Tuesday, April 15, 2008

There's a lot in our names

Sarahlynn has been thinking about names recently, and it got me thinking about my own. I officially changed my name when I got married, though I had reservations about it. In some ways, my reservations were kind of silly and superficial--I *like* my maiden name, it's short and not a common name (or at least a common spelling), and positioned me squarely in the middle of the alphabet, which is a comfortable spot to be in line. Yes, I did have a strong identity with my last name, but I'm also a sucker for tradition, and it just seemed strange not to take my husband's name when I married. I ended up adoptiong my maiden name as my middle name, and taking my husband's last name, a compromise that I'm pretty happy with.

I was a little worried that changing my name would somehow affect me at work, and it was certainly a pain in the ass to change. Some places required photocopies of my marriage license, some would fix it with a phone call, and some places bungled it completely. I still get mail addressed to: Kristina Sue Maiden, Kristina Sue Married, Kristina Maiden Married, and, rarely, to Husband Maiden! Granted, my maiden name is on the deed to our house, but that last one is kind of funny.

Keeping my maiden name as part of my signature helped with the transition, but I can still remember getting a package from my dad addressed to "Kris Married". I have never called myself by Kris (my family did when I was little), so that is foreign enough to read, but it was even stranger to not have my maiden name listed at all. I had to look at it for a few minutes before I really recognized it as me. Then, I changed jobs about 6 months after the wedding, and was simply known as "Kristi Married" from that point on, another kind of turning point. None of those coworkers knew my maiden name, and my email address and paperwork didn't even list it. It was kind of sad to have my first 24 years of life relegated to a single initial. It also, in a very good way, hammered home that we were well and truly married, a unit, and not merely living together with a very nice photo album.

When my husband and I were engaged, he started thinking about his last name also. He is named after his maternal grandfather, and always felt a strong affinity with him. To this day, he can bowl with his grandfather's old ball--it fits his fingers perfectly, and owns a couple of his suits, which are also a perfect fit. In one of his favorite photos, his grandfather is wearing my husband's college letter jacket. My MIL was an only child, and the rest of her family were at least a step away--second cousins and great aunts and the like. My FIL, on the other hand, is one of 13 siblings, and my husband has 30ish first cousins...at Charlotte and Trystan's level there are at least 30 (and counting) second cousins. His last name is rather prolific these days. He considered, rather seriously, taking his mother's maiden name. I think he didn't quite decide, and then time passed, and now that we have children, all 4 of us would need a switch, so it's unlikely to change now.

I am happy with my name, and it suits me well these days. I don't want our children to forget where they come from, so Charlotte has my maiden name as a middle name, and Trystan has my MIL's maiden name as a middle (as does my husband). Both kids end up with 4-piece names, but it's a kind of family tradition now. I know that as they marry and have their own children some day, some names will be dropped off and left behind, and that's OK. I think that our identities change and develop over time, and it is good to both hold on to the old while embracing the new.

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