I have two names and it’s not as exciting as it sounds. One is my legal name that I acquired after I got married and the other is the name I use on all of my writing and professional stuff. It’s kind of like having a secret identity, but lamer. Having two names is kind of confusing. I’m not always sure when I should use each one and it can confuse a lot of people. It’s almost more trouble than it’s worth, and yet I still keep at it.
This all might seem kind of muddled to you, so let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up. Growing up, I never thought about the possibility that I would keep my name after I got married. I grew up in conservative circles where keeping your last name wasn’t even considered. So the instant I got married, I changed my name without a second thought. I was excited with my new name and was perfectly content to be a single name woman for the rest of my life. But then there was a complication. I competed in college forensics for two years before I got married. In forensics, names are important. They provide recognition and can help give you credibility in rounds. It was important to remain connected to my maiden name, but I didn’t wan’t to completely ignore my new married name, so I hyphenated it. It made my name an unholy length, but I enjoyed having a special name specifically for forensics.
Once I graduated, you would have thought that I would simply drop my forensics name and go back to only using my married one. But I had grown attached to the name I used in forensics. I felt like it exemplified my identity more than the lonely singular name I now had on my drivers licence. I loved the new name I created not only because it was such a big part of my identity but because it connects my old family with my new family. You might ask why I don’t just change my name again and to to that I respond, because the court system is dumb and it would be a lot of bother and cost money to do (also it is really long and so filling out official documents with it would be kind of a pain).
So, I decided to use my legal name for legal stuff and my other name for writing and professional stuff. But this is where things got confusing. In databases (like the school database where I teach), I am listed as my legal name which gets confusing for students when I use my professional name. Also, I am applying for jobs now, which name do I put on the application? Does it depend on the job? How should I introduce myself to people? All of these things are so confusing and it is almost enough to make me want to drop my second name, but I can’t.
You see, names are important. They define who we are, whether we want them to or not. I love my second name because it feels more like me. It feels like my own thing and my own identity that I have built. I don’t have the same feeling with my legal name. The significance that names hold over us is great and can’t be underestimated. That’s why people get so annoyed when you get their name wrong, you are messing with part of their identity.
Maybe in the future I will legally change my name. I’m not sure. But for now I will stay as the person with two names and continue to confuse all of my students when they start my class.