A Rose By Any Other Name…

The number one question I’ve been asked lately–after, of course, the date of the wedding–has been: Are you changing your last name?

If you’re a long time reader of my blog, you might be aware of my thoughts on this subject. Being a feminist, I do question the tradition of a female changing her last name on marriage. Having gone through it before, I am completely aware of what a pain in the ass it is to change your last name. It was even more frustrating when I decided to change my name back to my maiden name in 2005 because unlike a divorce, there’s just no clear order (such as a “divorce decree”) for the law to see a direct connection to changing your name back it its original form. I guessed by the many baffled looks I got when trying to do the name change that widows don’t often put their name back to their maiden name. Maybe because most widows are old and they were their married name longer than their maiden name. Maybe because other young widows have children with whom the last name represents a connection. Maybe some people just don’t bother to change it back. For a lot of personal reasons, however, I had to.

When I went through the process of getting my maiden name back, I brought copies of my birth certificate, marriage license, and Mike’s death certificate. Sometimes that wasn’t enough information because the death of someone else–even your husband–does not necessarily make a connection to a name change. Even though the death certificate does contain a field for Surviving Spouse that indicates the maiden name should be used, if female. Looking over Mike’s death certificate last night, I realized my name is actually on his death certificate twice: once with my maiden name in the Surviving Spouse field and a second time with my married name in the Informer field (because I was the one who called the ambulance, I assume). So you would think that would be enough proof of my identity attached to Mike’s. And wouldn’t you assume that a birth certificate trumps all? It’s obvious I wasn’t trying to invent a new name all together.

Still, it was even harder to change my name back to my maiden name than it was to change it to my married name. Such a fuss, in fact, that I did not change my name on everything. I was in the middle of changing my name when I bought my house; therefore, my house title and all of my utility bills are in my married name. Recently when I went to buy a new car, I realized that my car title (I bought my car in 2003) was in my married name. So, of course, there was a bit of a fuss with that. I had to run around town the day after I bought the car trying to straighten things out between the title company and the dealership.

Needless to say, the name change thing has never ceased to be painful. I’m still kind of caught between two identities. And now I’m about to get married again. So I made to mull over the whole issue again.

I would have voted to keep my last name. But in fairness to Crow, I took his feelings into account. I suppose there is somewhat of a lack of unity in keeping two separate last names when you’re trying to build a single family. And, I admit, that sharing names appeals to the romantic in me. I did seriously contemplate hyphenating my maiden name with Crow’s last name since, unlike my first married name, this would actually work without causing a brain aneurism for anyone trying to pronounce the entire name. As I thought about all the situations in which I would have to give my full name–and how long it takes to say even this simple hyphenation–it seemed like more of a hassle than it was worth. People are still unsure about hyphenated names. Even if there is clearly a hyphen in the name, people don’t seem to understand what it means or how to deal with it. I’ve spent all my life–both married and unmarried–with names that are apparently difficult for people to pronounce or spell without specific guidance. I always spell my name when asked it–even my first name since people can’t seem to spell that either.

Hyphenating also doesn’t solve the problem of having to go through the whole odious name change process, as I’d still have to go to the Social Security office, the license bureau, and then mail out marriage licenses to every credit card company and bank I use (which are numerous).

And then, I thought, is it really fair to the Crow since I did change my last name for Mike? He didn’t express any jealousy over the issue, but I felt it was a little unfair to him. As if I was saying that there was something less about my relationship with Crow that I wouldn’t fully embrace his last name like I did Mike’s. I know, I’m over-analyzing the situation. But I think if roles were reversed, and it was my name a man was taking or leaving, and he was a widower who changed his name the first time, I might feel a little miffed.

Even though I spent days going through the same thought process about changing my name for my first marriage, I ultimately decided to change my name. Because… well, I loved him and I wanted to be a member of the “team.” Not for his family or anyone else. For both of us. I know that I have similar feelings about Crow. And I guess I can’t go around life assuming that the same scenario that prompted me to dump my first married name would happen a second time around should anything happen to Crow. I have to give people the benefit of the doubt.

I feel that changing my name–knowing fully what a pain in the ass it is to do–is almost a commitment of sorts. It’s like saying that I trust that our marriage will work out. That I won’t have to go through this whole mess again no matter what. I think I’m sacrificing a little something to make a statement to the man I love that I believe in us.

So, the short of it is: I am changing my last name.

I know. Shocking.

When I told Crow that I decided to change my last name, he said, “Well, I’ll go with you to all the offices where you need to sign the name change forms, if you want, as moral support.”

I was touched. He realizes the sacrifice I’m making for him and he’s offering some comfort through the frustration of legalizing the name change! That statement alone assured me that I’d made the right decision.

My only amendment to agreeing to the name change is that I am going to use both my maiden name and my married name–sans hyphen–whenever I submit my writing to publication. I won’t use my given middle initial in that case. It will simply be my first name, maiden name, and last name–the maiden name looking as though it were a middle name. When I really thought about it, I realized that it was having my maiden name attached to my writing that was most important to me. And I know I want Crow’s last name on whatever I write as well since he’s so passionately supportive of my attempt to fulfill my lifelong dream of publication. I want him to be a part of my successes as well.