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What’s in a Name?

Last week, a friend queried a few of us ladies to get our thoughts on changing our names after marriage. Here’s what I wrote to her:

I never really swung hard one way or the other before I was married about whether or not I would change my name. When I did get married, it was important to him that I change my name, so I did. And I’m not ashamed to admit I did like being Mr. and Mrs Same Name. One family. One name. I liked that.

As our marriage went on and I became more and more unhappy, I knew it was going to end. About a month before it did, I changed my name back to Shirley. Funny because at work, I sent an e-mail out indicating that my name was Shirley now and got a shitload of e-mails back either saying “Congratulations on your wedding!” or “Sorry about your divorce.” And all I had to say was, “It’s neither. Just going back to what I know.”

I remember I took a day off to run around and get my name changed back, and he called me while I was doing all this running around and asked me what it meant. I told him it just meant that I wanted to be who I really am: Anne Shirley. But in my heart I knew that wasn’t the reason. I didn’t want his name because I didn’t want him.

Going back to my maiden name was one of the best times of that time of my life. It gave me a lot of strength. My name is Anne SHIRLEY. I, Anne SHIRLEY, don’t want to be here anymore. I, Anne SHIRLEY, am getting the fuck outta here. I, Anne SHIRLEY, am going to go save my own life now. (Yes, you can have whatever you want. You can have everything. You can ruin my life as much as you can over the next two years. Please please please just let me go.)

So now I’m Anne Shirley once more. I like it. It suits me. I love being a Shirley. There is an identity there that ties me to people who will always be there for me, no matter what. People who understand me. People who are crazy like me. There are traits that “Shirley’s” have, and I have them. I know I do. That name makes me feel like I belong somewhere. I would love it if my married name had made me feel like I belonged, but all it did was make me feel more alienated from myself. (And there was already enough of that going on in those years, believe me.) I also didn’t feel like I belonged in that family, so taking that name only made me feel like I was kind of losing my place in one family, but I didn’t feel like I was taking up a spot in a new one.

I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t change my name again (Anne Blythe? Really?), but I know it would be hard to do. Much harder than getting married again (which is still not something I can fully wrap my head around yet). I still like the Mr. and Mrs. Same Name. I still like the idea of one family, one name. If there were children involved especially, it would be nice for all of us to have one family name. But it would be hard. Really hard. Maybe too hard. Maybe not worth doing if it’s going to be that hard, given that it doesn’t matter to Gilbert. But I’ve changed my mind on such things before.

Oh yeah. I’m back, Bitches.

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