the name dilemma

I read an interesting Buzz Feed article by Jill Gallagher: After My Husband Left, I Kept His Last Name
It resonated with me as I’ve been in the process of deciding what my name will be after I marry YBW.

I’d always just assumed I’d add YBW’s name to the end of my own name.
Then doubt crept in.
I was caught on the fence between the argument for and against.
Is my last name nothing more than “some man’s” name? Would trading one for another really make a difference?

I feel strongly that I’ve given up so much of my life to be in my relationship with YBW that holding onto that last bit of my “old life” felt important.
But here’s the reality. This name I carry is MY name. It’s my identity. I’ve had it for more than half my life. I’ve often said that if the former husband’s name was Jones I would have taken it just to get rid of Smith.
I have always despised my “maiden” surname. The name of a man who essentially abandoned me when I was just five years old.
I wanted the name of the man who really raised me, Grandaddy. But it wasn’t to be so.
So when I married the former husband at the age of twenty, I was happy to have his name. Not because it was his, but because it was my new name.

I’ve had my name for over twenty four years. I like my name. I identify with it. I don’t know if I’m ready to simply choose a new name and learn to own it. I don’t want to feel like I’ve given up any more of me.

On the other side of the fence is the fact that if I’m going to have “some man’s” name, it should be the man to whom I’m joining my life.

I had conversations with YBW, Sundance, and my friend and mentor about my change from knowing to confusion.

Sundance, in her perfectly direct way was adamant I drop my current name and take YBW’s. She finished her tirade with: Why do want any more to do with the former husband? So, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know where she stands.

YBW looked at it differently. He was very clear to assure me he never expected me to take his name as tradition dictates. He asked how I would do it: would I drop my middle name (which I love) and use my current last name as my middle and his as my last? Would I just have four names? Would I hyphenate? Mostly he assured me that he would support whatever choice I made.

My friend and mentor listened in her typical, patient fashion and really heard my dilemma. She told me she could hear me struggling.
Then she shared her story with me. When she and her husband of twenty-odd years divorced, she had a very similar conversation with her mother. She wanted nothing to do with the name of the man who did her wrong. Her mother reminded her that her sons had that name, that she would always be their mother. That was more powerful than the man.
She sat with that for a while and decided to add in her “maiden” name. The name that she got from her beloved father, the name that shaped her young life and prepared her for the world. She chose to use both her last names because each of them shaped who she had become.

I took all this information, these points of view, and mixed them together with my own and let them settle. I stopped actively thinking about it for a while.
And as I drove home on Tuesday, just as suddenly as I questioned it in the first place, the answer came to me.

Friday I read Ms. Gallagher’s article and immediately sent it to my friend and mentor with the following:
This article came at just the right time.
I’d actually decided a few days ago to hyphenate my name. Because it’s MY name. The name with which I made and raised my babies. Worked at the most wonderful job I’ve ever had. Met people who changed my life just by knowing them.
The name with which I made the scariest decision of my life.
I didn’t consciously know all those reasons until I started writing this to you. I just knew that was my choice.

To which she replied:
Oh my sweet friend! I so dearly and sweetly love you! You have worked hard to think about this decision about what to call yourself as you go forward. It is such a privilege to be with you on this journey. I so adore you and love you!

Her love is something I feel every single day, but this, this got me deep in my gut: privilege to be with you on this journey.
I’m not good at paying attention while on the journey, or even to the journey itself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a destination girl.
I want to get where I’m going…never much matters how.
But this simple sentence gave me pause. Made me stop and take a look around me.
The name I have is the one I chose. The name I share with my girls. For how much longer, I don’t know…Thing 1 has a ring on her finger and will eventually marry N. She’s said in passing she’ll most likely drop her middle name and use our last name as her middle then take N’s name.
Thing 2 has expressed her disinterest in marriage. She thinks she and D will most likely just “shack up” for however long and she’ll always have her name. I wonder if as she grows that’ll change?
Even though they’re girls and may not keep the name we share, we started our lives together with the same name. That’s important to me.
I am me. I’m not “some man’s” version of me. The me I am is a girl who owns her name and doesn’t really care how she got it.

I didn’t really know why it was important, this name dilemma, I just knew it was.
Isn’t it funny that within a few days of making the gut decision I read an article that helped me understand why my gut made that choice?
Perhaps it’s not really all that funny…I believe the universe puts what you need in your path even when you’re not looking.

I don’t think I’ll ever learn to be a “journey” girl, but maybe, just maybe I’ll take Ferris Bueller’s advice: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
With my own name AND YBW’s name.

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4 thoughts on “the name dilemma

  1. I dropped my surname (his name) three years after separation. I do not know what I would do if I found someone else but I think I would preserve my identity and not take on another man’s name. My name has become part of me, that inner part of me that I never want to lose again.
    In your case you are giving yourself whole-heartedly to someone else and taking his name could be the symbol that you need for that process to feel complete.

    • Elizabeth, you wrote that your name has become a part of you that you don’t want to lose. I completely understand that. It’s exactly how I feel even though my name came from someone else.
      I do want to add YBW’s name to mine, of that I am certain. ❤

  2. My Mom married my Dad in 1955 and her Maiden name became her middle name. I go by reocochran which is my whole maiden name: Robin Elizabeth Oldrieve + Cochran which is my last husband’s name. No children are Cochran but since 1993, 22 years I have been this name and divorced since 2006. I live and am active in this town I adopted as a single mother in 1986. Smiles, Robin

    • I knew it! I knew your middle name was Elizabeth! Mine is too! We’re both called Rob(yi)n Elizabeth! We were supposed to find each other!

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