While we prepared for our son’s arrival, Reggie and I would have long discussions about potential names, just like every other couple. But we had an added complication: what would his last name be?
You see, I have something to confess: in case my extensive social media presence didn’t tip you off, I never took my husband’s last name after we got married. Admittedly, I had every intention to change my name while we prepared for our wedding; I even wrote my supposed married name on our marriage license. But months passed, and my willingness to complete the paperwork waned… And I ultimately realized that I was putting off the name change because I didn’t want a name change.
I realized that the practice of a woman assuming her husband’s surname was unnecessary (people would tell me that the name change was needed for insurance or tax purposes, which is completely untrue) — and, frankly, undesirable. I equated changing my name with changing my identity: I had no desire to become an entirely different person, and marriage wasn’t going to change my passions, my goals, or my priorities. So I decided to drop the “B.” from “Sarina C.B.,” and I continued on as “Sarina C.” For good.
Fast forward three and a half years later, when I was in the midst of my pregnancy: Reggie and I already had a shortlist of first names for a potential boy and a potential girl, but we kept going back and forth on what our child’s (and any future children’s) last name was going to be. Initially, we thought of moving forward with the obvious (and the expected): each of our children would take Reggie’s last name, and they could take my last name as a middle name.
But that option made me feel a bit disconnected — and also felt like my personal and familial history was less important than Reggie’s. Thankfully, Reggie was in complete agreement with me: I was still 50% responsible for this child’s existence (and 100% responsible for carrying and bringing him into the world). He was just as much mine as he was Reggie’s, and there was no need for him to simply be a “B.”
And so, after months of indecision, Reggie and I decided to give our son a hyphenated last name. It was important to us that he (and all of our future children) had a name that paid homage to both his father and his mother, that outwardly tied him to two families with their own rich histories.
My friends from work and my brother Calvin joked around that my poor kids would be saddled with long-ass names. And that’s very true: my son Tadashi* has a legal last name that boasts 18 letters total, which means he’s probably going to find completing any legal paperwork or applications in the future slightly annoying. And, as he grows up, Reggie and I will probably have to explain why he has an unconventional surname.
But our explanation will be simple: You have that name because you have two parents — each with their own stories, their own backgrounds, their own dreams. And your long-ass, unconventional name signifies that all of those stories and dreams and hopes and fears are all a part of you.
(photos: © Michael James Photography 2014-2017)