized byline. Ergo, all my press work has only ever featured one surname and my passport – until the beginning of January – always had both. 

As foreign surnames go, it may be worth mentioning that while the country that issues my passport – and to whom the island belongs – displays a certain amount of amused tolerance towards anglo names, anything else is pretty much frowned upon.

That I am moon-tanned with blue-green eyes never made any difference in the 17 years I lived in the country of my birth. The beginning of every school year was always fraught with teachers struggling to pronounce my name and, on occasion, even maintaining it had been misspelled, forcing me to remind them apologetically that it was "foreign" and therefore spelled that way.

In short, my decision to keep my ex-husband's surname for 15 years after my divorce was a no-brainer.

Upon receipt of the legal aid department's letter, note and documents were promptly dispatched into a digital black hole. Whether they reached their addressees or not I have no idea – no one bothered to acknowledge receipt.

As for the long-awaited verdict, it's anyone's guess as to when it might be returned. 

Welcome to legal limbo.


  1. Oops the disqus system seemed to lose my prior comment...

    "Resilient despondency" seems to be a necessary quality as you go through an inversion of a Kafka 'Trial'.

    Chin Up.

  2. "As a wife" -- I see the onward march of feminism has still to lap against your island's shores! Good luck with the case anyway.

    P.S. I'm not ignoring you but I can only comment when someone else already has done.

  3. Quite. And that particular turn of phrase reminded me how much I prize English's straightforward character. Also, there is no way the letter would have been as clumsy and imbued with chauvinism had it been written in English. Which it wasn't.

    Glad you can now see the comments. I wonder if your issues might be linked to the browser you use? I shall investigate...

  4. You mean there is a risk I might turn into a giant fly at the end of it all? Wait... I may be getting my Kafka novels confused. The whole thing is definitely most bizarre. For now, all I have is conjecture. Which is a big fat amount of air really.