About 5 1/2 years ago, I went to the Social Security office in downtown San Jose to change my name. I'd decided that, being no longer maiden, I'd go ahead and leave my maiden name behind. I was excited to do so. I was married!
I'd never considered keeping my maiden name after marriage. First of all, I'd only just recently made peace with my alliterative full name in the first place when I decided to get married. I used to think it was super cheeseball, and I disliked that people asked me, my whole life, whether my middle name also started with a "K," as if that were such a funny joke :P
But I really didn't think ahead to all the implications of changing my name. First of all, I only appreciated in hindsight how nicely the alliterative Kisa Konrad had rolled off my tongue. Because my married name started with an "A," I always had to make a pregnant pause between first and last names when introducing myself as a married woman just so people would be able to understand what I was saying (I'm super shy about using my first and last name when introducing myself anyway--I don't know why...I just feel so cheesy, as if I'm this important person and you have to know my full name. Then again it's equally goofy to just say my first name, as if I'm, you know, Cher or Charo or something). All the way around it was just uncomfortable.
But I think the aspect of the name change I really didn't consider was what a strong identifier it would be--and identifying me in a category to which I didn't truly belong. Having a Muslim married name, I was often positively reacted to by Muslims, especially when my work name tag contained both my first and last names. Muslim people would enthusiastically ask me where I was from and want to make conversation. The thing was that I'm not Muslim and never was. When those same customers asked me about my faith and I shared honestly that I hadn't converted to Islam but had simply taken the Muslim name of my then-husband, the conversation would take a marked downward dive--the conversational equivalent of a wah wah waaaaaaahhh.
Apart from my own situation, I wonder whether or not many men stop to consider what a big transition it is for a woman to change her name. Some women probably don't find it to be so. And like I said, I was eager and happy to do it myself. But in the aftermath, I couldn't help but feel that a little part of me had died when I did so. And maybe a little part of me had. The me that was single was gone, and--it would seem--my youth along with it. Maybe it isn't such a bad thing that women, if they so choose, have this very concrete symbol of the transition into married life; everything can be thought of in terms of the person you were before marriage and the person you were after (literally, the name on the outside of the envelops you receive and which aim to identify YOU, changes). But I think that if I'd known how much of me would come to slip away in the years following that seemingly minor and very common change of last name, I might have held a little more tightly to Konrad. I might have put up more of a fight before I let go the version of myself I'd spent 27 years cultivating.
Today's New Activity: Maiden Name Reclamation
As of this morning, by virtue of the powers vested in the Social Security Administration, and for the foreseeable future, my name is Kisa Konrad, and I'm happy to be back.