The Name Game

See the name on the lunchbox?

It’s official. Despite the grouchy woman in the Durham County Court office who seemed determined to thwart me, I am legally Erin Steffen Lane. Again.

When I tell strangers that I’ve recently changed my name, the first response is, “Ooooh, congratulations sweetie!” I’m trying to save them the embarrassment by slowly shaking my head side to side as their eyebrows hit the sky in jubilee. I did not get married, I explain. I’m simply going back to my maiden name.

Cue the, “Ooooh, I’m so, sorry, dear,” apology. Now, I’m trying to contort my usually cynical face into a bright, banana smile so that it’s clearly not a tragic event. My husband did not die. Nor did we get divorced.

At this point, our conversation could go two ways.

I could take this opportunity to make a fiery argument on the patriarchal notion that a woman’s identity becomes subsumed  under a man’s when they share only his name, that even those who hyphenate usually put the woman’s name first – which mean’s it’s always the first to go when the name becomes cumbersome, or that I know few men (even my loving, feminist husband not among them) who would be willing to take their wives’ name instead. Taking a belabored breath, I could go on to tell them that two becoming one in the sight of God can take different shapes in different unions. And that ultimately, we are all more than our name and we all belong to more than our names’ origins. We are in the image of God who breathed our blessed names into our lifeless bones (Ezekiel 37:6).

Or I could go with option #2 and tell them the truth. Ultimately, Erin Lane just has a sweet, sweet ring that I never forgot the sound of. Say it out loud. You’ll hear it.

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5 responses to “The Name Game

  1. I like how my name sounds too.

  2. Erin Lane indeed has a sweet, sweet ring to it (and always has and now it makes it officially okay that I always think of you as Erin Lane!).

  3. You are singing my song, girl. I did the same thing; did you know that? Same response from the husband, in fact, he said “find with me; I married Michelle Gilpin, not Michelle Michalowski. I thought it was weird that you had the same last name as my sister, anyway.” . How are you feeling now? It made a huge difference to me, changing my name back. I all of a sudden felt like a piece of me had returned. All of a sudden I felt ok to be the one doing the laundry.

    Now, a little part of me cringes a bit when I hear of my girlfriends taking their new husband’s name. But, I am still trying to figure out, who will our children be?

  4. I have had a few try-my-best-to-unsuccessfully-bite-my-tongue moments when talking to men who say it’s a deal breaker if the woman they date won’t take their name. It always makes me glad I don’t date one of those guys, but I suppose I couldn’t, because it would never work in the end. I have loved my last name for too long and it has become too much a part of my identity to part with it. I’ve often said that if I find someone whose name I liked better, then maybe I’d consider it, but I so like the name I have that I can’t really imagine being called anything else. I think it would feel disorienting. Good for you for being true to yourself and the name you want to have.

  5. I took getting married as an easy way to get rid of the middle name I’d always hated (I think it is an ape name. . . but that is a different story). So, my original last name became my middle and I like the ring of Julia Baker Jones. That choice was fine for me, but I share the question about children. My children don’t have my name at all. I sometimes wish that I had given them all the middle name Baker, so we would be clearly linked by name.

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