Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Value of a Name

"My name may have buoyancy enough to float upon the sea of time."
~ Richard Watson Gilder

My name is Christine Molloy.

A basic yet powerful statement.
One that I have been thinking a lot about lately.
It is my identity.
It is my connection with this world.
It is my legacy.

I was watching an ABC news special one evening last week about Jaycee Dugard. She was the eleven year old girl who was abducted in 1991 at a bus stop by Philip Craig Garrido and held captive for eighteen years. She suffered an unimaginable amount of physical, mental, sexual and emotional abuse by this deranged member of our society. During the interview, she recounted many of the horrific events that happened to her in those eighteen years of captivity, but one thing struck me most significantly. She was forbidden by Garrido to ever speak her name for the eighteen years he held her captive. On August 26, 2009, when law enforcement officials interviewed her (not knowing that she was an abduction victim), one of the first things she did was claim her real name back. She had to write it down for the law enforcement officials as she had not uttered her name in eighteen years. It was the point that she reclaimed herself, both to herself and to the world.

Our names are usually not something we choose for ourselves yet through the years, they start to define who we are, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. Oftentimes, we take them for granted as we go through our day to day lives and it is not until we change our name or it is taken away from us, that we realize its importance. We use our names to identify ourselves as professionals. We use them to demonstrate how we are connected to our spouses, children, and other family members. We use them to make our mark in the world.

When I got engaged and subsequently married in 2000, I had a very difficult time deciding about whether to change my last name or not. I loved being a Molloy. On the one hand, I felt that by changing my name to my future husband's name, it would unite us as a family, especially with the prospect of having children someday. However I loved my name; it was who I was for twenty-nine years at that point. Why would I want to change how I identified myself?  I did have the option to hyphenate my maiden name with my new husband's name. Problem was though, I was signing my name anywhere up to about twenty-five times a day on the shifts that I worked as a nurse. Hyphenating it would just make that process that much more tedious. In the end, I did decide to change my name, mostly because the argument about starting a family under one last name seemed to win out. I have to say, it just never felt quite right. 

Nine years later, when I was in the process of divorcing from my now ex-husband, there were so many issues to work out. Between selling the house, lawyer appointments, and figuring out how to start my life all over, there were more things to contend with than I could keep track of. Despite that, there was one issue that I needed to get resolved right away. I would hassle the attorney, the very nice lady at the courthouse office, and all the powers that be. About what? I wanted to know exactly when I was going to get my maiden name back; the one that I felt I probably should have kept all along. Was it going to be the date we went to court, the thirty days after when the judge signed off on it, or the four months later that it became final? I needed to know exactly when I could legally be Christine Molloy again. I missed her. Somehow in the process of those nine years, she became a lesser version of herself and now that she was back on the road to discovering herself again, she needed her name back to feel true to that process. On December 27, 2009, in the eyes of the law, she came back. It was about damn time.

In no uncertain circumstances am I against women changing their names when they get married, most women I know have done it. That being said, there is one thing I am certain of in this entire world and that is, I will never ever change my name again. Not because I had a failed marriage, but because I want to go through this life as Christine Molloy, with all of her successes, failures, aspirations, and dreams...and trust me, there is plenty of all of the above!

I would be curious to hear my reader's opinions about changing their name; the pros, cons, and everything in between. Please feel free to leave your comments below....

Photo Courtesy of Google images


  1. Had I made it to a divorce, I would have taken back my maiden name. Since he passed away before we could divorce, I always said I would only change my name again if I were to get married or have a child out of wedlock. I wouldn't raise a child with my late husband's name. As a single person, without children, I feel carrying the name of my late husband is a symbol of what I went through, and I would have to have a damn good reason to change it now. I understand your position though - it's very personal. I've had friends legally take their husband's name, but professionally continued to use their maiden name. One of my former inlaws hyphenated her name along with her hubby, so that they would both carry the same name as their children. Char

  2. Yes, it is definitely a personal preference. I am actually surprised at how strongly I feel about the issue for myself. Maybe if I had children, I would feel differently. I for one, think that you carrying your married name is a powerful way to symbolize what you have gone through and I am quite proud of you for that!

  3. Chris I had a very hard time with this when Steve and I got married. I struggled with not being Karen Cimino anymore and how people that I met in the future would never know I was Karen Cimino. As you know I did change my name but now that is who I am, Karen Wilmes and I've grown to accept it. But why do we have to change our identities when we get married but the men don't, that part I don't like.

  4. I know, what is up with that? Steve Cimino? Hmmm...

  5. Lauren Dechayne-DonatiJuly 20, 2011 at 9:34 PM

    Changing your name is a tough decision. When I am asked for my last name, I often here "How do you spell it?" or "that's one I never heard before". Well, despite the questions/comments, and often misspelled junk mail, I am glad I hyphenated my name almost 15 years ago.

  6. I was so proud to take Frank's last name when we got married. But 15 years later, when my Dad was in the hospital and not doing well, I really wanted my maiden name back. I talked to Frank about it and he would have supported whatever decision I made. I just wanted that connection to my Dad. Right before Dad passed, Frank and I found out we were expecting. That made my decision easy - keep my married name. I wanted our family unit to share one last name. Now that Frank is gone, I'm so glad I kept his name. It is my forever connection to him. If I ever get remarried.... well, never say never.

  7. Gayle ~ That is true....never say never...hope you are well!

  8. I can't imagine being called anything other than the name my parents gave me. I've never been married and don't know that I ever will be. But I never liked the idea of changing my name. I've been through a lot with this name. As for kids, it would be great to have a boy to carry on the name, since there are none...but I'd need to marry a really progressive man for that...or have/adopt a baby on my own...which is still a possibility...

    We'll see...

    By the way, WELCOME back Ms. Molloy :-)

  9. I would love to see you adopt! :-)