Hi, my name is… or is it?

I think I want to mention name-changing.

I really didn’t want to bring this up as I’ve personally witnessed general chit-chat  turn into some pretty hardcore arguments as it’s so polarising.  And I don’t like conflict.

OK, I have this box at my mum’s place. Well, it started off as a massive box of stuff, but now it’s a whisper of a manila folder of stuff. It’s got all my arty, crafty, writey stuff in it from when I was a little tacker.

I get waves of nostalgia whenever I sift through it.

Sometimes I am mesmerised by my own rediscovery of my little self through these things, sometimes I try desperately hard to send a telepathic thought through time to save her the grief of this-or-that choice.

But one thing always makes me giggle. The names printed in clumsy handwriting on the inside of my school exercise books.

More often than not, these names are all a bit different.

I was a weird kid that changed her name all the time.  To the point that I even wrote my name on the top of the page of a story I had written as ‘Lindy’.

Yep, as in Lindy Chamberlain.

As I got older I started doing things more like normal girls, like practicing a signature that wasn’t mine.

And now, 27 years later, that schoolgirl fantasy is colliding pretty fast with reality.

A couple of things have changed since 1984.

Firstly, thought I would be no older than 21 when I got married and second, the name I had been practicing dutifully since I was 7, Mrs Brett Hull, was for nothing.

Me at seven - 1984

Between the ages of 22 and 24, I thought ‘hell yeah, I’ll change my name’. That’s because I was madly in love and his name sounded cool paired with mine.

This was before I went to uni and learnt what critical thinking was.

But instead of quoting Foucault or Freud, I have another person in mind that knows better than anyone.

My mum.

OK, so my Nan has been married three times, my mum twice, and fingers crossed, I’ll just stick with the one, thanks.

I asked mum what her personal experience was of changing her name.

She explained it succinctly – she has been three different people her whole life: The life before being married the first time – her life married to my father – then her life married to my stepfather.

That’s three different identities, which can be tracked specifically depending on which surname she had at the time.

It’s a compelling thought.

When I pretended my name was someone else’s as a child, I acted differently – I had a new persona. Kind of a clean slate.  I can only imagine that this is a suped-up, scary-real version of that.

The question is – do I really want to change that? For realz?

Why fix what isn’t broke?

The industry that I work in, changing your name can feel like erasing years of building up a brand. Before people even met you, the longer you’ve been around, chances are more people probably have heard your name.

For example, Perth people might remember a Channel Ten newsreader in the 90s called Christina Everett.

Doesn’t really ring a bell, does it?

That’s because her working name is Christina Morrissy.

I remember hearing a newsreader on the ABC with a distinctive voice and one day, all of a sudden signed off with a different last name, years later I’m still not used to it.

My point is that it can just get too hard to change it. Well, maybe not hard as it is distracting.

I recently asked my Facebook friends to help me get some insight on how other people feel about this with a very scientific poll.

Very scientific.

The ladies 

Told you it was polarising.

What I found interesting –

  • Women wanted to talk about it more in the comments section. Mainly they wanted more options in the poll or they wanted to explain their choice.
  • Women that have kept/plan to keep their last name seem happy for their children to take the name of their male partner.

The blokes

Far more haphazard poll answers and far less comments

What I found interesting –

  • Guys don’t like hyphenating
  • Equal amounts of guys (yes it’s a tie at 3 each, I know) are happy with separate surnames as guys that would be disappointed their girl isn’t keen on changing her name and would try to talk her around.

AND

  •  Guys expect that any children to come from the partnership will bear his last name.

Blokes seem generally pretty happy for their wives to do what they want, but seem to be generally protective of their offspring’s lineage.

So what will I do…?

I feel really lucky. The Mister has a nice last name that has two syllables, like my surname at the moment.

If we have children, I have to admit I don’t think I would like having a different last name to them.

Errrrgh, but I can’t help but notice another thing… whenever I mention to other women that I probably will take my husband’s last name, it not unusual that I get the retort, ‘Why?’

*Kind of the way that perhaps a (progressive, nay subversive) woman might be looked at if, decades ago, she decided not to take on the family name.

Like, is it fashionable to not take the man’s name at the moment?

Since when did it become de riguer to pooh-pooh someone for taking it? – inferring that this decision is akin to betraying my womanhood… or just plain weak.

It’s not. I actually think I’m pretty brave to go ahead and do it.

Author of Offbeat Bride, Ariel Stallings, recently wrote: “No matter what you do, you will get grief from someone who did the opposite. It is a choice that everyone faces when they get married, and everyone has a lifetime of experience that shapes that choice. A very good friend (who calls herself a feminist) told me upon finding out that I changed my name that it was 2002, and I was allowed to keep my last name if I wanted to — as if I wasn’t aware that it was an option! Sometimes I feel a little defensive about changing my name, as I imagine the keepers feel, as well. I have a very equitable relationship with my husband, and I’d hate to think that people assume otherwise just because I changed my name.”

She adds that her identity before she married is still floating around: “I know she’s here: That bitch gets ass-loads of junk mail.”

But – and get this –  my grandparents have a different last name to me, mum has a different last name to me, my other brother happens to have a different last name to me (long story) and his wife has a different last name to him…in our nuclear family alone, more of us have different names than the same…and I really could go on when it comes to The Mister’s family.

Different, in my neck of the woods, is normal…

The simple truth is this – I don’t want my marriage to become more political than it already is in my mind.

Just one last thing.

As my work colleague said to me, if you don’t want to do it, don’t. If you do, do.

Pretty good advice.

My friend Karen just Facebooked this photo to me. Karen is on the left, that’s me with the long hair, the boy behind me is THE kiss-chasey king and my childhood future husband Brett Hull himself… I forget who the ginger is :/

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