I’m getting married, and it’s made me contemplative. I wrote this just after picking up the marriage license, when I was feeling really contemplative about the whole name-change situation. It is a challenging choice, and I think it’s become so expected that a lot of people don’t even think about it. But I do. It bothers me. It bothers me that it is assumed (at least in my area, in my licensing office) that a name change is just a given.
Anyway, that’s how you get weird prose-poems like this. Sorry.
First, they called me “the bun in the oven.” Then, “sweet baby.”
Then they gave me my name, 21 letters that spelled out my parents’ hopes, the legacy of the family unit.
My name I learned, writing it out in waxy kindergarten hand, scrawling it at the top-left corner, papers held by the lopsided staple poorly mashed in. I knew trouble was my name yelled in full.
I grew into my name–it always was, and always would be. Even as nicknames proliferated and clung like sticking burrs, the name fit, comfortable as a hug.
Then I owned my name. Proudest moment the first time it blazed in fresh ink on a high school newspaper. My name rang out at graduations to my family’s applause; my name on a resume opened doors to shaking hands; my name on a check at the bank bought a sense of accomplishment, ability to spend.
Once again I’m called “baby,” having found my love.
But to be with him, I am rewritten, my name undone.
Though the change is a choice, it’s often assumed. Something is wrong with me if I reject a new moniker, a new life, all at once.
I grapple with this new name, this unwanted pre-supposed choice. I pin it to the ground an try it on. It fits a little tight; it’s not quite my style, but I suppose it’ll suffice.
(I leave my name on underneath, because it’s mine and I don’t have to take it off, not for no one.)
But outside, I’m different. I’m changed. The shift is subtle, but I notice, the looks, the gentle mentions. The rudimentary paperwork I plow through; the expense, the awkwardness.
In time, this name will fit me, like the one before. As I wear this second skin, it will gain meaning, import, weight. Maybe it won’t feel so strange.
I’ll be ma’am’d and not miss’d… and that I may miss.