What is in a name? Shakespeare once said, "that which we call a rose / by any other name would smell as sweet." To be honest, I am unsure of this. As one of my favourite literary characters of all time, Anne Shirley, so aptly responded, "I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage." This line has always caused me to smile. Perhaps it is true.
Although I go by the pseudonym "Traditional Wife" on my blog, I doubt you would be shocked to learn that this is not my real name. ;-)
On a popular social networking site, I go by my combined given name, maiden name, and subsequent married name. There is not a little irony in this. The truth is, I do not typically go by my given name, save for formal occasions. Perhaps this is because I have issues with my formal name. My parents, in naming me, botched both its spelling and its pronunciation. Their colloquial way of pronouncing it adds a "Z" where another letter exists. This aside, I do tend of think of myself as my nickname, and I much prefer it for everyday life. However, the problem remains: what to do with the fact that my maiden name exists next to my married family name? It hardly seems traditional.
Why, you might ask, is this such a big deal? You might even admonish me to grow up and write a real post. One that properly deals with an aspect of traditional marriage. The truth is, though, identity is a real issue-- it is an essential component of such a relationship. What one is called helps to shape one's perspective. It becomes their reality.
In some cultures, a woman does not take the family name of her husband. In other cultures, people are given two family names. In my Husband's middle eastern heritage, a wife not only takes her husband's family name (if they do not already share it, but that is another matter entirely), she also adds his given name as her middle name on formal documents. In my society, a traditional wife takes the surname of her spouse. This is what I have done. Except, not in the case of this social networking site. Truth be told, it bothers me. It has for a long time.
For years, I have given myself an excuse. How could all of my friends find me if I were to go exclusively by my married name? Might I lose out on becoming re-acquainted with my past chums? Since I live quite a ways from my hometown, it is not likely that we would meet up naturally, say, at a grocery store. This is also true of all the friends I have made in the various subsequent places in which I have lived. However, if this were my only objection, it might be easily quelled. After all, there are other options. One can "hide" their maiden name, or they can choose to have it be in parenthesis. This latter option drives me up a wall. But, the former gives me no comfort, either.
Even after several years of marriage, I am finding it difficult to adjust to my new identity. I look at government documents, my bank card, or even my signature, and still feel as if it were not real. I am a fiercely independent person, and marriage has not been an easy adjustment for me.
I am afraid. I am scared to lose myself-- who I am, what makes me unique. When my Husband and I move in several weeks to our new home, it will be even further away from where I grew up. It will be another culture entirely. The geography is different, the people are different, and their way of life is foreign to me. This is where he grew up, and so it is familiar to him. I, however, am at a considerable disadvantage. How am I going to survive? You can take the girl out of her hometown, but you can never take the hometown out of the girl. I suppose all of this together is overwhelming me.
The point, though, is thus: am I a traditional wife or not? Does my conformity to my Husband's will mean that even my identity is subjugated to his? I would tend to say, "yes." In theory, I agree. Just as in the Christian life, one's life must be hidden in Christ, so too must my married life be brought into complete union with my Husband. Reality, however, is another matter entirely.
Perhaps the real reason I include my maiden name is because it is one more way in which I can cling on to the past. It is my lifeline-- by it, I am neither swept away amid the torrent of the present, nor am I lost in the depths of the sea that is (I fear) my future. It is comforting to see a piece of who I once was. And, yet, does it hold me back?
I know what I must do. Nevertheless, it is difficult.
You men have no idea how difficult it is to be a traditional woman.