The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

It just keeps getting better...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What IS in a Name?

Identity is a big deal. Our names represent us to the rest of the world and I have known people who have wrestled with getting a first name that felt like a fit, and wrestled with what to do with last names that did or didn't feel like accurate representations of themselves as well.  Our names are history, language, connection and baggage!

For Teri and I, we have had the "name discussion" a few times and, for me, getting comfortable with my name has been an evolving process.  I was born with the surname Nickson, but that was replaced by Rodley when I was three and my mother remarried the man who became my Dad and he legally adopted my brother and I. For much of my childhood, Rodley felt like a functional, but borrowed name.  When I married the man-husband at the age of 19 (yeah...that is a whole bookshelf of conversation), I legally added Irons to my name and pretty much used both Rodley and Irons since then.  Not hyphenated, although it often is, just two last names.

When I divorced years ago, the legal decree stated that I got my "maiden" name back.  At the time, however, my much younger children had strong feelings about our having the "matching" names so I just kept using the two.  Now, of course, I have had the name Irons longer than I have had any other surname but it really doesn't belong to me.  My kids are grown and they no longer care, but I have used Irons professionally for so long that it will take time to really let that go completely--even though I am quite ready!

Teri was born with the name Thompson and when she married the man-husband at the age of 21 (yep, we both got married the first time in 1986), she took his name of Schlesinger.  But just to add another twist, that was not his original birth name either!  Her original man-husband legally changed his name to something that sounded more "American" and less ethnic. When she divorced, her daughter also had a strong reaction to her changing her name and Teri thinks that is still the case, so she gave up any plan to let go of her original married name. 

So when the two of us talked about the whole name dilemma, we decided that she didn't want my man-husband name and I didn't want hers (heck, I don't even want mine anymore).  We didn't really want to make up a new name and go through all that red tape to both change our names--it just seemed too much of a hassle at this point. On the legal domestic partner paperwork, we can only do some limited combinations of each other's existing names.  Does it bother me that she has someone else's name?  Sometimes it does a little, but not because it is someone else's.  It bothers me because it is SO easy for hets to marry and change their names, it was easy for my Dad to adopt me and slap the moniker Rodley onto my identity, but it is quite hard for two middle-aged women to inhabit a family name that truly fits with a simple legal process.  We are both so far into this life and have such connections and attachments wrapped up in a lifetime of naming that there doesn't seem to be room for more shake-up.

So, for now, she remains Schlesinger and I am working to drop the Irons from my name so that I am back to Rodley only.  In reality, I don't feel like I have a surname that truly fits or adequately represents my family connections. Changing our names is not going to be part of our marriage union even though we might both prefer that it was different.

No comments:

Post a Comment