What’s in a name? I had to go back to the Courthouse recently (socially distanced and masked), to re-apply for my updated passport. It’s a long, complicated, and bureaucratic story that I won’t bore you with. But the heart of it is: I was married before, took my husband’s name, then got divorced – in 1983 – and resumed my birth name. That’s the name I’ve used since, and everyone knows me this way.
When my husband Sandy, who’s conveniently had the same name since birth, went to re-up his passport it was the usual pile of paperwork, but no hassles. He applied, he received it two weeks later (thanks for good service, U.S. Passport Office!).
And my passport will get sorted out too, but this experience has reinforced my happiness in keeping my own name when I married Sandy. He kept his own name too. He asked me why I didn’t want to change it and I told him “It’s my family’s name.” That was cool with him. It’s really my late father’s name, as my mother changed hers to his when they married in 1954. Not many other options seemed available to women then.
“No,” said the cat. “Now, you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
Now I celebrate that women (and men) have choices. It’s common in my former profession – psychotherapy – for married women to use their birth names. It’s more common everywhere for women to feel supported in this decision. And I know a couple in which the husband changed his last name to hers. He said he got a lot of grief at the Social Security office, and that’s not fair.
I am as married as any woman out there – with twenty-eight years of joyful togetherness, and a couple of decades ahead. And I love having my own name. It feels good. My in-laws never accepted it – they always addressed me as Mrs. Husband’s-last-name. They were from another generation, married in 1944, and were not going to change their minds! Lovely, generous people, though, and they are missed.
“Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”–J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Do you have any feelings about this naming issue? No wrong answers, of course, I’d just love to hear your views. No names required. 😊
Stay fabulous and safe, wash and wash and wash (your hands), xo
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