When I was 15 years old I legally changed my name. When I was 21 I did it again, and at age 22 changed it for the third and final time. I would guess that most people who know me have never known me as anything other than Heidi LastName. But, the fact is that LastName is not the name on my birth certificate, or at least not my original birth certificate. LastName is actually my mother’s maiden name while Surname is my father’s last name.
Let me explain:
When I was young my parents split up, my mom changed her name back to her maiden name and over the next 6 or 7 years I spent a lot of time hating my Dad. Yep, Lurch, the man I absolutely love and adore now and can’t imagine not having in my life. It’s a long story, a story I don’t want to get into; besides, this website doesn’t have the space to hold all the drama and emotion and turmoil. Suffice it to say, when I was eight I started using my mother’s maiden name and when I was 15 Lurch gave his official, notarized permission for me to legally change my name from Surname to LastName. As a side note, my identical twin sister kept Surname and my younger sister legally changed her name to LastName-Surname. Three biological siblings, three different last names. Your protestations of “But families should all share the same last name, otherwise it’s just so confusing!” will do absolutely nothing here. It’s not confusing to have kids who have different last names than their parents or other siblings. It’s not embarrassing or shameful, nor does it somehow make you less of a family. No, if anything, having a different last name than your parent, or your child, or your sibling is the most American thing you can do. Have you seen the statistics on this lately? If you have the same last name as, and are still living with both of your biological parents you are in the minority.
When I got married the first time I had no intention of changing my name to X’s name, a fact he had a bit of a hard time reconciling. Months later X’s father purchased plane tickets for us to visit him in the Midwest, and I was too scared to call and tell my father-in-law, keeper of X’sName, that my name his name was wrong. Instead I changed my driver’s license to reflect the name on the ticket so I could get on the plane, and that led to having to change my bank accounts and my social security card and everything else; the government doesn’t like it when everything doesn’t match.
The day my divorce was final I started the process of legally changing my name back to Heidi LastName (a process that was considerably more difficult and frustrating than changing from Heidi LastName to Heidi X’sName, I might add) and I vowed never to change it again, regardless of my marriage status. Frankly, I think if I change it one more time the state department will come looking for me thinking I am some kind of terrorist or criminal on the lam.
Anyway, with that kind of lengthy introduction, you may have already guessed that my reasons for not changing my name post-wedding are perhaps a bit more involved than may be expected. This not some flippant decision I have made in the last few months, it is not me stretching my feminist wings, nor am I trying to give Patriarchy a swift kick in the shins. My decision to be Heidi LastName is entwined in the very fabric of who I am, it is something I have thought about in a very serious way for over twenty years.
I am not changing my name. I am not keeping my maiden name as a middle name and I am not hyphenating. J-Mo has a lovely, normal last name, it’s not impossible to pronounce or spell, it doesn’t have iffy undertones or a dirty double meaning or anything like that. Nor is Heidi Mo the name of some kind of convicted criminal or murderer. Frankly, this decision has very little to do with him or with us. Heidi Mo is just…it’s just not Heidi LastName. Heidi LastName is who I am and who I will always be.
Did you change your name when you got married? Do you plan to? Did you and wish you hadn’t? If you are one of the 3 male readers of this blog, do you have an opinion on a woman who doesn’t want to add your name to her driver’s license/passport/library card?
*Just to be clear, when the bank asks for your mother’s maiden name I don’t give them LastName, I have another code-word that I use in its place. (Also, when and where did this habit of using something that is PUBLIC RECORD as a “security question” for all your financial information begin!? You should ALL use a code word instead of your mother’s maiden name! “Batman” would be a more secure password, for heaven’s sake, at least it’s not something one would find through the ever-more-powerful Google!)
**I hesitate to mention this, but if you search for Heidi OneOfTheLastName’sIMayHaveHadOrAlmost HadAtOnePointOrAnotherInMyLife you may discover a true story about a woman close to my my age–A WOMAN WHO IS NOT ME!—who spent time in a Utah prison for manslaughter after being found guilty of the neglectful death/murder of her infant child. Yeah. I can’t make up that shit.
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