Thursday, January 23, 2014

Still Going On About Names

While I'm not Mrs. Sunayana Niyogy

you are perfectly welcome to address me as
Mrs Soubhik Niyogy or
Ms Sunayana Roy

I realise this is still a minefield every newly married woman has to consider and no matter whether she changes her name or not, somebody always disapproves of her choice. Which is stupid. Her name, her decision. I kept my Roy because I like the identity. Over the years I've learnt to become a Niyogy daughter-in-law through acceptances and rejection and now that too is part of my identity. As I explained to my father, calling myself Roy doesn't make me any less of a Niyogy daughter-in-law, especially not to me. And keeping the Roy has meant much less paperwork, more variety in my insults, and a strong anchor when the Niyogy rejections kept rolling in no matter what I did (or did not do). I am, in the end, me. I answer to Niyogy as well as Roy -- and have no problems with that and never did -- but nobody decides what I call myself except me.

There was a comment at a Jezebel post on name changes that I found very poignant:

I made the decision to change my last name to his 18+ years ago for all sorts of reasons. He's military, which tethers me to a social system where (for years) my identity was entwined with his. Moving frequently, needing to establish new social connections everywhere we go, raising kids, difficult in-laws... Everything was just easier if we all had the same last name. Problem is that, after 18 years of using it, it still doesn't feel like my last name.
When I opened a Facebook profile a few years ago, I put my maiden name back in that three name string that so many married women use. I think of myself as hyphenated now and have caught myself signing checks with my maiden name first. My brain inserts my identity before his last name on a pretty regular basis now. 18+ years after taking his name, I'm talking about taking my own back. My own father doesn't understand why I would do it. It will no doubt "rock the boat" and create all sorts of in-law type drama and mounds of legal paperwork, so I'm dragging my feet. But eventually, I'll get the courage to make it official.
My own teenage daughter announced last month that she would never change her last name and continued to announce that nothing about her would be defined by any man. At least I know that I did that part right.
This reminds me of women like my mother who made the choices they were expected to make but brought up their daughters to be more aware of the many more choices that are now available.

I often reflect on my parents' parenting because as a child I thought they did a pretty shabby job. But I look around me and realise that my strengths come from two very honest, strong-minded, very independent thinkers who taught me to be responsible for myself. Now that I'm a parent of a child who's growing rather fast and thinking some very profound thoughts, I realise the full weight of this responsibility. It scares me. I have to treat him with dignity and respect (even though he's a hilarious little fellow) because I want him to learn that he deserves both. I know I didn't feel this way back then but really, things were easier when he was a baby!


Cee Kay said...

Sigh! I debated (internally) long and hard about whether I should go back to my maiden name when we got our citizenship because, frankly, even after 18 years I don't feel like I belong to my married last name and I identify more with my maiden name. But in the end I decided not to for two main reasons. 1. it would involve a lot, and I mean a LOT of work, and 2. To me ANY last name means the same - that I am using a man's identity to make my own. That is the reason that my signature never included my last name. I treat my last name as just an identifier and not an identity, if you know what I mean. But all this does not make the struggle easy. I still kick myself for giving in and changing my last name after getting married even though I didn't want to.

Sue said...

Cee -- You have a good point about all last names being the same. I met a woman last year who forced the courts to accept her first name as her last name too. She currently goes by "Shatorupa Shatorupa" which I find quite fascinating.

Cee Kay said...

I read about Shatorupa on your FB page or blog. Admire what she has done. The IT/Networking/developer person in me understands the need for unique identifiers and that is what first and last names essentially served as.