Most accounts made after the wedding have the username “ampoland.” It was simple. It was easy to remember. It was going to be my name for the rest of my life, after all.
It’s an irritation these days.
We had a post-reception party in my apartment, because our wedding was thrown together in 8 weeks and our reception was at a dry location.1 We got outrageously drunk. Alex (engaged at that point), Danielle, Lu, and I sat in the corner of the apartment while talk of changing names went on. I don’t remember a lot of this: on top of being drunk, I was freshly married and giddy. But I believe it goes something like this:
Lu makes points about holding on to her identity by holding on to her name. Alex makes points about taking her husband’s name as a way of making theirs a family unit; that as a child-free couple, people will already buck their family as “non-traditional.” Danielle hands me the bottle of wine we’re drinking out of. I make points about taking Andy’s name both as a “show of honor and respect,” and because I’m not particularly attached to my maiden name. I pass the bottle on. The conversation probably derails as the boys get increasingly drunk while playing Street Fighter. They’re shouting over my sister — who is foolishly trying to sleep on the floor.
There were other complications, of course: Miles was a big one. When I was pregnant, Andy’s mother once asked, “Will the baby have Andy’s last name or yours?” I quickly assured her that of course he would have Andy’s name, and that someday I intended to as well.2 The idea of matching my family appealed to me. I came from an unmatched family, and it was always a little odd. So many times my mother and father were referred to as “Mr. and Mrs. Hill,” less often that I was mistaken for a “Huston.”
Still, it seems weird to me now that I clung to the name “Hill” as a young Ashley, when the possibility of being formally adopted and having my last name changed to match my mother’s was discussed. (No, no, a thousand times no, this is my father’s name how could you?)
I was only passingly sad when I traded in my old social security card and driver’s license the day after the wedding.
The first thing I did when Andy and I blew up was erase his name everywhere I could. I changed my name on Facebook. I changed my Twitter handle from the intended “professional” ashleympoland to my old social scatteringashes. (Later, I locked that up and started a fresh “professional” Twitter account that has yet to find its feet.) I cut up my debit card for our joint bank account.
I snarled at him in the car as we talked of counselling, “Even if we work it out, I’m getting rid of your name. I’m done with your name.” I pretty much said, “I’m done honoring you as my husband.” Maybe not the most effective thing to say during the maybe we can work it out conversation, but to be fair, it had been less than 24 hours since the great big blow-up.
I’ve always had this idea of my work as adding value to my name. I used to lovingly imagine book spines that said Ashley M. Hill. I wanted to prove my value to my (very dead) father and his family by doing something with my name. When I changed to “Poland,” it was both a regret and promise. I’m going to do something good with this name; thank you for sharing it with me.
I have a baggage about names; it comes up in my novels a lot.
I was glad when the divorce was done and my name was legally “Hill” again, less because I was actually rid of “Poland” and more because I could finally have a unified identity.
And yet we’re more than two months out from the divorce and I haven’t changed much. Half my bills still come to “Ashley Poland.” I haven’t changed the name on my driver’s license yet, thus I haven’t changed it on my financial accounts. I haven’t changed it on my work sites because I haven’t changed it on my license. (Yet my car title is under “Ashley Hill. “)
I was also sad. I was much more attached to “Poland” than I ever was with “Hill.” “Poland” was a name — an identity, a life — I’d chosen; “Hill” was just the one I was born with. And I could have kept my married name, sure. (I can’t really imagine a greater “Fuck You” than “Get the fuck out of my life but leave your name, kthnx.”) I could have continued to match my son. I could have skipped all the frustration and paperwork that comes with a name change. (Again.) I could have kept the initials “AMP.”
Instead, I chose a name that was mine without attached baggage. It wasn’t the name I chose, and there were no hopes or dreams attached to the name that weren’t exclusively my own. It was a weird experience — like slipping in to an old pair of jeans to discover that they still mostly fit but still don’t feel quite right.
I don’t think about my name a lot. But when I do, I’m always unsure exactly how to parse my feelings.
1. This is my only real regret about the wedding. I mean, I did so much wrong and this past summer I sent Andy a 2 AM email full of “I’m sorry about our wedding” apologies, but I really don’t regret the thing.
2. We were engaged at the time. I wasn’t just being weird.