Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Hello, my name is Vanessa Regis-Campos-Marquetti-Gatsch.

The subject of maiden names is a sticky one for me. This Slate article made me think of a few things.

I grew up the child of a hyphenated name family, but it's more complicated than most. You see, my *father* also grew up in a hyphenated name family. Much of my childhood was spend with my last name shifting around from Campos-Marquetti (my father's name) to Regis-Marquetti (Regis being my mother's mother's mother's name, that she took upon marrying my father. Now that's a 1970's era feminist move for you!). On top of that, my parents neglected to ever give me a middle name. The whole idea of having one is a foreign concept to me.

At doctor's offices, schools, anywhere where I would have needed to be registered by name, the last name I was under would often depend if it were my mother or my father doing the registering. After their divorce, which name I used turned into an emotionally messy sign of which 'side' I was on. For instance, my sister, who until puberty was my mother's darling, always west by Regis-Marquetti.

So, eventually, in High School I just said screw it all, and we to being plain old Vanessa Marquetti, no hyphenation, no middle name. Besides, I liked the sound of the two names together-multisyllabic, with a nice, musical flow. Van-ess-a-mar-quett-i. Sounded foreign, exotic somehow. The signature was nice too, with that big, loopy, dramatic 'q' hanging down there. And as it was neither my mother's nor my father's name, I felt like I was sort of forging my own identity.

I had wanted to keep my 'maiden' name when I got married. My husbands name sounds so unlike me. It's very abrupt, very German. It seems designed to be shouted. GATSCH! It sounds like a verb. Plus, five letters and only one vowel. That's too many consonants. Also, the 'G' makes for an awkward signature.

My husband said he didn't mind, but I could tell on some level it hurt his feelings a little bit. Something about how his name, his family history, wasn't important enough to graft onto my own. And I certianly didn't feel that way.

So, I changed my name. I became a Gatsch, practiced a new signature and got used to advising people on how to pronounce it. (My mother still stubbornly refuses to merge the 'tsch' into a proper 'ch' sound, pronouncing it 'Gat-sh' with an innocent, confused look on her face, although I don't know where she gets off as her name from her new marriage is now Mrs. *Hall*.)

And what of Marquetti? What did I do with the name that I had used to forge my own identity with as a teenager? I nudged it over and it became a middle name, filling in the blank place on forms that had been there my whole life. I finally have that third initial I've always wanted.

See, I'm still creating my own identity.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it's annoying for issues like this to be politicized. The name that you go by is, obviously, very personal to you. Am I somehow not a feminist because I didn't keep my 'maiden' name? I don't think so. This sort of thing is a personal choice. It's not "shallow, satisfying, lipstick feminism," as the author of this piece so condecendingly put it. It's a choice.

I kind of though that was the whole point of feminism, to give women the freedom to choose without social judgement.

Link via Sisyphus Shrugged.

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