Next week I will officially be known by a different name. My name change has been a process, a very involved process and will continue to be for the next few months as I change everything over.
Todd and I started talking about my name change not long after we became engaged two years ago, I felt very conflicted about the whole idea. I do not feel strong attachment to my father’s last name, it is often mispronounced and when pronounced correctly I have always thought it sounds rather silly. My last name is pronounced Peeper. Growing up I was often teased about it and it has been a long running joke in my family that the girls (my female cousins and myself) look forward to getting married if for no other reason than to change our name. I don’t agree with the joke but it’s true that I am not overly sentimental about my last name either.
The thought of changing my last name didn’t feel quite right either though. I like Todd’s last name, it’s easy to spell and pronounce which would be a welcome change but something just didn’t feel right. For one I didn’t like the way my name sounded with it, it is so plain, very “Jane Doe”. Plus I felt conflicted about taking my husband’s name in general. My mother picked my middle name, my father gave me my last name (they chose my first name together) and now my husband gives me a new last name.. What about me? Do I have any say? What name do I get to give myself?? Jillian.
When I was discussing all this with Todd he said what about Jillian? I was confused at first, what do you mean? Then it all made sense. He explained, You have always said you wished your parents had named you Jillian instead of just Jill so you would have an option on which you preferred to be called, here is your chance, what about Jillian?
Yes. Jillian. A name I can give myself. My parents gave me middle name, my husband will give me my last name but Jillian, Jillian is me, it is mine to give myself. I don’t belong to my parents or to Todd, I belong wholly to myself first but I like that the people I love most are represented in my name as well, we each have a place.
After this conversation ended I thought about it for a few weeks, I still wasn’t sure at first but the more I thought about it the more I loved it. My next step was talking to my best friend, is this a ridiculous idea? She loved it too. She understood my wanting to have a say in my name and loved that I would now be Jillian. That’s when I went back to Todd and told him I was going to do it, he was happy for me. He never put pressure about taking his last name, he just wanted me to find an option that felt true to me and this does.
Telling my parents was a bit scary. I knew my Dad would be supportive but I was afraid my decision would hurt my mother in some way. I waited over a year. It was the summer before the wedding before I finally came out with it. They were over for dinner and I shared my plan with them. My Dad was supportive and said my new name sounds lovely. My Mom was taken aback at first but I think it had more to do with my delivery of the news than the new name. I told them that I had decided that when I change my last name I would be changing my first name also. My Mom admitted that when I said that she thought I meant to Theresa or some other name all together, when she found out it was Jillian she was actually relieved. They understood why I wanted to do it and gave me their blessing which I didn’t need but I was grateful to have,
Todd and I started the process of my name change in January, like I said it is a PROCESS. Changing your first name is not as easy as changing your last name, not that changing your last name is a walk in the park either. Changing your first name involves appointments at the courthouse and background checks and a court hearing in front of a judge. I have to be granted permission by a judge to change my first name, it is called “a court appointed name change”. The nice thing is it takes care of changing my last name at the same time so there is no extra paperwork for that.
My court date to appear before the judge is next week and then it will be official. From there I will have to do the normal name change rigmarole, social security office, DMV, bank accounts, medical, school etc.
I know that I will still be Jill to all my friends and family, I may only end up using Jillian in my professional life but it’s just knowing that I got to have a say, that part of this was me, my decision, my very own name that I gave myself. That is important to me.
A few months ago Todd, my Mom and I were talking about future baby names, specifically girl names. Todd and I are in complete agreement over the boy name we like but we cannot seem to see eye to eye on girl names. My Mom made a joke to Todd that he should just let me name a girl what I want because 30 years later she will just go to the court and change it anyway. I know she was teasing but I thought to myself, that would be fine with me. I hope to raise a strong little girl into a strong woman who understands how important it is to belong to yourself first.