Monday, April 4, 2011

Name Changing

I was raised by a feminist.  My Mom probably would not call herself a feminist, but she was in college taking women’s studies classes when I was growing up.  She believes in marriage strongly, but had definite ideas about equality for women.  She is a devout Mormon, so some might say that conflicts with the ideals of feminism, but most importantly she raised me to believe that anything was possible for me.  She raised me to believe I was equal in every way to my brothers and to all men.  She raised all of us as hard workers in the home.  My brothers did as much to clean the home as we girls did, and I never had any idea it would be any other way.  

I think it was because of this that I never had any idea that changing my name when I got married would be anti-feminist in any way.  My sister hyphenated her name when she got married.  I was just a teenager.  I’m not sure if that was the feminist inside of her, or because her husband had a common last name and our maiden name is more unique.  In fact, my brother-in-law even offered to change his last name to ours when they married, but that never happened.  I never gave it much thought, I just always planned to change my name.  So, I never expected it to be hard to change my name!  Not the actual process of changing my name, although that was a challenge too, and one for another post.  

I’ve been a Harrell for 32 years, and I always felt that taking my husband’s last name would be a sign of us creating our own family.  And while it does, part of me feels the loss of my own being when we created that family.  I love Shawn, I love being a family with him, so I’m surprised at feeling this loss!  Each time I changed my name, at my bank, at work, on my Drivers License, I felt excited to be more and more a Walker, but also felt the loss of the Harrell part of me keenly.  In church when they announced Annie Walker would be giving the closing prayer I thought, “Who is Annie Walker, I thought I was giving the prayer!”  When I change my voice message on my work phone I always have think “Annie WALKER, Annie WALKER” and still it comes out as Annie Harrell half of the time.  I didn’t expect it to be hard, I was excited to do it, so it was surprising to me that it has been hard!  

Most of my friends married when they were younger, in their early 20’s so I wonder if there is a difference marrying slightly older.  Is it because I created a career as Annie Harrell?  Is it easier when you don’t have as much to change?  When you don’t have to tell clients in emails that your name has changed?  I have changed everything from my Social Security card to my Delta Sky Miles card.  There’s one hold out.  My passport.  I have stamps for England, China, Mexico and Canada in that passport.  But Shawn and I plan to travel, so I know I’ll have to get a new passport.  I wonder if maybe, when that final piece of the puzzle is done, will I feel complete, like I’ve taken all the steps and am officially a Walker?  Will I get a sense of accomplishment or will I mourn the final loss of Harrell as my last name?  

What about you?  If you are married did you change your name?  Did you feel a sense of loss of identity?  If you are single have you thought about changing your name?