The other day, my husband and I went to our bank to make some changes to an account we had opened in Connecticut when we first married. Because we had just married and were raising the kids there, my name I had listed on the account is my "married" (or family) name, although there is no requirement in Connecticut to choose when one marries. So this banker tried to understand why the account name and my driver's license name did not match, prompting him to ask, "What's your name?" Indeed...
When we married, I was not a youngster and had been living on my own for many, many years. I had established friends, contacts, and credit - all of whom knew me by my maiden/business name. I continued to work in New York and live in Connecticut (where I often used the other identity, my married, or family, name). My husband and I had a tacit understanding that in Connecticut, around the family, I would use the family name. There were rarely any conflicts between the two, and it seemed to be working out well.
Then I worked for a while in Connecticut, and I said, "Uh oh, what do I do now?" So I hyphenated, which is how my medical insurance card still reads. Of course, it's too long and too silly, so I mostly cut that practice out.
It gets a little comical at times. I will make one phone call, identifying myself by one name, and make the next call using the other name, depending upon the circumstances. People listening nearby sometimes shake their heads in incredulity, and some probably think I have Multiple Personality Disorder, as in "Sybil."
When we moved to California and went to DMV, the clerk was very confused when she saw my Connecticut license. Yes, the name was hyphenated, the last vestige of that silly practice. She insisted that I fill out a form so that my new license would match all of the other documents I had handed her: my passport, for example. (I had never changed it or social security or old credit cards.)
At last, all documents - the deed to the house, my financial portfolio, matched and used my single name - all, that is, except this one last bank account. And so the banker asked what was my name?
When I was growing up, a girl dreamed about the day she would marry and adopt her husband's name. Every time she liked a boy, she would practice using her first name and his last in her notebooks, over and over. Some of that attitude changed in the 60s and 70s, when women's "consciousnesses" were raised, and they began to realize they were not simply appendages of their spouses. If a man didn't change his name, why should a woman? But there was more to it than that.
As I said earlier, my status changed when I was older and established. Changing my name would be like lopping off a limb or a piece of me that had always been there. It's who I was, who I am. If I changed my name, how would anyone know? How would anyone "locate" me? Coincidentally, my single and married names are not that different - we would not even have had to change monogrammed towels (if either of us had them).
It's an "identity" issue, one that affects me to my core. I struggle with it all the time. Who am I? What do I want to be when I grow up? Where do I call "home"? What is my essence? What do I want others to think and know about me? What do I know about myself? What’s my legacy? These are issues I have always dealt with. That's why I wear my hair a certain way, dress in a particular style, wear memorable earrings, speak and write in a particular way.
So, who am I really? And, by the way, what is my name?