I have to stop changing my Twitter name. I’ve changed it three times this week, and I’m still not satisfied with the state of it. Mostly because a 14-year-old girl in Salzburg took my original one, and now I want it back. The issue is reaching a crisis point.
It’s not like I didn’t see this coming. I was engaged for 18 months, I’ve been married for one, and even for the 29 years prior to those things, I had a pretty good feeling I would one day be a married person. So the fact that this name changing thing has caught me by surprise is wholly ridiculous, but it has all the same.
For reasons that vary from professional identity to children to personal preference, it makes perfect sense for women to keep their birth names. I started publishing under Natalie Burg eight years ago. I want that body of work and all of its momentum to carry on throughout my career. And I like Natalie Burg. She’s pretty cool.
However…perhaps it’s the postfeminist in me, but I like the romantic idea of being the Vial family. I want people to come play board games at the Vials’ house and send letters addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Vial. I want to be a card-carrying member of Team Vial. That does not at all make me feel oppressed. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. So that makes me Natalie Vial.
Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez had this problem too. It had nothing to do with getting married, but for some reason he decided he’d get more acting roles as Martin Sheen. He got a lot of them, so it was probably a good call. But I’m guessing Ramón still went by his real name in his personal world, because all his children’s last names are Estévez. Except the crazy one. So if Ramón can pull it off, can’t I?
Contrary to how it appears on Twitter, or to anyone paying really close attention to my email signature this week, I’m not having an identity crisis. If fact, being married somehow makes me feel more secure in my identity than I’ve ever been before. Not any new identity, but the one I’ve always had. Maybe someone signing a contract to put up with me forever has somehow further validated my sense of “me-ness,” I don’t know. But I know I’m the same, it’s just deciding what people are calling me that is so tough. I’m having a branding crisis.
So, women and others faced with the same name changing debate, what did you do? And, more importantly, how permanent did it feel? And how meaningful was the change or lack of of change in your personal and professional lives?
2 thoughts on “The Great Name Change: A personal branding crisis”
When I got married 12 years ago, I had a colleague at the DETROIT NEWS tell me I was crazy for taking my husband’s name because, “What if you get divorced?” I told her I didn’t plan to get divorced, to which she scoffed and replied, “Honey, none of us do.” I dropped the conversation and walked away. A woman’s decision on this matter is highly personal and based on myriad factors. For me, it was completely about wanting my children and I to share a last name. I grew up a child of the divorce generation. My parents divorced when I was 4. I have no memory of a time when I had the same last name as my mother, who had full custody of my brother and me. For the sake of my future children, I changed my name and have never, EVER regretted it. As for my byline, it wasn’t a problem. I just kept KNOTT as part of my byline and became BY LOUISE KNOTT AHERN.
Ha! Your former colleague sounds like a delight! My favorite comment was when a males acquaintance of mine asked if I was changing my name, and when I said I wasn’t sure, he said, “Why wouldn’t you? It’s not like you’re famous or anything.” Thanks, dude.
I really appreciate your perspective, especially when it comes to bylines. Using both is definitely in the running. Thanks, Louise!