“Do you plan to go back to your maiden name?” someone asked, some time before my divorce was final.
I hesitated for a minute.
I hadn’t thought about my name, frankly.
When I was much younger, I remember thinking about just how difficult it would be for me to give up my maiden name. It sounded ‘just right’ along with my first name, I always thought. Why would I want to mess that up? Later on, in my twenties, the idea of changing my name seemed more exciting and like something to look forward to – a testament to my complete trust in this new person whom my life would forever revolve around.
When marriage time came around, I recall being pleased that my new name wasn’t so completely different from my maiden name. I quite liked the sound of it, actually.
Professionally, I have always used my married name, which means that this is the name that pretty much everyone in my world knows me by. Interestingly (although no one would ever know it), I never actually changed my maiden name officially. My full maiden name is still on every official document I own – from passports and bank accounts, to pay slips and driver’s licences.
One of my sisters always figured she would have a hyphenated name when she got married – and she did. Another sister took a day off from work to go around town and fill out all the necessary forms to ensure her maiden name was changed officially. I recall admiring her energy at the time.
I’m searching myself as I type this to figure out if there was some subconscious reason why I didn’t change my name officially. I honestly don’t think so, though. At the time, I figured that since email communication was increasingly important (and really ‘defined’ you, in a sense), and I used my married name on all my email accounts, my name was ‘changed’ without all the stress of visiting numerous offices to formalize it. I only introduced myself by my married name, so no one ever called me anything else. If I didn’t tell you I hadn’t changed it, you would never know. My former spouse never raised it, either. Everyone called me by his name, and if getting some mail with my maiden name on it bothered him, he never mentioned it.
With the marriage over, I sometimes wish going back to my maiden name were an uncomplicated process. I know that a lot of divorced women stick with their married names in order not to have a different surname from their children. I appreciate this need to preserve order, but don’t personally think I’d feel terribly uncomfortable using a different surname from my children. For me, it’s more about avoiding professional confusion. It would be confusing (for others) at this stage to change my name professionally, and so the idea is not appealing at this time for that particular purpose.
For some other purposes, though, I find the idea of reverting back to my maiden name quite attractive. Maybe I should’ve hyphenated it to begin with, or used it as my middle name. That way, ‘shaking off’ my married name would’ve been much easier. I now marvel, in fact, that I was ready to give my maiden name up so quickly. There’s a lot about my maiden name to be proud of, and I now wonder that I didn’t hesitate even a teeny bit to have no one call me by it ever again.
Good thing that as long as we know who we are, we’re always what/who we are, regardless of what anyone else calls us.