Recently on one of the blogs I read there’s been a big discussion about names and marriage and how the two of them go together (I’m even quoted, which I find very cool).
When we got engaged I realized that saying I was “changing” my name when we got married just really didn’t sit right with me. So I wrote up this for our Frequently Asked Questions section on our wedding/family website:
Lisa thinks that the proper words should be used if at all possible and likes to argue the meaning of phrases with Brett. She will not be “changing” her name, she will be adding to it or “taking Brett’s name.” She will not be changing who she is, she will be adding more. Brett agrees with her on this phrase (while he maintains that the general public won’t understand her when she says it). Other phrases, they’re still working out. Lisa is also taking a course on identity (specifically in elementary math classrooms, but it applies) this semester, so she’ll probably go on about this for a long time if you give her the chance.
Since then I’ve gotten a lot of comments on that idea from other places. While I’m sure the odds of those people reading this is very slim, I want to answer some of their comments anyway.
First, no, Brett did not add my name to his. Yes he was adding to his identity and yes I’m a big part of that addition, but I’m not going to make him do anything about his name just like I never felt pressure from him to do anything with my name. He supported my decision, was happy with it, did think my reasoning was a little weird, but then he thinks a lot of my reasoning is weird and loves me anyway. (I get this comment mostly from “feminists,” and I put that word in quotes on purpose.)
Someone else commented that I should be just fine saying I changed my name because marriage is a huge change in your life not simply an addition. While that may be true for a lot of people, I really haven’t felt that marriage has changed my life a whole lot. I haven’t had any big huge “WHOA!! We’re Married!!!” moments. I’ve had several “We’re married. That’s weird,” moments. But it really hasn’t felt like a drastic change. A few people have asked me what married life is like and honestly, other than that we live together and have sex now, it isn’t really that different. Marriage was the right step at the right time (get that people! It didn’t take too long, it happened just when it was supposed to! </vent>) in our relationship. It wasn’t a huge step. It wasn’t a sudden change in direction. It was just the next step. Next week will be six months since our wedding (I know, I know. That’s really not that much time), but we frequently comment that it feels longer simply because the marriage flowed so smoothly from our dating and courtship.
When I first graduated from college I almost felt like that was a big enough change, going from child to adult, being completely on my own, that I would’ve liked some kind of name change to mark that occasion. I’d never really used my middle name before then, so I started using my middle initial on everything. That was enough of a change for me.
In the name discussion someone else brought up the point that marriage is really the first time you actually have a choice with your name. Your parents gave you your name at birth so you’ve never really had to think about it before. I actually think I chose my name, but that’s another story. But choosing names and being given names is certainly an interesting thought. Most nicknames are even given to you without your choosing. Miss Giggles was a nickname my students gave me. Of course it was my choice to take it and run with it or not, and I’ve definitely run with it. So in a way that’s been my choice. I chose to identify with it. But for the most part we don’t ever really chose our names.
Except for one exception. In certain places on the internet I’ve been known by the name of a character in a book. I chose that name for me. I loved the character and when I needed an internet pseudonym it was a perfect fit for me. So that name I solely chose for myself. And I absolutely love the moments when Brett uses a part of that name when he talks to me. It was the name he first knew me by after all.
While we don’t really get to do much choice when it comes to names, we can chose how we identify with those names. And that can often be just as important as the actual name. There is part of me that mourns a little that there will now be so many people who will never know my last name at birth because whole names seem to be so rarely used in our society. It’s almost as if they’ll never completely know me because that name is such a huge part of me and such a big part of my identity. That is something that I am still getting used to.
How do you feel about your names? your nicknames? What names have you chosen for yourself?