Much like college graduates often dread inquiries about their plans after crossing the stage, I dreaded discussing what my last name would be after Chris and I got married.
Truthfully, I didn’t care to change my name. Black America places value on becoming a wife and receiving your husband’s last name, but I only connected with that sentiment in theory. Yes, I wanted to get married. Yes, I wanted a family. Yes, I wanted the implied honor of another man giving me his name. However, the daddy’s girl in me (not to mention the carefree black girl inspired feminist), recognized it as an alternative. Not a mandate.
While pregnant with Zora, my grandmother emphasized the importance of not addressing her by a nickname. She explained to me how the lessons we are to learn in this lifetime are directly connected to the name we receive, and how being called by any other name lessens the opportunity for us to hear the vibrations of our given name. Though I am seldom referred to by my full name, I reasoned with myself that it was a part of the vibrations I needed to hear.
Because I am my father’s daughter. And removing his name from my own has to mess something up, somewhere down the line, right? Not to mention, it’s the name I’ve had my whole life. Changing it as a means of cleaving to Chris seemed unnecessary, if not silly.
Then came my eureka moment(s). One evening, while attending our first marriage class, I was required to face myself and the push back I was giving to changing my name. In marrying Chris, I chose to make him the priority and forsake every other relationship in lieu of ours. This is not to say that my family and sister friends lose importance. That’s hardly the case - especially with the way my love is set up. This is to say that Chris is my first priority, even before Zora. As his wife, he comes first. And no one should receive more consideration or care. That can be a hard pill to swallow, but understanding that it’s a reciprocated practice in our relationship is essential.
As explained by our facilitator, there are three entities in our relationship. The know it all in me was already in my head, finishing her sentence: “Three entities, right. Heard about it. Me, Chris, and God. Boom.” Oh, how filling humble pie can be. She proceeded to explain that there’s me, there’s Chris, and there is our marriage. Hearing the third proclaimed entity as our marriage kicked me in the gut a bit. Then she followed up by saying that in any scenario, the marriage must be the entity that wins. Game. Changer.
This meant that when we weren’t seeing eye to eye, the decision couldn’t be based on which one of us was right or more wrong. Because Lord knows it often seems to go one way or the other. The determining factor, in arguments or otherwise, is the one that allows the marriage to win. Realistically, I’ve been married for just shy of 5 months, so I’m nowhere near where I need to be when putting this in practice. No less, when considering a name change - this heavily weighed into my thought process.
Then came our second marriage class to remind me that I didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of what we learned the week prior. We discussed that with Chris being priority, I could not be any entity more than I am his partner. Though the facilitator speaking when I learned this lesson was a man explaining that he couldn’t be more his mother’s son than he was his wife’s husband, I heard what applied to me. I cannot be more my father’s daughter than I am my husband’s wife. Add that understanding to knowing that I am no less connected to my bloodline just because my name doesn’t affirm who’s child I am, and all the hesitation seemed downright foolish. To be clear, this didn’t happen immediately. I still had to process my shifting values and nestle in them, but once I did… I was in line at the social security office.. and the DMV.. and the bank.. and wherever else didn’t have a name reflecting my union.
Funny enough. I’d been waiting to write this, because other things have been on my mind, and I didn’t want to post yet another thing about my relationship. But God had me sitting in writer’s block until I penned this piece. I thought that was because someone else needed to read it, but once again - it’s because I needed to write it. And affirm myself, to myself. Journeying has never been more interesting, I swear. Pack light, ya’ll.