So when I got remarried I decided to NOT take my husband’s last name. Mainly because I had an identity that I’d developed all those single years between marriages. But also, truth be told, because I wasn’t that crazy about my beloved’s last name.
I know. I’m awful. Where’s the love? Where’s the unity? And worse than that, the name I kept wasn’t even my first husband’s birth name. It was his middle name that he decided to change his last name to. But I’ve kept it ever since 1981.
All through my younger life people would tease me with taunts and rhymes of my last name which is the usual fare for kids, although being one, I didn’t know that. I thought I was being tormented because I was uniquely open to it. And by the way, the name isn’t that awful – I’ve heard and read a lot worse.
However, having a name starting with B had a few good points. Generally you got called first in class except when a teacher, in a fit of perversity, would call roll from the Z’s to the A’s. But usually I was able to declare “Here” pretty quickly, then slink back into the book I was reading or the doodling I was doing in my notebook while we got to find out whether or not Messrs. Hetlinger, Hodgson, or Klenck (and no, god help me, I’m not making these up!) had gifted us with their presence on any particular day.
Like all girls of the time, I would fall in love with a boy and eventually on a page in my notebook there would be loopy chicken scratchings of my name paired with his. Laura Wilde . . . Schulz . . . Sackett? (yep, those are real last names of guys I had crushes on in high school.) The fact that I’d choose “Sackett” over my real last name just points to how awful I thought my B name was.
Then there was the phase in college when I decided to JUST CHANGE MY NAME, DAMNIT! I picked something I thought sounded like a sophisticated yet alluring yet writerly name – Laura Delaney. That isn’t too bad, come to think of it. Only problem was how I was going to explain this to both my mother (who I figured wouldn’t care since she was divorced herself and didn’t carry the name anymore) AND my father (who probably would care since it was his name, after all.)
I wasn’t smart or savvy enough to know the mechanics of changing a name legally and frankly, I didn’t really want to do that – I just wanted to experiment with trying on a new me, one that I’d invented. Of course, I don’t think I ever did tell either of my parents about this phase in my development. Eventually Laura Delaney just withered away, but at least she was writing a poem and drinking an apertif in a Paris bistro.
And then I got married. Hallelujah – I could change my name and nobody would ever question it. I was so glad to be rid of my B name that it never occurred to me that going to the latter part of the alphabet had it’s issues – uh, yeah, the calling out issue for one. So for the past 27 years I’ve had to wait and wait for my name to be called. At the time, of course, I was just thrilled to be rid of that B name, though – so I would have waited for a year before they got around to calling MY name! That’s gotten kindof old, though. And I didn’t really realize that my last name would get confused with a similar, but different last name, and I’ve had to correct folks many times. And it’s a REAL simple name.
So when I got remarried I had my chance to legitimately get a B name again. And I passed it on by. When I could have risen to the top of the line, I chose to stay at the bottom. And it’s not like my husband has an awful name (he doesn’t) it’s just that… I’ve become THIS Laura with my name attached to ME. I know it was a name from another man which is how we do it here in the patriarchy, but I like the charm of the fact that it wasn’t even my ex’s birth name, either. It’s like he made it up and invited me along for the ride. There’s no real history attached to the name. It’s simple. It works. And it’s mine.
Of course try telling that to my relatives who address letters and cards to “Mr. and Mrs. B”. Everytime we get one of those, my dear heart points to it and says, “A ha! Well, at least your mother understands who you are.” Yeah, right. She never has before, so I don’t hold out much hope for her now. (Laura Delaney lives…!)