All it takes is a little time and money and you too can change your moniker. And if you’re anything like me you’ll write an article lamenting on whether or not to change your name, to then leave it as it is and then to change it in the end. Sure, my previous reasons and justifications still hold true. However, a change of heart always comes before a big change. My change of heart came when I realized that I didn’t want to be called Mrs. Davidson the rest of my life.
It may seem a bit trivial but in my mind my mother is Mrs. Davidson. She always will be. However, as the gray hairs become more prominent on my head and southern sensibilities causes adult and child to call me missus, I started to view my name in a different light. As of May 15 I became LaToya M. Davidson-Perez. Actually, my IDs show my entire name, all five of them. It certainly wasn’t vanity that caused me to retain both my middle names and my maiden name, it was because no matter how much I tried to reconcile it in my mind, I am all five of my names. Just as I struggled to decide whether or not to jettison my maiden name and take my husband’s, I also found it difficult to say goodbye to any part of the person that I was and now am.
Maybe I put a lot of stock in a name. When you think about it, a name defines who you are. Apple, Madonna, Prince, Britney. Names evoke thoughts and feelings and in the end I felt that for me I’d embrace an additional last name instead of choosing to let go of any of them. Indeed, this is a cause for concern for many women. I see so many drop their middle names in order to hold on to their maiden names and others who leave their maiden names behind them, almost erasing that identity. The thing is, many of our friends of the past will only know us by our maiden names and although we may not immediately think we’ll need to reconnect with someone from the past, losing our maiden names can make it more difficult for those who aren’t as tech savvy in their ability to reach out to us.
My husband, who really didn’t lose any sleep on what I’d do with my name, now calls me a true Latina woman. With a new last hispanic last name and a full name with two hyphenated names, I’m unique. I at least now know that there is no one else in the world with the same name as me. I actually had been surprised to know that there were other people with my same first and last name prior to me deciding to amend it. Changing your name can be a nerve-wracking process. It took me well over a year after I’d remarried to decide to finally do so. However, do know that having a hyphenated last name comes with its own unique challenges. These challenges are more than the superficial, people asking why you couldn’t just pick one name and sticking with it.
I ultimately decided to hyphenate my name because I have built an identity with my maiden name and wanted to bridge the old with the new. Sure, my name is too long to fit on at least one of my credit cards (for that one I retain my maiden name) and yes, it means updating it across social networks and URLs, but now I not only love but embrace my new and old identities co-existing. I know that there are times when shedding a maiden name is something we must do, but know that you don’t always have to. You are still you with three or even eight names!
It is very important to note that when I decided to change my name I researched how to do so. I ultimately paid to do it myself only to find out when I went in front of the judge that I didn’t have to pay. Here’s the thing, even though you’re changing your name, the court doesn’t see it that way. Even an appending is not considered a change. The judge instructed me to simply go to the DMV and bring my marriage license and tell them how I’d like my name to be. That was the most expensive three-minute consultation of my life. While I don’t know what it’s like in other states, all I had to do was bring my marriage license and my passport to the DMV and tell them how I wanted my name. And so in that moment I could have dropped my maiden name or do as I’d done, hyphenate my last name. And you can do this regardless of how long ago you got married.
Being married doesn’t mean that you have to choose between your past and your future, you can marry them both! The end result is often a unique last name that allows you to retain the person you were and welcomes the person you’ve become.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 6/11/14 issue of The Union-Recorder. It appeared under the title, Changing Names Generates Analysis.