Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Girl By Any Other Name

Lately, as wedding planning is heating up again and I am swimming in a sea of DIY invitations, favors and flowers (oh my!), a singular issue has been rolling around in my head.

Do I change my name?

I'm sure I'm not the only bride-to-be that has tackled this issue with the same amount of angst as I keep experiencing. Surely I am not the only woman who has struggled with the idea of giving up her family name and taking on another...just like that.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't love Lobster and wouldn't be honored to share his last name. Of course I would. But my last name, to me, is not just a name. It is part of my identity. It is a large part of who I am. How do I just give it up?

My family hails from a long line of proud Scots. Our family name has spawned kings and queens, knights, nobles, doctors, inventors, and lawyers (me being the cutest one so far, clearly). We have fought in great wars from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and beyond. We have a history of being a proud, honorable, albeit stubborn, people. We wear our name with honor and pride.

But now I am being asked to set it aside like it was a worn garment. Something to be replaced by something just as beautiful and well made, but new and, well, not as comfortable because of its newness.

Of course, there are women who choose not to change their name at all. While I think that is a fine solution for those women, it doesn't necessarily sit well with me. I am of the firm belief that when we are married, Lobster and I will become "one," as it were. We will be our own little family and I believe a family should share a name. When we have kids, they will have Lobster's last name. So why shouldn't I?

Besides, a name is only a name, isn't it? It does not make me who I am as a person. It may identify me, but it does not define me. And although donning a new name may feel foreign and uncomfortable to me at first, it does not mean that I won't grow to cherish it as much as I do my family name.

What's more is that when I become Lobster's wife, I will become a different person.

What? You may ask. How does one become a different person when she gets married? Well, I'm glad you asked...

Today, I am a bright, confident, happy, loving, fiercely independent single woman. Yes, that's right, I said single. Technically, by law and under my Christian beliefs, both Lobster and I are single people. But on that shining day in November when we become man and wife, we will both change dramatically. Of course, you will not see it on the outside. We will still appear to all the same as we ever were. But on the inside, we will be a different version of ourselves. Lobster will no longer be a carefree bachelor, but a husband and a provider to a family. I will still be bright, confident, happy and loving, but my fierce independence will no longer have a place in my life as I will be a wife and one-half of the whole that Lobster and I will become. Each of us will become more than what we were alone, and less of what we had previously been.

Recently I read an article on why brides change their last names. The article was Christian based, but not the kind that makes you feel like someone's chasing after you with a cross and a Bible. It was a very well researched, well written article that explains how God gave people new names when their purpose or life course changed. It explained that today, when women change their names to their husband's, it signifies to the world that her life has changed. That she has a new identity as a wife. That she is now the wife of a man who has promised to love and cherish her where before she had only been the daughter of a man who has loved and protected her. To change her name, the woman tells the world that she has become a different version of herself; a better version.

I know myself well enough to know that change scares me. Terrifies me. And maybe that is the root of my struggle with whether or not to change my name. Yes, it will be new and different. Yes, it will be a HUGE change. Yes, it will re-identify me as someone other than who I've come to know as myself. But isn't this what marriage is about? Isn't the fact that I am committing to become a wife, to become one with my husband, a rebirth of sorts? I am trading in my former name to signify that I am willingly becoming something different; something more; something new and exciting. I am becoming something better than I was alone.

But more than that, although changing my last name will re-identify me, as I said above, it will not define me. Identity is an "individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognized or known." However, to define something is to "express the essential nature of something." My last name, whether it remains what is has been for the last 30 years or changes upon my marriage, will not express my essential nature. Only my words and actions can do that. My name is merely an individual characteristic by which I will be recognized. That's all. Nothing more or less.

Having determined all of that, I realize that maybe this issue is no longer an issue for me. Maybe I just needed reassurance that I am not losing a part of who I am. More importantly, I needed to understand why it was important for me to change my name and re-identify myself upon marriage. And it is important. It will signify a new course in my life and allow others to recognize me as the wife of Lobster. My essential nature will only change in that I will become a better version of who I've always been.

So although it might feel new and uncomfortable at first, I will wear my new name with the same pride and confidence that I have worn my father's name. It will become a part of me, not the other way around. 

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