On Name Change

I always planned to change my name when I got married. It’s what everyone in my family before me has done, and the idea of getting to have an entirely new name at some point in my life seemed exciting. Before I knew who I would marry, I wondered sometimes about what kind of name I’d have, whether it would be long or short, common like my maiden name, or maybe a little more unique. With a last name beginning with T, I often sat in the back of classrooms in school. Not that I’ll ever have a chance to be seated in a large classroom arranged alphabetically, but the idea that I could move to the front or middle of the metaphorical classroom always seemed exciting.

It’s hard to write about this whole business, and I have been hesitant to put it all out there. Whether or not you change your name when you get married is such a personal thing, and all kinds of things have an impact on how people feel about it – how old you are, what your relationship with your parents is, how easy (or difficult) the new or old name is to spell or pronounce, heritage, sense of self…. I know people who have kept their names, changed their names, and hyphenated. I really understand the reasoning behind all of those choices. I’m hoping I can explain how I feel about my choice in a thoughtful way, with the understanding that this is, of course, my choice. The other options (which were all things I really seriously considered) make so much sense to me, too.

I loved my last name growing up. I liked being at the end of the alphabet. I adored people who called me ET. And yes, I was also pretty jazzed to be able to claim “elizabetht” on so many social networks. My maiden name is very common; it’s nearly impossible to google me. I get SO much email that isn’t meant for me, but for other Elizabeth Ts. I’m close with my family. Hell, this has been my name for 31 and a half years. I’m really attached to it. It has been very hard to wrap my head around the idea that Elizabeth T__ won’t be my name. (Even though, of course I’ll always be Elizabeth T__, and ET, and elizabetht. My family is still my family, even if we don’t have the same name.)

But I also love Dan, and if I can say so, his last name is pretty great. And the notion that in getting married, Dan and I are creating our own new baby family is one that is extremely meaningful to me. I love the idea of sharing a name with him, of being the d__ Family, established 2013.

It was never really that I didn’t want to take his name, but more that letting go of my old one made me really sad in a way that surprised me. I very seriously considered the idea of taking my maiden name as my middle name after getting married. (Not that I don’t like my middle name, but you know.) However, research told me that you can’t actually do this in New Jersey without going through the legal name change process, meaning court fees, court appearances, and newspaper ads, separate from the marriage name change process. That isn’t to say that the hassle of the bureaucracy changed my mind… but more that my first-maiden-new last would make for quite a mouthful. And I have never been one to use my middle name or even my middle initial anywhere, so why would I go through all that rigamarole to then… not use it on any documents, forms, resumes, business cards, websites, etc? It just didn’t make sense. And although my mother and grandmother both adopted their maiden names as middle names (which was half of the reason that I wanted to do so as well), their maiden names were lovely short names, not the 8 letter one I was thinking to add to my 9 letter first name and 7 letter new last name. (Yes, I count letters. Are you that surprised?)

So in the end, I decided to take Dan’s last name. I like the idea of the two of us sharing a name, of our future children sharing it as well. I like the idea of not having such a common name, but one that’s extremely pun-inspiring. And I adore it when he refers to me as Mrs. d__. But the night before I planned to go to the Social Security office and the DMV, there I was, crying big, fat tears. “I know who Elizabeth T__ is. I have no idea who Elizabeth d__ is.” It sounds silly, but somehow, the thought of not being ME anymore (who am I if my name isn’t the same) was just too much. Dan, ever kind and understanding, said “but you don’t have to change your name. You’ll always be the Elizabeth I love most, no matter what last name you have.” (Which made me cry more. Which just confused him.)

I suppose I needed to cry a little, to acknowledge the Change. The idea that I’m someone’s wife, and my name shows that. (And okay, I cried again this week as I systematically eliminated traces of Elizabeth T__ at places like the electric company and on my student loan account.)

I’m rambling, as ever… but as much as I love Dan and my new name (and it’s now almost entirely official), it’s quite weird. I like the idea of a fresh start, and something about a new name makes me feel like things are just starting, throw all your bad habits out the window, that was what the old Elizabeth did. But … what do I do with all of these places where I’m elizabetht? (flickr, twitter, listography, you know, EVERYWHERE). (I already checked; shelikesstripes is taken on twitter, jerks. Has anyone out there ever tried to convince someone to relinquish their twitter name? ha) I think too much, that much is clear. But it’s just weird. Exciting and crazy and oh GOD you should see how bad my new driver’s license photo is… and different and new and pretty great despite the tears.

15 thoughts on “On Name Change

  1. I totally get this. I didn’t cry when I changed my name, but I remember getting really frustrated & upset at having to learn a new signature! My new name took forever to feel natural when signing it, & more than once I nearly cried in checkout lines feeling like a fraud because I couldn’t do it naturally. Whose signature WAS that?! Lol. I had to sign my maiden name recently, & after almost 6 years of marriage I couldn’t believe how hard THAT was to do! It felt so alien, it’s a crazy thing. You’re feelings are 100% normal & awesome & valid. That name did right by you for so long, how can you not mourn it a little?

    • the signature is SO hard! I have to like think about it, and I’m constantly adding in extra loops and it makes me nuts. but thank you so much for understanding; after i posted this i was thinking “oh geez how silly was that post” and it’s just nice to know i’m not as crazy as i thought haha πŸ™‚

  2. I was happy to get rid of my maiden name when I got married because 1. I hated it and 2. I wanted to disassociate myself with my father. But this: “I know who Elizabeth T__ is. I have no idea who Elizabeth d__ is.” totally makes sense. It was so weird for me to hear people refer to me as Megan Morris for a good six months. Any time someone would say my full name, it wouldn’t register that they were referring to me. I had to think on several occasions how to spell it, which sounds completely retarded but people misspell it (as Moriss or Morriss) a lot and I started to second-guess myself. Because I hadn’t been spelling it for 29 years like I had my maiden name.

    So anyway, I totally just turned this comment into something all about myself, but what I mean is I totally get where you’re coming from, and I think your feeling are normal. Names take breaking in, and yours will fit comfortably soon. πŸ™‚

    • it’s so funny to hear you say it this way, because i met you after you were already Megan Morris. but omg whenever someone asks me to spell my name out loud, I have to do it soooo slowly (with the d as in david nonsense too, which i never had to do before) and feel like such an idiot that it’s not natural. and somehow it makes me feel a little better that it might take a few months for it to feel normal.

    • it’s just weird to have to change it when you’ve had the same name for your whole life! a lot of the people i work with now kept their names, or hyphenated, and they seemed so shocked that i wasn’t going to. i feel like my name would just be insanely long if i did, though. hahaha.

  3. I think it’s great that you wrote this and have been thinking it through. It is a really strange transition and so much of our identities get caught up in our names that it’s not surprising people have kind of a hard time! For me my last name was a huge part of my teacher self (I swear to god sometimes I forgot I even had a first name!), so it was actually a good thing I happened to leave teaching after I got married and got a new name–I really wouldn’t have known who Mrs J_ was in the classroom! Like everyone else, it definitely took me some time to get used to the change (and trying to nail a new signature too!). I do like how it makes life easy with all of us having the same last name. Bureaucracy shouldn’t be a reason to change one’s name, but I remember all growing up what a pain it could be for my mom to have a different last name than us kids (my parents divorced when we were little).

  4. Little known fact: when Jodi and I were making our wedding plans, I wanted to take her last name. Our current last name is taken from my first step-father, who I did not like growing up and have had absolutely no association with since their divorce. I thought it would be cool to take her last name and have a fresh start. My mother, on the other hand, told me it was like opening up a phone book and randomly choosing a name (it wasn’t, but that didn’t make her any less pissed). She wanted me to either take her maiden name or her current last name, which at the time I didn’t care for since I barely knew husband #3.

    We decided to keep the M___ name and use it as our fresh start, No connection to my step-dad, my mother was pleased (having the last name of the man she just divorced was apparently just fine) and we could create good memories using the name. It stung at the time, but in the end it was the best choice for us. I’m sure you’ll get used to the new name, just like you’ll get used to being called Dan’s wife. It takes time, but it’s totally worth it.,

    • that’s such an interesting story, chris, especially that your mom objected so much to you taking jodi’s name. but i suppose ideas like that are sometimes harder to wrap your head around, just because it’s not as common?

      i like the idea of thinking of marriage as a fresh start, new name or old one. and i’m already a little more used to it than i was even a week ago. and i’m sure in 5 years it’ll seem weird that it was so weird now. hee.

  5. I totally agonized over changing my name, because my maiden name is cool and ethnic (very Italian) and difficult to spell and pronounce, and my husband’s last name is a boring common noun. As a teacher I reveled in my maiden name and having a distinct identity and even a shortened nickname that the students developed on their own. And then we got very serious about having kids, and for our fifth anniversary I changed my name (in Maine it’s simple to switch your maiden name to your middle name, so that’s what I did), much to Peter’s shock and delight. I really wanted us all to have the same last name, and I don’t regret it one bit. It’s funny – my seniors last year I’d also taught back when they were sophomores and when I still had my maiden name. Some of them outright refused to use my new name, and one of them said to me sadly, “We’re the last class that will know you as Ms. C__.” That did secretly make me a little teary.

  6. I definitely get this. I waited until my son was a little over one before I changed my name. I just hated the thought of losing either my middle name or my maiden name. Then one day I had a revelation–royalty have many names, why can’t I have 4? So I changed (and I’m in New Jersey but didn’t need to do anything other than go to the social security office) it and was very happy to have a unifying family last name, but now have two middle names.

    • I love that idea of having two middle names! It’s actually tradition in my husband’s family to give kids two so adding mine as a middle would make me match them! I’m probably too lazy to do it now but I love the idea. It’s such a big deal, one I wasn’t expecting to hit me as hard as it did.

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