Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Maiden Voyage?

Pretend you're me for a minute.

For the past 26 years, you've heard your full name (first, middle and last) pronounced correctly only about 25 percent of the time -- and spelled properly even less frequently than that! Childhood teasing has given way to puzzled looks from adults when you insist that, despite the Scottish surname, you're more Italian than anything else.

I sound like the perfect candidate for a name change, right? But I'm not gonna do it. I've quipped that my walk down the aisle isn't some "maiden voyage," at the end of which I'm stripped of the identity I finally feel fits me. The mister supports my decision completely, but I've definitely met my fair share of raised eyebrows -- even confusion with a tinge of anger -- from people who don't understand my reasoning. So here's some more background...

When I was a child, I greatly disliked my name. I lamented the unique moniker my parents had chosen for me, and vowed to select much more mainstream ones for my kids. As I approached my 18th birthday, my parents suggested I consider legally changing how its spelled -- to eliminate the pesky silent letter at the end of my first name.

By this time, however, I'd grown accustomed to coping with the challenging trio. When someone asks for my name, I first say the whole thing slowly; then, I follow immediately with "It's spelled..." and pause, so the person inquiring knows it's not a piece of cake. Finally, I go through all three slowly, specifying the capital "K" in the middle of my last name -- because, yes, it's important to me!

I've since also learned the story behind my name. After I was born, my parents continued to debate what would suit me best. They seriously considered "Julia," even writing it in pencil on the blank name card in the hospital nursery. Ultimately, though, Daddy Bruschetta's pick won out -- six letters originating from French, and providing an alliterative effect when paired with my last name. With "Julia" out of the picture, the other name considered for the top spot -- the same letters as Mrs. Meatball's, but pronounced to rhyme with "banana" -- was shunted to the middle.

And then there's the whole feminism thing. My communication major allowed me considerable freedom to fill my semesters with whatever courses tickled my fancy, and I opted for several women's studies classes while working on my undergraduate degree. I felt liberated learning about third-wave feminism, which is essentially "DIY feminism" -- the movement is based on the belief that each woman can set what her definition of feminism is, and how she chooses to integrate into her life.

During these years, Mr. Bruschetta and I were continuing to grow our relationship, acknowledging the love that had blossomed. We realized we'd eventually marry -- but there was never any pressure from him to change my name. He accepted my logic, literally a list of reasons (see above!), including the fact that my surname would "die out" if I changed it. I think since we started dating so young, and have been together for so long, neither of us really seriously considered it important that I take his name.

That attitude, unfortunately, isn't shared by most others. My parents, I was surprised to learn, are really pleased I'll be keeping my last name. (Incidentally, both Mama and Sister Bruschetta changed their names when they married, replacing their given middle names with their maiden names.) But certain members of the mister's family look at my decision as an affront. I'd like to think if I explained the logic behind this choice, they would be accepting and understanding; however, I'm just not sure that would be the case.

So I'm back to my "maiden voyage" idea, fretting I'll spend the rest of my life running into resistance and negative attitudes, and fearing I'll be treated as a pariah who's only partially committed to married life. (Seriously, people? How is it okay to add funky colored shoes to a bridal ensemble, or transition from formal photography to photojournalism, or cohabit before the wedding, or do any number of other non-traditional things, but it's still the expected and accepted standard that I'm supposed to change my name -- or somehow integrate my husband-to-be's to create a new one?) I'm feeling defensive, protecting my choice -- and my name -- with abrasive attitudes of my own, like not looking forward to receiving mail mistakenly addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. His Last."

After the wedding, I'll happily answer virtually to Mrs. Bruschetta, since I view my Weddingbee moniker as something the mister and I share -- and our familial connections on the internet grow from this common "identity." In real life, though, I'll continue on with and my given first, middle and last names -- preceded by "Ms." And I'll prepare for my next name-related battle -- convincing the mister that eventual Bruschetta "bites" should legally be First Middle My Last His Last.

Anyone else feel strongly about your name after struggling with it in the past? Will you be keeping or changing it after the wedding?

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