A Genie by any other name ...

The bliss of being betrothed has not faded in the least. But there has been a bit of angst over it. Rich admitted to me months ago that he was thinking that if we were to get married and if I were to take Surname[1] and keep Punky[2] as a middle name my initials would be GPS and that would be pretty cool. He looked abashed as if I had caught him writing our names in a spiral bound notebook.

I told him that those initials would be cool, but was pretty non-committal about the whole thing. I wasn’t sure I wanted to take his last name. Really, I wasn’t sure what I would want to do.

So a few weeks ago, it became more kosher to talk about these things with our friends and it’s been fascinating to hear everyone’s opinions. My parents have steadfastly not cared at all what name I have as long as I’m happy. When my oldest brother was a kid, my father said it would be easier for he and Mom to change their last name to Doug’s last name (and the name of Mom’s ex-husband) than to change Doug's to my father's last name. My father is the most hip individual of any generation ever.

There were several friends who assumed I would change my name to Rich’s upon marriage. I can’t blame them as I have a track record of changing my name when Jeremy and I were married. Hell, most of my utilities, my social security card and my passport are still in that name. Obviously, I didn’t salt the earth when it came to changing back to my birth name after the divorce.

Divorce also taught me that the world doesn’t really care what your name is. It helped that Punky was my middle name so it showed up on my driver’s license and other documents. But I have credit cards that say both Genevieve and Genie and no one seems to question my identity. My signature is illegible for the most part anyways, but even on my current debit card it has Genevieve A Punky and my current picture on it but my old married signature permanently printed on the front “for added security.” It doesn’t seem to matter that the signature on the back now doesn’t match the one on the front. The world really doesn’t care.

So I was renewed with a sense of individuality. I have two names now. Really, I have three or four if you count nicknames. And while one of those names doesn’t apply to me anymore, it’s still a part of me. I’m pleased that I’m a Punky. My family’s farm is on Punky Road in North Carolina. It’s easy enough to say and spell. It’s my father’s name and I associate it with all the sub-culture of our family. It’s what makes me take things off of other people’s trash and yell at fast food workers who don’t wash their hands and worry over diamond mines in other countries and give money to strangers who need help. Being a Punky is a huge part of me.

But for those of you who have paid attention to my moniker in this forum, my middle name is pretty important to me as well. I worried over “losing” it when Jeremy and I got married. And that loss is a large part of why I chose GenieAlisa as my online name. My parents worked really hard to pick a pretty awesome name for me and it would be a shame for it to disappear.

And so now we’re in 2006 and I’m fretting over what my name should be after Rich and I get married. I made a fucking Pro/Con list on paper, for Christ’s sake. And as I sat writing this list I realized that if I had so many reservations about it, shouldn’t that be a sign that I didn’t really want to change my name?

So I started mentally preparing myself to remain a Punky. It’s entertaining to have waiters and cashiers call Rich Mr. Punky and I didn’t want to go through changing my name if I was going to mourn the loss of Alisa or Punky or regret it.

Rich has his name tattooed on his arm and is a junior to his father, so the idea of him changing his name was not really an option. Besides, Surname is a pretty kick ass name, so who wouldn’t want it? Oh, that’s right, I might not want it.

The only other Mrs. Surnames I’ve known are his mother who doesn’t make the best role model and … yeah, that one and only ex-wife and ex-friend. Not a great streak so far.

I turned to Wikipedia for ideas on traditions in various cultures regarding name changes. Let me tell you, that was not a good idea. One of the entries mentioned the woman traditionally surrendering her last name in favor of the man’s last name. Surrender? Ugh, I think I’m going to puke.

So the next day I was in the garage with my friends and the topic came up. My male friends (all of whom have their names in mint condition) told me that they thought the husband and wife should have the same last name. There were words like “tradition” and “commitment” bantered around. My dear friend, Mr. Smith, made statements that it seemed weird to him for a wife not to have her husband’s last name. But in keeping with most conversations we have, he also told me that his blanket statements about what’s right and wrong don’t apply to me since I’m his perennial exception to the rule. Thanks … I think. But the part that really disturbed me was the idea that if a wife didn’t take her husband’s last name she wasn’t committed to the relationship. As if getting married wasn’t enough. Wow. Just. Fucking. Wow.

So all that stewed in my head and my gut for hours and hours. I make fun of Colin for over-analyzing lots of things in life, but I am myself the reigning champ of over-think. What does the world think? Do I care what the world thinks? Am I happy or sad about all of this? Do I want to just tell the world to go to hell and change my name to some unpronounceable symbol?

Rich and I snuggled up for bed that night and I tried to go to sleep. But over-think was in over-drive and I couldn’t turn my brain off. I lied there worrying about having to choose a name to give up in order to take Rich’s. It was like saying I had to cut off one of my hands, but if I played my cards right, I could pick which hand to cut off and could then replace it with some hand that Rich gave me. And then I started worrying that if I kept my current name would I start to feel isolated from the rest of our (hypothetical and non-existent except for pets) family as it started to expand? Would we hyphenate our kids’ names and doom them to strange initials and complicated alphabetization? Which voting line is the shortest in our neighborhood? What if there were some disaster and we were assigned lifeboats by last name? I want to be in Rich’s boat!

About that time, tears started streaming down my face and I attempted to quietly sob into Rich’s armpit so as not to keep him awake while I decided my future in the dark at 1am. Needless to say, Rich wasn’t sleeping and promised we would talk about it on Sunday and sort it all out and that he loved me with any name and I could call myself whatever I wanted and nothing changes. I blubbered something about life boats and surrendering and somewhere in all that I fell asleep.

Sunday brought a new day and much optimism for my project of “Pin the Last Name on the Genie” for the three hour ride home. Even just knowing that I could do whatever I wanted and that Rich would support whatever I chose gave me a lot of encouragement. He is a very very cool guy, indeed.

After pondering my options, I have decided to keep all of my names and add Rich’s on at the end for good measure, giving me four names. Upon marriage, my new name will be Genevieve (Genie) Alisa Punky Surname. I will be in his lifeboat and I won’t surrender anything and I’ll still be my Daddy’s girl and I’ll still be GenieAlisa. In a matter of 12 hours I went from tears and angst to excitement about adding some “flare” to my current name. And no matter what the world calls me, so long as it’s not Gigi or Jenny or Jamie (?!) it will be My Name ™. I will be the scourge of Scantron bubble forms.

[1] and [2] – Surname and Punky are not our real last names. Although, that would be pretty cool.