Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What's in a name?

When I was very little, I was bothered by the fact that my Mother and I had different last names. I guess I sort of wonder why it is that she never changed mine to hers sometime when I was a toddler and it was clear that my father had disappeared forever. I think I am also a little confused at to why I never asked...I was certainly aware at a young age that I had been essentially abandoned by my father.

When I was a teenager, my Mother married and changed her name. It was actually a good thing that I never had her maiden name, because it meant that I was never pressured to change my name with her. While I can acknowledge the importance that my mother's husband had in sobering her up, providing me with one dynamite little sister and taking a whole lot of abuse from my mother in abetting my running away from home, the truth is that we never really got along great, and I would have fought tooth and nail against taking his last name.

When I was in my early 20's, I finally found out the truth about my name...that it was misspelled, and that it really belonged to no one. I met my wonderful paternal family, and thought about changing my name to the correct spelling. However, doing so seemed like it was acknowledging the contribution of the provider of that name (my father) that I was unwilling to recognize. He didn't earn the right for me to bear his name.

In my mid 20's, I took in my little sister, and became sensitive to the fact that we had different last names. Suddenly, taking my mother's married name didn't seem like such a bad really would have been me taking Munchkin's name, not my mother's or her husband's. And to be honest, my opinion of the provider of that name (my mother's husband) had improved since my initial hesitation to take his name. But having different names never bothered Munchkin, so it never seemed like a pressing enough issue to go through all of the trouble.

And now, I am once again faced with the prospect of a new name. The Boy's name is a perfectly fine name that I happen to like very much. I even have a regular reader/commenter who married within the last year or so that had the same name before she took her husband's. I don't have a middle name, so I could very easily take my own last name and make it my middle name, taking his. One more powerful reason...inside my tummy, there is a little creature with newly formed fingers that will have his name as well.

Suddenly, though, I find myself attached to my bastardized, oft-considered, misspelled, mongrel of a last name. I like that I don't have to share it with anybody else. I like that it is a symbol of my own independence. I like that it has a story. I like that it only has three different letters and that I am early in the alphabet. I am ambivalent about the most famous previous owner of my name once shooting a key figure in American history;-).

For his part, The Boy doesn't care. He agrees with my basic dislike of hyphenated names, but has no insecurities about my having to take his name. I am OK with anyone who wants to call me Mrs. Boy or Accidentally Boy or whatever. And there is a very good chance that I will, at some point, be ready to give up my own name and take his officially. Just not yet.

Once, a long time ago, I wrote that "My name doesn't belong to anyone." Well, it turns out that I was wrong about that.

My name very much belongs to someone.

It belongs to me.


Erica said...

I think this is one of the nicest posts about the polarizing subject of name-changes I have ever read. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you never revealed so much about your last name. And now I am trying to figure out what you last name is. ;-)

Great post by the way!

laurwilk said...

Ha, steffi is right. You've been a bit more forthcoming with information lately! Someone's getting comfortable with the blog world. Maybe we will all get a picture after all! :) Can I give steffi a hint? You drop hints a few other times during the fall/winter of last year.

Truthfully, I can't completely relate to this post. I've had it easy with my last name. And I'm pretty confident I'll just take my husband's last name when (if?) I marry.

But, I'm happy that you have finally found who your name belongs to! I think it suits you quite well.

nifer said...

Well, I think I have figured out your last name, but that's irrelevant. I love the story behind it, and it is uniquely you.

However, I can understand your concern in not wanting your child to feel as you once did, not having your mother's last name.

You are such a strong, true person that I know you'll make the right decision for you.

Been loving your posts!

~ Jen

Mike said...

From a practical standpoint, I've heard that when you travel and you have a different last name as your child, depending on where you are going, you may be hassled and be required to show documentation that the child is yours.

Erica said...

She could always choose to keep her unique last name and give it to her baby. Maybe her husband would be willing to change his, if traveling with a baby and the family having the same name is such a concern :) Practically speaking, of course.

Allison said...

Can we call him "The Husband" now..... we can change his name instead of yours!!!!

Hänni said...

Fascinating post. Growing up, I did not like my last name very much. It was "Horn" and kids used to call me stupid things like "Unic-Horn" or "Moose-Horn" or "Hänni Horny". In my early 20s I discovered that Horn wasn't *really* our family name, that my German family fearing persecution in its new chosen home (the US post WWII) changed their very German name to one more ambiguous. Our real family name is Van Dietrich. I think it is beautiful. I often think about adopting it legally.

SG said...

I like the idea of moving your last name to your middle name and taking the boy's last name just so that the 3 of you will share a name but you need to do whatever you feel most comfortable with.

I plan to take my fiance's name and actually can't wait, mainly b/c his is easier to pronounce than mine and I don't really like my dad all that much so I'm not really sentimental about my name.

Lori S-C said...

good girl. You just need to be you.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and I'm loving it!

This was a great post. I've always had strong thoughts about names and this post was very familiar. My father's last name was not his fathers, my grandmother made it up. I now have that name.

Congratulations on all of your good fortune!