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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Identity Lost

The Name Game For Brides

Brides in the United States frequently change their names and take the name of their husband. I've been married over thirty years, and I'm still not comfortable with my husband's name attached to mine. I admit, I MISS MY NAME!

I love my husband, but my name... so much of 'me' is bound up in my name. My maiden name. I regretted changing it soon after my wedding when a few years had passed and I realized a part of 'ME' was missing.  

Suddenly I'd lost my ethnicity. Now everyone assumes I'm Italian. They ask me for Italian recipes (the ones I know I knew when I wasn't 'Italian.') Most of my Italian recipes are not hand me downs from a grandmother in Sicily, no, they are courtesy of the back of a Ronzoni box. Or I found them in a cookbook filled with Italian recipes from the library or at my former hangout Borders Books. Or from a cooking magazine.  But my grandmothers didn't cook Italian, their 'gravy' was for roast beef not spaghetti or lasagna.  

Then there are people who presume I know where to travel if they go to Italy. Repeat after me, 'SHE IS NOT A TRAVEL AGENT! SHE IS NOT FROM ITALY. SHE'S FROM NEW JERSEY!' That's not to say I don't know how to find out information about places to go and things to do if I ever went to Italy, it's just I didn't grow up in Rome, Venice, or any of the surrounding countryside and neither did my parents or grandparents. 

Then there are the people who think I understand OPERA. I'm not Italian. I don't speak Italian. The only opera I 'get' are some of the more modern pieces that are performed in English. I'm not proud of this, it's just a comment on the lack of my cultural education--an education that did not include attending the famous Italian  Opera House, Teatro Alla Scala. It did not even include opera in Philadelphia. Local musical theater was the closest I ever got.  So if you have a question about Oklahoma! or West Side Story, I'm your girl. And besides, the one thing I do know is not all great opera is Italian. It just seems to be a popular assumption of the masses.

Then I get the kids who think (god forbid!) that I KNOW the people on the television program Jersey Shore! Or the cast of the Sopranos. OK, I mind this WAY more than them presuming I can give them opera tips! The only reason I know who the cast of Jersey Shore are is because anyone who watches television cannot avoid seeing them, even if it is only on the news or Jay Leno. Why anyone would think an 'over 40' year old woman would know these people is beyond me. Yet it's a question I get asked. WHY? Because of my last name. As far as knowing the Sopranos cast? Come on, I'm don't work for HBO, I don't even get HBO at my house, how would I KNOW these people? 

No one ever asked me these things when I had my old last name. If they asked for recipes it was because they knew I was a good cook. Or if they asked about traveling in Italy it was because they knew my mom used to be a travel agent. If they asked about opera it was because they knew my brother was involved in it.  But total strangers didn't make assumptions about me based on my last name. They asked because they knew me personally and knew I might have some information.  

So if you're a bride contemplating changing your last name think long and hard. Be very sure you're willing to give up your identity and possibly your 'presumption of ethnicity' and become someone else. I'm sure there are brides out there who are thrilled with their new names, to them I say 'hurray! I'm happy for you!' To the rest I say, think about it. A long time. Think hard. Do you want to give up your 'you-ness?' In some cases do you want to give up your ethnicity? Do you want to be known for the rest of your married life as your husband's wife or do you want to maintain your unique identity, just like he is? Things that make you go hmm....

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