The Name Game

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    The flowers looked great, the rings are sparkling and the limo is waiting to whisk the new couple away to begin their lives together as Mr. and Mrs. … Not so fast, have you considered your new name? Have you said it over and over? Does it roll off your tongue, or are you choking it out? As brides head down the aisle they leave behind not only their single lives, but also a piece of history, their own names. I have two names, mine and my husband's. I use both on a regular basis. Often it seems as if the two names represent two different people, the "me" and only me and the "me" in "us," the family. I never legally changed my name. For me personally it was never an option. Changing my name was something I was never comfortable doing. My feelings throughout the years never changed. I thought it was an antiquated tradition and its longevity throughout the centuries frankly, surprised me. Throughout my marriage I've supplied numerous reasons to the curious and disapproving, but the truth is, there isn't just one reason why I kept my name, I'm sure it's a combination of many. Three other women in my family also did not take their husbands' name, and as normal as it is to other women to change their names, it was just as normal for us not to. One of these women, Mary Alice Landis, who with her husband owns a business in Newton, never questioned her decision to keep her name. Landis' three sons all have her last name as their middle names. Leigh Ann Pietz of Stanhope has no problem being called Mrs. Pietz … until she gets to work that is, where she is Leigh Ann VonHagen, the name which appears on her birth certificate. "I was in my early teens when I decided that changing my name seemed silly to me. After college I worked in a science and research division of state government. Most of the women scientists around me also used their own names. However, when I married I did have to convince my husband that it was no slight against him or his family." Monica Brunetti however never gave it a thought. "I was happy to change my name. I never thought of not taking my husband's name, it's tradition." I respect women who do take their husbands name, and am actually impressed by their acceptance of what to me, is a monumental life changing event. I am especially impressed by women who give up names like Kathy Bridge, Laraine Nelson, or Carol Johnson to take on more challenging names like Santoiemma, Bivolcic, or Cherdchamadol. Some folks go through life forever spelling their names. Michelle Sutton of Sparta bravely took on the name Melgarejo when she got married. Spell it? I can't even pronounce it. While gathering information for this story I was surprised at how many women reluctantly gave up their names. And the creative ways some women solved their predicament. Caroline Viggiano of Sparta is one of many interviewed. "It made no sense to me. My whole life I had been Caroline Enright, why change it now?" She compromised by legally changing her middle name to her maiden name. Judy Geer kept her name alive and well by passing it onto her son. Webb is not only Judy's maiden name but also her son's legal first name. On the other hand are women who can't wait to change their names. Lena Shugart of Sparta is pretty sure her sister-in-law Melissa Beaver wasted no time relinquishing her name. My own mother-in-law went through her childhood with the name Fuchs. "Do you know what it was like going to the chalkboard spelling F-U-C…by the time I finished writing the ‘c' the class was laughing," she said. "It was a club I didn't mind giving up membership to." I personally was married by a minister with the last name of Folker. Say that three times fast. Same connotation as Fuchs and that popular movie about the Focker family. Lori Pivarnick's name for the past 16 years has been Miller. Was she one who ran to the Social Security office to relinquish her name? "No, as a matter of fact, I asked my husband to consider taking my name because it was so unique," states Miller. Cheryl Giacomaro of Byram had no problem changing her name. "It's tradition, the way I was raised. I never thought of not changing it." Giacomaro continued with another name tradition of naming her son after her husband. Some names are just too nice sounding not to give some consideration to. My niece Nichole Saraceno gets married this July to a man whose last name is Kelly. Nichole Kelly. Now that's ear candy, red carpet sounding. Divorce situations pose new challenges in the name game. Many women are legally taking back their maiden names. "Yes, I do plan on reclaiming my name, following my divorce," states Lia Assaro of Sparta. "I'm proud of my maiden name, and this is a new beginning for me. If I go through life single, I'd much rather honor my father's name than my ex husband's," says Assaro, the soon-to-be again Ms. Di Miceli. Robin Sands of Sparta had no problem as a newlywed changing her name. Twenty years later, with a daughter, and well established with the name ‘Sands,' she remarried. "It's very difficult now to change my name because it would be different from my daughter's, and I feel like I'd be alienating her. However, not taking my (second) husband's name makes me feel like I'm alienating him. So, I'd say that whatever the social situation is, determines which name I use." My favorite names though, are the ones that turn a simple introduction into a humorous conversation, and take the meaning of love soaring to new heights. On the lighter side of the equation, for example is the new Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor, or Mrs. Janet Jackson. They deserve a little chuckle, but they're still acceptable. And then there's the other side, where one must be truly in love to take on the life long challenge of the name game … When Mary Baldwin for instance, became Mary Christmas. I kid you not. Or when Dee Stuart married Albert Gee, she became Dee Gee. My junior high school sense of humor could not be controlled when I learned of an 80-year-old woman who used her nickname of Minnie Faye her entire life. She married Fredrick Weiner, thus becoming… you guessed it, Minnie Weiner! On a soccer field in central Jersey, where again the name Weiner appears, the players first initials are displayed with their last names across the back of their uniforms. B.A. WEINER happens to be one of the best goalies they have (c‘mon, you‘d have to excel at something with a name like that) It surprises me that someone floating around the gene pool throughout the generations didn't consider altering these names, just a bit. Yes, I know, this suggestion is coming from a woman very attached to her own name. But as women, being asked to take on such, well, meaningful names, I would think a compromise would be in order. Call me selfish… No one can predict a questionable married name, but parents of newborns need to consider the implications of the name and nicknames they bestow upon their offspring. My own aunt was nicknamed Tinker Bell as a child, due to her petite size. Who would have thought that 60 years later she'd still be called Tinker. I'm pretty sure she would have preferred using her real name, and attempts to do so in her professional life. Nicknames do stick. There's an old saying: ‘Girls grow into exotic names, boys change them" (or at least abbreviate them). My cousin named her son Michael Moskie. Her brother commented that they better not call him Mickey or he'll be known as Mickey Moskie (Get it?) The Pools from Sparta wanted a strong name for their son. "We agreed on the name Henry, after playing rock, scissors and paper. We never thought that one day his friends would be shortening it to ‘Hen', like they're doing now." I myself named my son David, after my father. However, I'll admit that if I had married a man with the last name of Berkowitz, I would not have been so sentimental. I thought over the years I might resign to hyphenating my own name when it became too confusing, but honestly, after 16 years it never became an issue. It's interesting that in my personal life it may have raised a few eyebrows, but in the legal, government business and finance world my name being different from my husband's is never questioned or given a second thought. I have never stood on a soap box, insisting people use my ‘God-given name' which is most likely the reason it never was a point of contention for me. Between you and me, people are going to call you "Mrs. so and so" whether you like it or not. It's not worth my time or energy to correct them or stand on ceremony about it. That only creates awkward moments, and plenty of them. This is not an issue between me and society, it's merely an issue between me, and the name I hold very close to my heart. And I'll admit that growing up I had my own little name cross to bear. Throughout school the attendance was called aloud, last name first. When my name of Price, Lori was announced, inevitably some smart alec would yell out some ridiculous figure such as, "A dollar fifty nine!" Hmm. Personally I think I am worth way more.