Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Jo By Any Other Name...

For the past several years -- well, for most of my adult life, actually -- I have been thinking about reverting back to my maiden name. I have never been comfortable with my married name. I was married at a very young age, and my husband died when I was 24, and for all of these years, I have not felt any connection to my name.  Our names identify us and they identify the connection we have to the other members of the family who have the same name.  I was born with my maiden name, and I was born into a family of people who shared my name.  My fondest memories are of the times I spent with the people who shared my maiden name.  My married name has always felt foreign to me.  Like a visitor in a distant land, I am homesick for my own family.  Good, bad or indifferent, our families are the people with whom we share DNA and history.

I liked who I was when I had my maiden name.   Oddly enough, I have never felt a completeness with my married name, even though I have carried that name for much longer than I did my maiden name.  However, my maiden name rolls off my tongue comfortably, whereas my married name feels like someone else's name, someone with whom I am not entirely familiar.  Who is that person?  Is it me?  No, I don't think so.  It doesn't feel like me. It's not a bad name, it's just not my name.  My brothers, fortunately, have been able to go through their lives with the same name.  I kept my married name for the sake of my daughter while she was growing up, in order to have the same name, but our names have been different for a long time now, and of course, her children's names are two generations removed.

I admire women who keep their maiden names when they get married.   They are not the chattel of the people they marry.  They are entities unto themselves, with a history before they married. I am not an extension of the person to whom I was briefly married.   I am a person in my own right, and I love my maiden name.  It's who I am.  I know it sounds silly, but I always felt rather special that my name was a "Mc" name.  It set me apart a little bit.  I miss the "Mc".  All of the things that have gone into making up this strange creature called *me* were there when I had my maiden name, and I want it back.

20 comments:

Hilary said...

Then go for it. It's your right, for sure.

I have been married twice. I took my first husband's name and kept it through the divorce, and up until I married my kids' father. By then, the law in my native Quebec changed in favour of women keeping our maiden names. So I did what confused a lot of people who didn't know me before my first marriage... I took my maiden name back when I married my second husband.

Some people assumed his surname was my own maiden name for a while, until folks began to get used to the idea of women keeping their own names. Our kids are hyphenated.. Mine-His.

I can remember a lot of disgruntled people (men, mostly) at the time of the change in law which stated that women had to keep their own names through marriage but could go through a legal name change if they wanted to take their husband's name. I thought it was one of the things Quebec got right.

Leslie: said...

Oh you should do it! I feel exactly the same way as I never felt like a "married name" but never never want to take back my "birth name." So I might just change it to "new surname" if you know who & I get married. It's such a nice name, anyway, and both my daughters have/will have different last names too. You have to do what is right for you!

Jo said...

Hilary, good for you! I kept my married name to avoid confusion when my daughter was a child in school, but now that she is grown and has children of her own, I have no attachment whatsoever to my "married" name.

I had no idea of the laws in Quebec. Very interesting.

Jo said...

Leslie, I can see you with your new *you-know-who's* name. It fits very well with your name. And yes, our names are very personal, aren't they?

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

Strange I have had these same feelings for a long long time.
I think the only reason I have kept my married name is because of the trouble of changing everything otherwise I would do it in a minute.
From reading this I think you would be happier.
Good luck
Maggie

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Just do it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Before I married Flip (and took his name) I invented a surname for myself, which I used for many years since I didn't want to keep my leftover married name, nor did I have good associations with my maiden name. Names are very important, and it's time you were fully comfortable with yours.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Go for it, Jo!

i kept my own name when I got married. It helped that I was 32, was established as a writer and was marrying a man who felt secure enough with his own identity not to demand that I become "Mrs. Him."

Curiously, the only person who seemed unhappy about my decision was my otherwise delightful mother-in-law. She felt my decision reflected a reluctance to become part of their family and was disrespectful of her beloved son. I think I was eventually able to convince her that I could be a part of her family without renouncing my own name or family. I felt strongly that renouncing my name for his would upset the equal power basis of our marriage -- and I had always wanted a lifelong identity that reflects my Irish heritage.

My sister, who has been married and divorced twice, has had two married names and is now back to her maiden name with a new first name -- Tai -- that she likes better than her given name of Patricia. She said she feels really comfortable with her name at last. Point of further interest: her daughter also changed her name legally to her mom's maiden name once she reached 18 and is now also officially a McCoy.

A human kind of human said...

Hi Jo, I actually copied a piece to quote in my comment. When I read it I though: "Wow! this is so profound" and then I read on and truth is, if I want to post a profound quote, it would have to be your post entirely. This is exactly how I feel. I have just never been able to give it wings like you did. Thanks for saying it for me. (So are you going for it?)

PhilipH said...

You have my permission to go ahead and revert to your maiden name.

That's all you need Jo, so do it.

DJan said...

I married very young and had children and took my husband's name. When we divorced I kept his name because the judge wouldn't allow me to have a name different from my children's. After yet another divorce and having the name of my then-husband, I finally reverted to my maiden name. When I married my present guy, I was fifty and there was never any question of my changing my name. Whatever would I have done that for? We love each other and don't have any children.

So, I completely undertand your desire to have your maiden name back, as I did, and it's been the "real" me. I hope changing it does the same for you! :-)

Sextant said...

I have always hated my first name. I asked my mother why did you give me such a geeky name? Because I didn't want another Jim (my father) in the family. When my daughter (by the ultra sound) ended up growing a stinger in the last trimester of my wife's pregnancy, he was named Jim.

As far as surname's go I would much prefer my mother's to my fathers.

Changing your name will be a PIA, but if you feel that strongly about it, then go for it.

ZeldaMom said...

I say go for it too, why not!?

Single and Sane said...

Life's too long to live with a name that doesn't feel right. Go for it!

Margaret

Jay said...

"and I want it back."
Then take it! It's yours.

Carol E. said...

Wow, to lose your husband at age 24... how young and how sad! I am happy with my married last name, because it is shorter and easier to pronounce. But once in a while I still miss my old name. When I got married and changed it, i was surprised at how hard that was. A name really is a special thing. I have now been my new name for almost 37 years and was my original name for only 22, so I am content with who I am now. Life is too short to feel disconnected to yourself. I say change it if that's what you want to do!

Carol E. said...

LOL. I see one person said to change your name because "life is too long" and I said to do it because "life is too short." That's what happens when ask a bunch of random fools to give you advice! hahaha! (Not that you asked for advice, but you opened up the topic, therefore we felt obliged to tell you what to do.)

Paula Slade said...

I'm a big supporter of women having a choice to keep their family name, or hyphenate it when they marry. The only problem is, sometimes you can't get folks to abide by your choice, and they insist on calling you by your husband's last name.

JeannetteLS said...

Well, our names were chosen partly for the music they made with our surnames... not always, but frequently. I hope you choose to take the name back.

I kept my maiden name when I married and BOTH my parents asked, "Are you simply preparing for divorce?" I simply told them it was my name. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. They did not approve, and my mother always introduced me after that as "This is my daughter, Mrs. Mark F..."

I would say, "No, I'm Jeannette."

My name did not sound right with his last name, and I do not read into that at all, not even in retrospect.

You are Jo. You are you. And if, in reclaiming parts of you you feel you have lost, I think that the symbol of recovering your own name may hold power you haven't seen yet.

@ly said...

Rather than keeping my maiden name...I just made my maiden name my "middle name".. it makes me smile whenever I see the middle initial there. Especially since I now no longer have either parent living. :-)