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.