What's in a Name

July 30, 2019

            Today I did it. I went to the DMV and changed my name to Aimee Elise White. This is the name I was born with, the name my parents gave me. Some of you are shocked, some of you confused, some of you angered, some of you supportive. Though I owe no explanations to any barring the man whom I will soon marry, I choose to offer them. I will answer the questions for those too polite to ask but genuinely curious, and also for those who would have gossiped behind my back.

            If you’ve never been in my shoes you cannot understand the position I am in. Just over two months from now, I will walk down the aisle, accompanied by a man who is like a father to me, to marry a man I desperately love. I will not be changing my last name to his. This is not necessary for us as part of my commitment or declaration of love. We have discussed it and are both comfortable with the decision.

 (With Don, May 2019)

 

            At 19 when I planned my first wedding, I weighed the options of to change my name or not. I did not personally like the idea of hyphenating, so I was torn between the two. Ultimately, I chose the traditionally Western path of taking my husband’s last name. It was meaningful to Chris that I do so, though he would not have tried to “force” me to do it. Marrying Chris at 20, it felt like the right choice, and I stand by what I chose then.

 (Cutting the cake--2006)

 

            At 33, I am widow to Chris and fiancé to Don. Taking Don’s name means giving up Chris’s for Don’s. The awkward thing is about my situation—that my heart doesn’t have an either/or with these men. My heart exists with a simultaneous and deep love for them both. Chris died and our relationship does not exist in the present—but the love remains. Don is here and therefore I have him as past, present, and future. I was not comfortable with taking either man’s name over the other, nor did I want to hyphenate—still not my preference.

 (With Dad, Mike in the background--1986)

 

          Thus, I was left with a third option that was a perfect fit: take back the name of my origin. I am in school for nurse-midwifery and beyond the required master’s degree, I plan to pursue my doctorate in nursing. When I complete my education, I will be Dr. Aimee White but working as a midwife, will be known as “Aimee”. This is particularly special to me because my late father had his doctorate in ministry. Though he preferred to be known as simply “Sam”, his professional title was Dr. White.  

          Reclaiming the name of my birth has nothing to do with disrespect, dishonor, or invalidation of the men I love. It has everything to do with reclaiming a little bit of myself in the midst of everything, as well as retaining a right to love them both.

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