Ah, small town. I now remember how I came to hate you.
My parents are very quiet people. My mom is the exact opposite of a gossiper, but she does have her few confidants. And one of said confidants hasn't grasped the meaning of her title and it's relationship to the word 'confidential.'
I was at a drug store yesterday, purchasing no less that three separate types of feminine hygeine product (if that's not a Do Not Disturb warning I don't know what is) when the cashier asked me if I had found a solution to my problem.
I stared blankly for a moment.
"You know, how you're going to move all your stuff to Toronto! I hear you were having some trouble moving. How are you doing, anyway?"
I mumbled something about a cargo van and blood loss, and fled.
That encounter was a little odd, but by far not the worst I have had. A few days ago, I went into a local coffee shop that may or may not rhyme with Tim Morton's, and ordered an XL triple-triple. Once again, this very obious Leave Me Be hint was not heeded and the cashier pounced.
"Hey, I was sorry to hear you left your husband."
Blink. "Yeah, that's not exactly -- yeah. Alright."
"We've all been wondering -- what are you going to do about your name?"
"My -- what?"
"Well, when J. got divorced, she changed her name back right away, but S. just kept hers for, you know, the kids. And E. has like twelve names. What are you gonna do?"
"Well, I kept my name. So I am going to continue to keep it."
Despite the hassle that I get every single damn time I say this, I insist on telling people that I kept my name. It is important. I had a name and I kept it. It is mine to publish under, to sully, to squander or to see in lights.
And then, anotehr employee, who had been taking orders from the drive-through (spelled "drive-threw" on the sign, incidentally) covers her headset mic with one hand and calls over her shoulder:
"You must have not been that committed then, eh?"
But I have been thinking, dammit. Thinking a lot about my name. It's the one thing that I haven't had to change, and I am deeply grateful for its constancy through this experience. And having a name that was half someone else's right now would be unbearable. Taking my name off the utilities, looking at pictures, and staying in the city where we met has been awful enough. Having to use a name that was really Ed's name every day, and decide to deal with teh pain of keeping it or deal with the pain of changing it again, losing identity again, might just been the straw that put me in the hospital.
But beyond that, I have been thinking about my initial decision not to change my name, the endless bullshit I had to out up with becauseof that decision, and how I have not regretted it for a second.
When Ed and I first started talking about getting married, long before we were even engaged, I wasn't really sure what I was going to do. I'd grown up in a world where women took their husband's names, and thought I might follow suit, save me the hassle, though that never felt right. Then my mother suggested, in jest, that we should both change our names, combine Walschots and Schmutz and become the Walschmutzes (which endured as a nickname for ever). I was actually quite taken with this idea -- the two of us conbining what we had to make something new seemed an appropriate meaphor ofr a marriage and a family -- but when I brought it up as a real option Ed flatly refused to consider it seriously. When pressed, he said that he had a name, he liked it, and he was keeping it.
I thought about that for a very long time. I too, had a name. I hadn't always liked it; I had tried on a few new ones, accumulated nicknames and titles and insults, but we'd eventually warmed to each other, my name and I. I liked the sharpness of my initials, the three consonants all angled lines. I had even published a little under that name.
So I kept it -- and the act of keeping it both made me fall in love with it, and seemed to invite the whole wide world's disapproval and input.
I did not keep my name to be contrary. I did not keep it because I was not committed to the man I believed I would spend the rest of my life with. I did not keep it because I wanted to invite all this trouble or rile up the locals. I kept it because it was mine. It was my name, what I was called, and it had the power of twenty (now twenty-five) years of being my name behind it, reinforced every time I was called. My name had the magic of being my name.