Friday, 5 June 2009

Saffia Farr on Saffia Corden

I cannot believe there have been ten years of Big Brother. I’m not a fan but it’s become an unwanted milestone of the year, so much so that a period of my life can be measured against it.

When the Big Brother phenomenon first dominated I was still working as a lawyer in London. I did not join the craze and watch it but it still impacted on my life – friends would agree to meet for the evening, but only if they could stop to watch the Big Brother update at 11pm.

The only year I paid any attention was when we were living in Aswan in southern Egypt. I had few friends and little social life so, I am almost ashamed to admit, I became very attached to the housemates. Every morning when my husband left for work I would go on line and vicariously live a piece of home by catching up with their news. I was also listening to Wimbledon on-line, a frustrating occupation as we often lost connection and Tim Henman kept almost losing. Big Brother was great entertainment for a lonely ex-pat. That was the year of Jade Goody.

Since then I have had no interest in Big Brother, I could not tell you who won or name any of the contestants since Jade. This year, however, I’m feeling myself inexorably drawn in because a housemate has my name! Last night my brother texted me with the news. I turned on the television and had the odd experience of seeing MY name on the screen behind Davina McCall.

It’s not always easy being Saffia. Most people pronounce it wrong and everyone spells it differently. When I was at school I hated it, wishing I was called Sarah as another new teacher stumbled when she came to me in the register. As an adult I love my name and its relative uniqueness – until now the only other Saffia I knew of was the one I was named after.

Sadly that is all to change as a Saffia enters the ubiquitous Big Brother house. Saffia will now become a household name, more children will be called Saffia and I will lose my insignificant air of mystique. I have some comfort in that her Saffia is pronounced differently, but pronunciation counts for nothing on the Internet.

It’s also slightly worrying that the other Saffia is already controversial, not the greatest role model for our name. Saffia Corden is also a mother. She has two children, one just seven months old I learnt when I googled our name last night. There was already outrage at her leaving her children for reality TV. Saffia was already a “b*tch”, “selfish”, accused of a “kind of child abuse”. “Can you imagine how the kid will despise its mum in years to come when the BB scrapbook is brought out?” people were asking in chat rooms. “A baby of 7 months old will change DRAMATICALLY (if she stayed in the house for the full three months), how could anyone miss out on their child’s life for Big Brother?!” Other contributors suggested calm, saying she should take this chance if she had it, but the general conclusion about Saffia was negative.

I agreed with some of the sentiments – I feel guilty for leaving my children to go to a pilates class - but was surprised by the speed of the vitriol. As my blog is about motherhood I’m wondering if anyone will get confused and start sending me hate-mail-e-cards, Internet Howlers. Only time will tell what the Big Brother media spotlight will do to my much loved name. But right now I’m feeling nostalgic for the old days of Saffia obscurity.

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