Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Names, part II

Here's another thing I think about names: giving them to someone else is powerful.  But choosing them for yourself is even more powerful.  I loved this post here.  If you can't be bothered to click over, I'll sum it up inadequately by saying that to view a woman's change of surname, upon marriage, as capitulation or weakness, is to miss a very important part of that tradition.  I love Laura (I call her Laura)'s point that a woman's choice to share her husband's name can be a strong and intentional statement of who she is and what she (freely) offers toward this new family she is creating. I'm also intrigued with the idea of joint name-creation she mentions at the end of the article
"Could my husband and I have found another name -- a mashup, perhaps, or a reference to a shared experience or value -- that would have been better for us? Is there another name in our family trees with a rich tradition that might otherwise be forgotten? Maybe we would have ended up choosing Wattenberg regardless, but that mental journey would still have been worth taking."
I love sharing my husband's name.  It amuses me that my maiden name is so neatly contained within it (a symbol of our well-fitted personalities, perhaps?) but I also find a lot of pleasure in the fact that by becoming a Nielson, I share not only his future but his past.  And I love how that new name has made me, quite literally, more than I ever was before.  Who he is shines out between the spaces of who I am, and I grow toward that light.

I don’t want to belabor the point, as I’m sure you’ve grasped it already, but it deserves a brief mention that my identity as a Christian follows this same path.  I don’t care if people want to classify "Mormons" as non-creedal, unorthodox, un-Trinitarian, whatever, but they can’t deny us the choice and burden of Christ’s name—that choice is uniquely ours to make.  As a follower of Christ, I try to allow Christ’s good name to shine through and past my own, even as I continue to discover and refine who I am.

Anyway, I hope that whether my children, as adults, like these names we gave them or not, they will at least be able to see the beautiful symbolism of fusing old with new.  Of (both for sons and daughters) blending their first name—and all it represents of their identity as an individual—with their last name, which speaks of both the old family in which they first saw beyond self, and the new family identity they will form when they voluntarily become more-than-self.  Of how who we called them can be an anchor to who they really are.  And most importantly, of how who they name themselves can be a pathway to who they want to be.

2 comments:

  1. I want to quote that paragraph about Christ. It was the best thing you have ever written (that I've seen, anyway), and that's going some.

    Sadly, my own name path hasn't led me to that lovely feeling you have. I won't let people call me anything at church but my first name. I've lost my maiden name - there is no one in here (me) who feels like the name belongs to me anymore, and that's so odd. And the new name represented behaviors and so much non-love (that has much to do with the family my man came from) I can't bear to bear it. So the weight of who I am has had to settle on that one single little name, with the possible support of my middle name - which is hardly ever spoken, but mine nonetheless.

    The way it is with you and Sam - what a blessing, a beautiful blessing.

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  2. I love that you love that post from Laura too. It's so nice to have her as a common point of reference with you. I really cheered Laura's way of describing the name change situation.

    Your post made me think quite a lot (again) about my own name change--and I have too many thoughts about it to list here. Maybe I'll have to work that through a bit more in my brain and write about it some other time.

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