Did you ever really want to change your name?
I’m not talking about that 5th grade experiment you undertook where you tried spelling your name differently, nor am I referencing the other time where you daydreamed about ditching the plain, simple, and most likely normal name your parents gave you for something exotic and unique.
I’m talking about taking a married name.
Literally within minutes of congratulating us on our engagement, my adorable mother-in-law-to-be asked me if I’d be taking their last name. I honestly had not put much thought to it. I think I bobbled around and gave her some non-committal answer. Solid, right? To be fair, my mother-in-law upgraded to her new name from an even crazier maiden name. (Upgraded, people. Trust me. Her maiden name has a “W” pronounced like a “V” in there.)
I love my maiden name. It’s different, but still has a nice balance of consonants and vowels. It’s strong. It’s pronounceable. It’s who I was for almost 33 years. It’s who I still am.
My name has spawned many nicknames throughout the stages of my life. I was “Lars” or “Laura B.” in high school; “LB” or “Bed-Head” in college; “Hotbed” in law school (due to a misfortunate statement made under pressure in 1L Torts class, not, I assure you, due to any lascivious behavior. Swear.). The most endearing, however, came on my very first day of teaching. My first class of high school seniors asked me right out of the gate if they could call me “Ms. B.” My heart grew 3 sizes that day.
I began practicing law at a large firm as a Bedingfield. I liked the name plate outside my door; it included my middle initial, K., which I’ve always thought was lovely and mellifluous. And professional sounding. Laura K. Bedingfield. Yep, I’d trust her.
Then I got married. And dragged my heels, big time, about officially becoming a Herakovich. I had a litany of excuses: it’s a pain in the neck to go downtown to fill out the paperwork; I’m already “established” in my life as a Bedingfield; it just doesn’t flow right; I don’t feel like a Herakovich. You name it, and I probably used it to buy myself more time.
Hyphenating the two last names was out of the question. Initially, I did think about it, and let me tell you: there’s no room on any form for a 21-letter last name. It looked ridiculous, too. So the next best solution was to ditch my sweet middle name and cram Bedingfield in there. That was the plan, and I had many a stubborn chat with my brand-new husband about how I was still going to use both names.
Then we tried to take a flight and the airline was utterly befuddled because, of course, all 3 names didn’t fit on the ticket or boarding pass. We almost missed a flight because we were hung up in security and again by the boarding agent over the discrepancy between what my ticket said and what my driver’s license said. I’m pretty sure I wound up in tears over it later that night as we changed my SkyMiles identification to straight-up Herakovich.
But I still did not go gentle into that good name. In fact, my husband visited my office about 6 months after we’d tied the knot and put a sticky note over my name plate which still read “Laura K. Bedingfield” (I took down the sticky note right after he left). The next time he visited my office, he put a sticky note on my Administrative Assistant’s desk, asking her to “fix it”. Sandy and I had a good laugh about that one.
The game changer came with my first pregnancy. By that point, I was solely covered by my husband’s insurance and using such a long [basically] double last name befuddled them as well. (Imagine that. A confused insurance company.) So I bit the bullet and headed down to the Social Security office with my marriage license and birth certificate in hand, 7 & 1/2 months pregnant. It was a traumatic occasion on many fronts, let me assure you.
Even though we’re coming up on a decade since we got married, I often feel like I’m still trying to fit into this new name. Your name identifies you. As a Bedingfield, I was me; I was the smalltown girl who published poetry, who taught British Literature, who had traveled to 12 countries, who had caught the last out in the state softball championship. I was the Milledge bus rider in college, the canonical text supporter in graduate school, the copious note taker in law school. I was the runner who often complained about sweating and the friend who’d make you laugh when we worked late. I was the one who’d loan you money for the juke-box while we waited for another pitcher of beer. I’d established myself.
As a Herakovich, I’ve become a wife, a mother and a homemaker. I am the go-to girl for school volunteer things because folks have figured out I rarely say no. I’m the team mom for my sons’ baseball teams. I run on the treadmill without complaining, because I run alone. I drink red wine on my couch with a book when my husband is out of town, one ear perked up to listen out for children who’ve snuck out of their beds. In short, I’m a giver and a grown-up.
And it’s all good.
Better than good; it’s great, in fact.
But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy.
An only child, Laura K. Bedingfield Herakovich figured hers was rare plight, until her sister-in-law, the only daughter in a family of four children, had an equally tough time taking a married name. (Love you, K.!)