Advice For The Day: 7/4/17
 
I don't really have a lot to say today; it's the 4th of July which I sort of hate because fireworks and 'merica. I don't feel like making this political, about how fucked up America is or how empty the American Dream is. I'm taking a break from thinking about that today. The closest I'll come to celebrating America is Zoe and I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack for the millionth time this morning. 

But I was thinking about something semi-important this morning and I decided I could work it into a column about independence and freedom, if only so that I can stick with my trend of not missing a single day. 

Here's the thing I was thinking: for the moment, I have decided not to change my last name. I've been thinking about it since May 17 when we got married, and I haven't done it yet. Which led me to the conclusion that I really don't want to. 

The funny thing is that part of the appeal of marriage (for me) was that we could all have the same last name. I'll admit I do feel some type of way about my daughter having her dad's last name and his grandma's middle name but none of my names. It irks me when I have to specify that my name is different than her name. I think I'm extra sensitive to this because not only does she have his names, but she also looks more like him. She's brown, which people seem to think "goes with" the brown parent more than it "goes with" the not-brown parent. I may get over this at some point but (maybe because of the arduous nature of growing her in my body?) I feel like I need people to know how much mine she is, and a name seems like one way to do that since I can't make us look more alike. 

And so I thought I felt enough of a thing about it to go through with changing my name. I was even going to keep my last and make it my middle. I had it all planned out. I even paid a company called "Hitch Switch" (how genius is that?) to fill out most of the paperwork for me. I have the paperwork ready. The first step is the SS office to get my name officially changed. 

But...if I bypass my natural ambivalence (that 49/51 split I referred to yesterday is super common for me) the truth is, I 51% don't want to. 

I have been Amy Miller for 37 years. It's not that I feel some emotional or sentimental connection to my name; I've never been an obligatory "family first" person. It's not even that I'm used to it or particularly like my name. Frankly it's rather pedestrian. 

But there's something about changing my name to my husband's name that makes me feel like I'm less "me". 

(NOTE: No judgment to those who did change your name for whatever reason). 

In the abstract, like before we got married, I liked the idea of us being a family the the same name. That sounds nice, right? The _______ family. 

But then we got our first congratulations card addressed to Mr & Mrs Rodney ________ and I kind of balked inside. Not even consciously. I just started to shift. I've been shifting since then. I brought it up to Rodney the other day and he was like, *shrugs,* "you do you, baby." 

(Which I expected, but I was willing to consider his feelings if he surprised me by caring deeply about it). 

And so my conclusion is I think it's kind of gross that suddenly I became Mrs Rodney ____ (I'm keeping his full name redacted because of Zoe's privacy) on May 17. 

Like...what? Why is this still a thing? I went from Amy Miller to Mrs Rodney ________ and voila! my identity as an independent, autonomous, separate person was (I felt) erased. I did not like that checks were made out to Mr & Mrs Rodney _______. I did not like that cards were addressed this way. I do not like the fact that we call a woman's birth name her "maiden" name. 

Many of you know that I struggled with becoming a mom and feeling like I lost part of my identity in the transition. I think at the moment I feel like I can't afford to lose part of my identity in becoming a wife as well. I also think it's entirely possible I'll change my mind at some point. Maybe when Zoe starts school and I get tired of explaining that I'm her mom but we have different names. 

But my business name is my "birth" name. I have been branding it for years now. I have been me for 37 years, or maybe more accurately, I've been trying to become fully myself for 37 years. And now I feel like I'm getting there finally, and the last thing I want to do is have to be someone else. Even if it's only symbolic. Even if it links my family together. I don't think I can right now. 

So anyway, on Independence Day, I'll say that I think my freedom and independence is tied to keeping my name for now. 

Meditate on these concepts today while you're doing whatever you're going to do (which hopefully does not include any firework injuries or traumatizing your neighbors or pets).   

What does freedom mean to you? What does independence look like for you? Are there areas of your life you're struggling with these concepts?