Happy losing-my-last-nameiversary to me!
It’s been a year since I legally changed my name.
It happened quickly – I googled how, downloaded a deed poll, got two of my closest friends to sign it. I told Facebook, sent letters to the DVLA and passport office, rang most of the people I worked for. The first person I told was my grandad, who loves me more than anything but who has a fiercely pragmatic approach to even the most emotional subjects. He said, “but your name was already Marianne Eloise!” I told him yes, but now I didn’t have a last name. “Is that what the gas and electricity people will call you?” I said yes. “Then that is what I will call you, too.”
My name, my former name, was mine from 2000-2016. Before that I had another one that belonged to my father and my grandfather. Then my mother married my stepdad, a man who had been in my life for longer than my father was. I called him dad, he lived with us, and I proudly took his name – but when I was 11 he divorced my mum, too. For six more years we remained close; I had a room in his house, I called him when things were shit. He was, for all intents and purposes, my dad. And then he got a new girlfriend; one a year older than me, one who wanted to start fresh.
And I was not fresh; I was a sad, teenaged remnant of his past life. And then I was gone.
Which didn’t bother me, really, except for when my friends would recognise him in clubs and he would tell them he had never had a daughter. But then I started writing and putting my name on things that mattered to me. I had to introduce myself to people, have bylines, make new friends; ultimately, on a very shallow level, I just didn’t want to do the work I’m proud of in his name. I considered using my grandad’s name as a pen name; I had it before, and I would be proud to have it again. But it still belonged to my father, too, so I went with my first and middle names. I have had two surnames in my life, but the one thing I have always been, constantly, is Marianne Eloise.
And living with two names was OK for almost a year, but I started to resent my “official” surname. When people would call it in waiting rooms or I had to write it on official forms, it felt foreign. The sound of it stung. I didn’t associate it with myself; only with my stepdad. So I cut it off. It was a practical decision, one that would stop confusion between my pen and “real” name, but it felt more significant than I expected it to. My name is basically the same, but it still feels like a fresh start. I was proud to take his name in 2000, but I am far prouder to walk around with my very own name now.
Since then, besides some awkward questions, it's just been a relief. People ask me a lot if my decision will extend to when I marry, disregarding that that’s a big if. If I even marry a man. If I even get married. And even then, probably not. It would be a pain, most of all, but my boyfriend’s family name is not mine, either. Besides that and the awkwardness of explaining that “yes, that is my very last name”, I have just felt free. I have learned to (mostly) recover from the trauma of being abruptly abandoned by someone I considered family, but now, I don’t have to walk around with the evidence of it. And all personal grievances aside, it’s archaic that women still have men’s names forced on us in the first place. That we cannot choose or make our own legacies. None of us deserve to walk around with the mistakes of our fathers permanently attached to us, and more than that, we should all be allowed to choose our names without a sob story. If I wanted to change my name to Princess Bitch, I would be well within my right. I still might. But for now, I am very happy with the only name I have always had.