What’s in a Name?

Okay here’s the article.


To summarize, it’s a nifty article on last names, and women taking their husband’s name after they get married. It’s a nifty article because it covers many of the viewpoints WITHOUT ever pushing an agenda. Bravo Stephanie Pappas for writing a good article.

Now, why do I want to talk about it on what is arguably a gamer blog? Because it’s important to me.

My experience:

My mother has been married 3 times in her life. The third time was apparently the charm, as she is still married to him now. She had my brother with her first husband, me with her second, and married my step-father when I was 9 or so. So growing up my brother had one last name, I had a second, and she had a third. I was used to being the only person with my name. Add to that, it is a rather uncommon last name, and I liked it.

You see, it started with Ac. So when teachers in school would go to put people in alphabetical order, I would just get up and walk to the front. I generally had the first seat in the front row in every class. I had no problem with this. In fact, I kinda liked it.

My name was a part of who I was. It was short, sweet, and unique. It meshed well with my middle name (I always went by my middle name not my first name) and generally was fun to write.

It never bothered me that my mother had a different last name. It never bothered me that my brother had a different last name. We knew we were family and loved each other.

Now, I did have a hated first name. It was pretentious, long, misspelled, and didn’t fit me even a little bit. I shorted my signature to start with a J. very early in high school and never looked back. As my friends and I discussed getting married one day and names, the discussion generally revolved around whether we would take our husband’s names or not. The consensus was that we would, unless it was a stupid name, or it sounded bad with our names. I always said I wouldn’t, because I liked my name. It was part of who I was.

The first time I got engaged, I flat out told my Fiance I would not be taking his name. It wasn’t interesting, it wasn’t cool, and it certainly didn’t improve the sound of my name any at all. This engagement eventually fell apart. Why? I was too independent, and he was too clingy. (Among other problems, but those are the big “overarching” problems and were a common theme among all the others.)

Was the name thing an indicator? Maybe. He was certainly upset about it.

Many years later, after going to grad school, and living on my own, I got engaged again. This time, his name wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad either. Also I saw the opportunity to get rid of my dreaded first name. Here I was, at 26 about to completely change around my name.

Now to follow along… <J. First Name> <K Middle Name> and <Ac Last Name>. When I got married I legally changed my name to <K. Middle Name> <Ac Last Name> <Husband Last Name>. No hyphens, or whatever, but now my maiden name was my middle name. I looked at my new name and smiled. I *loved* it. It was totally me. It fit me better than my birth name ever had.

I took a moment to consider if I would ever change my name back if I was ever to get divorced. The more I thought about it, the more I though, no, probably not. This name was more who I was that ever before. And I loved it.

My husband wasn’t pleased. I know right? His response was “Well that’s a rather sneaky way of keeping your own last name?” Is the name thing such a touchy subject because men still have this desire to “lay claim” to their women? It’s kinda cute, as long as they are okay with dealing with it if we don’t go along. This comment surprised me. My mother had always used her maiden name as her middle name. My grandmother did too. All the adult women I knew growing up had done the same thing. With one exception and she had *hated* her family before she got married and likely wanted to shed her last name as much as I wanted to shed my hideous first name.

Turns out, it’s a common Southern tradition for a Southern Belle to keep her family name as a middle name, unless she is ashamed of them. I am not ashamed of my father’s side of my family, but neither am I proud of them. I don’t really think about them one way or the other, as my parents divorced when I was 3 and my mother then moved 14 hours away. I never really associated the name with them. It wasn’t their name, it was mine. Mine and unique. I think this discovery of culture mollified my husband.

What changed in the 3 years? I grew up, lived on my own truly, and struck out into the real world without Mom and Dad or Student Loans to keep me up. I came to view my life as something other than just myself. I was planning on being with this man forever. I was still myself, but now I had a part of him too. My new name looked and sounded right.

I embraced this new “label” for who I was. I was different than I had been as a child, so it made sense for my name to be different as well. Maybe this mentality comes from playing games, and thus having avatars or roles, so I already deal with “alternate” names quite a bit. I mean, I answer just as readily to Joyia (my World of Warcraft warlock) as I do my own name. I use Ember Dione as interchangeably with my own name to the point Google thinks it really is my own name.

I feel now like a name is a representation of who we are. And as such, should change when we change.

My name is meant to fit me, not the other way around.


Addendum: As far as the “legally required to assume your husband’s name” thing in the article, that’s just ABSURD. Not a chance in hell would I be okay with that being a law. It’s a person’s choice, and it should be left at that. After all, they have to live with that name.

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