anchored in light

A lifestyle blog about finding light in every avenue of life

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why I Changed My Name

Not too long ago, someone that I know posted on Facebook about changing her name. She "wasn't getting married" (she was totally about to get engaged), but wanted to know what people thought about women changing their names. Whether they did or didn't and why. 
I had just gotten married and just changed my own name. I thought about the reasons why I did it. Did I do it because I had to? My husband had told me on more than one occasion that he didn't expect me to change my name to his, that he might even be willing to change his name to mine. Was it culturally forced on me? 

I thought about these questions and really, for the most part, put the topic aside. I didn't comment on the post and just let it ruminate a bit in my mind.

Recently she posted again about how she would not be changing her name when she got married and so I thought about it a little more. She said that she thought it was sad that women so quickly abandon the name that they have carried for 20+ years for someone else's name. While I respect her decision to change her name, and I understand where that comment comes from, I wholeheartedly disagree with the sentiment. 

My whole life I was raised to believe in families, that while I may have a career, and I may never even get married, a family was the most important thing that I could do in my life.
I agreed, and I disagreed. 

I wanted that fairytale ending. The husband, the house, the children. However, this wasn't all that I wanted. I wanted to be a scientist, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be anything but JUST a housewife. I hadn't learned to value the term the way that it ought to be valued. 
I decided pretty early on that I didn't want to get married straight out of high school. I wanted to defy that stereotype. I wanted to get married at 23. I'd already have my degree, I'd have some life under my belt, and maybe even the beginnings of a career. But I'd be too young to really be considered an old maid, even by Mormon culture standards. 

So when I hit 25 and finally got engaged, feeling very much the old maid, but still wanting to defy expectations, I seriously considered keeping my name. It was a part of who I was. I was proud of it. I'd treasured that name for years, and I'd known for quite awhile that the family last name was dying out unless my brother had the 12 sons I'd wished on him (2 down, 10 to go!). When the Captain said that I could keep my last name, I said, of course I would take his last name, but I still harbored a little dissent in my mind. Should I really leave my last name behind when I got married?

I thought a lot about what we do to identify ourselves, how we label ourselves in so many different ways to define us and who we are. I'm a runner. I'm a writer. A blogger. A dabbler. A name defines us in a way that we don't really get to choose. It has meant extra punishment for me when teachers realized that I was related to someone they didn't like. It has meant community when I've gone to the Scottish festival, even with people I'd never met before. But the real truth is that I didn't leave any of that behind when I changed my name. I simply added a new layer to the ways that I define myself. I am both now. 

Ultimately I decided to take his last name. For many reasons. It wasn't that it was expected. It wasn't that I felt that my husband would disapprove if I didn't, or that anyone would disapprove if I didn't.

I was proud to be his. I was proud to bear his name. It was a solid definer of how my life was different. I almost wonder if it's odd for boys to keep their last name, because, for me, the changing of my name was a new start. A line of before and after. With one "Yes" over an altar, I had changed the names of my immediate family from siblings and parents to just the Captain. Stoll was the beginning of my fairy tale. Like adding Princess to the beginning of my name. I was moving into the castle and through thick and thin, he would be my partner. 
FOR ME, it was an important step. It was an exciting step. I still love to hear the little kids mangle it and the people who knew me before stumble over it. To me, it's a happy reminder of who I belong to, and who belongs to me. 

Like wedding rings, I love that our name binds us together. No, I don't think that having the same name makes us any more or less committed to each other. Deciding to keep your maiden name after you're married is just as valid a choice as changing it, just like deciding that your life dream is to be a housewife is just as valid as deciding you want to be a lawyer, or that you want to be both. What's right for me, isn't always right for you. But let me assure you that I did not cast off my maiden name without any thought, that I did it for my husband, or for the benefit of anyone else. I changed my name, and I changed it for me. For how it makes me happy. 
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