When I got married, I did something I said I would never do.
I changed my name.
My family history is complicated compared to most people. My father was never in the picture, and my mother was never married. My mother’s last name – her maiden name – was also different from HER father’s (my grandfather’s) last name.
We lived with my grandparents until I was 15. I developed a very strong bond with my grandfather. It wasn’t until after he died that I qualified it as, he was my father. I never thought of it that way growing up; I just thought, that so long as you are surrounded by love and support, you don’t necessarily need the trappings of a “traditional” family. I still firmly believe this.
When I was nearly ready to finish high school, I got the notion that I wanted to change my name to my grandfather’s name. I wanted to connect myself to him by taking his name. I got the idea from a magazine article I had read. I can’t for the life of me remember what the story was about, only that the writer had changed her name for some reason that I also can’t remember. It never occurred to me that one could do that, but apparently, one could. I started researching name change laws in New York State. I told my mother of my intentions. I even battled my high school to allow me to tack his last name onto my diploma, and say the name when giving out the diploma (it wasn’t “official” yet, so they didn’t want to let me, but I perservered). I didn’t tell him until after the ceremony – the “announcement” was a surprise, and was, in a way, my graduation gift to him.
He was so very happy. He started addressing cards to me as Irisira Newlastname. Seeing how happy it made him that I made this decision made me even more proud of it. A lot of people were confused, didn’t understand. Why, after all, would I bother changing my name when I would just have to change it again when I got married.
Well, I responded, I guess I just won’t change it again.
This was too much for people to wrap their heads around.
When my husband and I got engaged, I reiterated that I was not changing my name. He always said he was fine with this, or whatever I decided. After all, he didn’t want to change *his* name, so he could understand why I wouldn’t want to change mine. (And I didn’t want him to, either.) However, I found, it wasn’t that simple. I felt like there was something empty in my soul with this decision. The name was awkward and aesthetically displeasing to hyphenate, so my options were to drop mine and take his, or keep mine. Right?
This wasn’t good enough.
I would see posts about people making remarks about how “confusing” it was that Susie’s mom had the AUDACITY to keep her given name, and it was SO CONFUSING for the school and the other parents. I call bollocks. It’s not confusing, it’s uncomfortable for you, for an inexplicable reason. Are you so insecure in your decision to take your husband’s name that you have to put down a woman who chose not to do this? Her choice is no reflection on you, so GET OVER IT, and realize there are a lot worse things you’ll eventually have to explain to little Johnny than why Susie’s mom has a different last name than Susie.
C and I don’t want kids. Even if we did, that wouldn’t factor into my decision. If anything, it might sway me in the other direction, out of spite. (I know, I know … not really … okay, maybe a little bit.)
I remember sitting in the car with C, trying to explain why I was having such a dilemma over this. He was, at first, reluctant to even converse with me about it because he was afraid of “swaying” me either way. I assured him this was ridiculous, that I valued his opinion on major life choices, and this was no different.
Me: “… and, I don’t know, I mean I have no issue with hyphening, but it will be so cumbersome with my name …”
C: “So what?”
C: “Who cares? I don’t think it sounds cumbersome.”
And that’s when it hit me. I don’t have to do this for anyone else but me.
So, I changed my name. Sort of. I hyphenated it. Awkward extra punctuation and all. I changed my vital records, my legal documents at work, and my bank account. I kept my email address. I didn’t otherwise change anything at work. I kept my facebook the same. I haven’t bothered to change my credit or debit cards, though I probably will eventually.
“So, wait then, why did you bother?”
Simple, actually, and for the same reasons I changed my name the first time.
I did it for ME.