Among the things I recently found are several boxes of old business cards with my former names listed in bold letters. I have changed my name five times over the last thirty years, meaning that I have adopted a new moniker on average every 6 years. Oh I can see you raising your eyebrows at the sheer mathematical reality of that statement.
Today many women keep their maiden names throughout their lives regardless of the number of husbands they collect. Despite that trend, I have happily and eagerly taken the last name of three husbands. The amount of work necessary to change over bank accounts, credit cards, school records, employment records, social security numbers, and driver license numbers never deterred me from this custom.
But the biggest surprise for most people is that I legally changed my first name and eliminated my middle name several years ago. Born near the end of the Baby Boomer generation (1946-1966), I was given the most popular post-war name of the 1960s – Lisa. Until I changed my name, I spent my entire life answering to Lisa, even though many times, I wasn’t the Lisa being addressed. When my youngest brother married a Lisa, twice the number of Lisas in the same family meant twice the confusion. In order to discern which Lisa was being addressed or talked about, my mother started using middle initials. If Lisa didn’t feel right to me, imagine after 40-odd years now being asked to answer to Lisa E. It was disconcerting. Who was this stranger that was now me?
I’ve always had a fascination with names, what they mean, what their origin is, and who has changed names and why. Despite not having children, I own two name books for humans and one name book for pets; I even keep a running list of possible names for my next dog. I wanted a quirky moniker and I was tired of confusion. It really didn’t take me long to decide on Jaz and I knew immediately that I would spell it with only one Z.
Almost everyone comments that my name is cool, unusual, and interesting. Some inquire whether my parents were flower children and given my age that’s an apt question but no, my parents were far from the hippie crowds of the 60s. My name has nothing to do with jazz music and it isn’t short for Jasmine, Jazmine, Jazmin or any other spelling of such name. It’s just Jaz. It’s unique and feels like who I think I am. My devoutly Catholic family has taken three marriages and three divorces in stride but was obviously bewildered by my changing my given name. I appreciate the fact that my parents carefully and lovingly chose a name for me at my birth and I understood their displeasure and puzzlement when I changed it. It’s been over 6 years now and my family rarely, although occasionally, reverts to my natal name. I love them all the more for their efforts and acceptance.
Now I find myself saddled with an ex-husband’s last name that is distasteful. It is neither a last name I’m proud of nor one with which I want to be associated. I kept the offending name because I did not have the emotional energy to change my name everywhere when I was granted a divorce from him. I’ve taken to omitting this last name on return addresses and other sorts of documents if not legally required. Given my dismal record with the whole marriage thing and the decidedly strong opposition to marriage that my lover has, I doubt I’ll ever get married again. If I’m wrong about that, I will adopt his last name in an instant. If I’m right, the name of this rose will be Jaz, just Jaz (or Jazzy to my friends and loved ones.)