I’ve been suffering from a split identity ever since I decided to complicate my name.
I was born Ann Badger Faison. That’s the name that is printed in gold on the bible I received at my naming ceremony when I was small. My Dad likes to add a IV at the end because technically I am the fourth person with that exact name in my lineage. Women don’t usually have the opportunity to add roman numerals to their names because–well it’s pretty obvious to me but I’ve had to explain this so many times I know it’s not something many people think about–we have traditionally given up our surnames when we marry. So to have the same first, middle and last name as another female in an American family, she has to be your aunt. Which means, a name like mine is pretty rare.
I was always proud of my name, including the roman numerals though they are not officially part of it. There were some years in childhood when I was a little embarrassed about my middle name but once I got past wanting something prettier like Madelaine or Christina, I decided Badger was kind of cool. No I’m not named for the animal though I hear they are ruthless when they get in a fight with a possum. It’s a family name and I’ve always liked the sound of it. And it starts with bad, which for me is good.
When I got married, late in the game, I made the very poor choice to hyphenate my last name. At the time it seemed logical: Keep the name everyone knows me by and add the name I will share with the rest of my family. An older cousin who had done it advised me,“You don’t want to have a different last name than your kids when they’re going through school.” I imagined my child, injured during the day and a faceless administrator not being able to identify me as the parent. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that most people would be able to manage the discrepancy perfectly well.
So after the ceremony I went to the trouble of legally changing my name to Ann Faison-Muller, dropping Badger which would have made it too long for any kind of bureaucratic form-filling. What a mistake.
I thought Faison was hard. It’s not as hard as my friend J whose last name is twelve letters and impossible to pronounce without a tutorial but when I say Faison over the phone no one knows how to spell it and when I spell it out, no one knows how to say it. Now add a hyphen and Muller at the end and it takes five minutes just to verbally answer the first question of the medical form, school application, bank loan, etc. I tired of those conversations early on and started to drop the Faison. I was slowly becoming Ann Muller. It was easier to say, easier to spell, easier to identify me as part of the family. We were all Mullers. Easy. But there were two problems with it. One, I’m Ann Faison-Muller on my ID and credit cards which means I have to bounce back and forth. And I was still using Ann Faison professionally, with my friends and in social media realms. That means that to the mechanic, I’m Ann Muller. At the hairdresser, it’s Ann Faison. Doctors know me as Ann Faison-Muller but the dentist has me as Ann Faison. Now imagine me, with my terrible memory, calling any of the above for an appointment and the time it takes for the receptionist to find me in the system because I can’t remember which of my three identities they have on file.
Honestly, it’s not just the inconvenience. It really is my identity at stake. Yes I am three things: Mother. Wife. Artist. But in truth I am one thing. I am Artist/Wife/Mother. Or Mother/Artist/Wife. It’s really all one thing.
I was starting to miss my old name. As I get older and my kids grow and I feel more and more secure in my marriage I realize I can be Ann Faison and still be their mother and his wife. I also miss using my middle name. My brother did not name his daughter after me so I am the last of the Ann Badger Faisons. This week I took the plunge. I filled out a form, perhaps the last as Ann Faison-Muller, to change my name back. I’m thinking this time, I’ll make the IV official.