Answering the question “What’s your name?” has always been an issue for me. Knowing just who I am doesn’t come easy.
My identity doesn’t seem rooted in me.
There’s the name I was born with (the surname of a father who opted out when I was three) and the name of my step-father that I started using as my own even before he married my mother. That name was never legally mine because I didn’t let Dad adopt me. A decision I came to regret but learned to live with by using my dad’s name unless a legal father’s name was absolutely required, creating a plethora of confusion on school records and credit reports.
It still gives me pause when asked for my maiden name. I don’t think I have one.
Marriage gave me a new label. I’d begun freelance writing with that name and had several children so I kept it until I remarried. All too soon a second divorce lawyer asked me who I wanted to be the next day.
No way, no more. Throughout life my name had changed based upon who did or didn’t love me. I wanted my own name once and for all.
I had adopted my second husband’s name and it fit. I liked it. I vowed never to change who I am again. The name remained mine well into marriage number three. We had children and it was their confusion and questions that moved me to hyphenate with their father giving me a link to my name and a link to their name — a moniker too long to fit address labels or computerized forms. A defacto truncated version of my name spread like wildfire on bills, catalogs and UPS deliveries. It was weird and I didn’t like it. Correction came in the form of a lost hyphen and the appearance of “my” last name as a middle name. I was lost again.
I put on my I-don’t-care-mask and answered to Mrs. #3. He’s my soul mate. We’ll always be together. But it’s not my name. And I do care.
So who am I? And why in the heck do I care so much?