Please sign here

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One day, when we were really young, a photographer came to our house, we all took turns sitting on a stool that had been placed by the wall of the dining room; our backs straight, our shoulders upright. He told us not to smile as he took our pictures – click, my first passport picture, for my very first personal passport. I still have that passport, and like many people, I guard it under lock and key because the pictures contained therein are serious struggle pictures. I was in secondary school at the time and in ACO, we had check books, so I was already familiar with the art of signing a signature, my baby brother on the other hand, was not. I remember he had no idea what or how to sign and we all told him to sign his name – the same signature he currently has.

My signature is very similar to my mom’s – simple, legible, contained, unpretentious and with just a tinge of a flourish – in this way, I think that my signature aptly reflects my person. It is a curious thing that I chose to copy my mom’s signature, because as a child it had been my father’s signature that captured my attention and intrigue. His has a lot going on, including two occurrences of a symbol that looks like the awareness ribbon upside down.

When I was growing up, the Nigerian lore surrounding signatures was that rich men had complicated signatures; I may be wrong, but based on a joke that I heard in the recent past, I think that the current academic research suggests that poor men are now the ones with complicated signatures. Either way, from my experience in the two cultures that I can speak about with any type of authority – Nigerian and American – I note that Nigerians are more likely than not to scribble illegible signatures and Americans are more likely to have signatures created with just their first and last names. No one way is better or even more preferable.

With the adoption of digital financial products, most of us no longer need to sign our signatures with any type of frequency. Recently, a friend saw my signature, which is just the initial of my first name overlaid with my last name. His instant reaction was: “your signature is so simple, I can totally forge it”. So we spent the next several minutes with him trying to understand how my cursive hand works, how I join the various letters and which stroke I make first – of course he was unsuccessful. And this is the thing, many signatures have secrets and oddities incorporating the personality, sometimes even subconsciously so, of their owners. As my friend struggled to replicate my signature, I noticed for the first time that the way I write the A in my signature, is unlike the way I write A at any other point in time. I don’t know what this means, but it is definitely a quirk.

My first boss had a distinct signature, with subtle clues all over the place – if a stranger looked at it, one would think it only contained his last name, but after so many years of watching him sign it, I knew that he had miniature letters of his first and middle initials tucked in there. I am no handwriting expert, but I think a handwriting expert would say that given the prominence of his last name, he is very proud of his heritage, big capitals indicate his confidence and ego, and the pressure with which he writes the last two letters reflects his determination. For my own part, the fact that all the letters in my signature connect indicate that I have a logical, sequential mind and an ability to solve problems. And the fact that my signature is legible means that I am genuine and willing to let people see who I am.

When I was younger, I practiced what my signature as a married person would be, today, I doubt that I would change my signature, if I did get married. But now, as I write this and I consider what a new signature could possibly be, my first initial could never be hidden inside a potential future last name, as it is in my current version. And I think this is a mark of the individuality I now feel versus how I felt at age 10, as well as, how I now feel about the possibility of me changing my last name after marriage and the attendant loss of and creation of a new identity. The A will also be a large lowercase a, showing growth and attainment of confidence.

My mom told me she had a colleague who signs his signature upside down, this is the wildest thing I’ve heard about signatures. What about you, what do you think your signature says about you? Any funny anecdotes? Do you remember how you came to choose your signature? I’d love to hear.