Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What's in a Name?

The great debate has been raging: whatever will Ashley do about her last name?

People have asked.  People have told me that they changed my last name in their phones without asking.  People even made out wedding checks to Mark and Ashley Wood, which added an extra step when we deposited them in the bank.  My mom thought I forgot to write "Wood" when I signed the church register this past weekend.  Even my e-mails from Michaels have, over the past few months, gone from "Ashley Jones" to "Ashley Wood" to "Mark Wood" to "Mark Jones" out of either sheer flailing and confused desperation or some strange way of letting me temporarily try out all my available options.

The fact is that I haven't changed it yet.  I couldn't even do so until after we closed on the house (which happened Monday morning, making us officially, terrifyingly, homeowners).

And honestly?  I'm torn.

I changed my name without question the last time around (I don't think my ex would have allowed me to keep my maiden name anyway), and very much regretted it when we eventually divorced and I had to go through the entire process of changing it back to my maiden name (with his "permission," because apparently we still all live in the dark ages of chauvinism where even an ex-husband can continue to dictate a woman's choices).  I changed my driver's license, I changed the name on the car title, I changed my passport, and I changed nearly every single damn thing that had my name on it.  Bank account, apartment lease, e-mails, Facebook account, etc, etc, etc.

It's definitely not that I forsee having to change it back a second time, but the fact remains that I essentially fought to get my maiden name back two years ago when it would have just been easier to keep my married name (as much as I hated it).  Changing it to my new married name feels, strangely, like a betrayal of all that work.  Plus, I like being a Jones.  It took me years to appreciate my incredibly common name, and now I find I'm rather attached to it (and not just literally).

On the other hand, I very much want the acknowledgement that I married the love of my life.  I want to share that extra bit of life that comes from sharing a name.  I want to be a Wood.  It would make most things much easier to simply change my name.  I wouldn't have to be annoyed with the people who assumed I changed my name and address things to "Ashley Wood."  We wouldn't have to explain that yes, we are married even though my last name is different.  Signing cards, etc, would be that much quicker.

But... I still don't want to get rid of Jones.

This would probably be easier if I didn't hate the concept of hyphenated names (for me personally; I don't care what other people choose to do with their names).  Then I could have my name and change it too.

I also wish it didn't matter.  I wish that I didn't feel like keeping my name or changing my name were both somehow a political and/or social statement, in spite of the decision being neither of those things for me.  I wish neither were the "expected" option.  I don't know if that would make my current decision easier, but I might feel less guilty about whatever choice I make.

This also might be the very definition of a first-world problem.

In slightly related news, being referred to as Mark's "wife" remains an incredibly jarring experience.  As does calling him my husband.  It was hard enough getting used to "boyfriend/girlfriend," then "fiance'," but "wife"?  So weird.  It makes me feel instantly old (says the girl who spends most of her free time knitting and crocheting and goes to bed around 9) and very formal.

Names are so strange.  They are deeply personal.  They define, they separate, and they group together.  We attach so much meaning to titles and names and change both according to life changes, how we want to be perceived, and, sometimes, at whim.  I don't know why "wife" sounds so strange to me now, almost ten years after I became a wife for the first time, but it does.  Honestly, it's probably related to the feeling that changing my maiden name again would be a weird betrayal of the work I did to stop being a wife.

In spite of these strange hangups, I love being married.  I love looking at pictures from our wedding day.  I love seeing a ring on Mark's finger, and looking at my own ring.

It's just the words, and the names, that I have a problem with.

It's not even a problem in a bad way.  It's more a problem in that I have to figure out what the words, what the name, means.

What's in a name?  Everything, and nothing, all at once.  In the grand scheme of things, does it matter if I change my name or keep it?  No.  But right now it seems like a bigger decision than buying a house.  In a way, I worked harder for my name and "title" than I did for a house.

What does your name mean to you?  What about your title?

Is the hangup just with me?  This is entirely possible.  But as someone who worked hard to become who I am and to define myself (as well as someone who continually turns over the meaning and intent of words), the threat of any change gives me pause.

The reality is that changing my name, or being a wife, do not change who I essentially am as a person.  They don't change my past.  They don't change my personality.  They don't make me any less of an introvert, or any more of a morning person.  If anything, they add to who I am, never subtracting.  I'm a wife.  I'm a stepmother.  I'm a homeowner.  I'm a project manager.  I'm The Pretty Vintage Girl.  I'm either Jones or Wood or whatever I choose to be.

I'm still me.

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