the name game

Changing my name.

I have not really found peace with the issue—somehow this is a controversy for me, because of that F-word: Feminism.

Because I’m a feminist I force myself to re-think what it means to be a bride. I squirm and fight against the commercial idea that the “big day” is somehow my day. I get this constant feeling from magazines that marriage is something I’ve earned somehow by being a good woman (think: as a dog earning a bone). Or that marriage is something I artfully tricked a man into doing.

So I cannot simply change my name. Nor can I simply not change my name.

My given name is something I inherited from my family, from my father’s side (of course). Sometimes I feel uncomfortable with the notion that women are named and re-named after some male figure. Don’t get me wrong I do like my name and I love my fiancé.

My resistance to change my name could be pure familiarity. My name is like a favorite dress—In fact, I have a dress that my friends call “The Sarah Merrell dress” because I wear it so often. That I’ve made so many appearances in this one dress probably—definitely—reflects poorly on my fashion sense. But who cares?  It feels right to wear it, and everybody recognizes me and accepts me in that dress. It’s like a brand. Although, admittedly I am still too young in my career to make a convincing argument that “Sarah Merrell” the person has arrived on scene as a brand.

And my sense of familiarity with my name is not strong enough to cause me to not take Daniel’s name.

So why not hyphenate?

Pure aesthetics.

I simply dislike hyphenated names. I don’t think they look right. And I think it forces your children to make the choice you failed to make. If we hyphenated our names and then pass that down to our daughter (for example, Janie Merrell-Brenner) what happens when she gets married? Does she follow in her parents’ path and hyphenate? (A triple hyphenated name just sounds ridiculous). So then she is left making the decision I failed to make.

And then I wonder “what’s in a name?” Am I truly any different either way?

Somehow yes your name does matter. I believe identity is fluid to some degree. That is not to say that I believe changing my name via marriage will make me a completely different person, but it will certainly alter who I become. Perhaps my trouble with choosing a name is really grieving for whom I’m leaving behind: the individual me. The “I” that lived without him. And this is the only time I begin to understand what Paul means when he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God..”

So I rethink my resistance to this transition. I should be overjoyed that this is a decision I get to make. This is my choice, which is the point of feminism.

Choice also happens to be a very crucial part of love.

I don’t believe that we somehow become “smitten” with love. As if someone on high sent a thunderbolt and now we’re meant for each other. Or that we’re soul mates. Or love at first sight.

Love is the conscious choice to commit to one another. To grow together. To share and multiply joy. And divide sorrow and suffering.

I choose Daniel. And so I’ll choose his name. The church teaches that in a great mystery the Orthodox marriage ceremony unites the couple as one spirit and one flesh. But even as we begin to leave behind our former lives to forge a new one, we carry within and between us our past selves & our memories and we never let these go.

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