Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Another marriage-love based thingie...sorry...

I have to say, this cartoon is one I'm identifying with these days.

And in a roundabout way, it relates to today's post. If you click on the link, you'll hurdle toward a USA Today article discussing men who adopt their new wife's last name. Apparently, this is supposedly a new phenomenon that signals an enlightened age for men in this country.

Or something like that.

As Shakespeare said, though..."What's in a name?"

Names are often the subject of controversy...not just grade school recess taunts, but many other things. One case that's interesting (from the article) is about the man who filed a federal lawsuit against the state of California for making it difficult to change his surname to his wife's surname. This action has prompted the California legislature to work on a bill making name changes within marriage easier for men AND women.

This brings about a whole lump of thoughts about the importance of names. "Good names", "bad names", "making a name for yourself", "my name is mud", etc.

When I recently watched the film version of "The Crucible" (a thinly veiled comparison of the Salem witch trials vs. McCarthy's Communist trials), one of the most meaningful scenes is when the male lead has the opportunity to escape hanging as long as he says he is a "witch". He refuses (even though he is torn). He feels that if he admits to this, his good name will be compromised. So which is better...sacrificing your name for freedom, or dying to preserve it?

Names do so much. They're a blessing. They're a curse. They're a key. They're the "albatross" around one's neck.

If I used ALL my names, my full name would be Sue Ellen Dawson Wilson Hegstrom. But I don't. Currently (as you know) I use the Hegstrom surname. Why?

  1. I memorized the pronunciation and spelling and I feel I've earned it
  2. I've had it since 1998 and I feel I've earned it
  3. All the jobs I've held here have been under this name - if I changed it again, it would be a headache for background checks (I believe).
When I was divorced from the first husband, I kept the Wilson surname for that reason, PLUS it gave me a new adult identity in my hometown. No longer was I just one of the "Dawson girls" (although that is not a point of shame with me...just the opposite). I had the first glimmerings of ME. That may sound weird, but that's what "Wilson" meant to me.

My first husband, to go the opposite direction, started out with his mother's last name (Thompson). Then, when his mother married for the first time, she took her husband's last name, and the two other children she had were under "Wilson". However, Mike's mom pinned "Wilson" on him, but not legally. Mike's stepdad was going to adopt him, but the marriage imploded and it didn't happen.

After that, Mike kept switching between "Thompson" and "Wilson" but usually stuck with "Wilson". This made things difficult at times, especially when he was shipped out for Operation Desert Storm in the early '90s...his paperwork was inconsistent.

When he and I married in 1992, I changed my name to Wilson through the power of marriage, but his name (legally) was still Thompson. FINALLY, in 1993 or 1994 he and I had the same legal last name...just in time for us to divorce.

Years after we divorced, he remarried and took his birth father's last name of "Whitney".

God only knows what his last name is now...he's probably changed it all to "Snicklefritz McGillicudy" for all I know.

I kept "Wilson" as my surname until I remarried Ed H. One of the men I dated (a Ph.D candidate in engineering who was quite anal and sent my underwear back to me in the mail after we broke up) kept bugging me about why I kept it. I think he was trying to find anomalies, like in a math problem. If I'm a math problem...that's not good. Anyway, I kept my last name as "Wilson", even though I had to explain who I was to snoop-asses what the family connection was.

I really have no problem with the current last name, other than having to spell it for people on the phone or in person. I've been called "Hogstrom", "Hoogstrom", "Hergstrom", "Hegstorm", "Hagstrom" and other variations on the theme. (BTW, Hogstrom is the least favorite, just so you know).

But now the time is coming for another change. I don't want "Dawson" back, but I'm not sure about the new one either. I don't see anything wrong with sticking with "Hegstrom".

The gent in the article who is suing the state of California said his name change is due to the affinity he has for his father-in-law. I've never had a father-in-law (didn't know the first husband's, and Ed H's father had passed before we met), and the current one is not a fatherly figure at all. Even though it is D's last name, it came from his father...since I despise his father, I don't feel comfortable taking on that family name.

But I'm sure people will say, "Why are you keeping Ed's name? You had such a stormy relationship."

My answer? I don't have one yet. I'd have to say that since my marriage, I've had successes and failures under this name. But at least they're MINE. Not my mother's, not my father's or my sister's or anyone else's. They're mine. I know this name belongs to others besides me. But it's still mine. It's how people know me around friends, my colleagues (musical and otherwise), my "church family". I need AT LEAST that much independence.

Sounds crazy...but at least it's MY crazy.

Just food for thought.