My mother changed her name in her thirties.  She had always hated her first name.  When she was born, the hospital wouldn't let my grandparents take her home without a name.  My grandma hadn't been faced with that situation before, and hadn't chosen a name yet... so they named her after my Grandpa (Grandma never liked her own name, either.)

Growing up, I always felt sort of weird about my name.  I didn't dislike it, it just didn't feel right.  I always felt a little embarassed telling people my name... it felt like I was reciting a line in a play.  When I was older, I learned that my name had been changed just after my birth (but before the birth certificate was filled out.)  My mother had chosen a nice Irish name, and at the last minute, my dad said he didn't like it.  Well, a certain lady had just been married to a certain prince, so, in another last-minute naming decision, I was given her name and my father's middle name.  It was alliterative.  It was cute.  (Nothing wrong with cute, it just doesn't suit me.)

After that, I figured my name wasn't really my name, and resolved to change it back to what my mother had originally chosen.  However, over time, I came to feel that my "original name" was too common, and maybe too feminine-pretty.  I figured I'd just sit with the name I had.

Then I took a philosophy course where one of the covered topics was the concept of "personhood."   There were a couple of readings that talked about how names were used in other cultures.  In some cultures, children aren't even given names until they reach adulthood and assume a role in the tribal community.  In many cultures, children are named, but the name is changed when they reach adulthood.  Some tribes allow for several name changes over the course of a person's life as a person's community role or personality develop and change.  All this got me thinking about my own life, how much I had changed, how much my circumstances had changed and how it was time for me to grow out of my difficult childhood and take responsibility and all that.

I decided to change my name.  Again.  After all.  When I turned 21, since that's the generally agreed-upon age of majority in our culture.  I got my closest friends involved, checking names with them to see if they suited me.  One of my friends even helped pay for it and gave me rides to the courthouse.  It was fun, and liberating, and certainly made for a better 21st birthday ritual than drinking myself into oblivion.  I still think it's one of the best decisions I've ever made, and if any of my children want to change their names, I'll pay for it when they turn 21.

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Xakana
Jun. 3, 2008 at 10:03 PM

You know, I've thought of the cultural name change thing before. But in our culture, it's practically a no-no. Honesltly, if it weren't for my husband, I probably would have changed my name one last time. But part of the problem was finding a name that suited me. I wanted something unusual. It's strange that it was a boy's name that I ended up staying attached to. But interestingly enough, DH likes the name Zack, too, so one of our sons may end up with it.

Lilly was Lilly before I knew she was there. She came to my best friend in a dream and introduced herself as Lillyanna--red hair and everything. My best friend told me about it after I told her that the u/s said I was having a girl. I told her I was planning to name her Lillyanna Rose after she told me about the dream. And I joked that I knew she'd have red hair and she'd just have to be my day lily.  

Out she came and it seemed clear she knew her name from the start (and I'm not the kind of person who uses names very often, so she hadn't heard it that much in utero). So I think I named her correctly. I'll know in 20 years I suppose. And as I said, it will break my heart if she rejects the name.

In one Native-Canadian-Indian tribe (don't remember which one) they believed that a child was given a soul when her/his father named her/him. Without a name, that child had no soul and their names never changed, because they were their souls.

It's very interesting how a name can be so valuable to one culture and to another, totally expendable. Or that we can have a name whose meaning doesn't have anything to do with the individual being given it in one culture and in another, it changes as the person changes to always accurately represent them. Names are fascinating things. 

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grace...
Jun. 4, 2008 at 2:35 AM

I've been divorced for close to three years now, and at the time it was finalized, wasn't sure whether I wanted to take my own (maiden) name back.  In that time, however, I've come more and more to realize that what was my married name (of 28 years!) no longer "fits" or feels like "my name."  So....right about now I'm in the midst of completing the paperwork to take my own name back. 

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natan...
Jun. 4, 2008 at 2:51 PM

What was your name???  Or your original name??  Or your mother's name??

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auspi...
Jun. 4, 2008 at 3:37 PM

Xak... I agree, names are fascinating things.  If I do get that degree and teach, maybe I'll study naming practices and teach a class on it.

You know, I read that in some countries (I think Sweden or Denmark or some place around there...) you have to choose a name from a pre-approved list.  It's a law.  If you want to give your child a name that's not on the list, you have to apply and get special approval.

Natandelismom... You are asking for some deep, dark secrets... well, okay, that's a little exaggerated.  : )  I will tell you that my middle name, Diana, is what used to be my first name.  And until I was born, my name was Kathleen Rose.

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