What’s in a name, huh? Apparently quite a lot actually – as I’ll unfold for you in today’s post. We jump about a bit so bear with me, and allow me to start with a story about a t-shirt I bought this week…
It’s a plain grey and fairly unremarkable t-shirt, apart from the word feminist emblazoned across the front. I wore it the day it arrived (isn’t that always a sign that you love something – when it’s on the minute it’s been bought?). I’m normally pretty blasé about slogan tees but this one is different somehow, because being feminist is a big part of who I am, and behind the word is a set of principles I believe in most strongly.
I believe in equal rights, and a just, contributory, fair society where we’re all judged very simply on who we are and how we behave as our most beautiful, unpolished, unedited, natural selves. I hate any suggestion that we should conform without good reason, and I loathe seeing judgement passed over others because somehow they don’t conform to a norm.
In this vein, I also believe in my right as a woman to be the sole ‘owner’ of myself – free to represent ‘me’ in any manner I wish, including by the name I wish.
Which brings us some way back to the point of this post.
Where names (and women’s names in particular) are concerned, I don’t believe that if you get married you should necessarily take your husband’s name. And I also don’t believe that you should necessarily adopt the title ‘Mrs’.
[Now that’s not to say I believe you mustn’t. If this is your choice, then of course it’s your choice – and I stand by what I said earlier on letting each other be our own selves, however that manifests. I have no beef whatsoever with this, and many of my friends have gone down this road. My feelings are that I don’t believe you should have to. So do what you want, not what you feel you should, and all kudos to you.]
Unsurprisingly then given the above, I was adamant when I got engaged that I wouldn’t be taking his name after marriage. And that the only transition in my title would be from Miss to Ms. Until somehow my mind was changed.
I was born Miss Lisa Nichols and on my wedding day I became Mrs Lisa Innes. And if I’m honest somewhere along the way I became excited about it too. The husband was never keen on me keeping my name, and definitely not keen on the Ms. – and nor were many others I mentioned it to either. So the alter ego that was in charge then (the one I called my ‘autopilot’ in this post almost a year ago now) got me on board.
Except then I got divorced. And immediately that this happened, I shifted from Mrs. to Ms. (which felt good!). I kept the Innes though – it was all too overwhelming to make any decisions about that – too unstable, too new, too raw and too turbulent. But things move on. And so today, 7 years since getting married and 3 years since getting divorced, I’ve begun the process of changing my name…again.
It’s taken such a time because I’ve been unsure of what to do with it to be honest. I’ve known I didn’t want my married name for some time, but reverting back to my maiden name has never seemed entirely right either (though it would be simpler!). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve toyed with the idea but it just bothers me on a number of levels. At a symbolic level for example, on the day I was married I was handed to somebody else and I don’t now want to be ‘handed back’. If there’s anything I’ve learned these past few years (full disclosure – am still learning) it’s how to be me and so I want a name that is representative of this individual self.
So it was no to Innes and no to Nichols.
[An aside… The former is hopefully easy enough to understand, the latter perhaps less so. For sure though there’s no hidden statement, or agenda. It’s simply that that person is gone – gone 7 years now – and I’ve grown and evolved so much since then that taking the name again is an impossible step backwards. It also feels to me like clouding what is a positive and empowering decision with something that seems like (though believe me it’s anything but) a showcasing of failure. Even just practically, facilitating a change back to my maiden name means producing my divorce certificate for all and sundry – which is something I’m not willing to do.]
Which means what then?
It’s been percolating for some time but now I’m sure. I’ll be changing my name to that of Ms. Lisa James.
It is a family name actually – from my Mum’s side – but there’s no hidden statement in that either. It’s a name that has roots for me but is one that I’ve not held before – which makes it at the same time new, forward-facing, and representative of an evolution of self.
If I’m honest some of the delay in me making the change this has been in not wanting to be seen to be making a choice between one parent and the other (my parents are also divorced) but I hope I’ve now been able to explain myself well enough to both that this is avoided (and if not then fingers crossed this post helps).
What’s also solidified it for me these past couple of months has been a speeding up of my understanding and acceptance of self. I’m finally ready to just be me. I know who that is, and I’m ready to give her a name.
So, James gives me ‘me’, James gives me roots, and James gives me my future. It’s not quite official yet but it’s coming. So hello Lisa James – I’m very pleased to meet you.
NB – my personal Twitter and Instagram handles have now changed so you’ll find me on both as @_lisjam. All other change will follow as the paperwork is signed, and official documents changed.