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.