Next month my passport’s up for renewal. The question is this; do I make a straightforward renewal in my married name, or revert to my maiden name?
This wouldn’t be an issue at all if
a) I’d stayed married
b) I hadn’t taken my husbands surname or
c) it didn’t matter. But here we are.
I guess that
a) was ultimately my decision (I never should have gone there, though I loved him to bits).
b) also my decision, though long deliberated over. My guiding thought here was having the same name as my children, who already had their father’s name. Goodness, we complicate things.
c) in a way doesn’t matter, because who I am remains unchanged no matter what name I answer to. But having adopted authenticity as my guiding principle, it kind of does. I was given a name at birth. That is my name. But to change back requires an immense rigmarole, affecting all my accounts and trappings.
I’ve no preference to either. They’re both fairly standard, get-on-with-it kind of names. Very practical. My married name’s longer, so my signature drops off the planet at the end, which my first never did. There was a directness, a vibrancy, in a short surname that I liked. Only two syllables in the entire name, which is as punchy as you can get. It irked when I was young, but now that simplicity appeals.
If I had my ex’s attributed name, things might be different.
My ex likes his coffee. A lot. He likes it particularly hot, so walks backwards and forwards to the counter in cafés getting it re-steamed. This earned him the honorary title ‘Walks with Fresh Cup’, which is poetic for an expensive habit that became less poetic over time.
Thinking about it, I could have been Jane-who-walks-with-walks-with-Fresh-Cup once we married. You’d walk tall with a name like that, but it would be harder to fit on the signature line. Logically, post divorce I’d be Jane-who-used-to-walk-with-walk-with-Fresh-Cup, which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue but is certainly memorable. Not a name to mess with.
Its a mystery to me why the Western world pays so little deference or creativity to names. It wasn’t always thus. Not so long ago we had names like Constance, Faith and Grace. Names that spoke gravity and purpose. In Africa I met a fabulous dynamic young woman whose parents had the foresight to name her Independence. She was that, personified.
Oh to have a glorious name like Crazy Horse, Wind-in-the-Face or Touch the Clouds. Who wouldn’t follow a name like that? A name that would lead a Chief to glory, despite himself. A name to live up to. A guiding light.
Western names are veiled, and unless you’re royalty or somesuch (Lord Louis Mountbatten springs to mind, though there are better examples). I swear they do it to keep us down. (No aspirations for you, my girl; Plain Jane will suffice).
Jane has Hebrew roots and means ‘God is gracious’, which is rather lovely and reflects a sense of cerebral gratitude. But you’d never know, unless I wore it on a T shirt. We just don’t seem to be that interested in our names. So how can we grow into them?
When my first son was born, I wanted to call him Clay. A name that was rooted, grounded. Something about this new being inside me seemed to need anchoring. But the resistance around me was palpable. Clay was not to be.
Instead we called him Jasper (I discovered later it’s a common name for a dog), considering that it held a certain dignity. And yes, we could envisage it on the side of his briefcase. He could be a solicitor with a name like that. Or a musician. Whatever his life holds, Jasper will deal with it bravely. He has that in him. A nobility. It’s in his name.
The thing with names, I’m learning, is they are just the beginning. We absorb them, and they can bring us forward in the world, but ultimately our actions, our being, can surpass them. Whichever surname I go with (I could lump them together, but it seems a little OTT for someone who advocates simplicity) will be just fine. My job is to be the best that I can be, and lead my life the best I can, whatever my name might be.
And quite honestly, I could do without the added paperwork.