Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My first name is last name? depends on the year...

Over at The Parenting Post (a link to which I will add when I overdue-ly update my blog list over on the left) Damomma talks about her reluctance to give up her maiden name officially, though she gladly took her married name vocally. Got me thinking...

First, some stories of people I know....

When Andrea got married, she didn't take John's name. 6 years later, she changed her mind, and as a gift to him, changed both her and their daughter's name to his last name, matching his and their son's last name. She and her dad don't get along extremely well, so I hadn't really understood why she hadn't changed her name before, other than she simply liked it, which is a completely valid reason, but it didn't really matter to me, it was her choice, and the only time it was confusing was when I was addressing an envelope to them (which happened maybe...once? twice?) and couldn't figure out how to do it and not take up the whole front of the envelope. I thought it was a nice gift when she did change her name simply because I knew he would be pleased, which he was.

My sister couldn't wait to change her name. For some reason, my mom hyphenated her maiden name and my brother and sister's dad's last name and gave that to my siblings. They've never liked having a hyphenated last name, and so my sister didn't hesitate to change her name to her married name as soon as possible. I think her married name along with her first name is one of the cutest names ever, so I was happy with her choice. (Not that my opinion mattered in the slightest, nor should it.)

So on to me.

When I was born, my mom and biological father were married. My name was Della G-1 (keep track, this will get complicated) I kept that name legally even after the divorce, but I think I went by something else, because I can't remember writing Della G-1 on any of my schoolwork. I might have gone by Della L. (her maiden name), which I also went by later. Anyway, in 4th grade, my mother found out that even though my biological dad wasn't anything close to an upstanding citizen, that if he so chose he could come to my school at any time and take me, even though custody was hers, and he was violent. He could take me, simply because by our matching last name, he could prove he was my father.

My step dad at the time, Don, who I now consider "Dad" and my mom had been considering having him adopt me legally anyway, and so they pushed that through, to keep me from being kidnapped. So my name became Della T.

That it stayed until 10th grade, when we moved, and I noticed that on the enrollment forms for my new school it had a separate field for "legal name" and "name you wish to be called". At that time I wasn't getting along well with my step dad, so asked if I could go by something other than Della T. My mom figured it was no big deal ( I guess. If she had reservations, I don't remember her telling me them) so I went (back?) to Della L. (her maiden name) (keeping track? That's the 4th last name change.)

After I had to drop out of school because I was sick, and then came back, I had decided going by anything other than my legal name was stupid, so when I re-enrolled, I just put "Della T." on the form, and became that again.

At 19 I got married. And became Della C. with no hesitation. My last name had been a fluid thing. It wasn't connected to my identity in any way. It was fun, actually, to change my name as easily, almost, as my appearance. I could become someone else, now someone MARRIED! How fun!

When I got divorced, it seemed silly to go back to Della T. Della C. was easier to write, and I didn't regret the marriage (or the divorce, but I'm contradictory like that).

Later, I met Mike. When we got married, it would have seemed wrong to keep my first married name with my second husband, so again, without hesitation, I changed to Della G-2. I feel connected to my husband that way, and my children will carry on his name as well. If it is a part of "me" and an essential part of my identity, however, is debatable. Ask me again when I've had it longer than any of my other last names. ( I think I was Della C. the longest....6 years., Della T. is tied, unless you don't count the 2 years I was Della L. in high school, then Della T. wins. whatever.)

Maybe when Kaia gets married, she will have doubts about losing her last name. It will be who she has been her whole life, and her connection with her daddy is much stronger than mine is even with my step dad, though I call him dad and think of him as my father. Kaia and her dad, however, have been together her whole life. He is her Hero. It will be interesting to see what she decides.

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