Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Maiden Voyage

I went to the dentist this week, and I'm thinking about changing my name again. That's two agains: the change and the thinking about it. (I'll get to the dentist in a minute.)

I changed my name when I got married. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. And since I was tackling a number major life changes right then, I was overly concerned with getting things "right," sometimes to the detriment of my sanity and happiness. I think I was convinced that there was a set of rules to follow for as long as you both shall live, and it was bearing down on me. Maybe that's what "the weight of tradition" is all about. I had the weight of tradition on my shoulders.

While I definitely felt an internal pressure to change my name, doing so was a choice I was happy with at the time for one main reason. Rob and I talked about having children together something like two weeks after we met. When it was clear that we were going to be together for a while, we were also pretty sure that there were kids in our future. I didn't like the idea of having to explain repeatedly that I was so-and-so's mother, and this was his last name and this was my last name forever and ever amen. I realize that I wouldn't be the only parent in history not to share a last time with her child, but the ease of being Mr. and Mrs. His Last Name was extremely alluring.

So really, I changed my name because I'm lazy.   

Then: Mr. & Mrs. His Last Name, 2005

The problem is I hate it. Not the name itself--though, like many last names, it's a little weird and hard to spell and no one can pronounce it correctly, including the DJ at our wedding (not that I'm still bothered by that or anything). The problem is the change, and my ability to adapt to it. It's been three and a half years and I'm still not used to it.  This is why the dentist is relevant. I got a bunch of paperwork at the dentist's office, and naturally it had my name printed at the top on the Patient Name line. I couldn't stop staring at it and thinking that it just looked wrong.

I tried to explain this to Rob: "It's like someone took my name and stuck someone else's name on it."

He said, "That's exactly what happened."

"Yeah, okay." Smart ass. "It's like if someone spelled your name wrong... It just doesn't look right."

I've thought before about changing my name back, and when I bring it up to Rob, he tenses up a little. I think he worries that it means that I think the marriage isn't working out. (Sometimes I think the marriage isn't working out, but that's a separate issue.) I can't seem to get him to understand that it feels spooky and weird to have a name you don't really identify with. I miss the rhythm of my maiden name, the way it looks when I write it out, the ease of signing it after years of practice.  And while I still had to spell it out all the time, it's pronounced exactly how it looks and people have heard it before.

In seven months, when I renew my driver's license, I'm thinking about also changing my name back to my maiden name. It would actually be a pretty minor thing, a technicality.  As I understand it, a person's birth name is always that her name unless a judge gets involved in changing it. So all I need in order to prove that I am who I say I am--if I choose to go by my maiden name all the time, everywhere--is my birth certificate. Easy.
Now: Mr. His Last Name & ???, 2009

But then I start to think about everything else connected to my married name, and insurance and credit and medical and employment bureaucracy flashes before my eyes. Blinded by red tape.  And I'd feel like I'd have to explain myself to the People in Charge: "Um, yeah, so we're not separated or anything...I just like my dad's name better than my husband's. It looks better on paper."

The lazy answer, of course, is to keep my name exactly how it is.



Melissa said...

I feel exactly the same way you do. I'm changing mine back as soon as I get around to it. Unfortunately, it does require a judge to switch back. You can only change it via common law at marriage. But it is a pretty easy court process.

Cindy said...

I, too, felt the pressure of tradition. But, I've always been one to take tradition and slam it to the ground. Not taking my husband's name was enough for my older female relatives to shake their heads. You should have seen them when they heard of our plans for our children. I've never been comfortable with children having their father's name and don't get me started on hyphenated names. So, since we had planned on 2 children, we figured one would have one name and one would have the other. Who was up first? We would match the sex of the first child to the parent. We had Luna, so she got my last name. Simple enough to us. Made my in-laws heads explode. My family didn't seem thrilled either. We learned naming is a touchy subject. To make matters worse, we think we're going to stop with one. My husband doesn't care, but wait til the older generation family hears. Oy. They'll just have to learn to deal. My advice? Do what you want. Do what you're comfortable with. Suggest Rob and Westley take your name. Hee. See how that goes over. :)

Scout's Honor said...

I hyphenated and I have regretted it since the kids became school aged. The school forms. The medical forms. The video store. Anyone looking me up by computer. The spacing with hypenation, without hyphenation, with space, two names no space. How credit cards decide how to list me. Back to school? They never have me listed as mother with the correct name. It's such a hassle.

Then there's actually saying the hyphenated name aloud. Ackward.

People do always know who I am though. My name preceeds me. Ohhh, yes, I am that mom whose name is hyphenated.

As I write this, my husband snortles and says, "Don't forget the kids." They are never sure if their last name is their Dad's or my hyphenated. One is 12 and he's still confused.

I would suggest you stick with the vanilla way. Don't worry. It will grow on you.

Lazy is so much better, I would think that my issue.

sarah said...

I like your Maiden name LOTS. It fits you, you look like it and it has a meaning. As teacher, hyphenated names are a hassle but we can learn to deal with kids who have parents with different last names. It is very common for me to hear, I'm Mizz "My-Last-name", Joey's Mother. We teachers, we're pretty wuick on the uptake, sometimes. Ot you could just be Missus, 'his-last-name' when you are the wee one's mom.

Candace said...

I feel the pull to change my name back too and we have been married for 9 years.

I was young when we got married and I liked the idea of having a new name, and getting rid of my dad's name.

Now as an older, stronger, more educated woman I think that maybe I should have my own name. It kind of just feels weird to have my husbands name, to be referred to as Mr. and Mrs. So and So instead of Candace so and so.

Mr. So and So feels the same way as Rob does and I have to consider that but I also think that it would give me my own voice in the relationship. I have my own voice literally but not in written form, you know or does that sound crazy???

Baby in Broad said...

Melissa, you rained on my thought parade a little. I was really hoping I could just flash my birth certificate and say, "Yeah, that's my name. Give it back." Clearly, I want the change but I don't want to have to work for it. I'd probably do it right this minute, but there's the hassle. Like I say--lazy.

Candace, that doesn't sound crazy at all. It sounds familiar.

Jessica said...

I gladly changed my last name (I felt no connection to my last name other than with my sister - my mom always had her maiden name - however, I gave my son two middle names, one being my maiden name), but what a pain in the ass it's become. My old last name was easy. Like yours, everyone had heard of it. Now, I have to spell it out EVERY SINGLE TIME.

"No, not C, K. Two Ls, no V," etc... it's exhausting. But the idea of more paperwork dissuades me from even trying. That, and I like being the Somebodys. My parents were never the Somebodys. They were only ever just Jennifer & Rob.