What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? Not much according to some and a whole lot according to others, I learned as I was handed the whole gamut of opinions when I changed my name last year. I ditched my married name to reclaim my maiden name in the absence of getting a divorce — my marriage still intact.

Following my engagement nine years ago my friends took great delight in hypothesizing what my future name might be. If I chose the double barrel route what sort of regal fish would I be: A Trout King? Or a King Trout? Or would I simply forego King to assume life as a Trout? Which was apt in a sense: I’d often been called a fish — my adolescence spent trawling up and down swimming pools.

I had great difficulty with the idea of parting ways with my family name- it felt like giving away a piece of myself. And it was, despite convincing myself otherwise. I was “Kingy” to my best and oldest friends. And yet I wanted to have the same name as my children when the time came. I liked the idea of being a family united by name.

My husband and I returned from our honeymoon to the unexpected news that we were expecting. My IUD had shifted ever so slightly and allowed a little someone to slip through to the keeper.

I had less time to ponder the King vs. Trout conundrum than I anticipated. Ultimately the notion of our clan being affiliated by name won out. In honesty, changing, or indeed giving up my name was a resignation, rather than choice.

And as Clementine Ford writes, “no choice is made in a vacuum” as she encourages women to question giving up their name after marriage. It’s inevitable we are influenced by the societal and cultural climate around us.

If I wanted us to have a name that connected our family, it was clear I was going to be the one to change it. My husband was not open to taking my name and he’s not alone. 96% of respondents on a Men’s Health Survey said they would not take on a woman’s last name.

The change never felt quite right. Regret lingered — a sure indication I’d betrayed my intuition.

The unexpected arrival of life instigated my original name change, and so it was the unexpected departure of life that led me to change it back. Last year my mother went in for a routine hip replacement and shockingly, she died. A startling contrast to my father’s death, ­­­­­­­where the inevitability of the end was in sight years before the final day arrived and cancer overtook him.

Grief heaped upon past grief and I was left with the realization that the people I’d grown up with — my family of origin — were gone. My anchors had vanished and I felt adrift.

It became very clear, very quickly that I wanted to reclaim my name. It secured me to the people I loved and my sense of who I was. I had deluded myself in believing otherwise. Would I have changed my name if it weren’t for losing my parents? I’m not sure. But I wouldn’t have changed it for quids in the first place if I had my time over.

I’ve received varying reactions to my name change. Those close to me applauded. A few vultures scavenged for gossip thinking my marriage had tanked. And a few women told me it was just a name and was of little importance. Incidentally these women had given up their name at least once, sometimes twice as they’d moved onto second marriages, which begged the question why they changed it at all if it was of no import?

And really — where would we be without names? Should we embrace a culture as walking and talking serial numbers? Names are important and are inexorably tied with meaning and identity.

There’s power in a name. Just ask Osher Günsberg — the television and radio personality formerly known as Andrew G.

Osher tells of the Shaman in Israel that inspired his name change and describes the effect it had on him— “With a new name comes an entirely new experience of life”. At the end of the day writes Osher, it “just feels right.”

I concur. It never felt right giving my name up but it sure felt right taking it back. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Prominent Feminist Catherine Deveny says it best: “Women need to stop caving in and placating. They need to shake off the social pressure to ‘follow tradition’ and ask themselves what they really want to do.”

I caved in and I regretted it. It’s worth questioning our choices and really examining our deepest wants.

I swallowed the lie that to be a family you must all have the same name, which was a load of tripe. I feel every bit as connected to my three children as I ever have. And why wouldn’t I? They grew inside my womb and birthed them into the world — I don’t need to surrender my name to validate that.

Names mean something. And so does listening to our own truth.

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