Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What's in a name?

On the weekend an in-law discovered that Flash and I were married, I didn’t realize that this person didn’t know, she is rather difficult and I walked myself straight into a minefield…to the point where I could see her daughter waving “no, stop” at me, but I just kept going.

The issue was not the marriage – the issue was “the name”

The conversation (interrogation) went a little like this:

So you actually are a Bloggs* now?!

Well, no, my name is still “Justine Turner”

Whats wrong with Bloggs*, it’s my name, it’s a good name

There is nothing wrong with Bloggs* – but it’s not my name

Well, it actually is…oh, after all the trouble we went to, to find out your last name – and you actually were a Bloggs* all the time. I am so angry!

I am not doing this to upset you, I prefer to be called “Justine Turner” it has been my name for 38 years, and it is unlikely that will change, you wouldn’t ask Flash to change his last name.

But he is a man, and you are a family now – the Bloggs* family

I am married to Flash Bloggs* but my daughters are named “Turner” I don’t want to add to the upheaval in their lives by changing my name – so there has to be a big explanation every time I take them to the Dr or visit the school – given that I am still the person who engages in 99% of these activities with the children.

(note how I completely ignored the “he’s a man” statement – I am silly, but not suicidal)

I am so angry about this!

(husband finally got the desperate telepathic messages and came into the lounge- abruptly ending the conversation)

I am an intelligent woman, I am a nice person – therefore you would immediately surmise that:
a) I have a reason for retaining my maiden name after marriage and
b) I am not doing it to hurt anyone.

I figure that’s all anyone needs to know, if they are curious they are welcome to ask me (nicely) but they are not welcome to attack me for my choice.
If Flash and I were to have a child, I would probably add his name to mine, not hyphenated, but in the tradition of some North American women “Justine Turner Bloggs*” however Flash and I are not going to have a child, so it isn’t an issue.

Flash’s last name isn’t the easiest name, people always ask twice, it isn’t terrible, but in his explanation to people of me retaining “Turner”, he simply says “well you wouldn’t want to be a Bloggs* if you didn’t have to be” he also ensures that if we are going to any event for business reasons – the organizers know my name ( usually to escape the inevitable comment from me “ Mrs Bloggs* ? jeepers Flash you didn’t tell me that your ex-wife was going to be here!” boy am I lucky he has a wicked sense of humour ) most people are aware enough to understand, and when introducing myself in these situations I just say “Hi – I’m Justine Turner – I'm married to Gordon” that gives them my name, and answers their unsaid questions.

I am not dogmatic, I do not have a problem per se with women (or men) changing their name after marriage, it does give the family cohesion, but I have a problem with it being automatic, names have magic in them – your name quite literally is your identity – so giving it up should be done with thoughtfulness and awareness.

I would love to hear your views and experiences…did you change your name happily – leaving your old one behind like a discarded cocoon? Or did you feel bad inside and not even know why? Did you question the convention internally – but were too scared to rock the boat? Did you and your partner retain your individual names and negotiate when naming the kids. Or did you choose a whole new surname together?!

* - not his real name, oh that it was - I probably would change my name then...imagine "Justine Bloggs" because it's who I am and what I do!