– the sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over time
Millions of babies are born every year and undergo the initiation process of receiving a name. Names form part of every culture and are important to the people who receive them and to the societies that give them. Generally, in cultures with a sense of ancestry, children get their family names from their father.
When we meet people we introduce ourselves by saying our name. The sense of personal identity and uniqueness that a name gives us is at the heart of why names are important to us.
For reasons still unknown to me I married my boyfriend when I was 18 years old and dutifully changed my surname to match his. This generated a spiral effect resulting in a detachment of the essence of my identity that was to last 32 years.
The marriage lasted seven years. When my son was born there was no question that his surname should match his father’s. The marriage ended soon after our son was born but I never considered reverting to my maiden name.
Two years later I re-married and again blindly changed my surname to match that of my second husband, I willingly went through the arduous process to change my legal identity. So at 28 years old I had assumed a third surname since my birth.
This marriage is happy and long lasting. When our two daughters were born they naturally were given their father’s family name.
So I was 30 years old, I had changed my name twice to conform to my married status, I had three children and none of them reflected my family name.
During the next 20 years as feminism influenced the thinking of intelligent women, I started questioning my decisions and realised I had naively conformed to societal norms. I was disappointed that I had willingly sacrificed my identity without considering my own needs.
At 50 years old I made the decision to reclaim my identity and revert to the name I was born with even though it hurt my husband who couldn’t understand the need for me to do this after 23 years of marriage.
He was wrong, I needed to do this for me.
Now when I introduce myself and say my name I feel honest and true to myself. When I see a letter addressed to me I feel connected to my name. When a doctor calls my name in the waiting room I immediately know that she is referring to me.
I’m still happily married and living with my husband but I am an individual with my own name and personal identity.