Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Name Game

I have three 'names' associated with my three lives.The first one is my maiden name and the name that I use in my business and on all of my legal forms. It was returned to me via the divorce document and I immediately set about to change my driver's license, utilities, and business cards. I have had my real name back for 9 years now during which time I bought a home and started a business. I like the name I was born with and intend to keep it...for most things.

The second name I have is my former married name.  Even though the judge gave me my real name back (a situation I found a bit odd-that as a woman I had to be allowed to have my old name back) my children's friends still called me 'Mrs. Smith' because that's my name when I enrolled my children into that school and being polite parochial school children, they defaulted to that name anyway.  It is awkward even now for my adult children to introduce me as anything other than 'This is my mom' so I still am called 'Mrs. Smith' a few times a month. 

Lastly I have my new married name. I have been newly remarried for 2 1/2 years and did not change my real name to my husband's name when I remarried. He couldn't have cared less. Us having the same last name makes us no more or less married or committed to one another. I do however call myself by that new last name when I'm calling utility companies (he was here before I moved in) or home repair people who need constant referrals to 'my husband' so I don't feel like I'm as likely to be scammed.

I've pondered this name business for a while now. The tradition of changing a woman's name to match her husband's has been in America since it's inception. Some countries apparently have the husband take the wife's name or hyphenate the names for the children.  When I was married the first time in my very early twenties, changing my name was exciting and made me feel very married and attached. After my divorce, taking my own name back really gave me a sense of identity and accomplishment.  Now if I had it to do all over again (I know, famous words) I would have kept my name all along and demanded that my children have hyphenated last names, or at least my maiden name as their middle names. Names are so important. They are a label of your life. Even if it wasn't a terrible hassle to change licenses, passports, social security cards, credit cards, etc I wouldn't do it and now I probably wouldn't have been attracted to a man in the first place who had such a possessive view of the whole thing.

I like MY name and I'm keeping it. I've worked hard to establish a professional identity with it as well as a personal comfort level with who I am and my name represents that. Have most of you changed your name? Will you?


Sandi said...

I felt much the same and at the same time I wanted to express my commitment so I came up with a somewhat unique compromise. I added his last name as my middle name (didn't have one) and I love it!

It's definitely not an automatic anymore.

Ebatte said...

I've hated my last name FOREVER. I got married five months ago, but I haven't changed it legally yet. I fully intend to, however.

Beth Zimmerman said...

I married 31 years ago (still married) and took his last name as mine when we married.