Friday, November 5, 2010

Flashback Friday: Hyphen? No thanks.

It has been nearly a year since my last "Flashback Friday."  It was the honeymoon episode in the romantic series which began with Gary proposing on a Las Vegas stage. So although it is belated, I'll continue this trajectory by telling of the derivation of our family surname.

As happy couples often do, Gary and I would occasionally muse about the possibility of marriage long before we were engaged. Even then, we discussed our mutual preference for choosing a new name for the newly-formed family of our future. Many people are surprised to learn that it was my future husband who originated the concept; I did not persuade him to stray from masculine tradition simply to suit my wishes.

Gary never felt a strong connection to his last name. He was not close to his father, who left when he was a child and is now presumed deceased (this is something I'll always wonder about).  Gary's mother remarried while we were dating and took a new last name herself.  The last name Gary grew up with is nearly meaningless to him, and the notion of carrying on that family "legacy" simply doesn't matter.

In addition, Gary opposed the accepted convention where the wife assumes her husband's name because the implication is that she becomes his property, or the way I viewed it: leaves her own personal identity to become part of his. Of course, we both understand that this is not the way marriage and the name change is generally viewed today, and we don't criticize anybody's choice to follow the established norm.

One common rebellion against taking the husband's name is to hyphenate with both names. Personally, I was adamantly against that option, and I don't think Gary liked it either. We both preferred the idea of creating a new name for our family. The early inspiration involved perusing foreign languages of influence in our lives to select a pleasant-sounding, easy-to-spell word with a meaningful translation. But as the far-off possibility of getting married transformed into a real plan with a date on the calendar, we began to consider the concept of combining our last names to create a new one.


We are lucky that our two names happened to form a real English word, and even luckier that we like the word and it even held personal significance for us.  We embarked on our relationship in the winter.  I taught Gary how to snow ski, a hobby which we frequently enjoyed together. Both of us to an extent, but Gary especially, prefer the rainy, cold seasons to the sunny, hot ones. When we brought puppies home to join our family a few years prior, we chose Siberian Huskies--traditional sled dogs.  We chose to get married under the snow-capped peak of Mt. Hood. Our honeymoon cruise was booked--to Alaska. Once the official decision had been made, we had some fun with the concept and created a "Winter in July" wedding theme.

In addition to these kind of silly connotations, I do love the symbolism that the combination of names evokes. Neither of us rescinded our own identity in forming a marital union. We retained our own individuality, while also creating a new identity together.  The family created when we married was something entirely new, entirely our own. Yet instead of using a word picked out of a book, our new last name was formed using elements of our previous names, allowing the figurative histories within them to endure.

Gary signs his new last name for the first time 
(He had a much harder time with all of the name-change paperwork than I did--a lot more questions and requests for legal proof)

These days, the intrigue of our new name is old news to those who know about it, and no news to those who don't. The assumption is that I took my husband's last name, and the truth isn't unveiled unless there is a reason. Much like weddings themselves, and birth stories, every detail of which seem (and many are) of utmost importance at present, become relegated to the memories of the primary players and rarely discussed as time passes. Our adorable wedding theme plays no role in the day-to-day interactions of our marriage, and neither does the highly debated venue.  Few people know that I gave birth to my daughter at home, and she is certainly not noticeably different from other children because of that experience.

But on occasion, the intrigue of our family genealogy has proved to be a delightful dinner-table topic.  And if anybody hears my last name and begins to wonder aloud if I am related to So-and-so Winter, I can immediately interject my "no" without even listening to the name. Which is amusing.


Amber said...

So, the funny thing about this is that Jason and I had very similar conversations before we got married. I had a brief encounter with a hyphenated last name in elementary school after my mom married my step dad, and I HATED it, so the hyphen was out. We considered Jason taking my last name but didn't like the way that Jason Thompson flowed. Finally, we actually discussed at length the possibility of combining our two names to form a new one, but just couldn't find a good way to do it. To this day, we still sometimes refer to ourselves as the "Thomelles" or the "Wellsons" can see why this never took root. Anyway, I love the explanation behind your last name, and I love that you and Gary were actually able to do what we only talked about. Ok, enough of the long comment!

Bridget said...

How nice to read more details behind the story I already knew. Too bad Walmer and Palker don't sound so good. Hahahaha. Really, though, nice story.


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