Thursday, March 17, 2011

Claiming My Name

Two years ago today, I met Jeff Lilly in person for the first time, after having known him as an "online friend" for several years.

I wish I could say birds sang, sparks flew and cosmic spheres clicked into perfect harmony. What actually happened was that we were both so nervous and shy, it took several hours of awkward glances and chatting on the futon before we could look each other in the eye without blushing furiously. Still, two years later and we're madly, amazingly, blessedly in love. And six months from today, we'll officially be newly weds. Rock!

Which means... my name is changing. I'd assumed for a long time that if I ever did get married, I'd be keeping my own name. I adore my name, especially my first and middle — Alison Leigh — and as a feminist, the idea of taking my partner's name seemed a bit antiquated, and too much of a hassle.

But Jeff's name is so simple, and sweet, like him, and I find myself honored and excited to be taking it. Family names, like families, come with lots of baggage and ambivalence and history. Jeff's name comes with four step-kids, for a start. It also comes with a whole complicated history and heritage that, stepping into his life as a partner and best friend, I'll now be a part of, too.

But I didn't much like the idea of becoming "Alison Shaffer Lilly." Just didn't jive. And like I said, I love my middle name — after a period of intensely disliking it when I was little, I eventually made peace with its odd spelling and lilting brevity. I learned later on that it was my father who chose that name for me, Leigh, the Gaelic spelling, meaning according to some "meadow or clearing" and according to others "courageous one." Keeping my middle name seemed an appropriate way to honor my father's family and our Irish ancestry, as well as the rolling farmlands and fields of my childhood home in Lancaster County.

So "Alison Leigh Lilly" is who I'll be. In six months, legally.

But I'm impatient. And, let's face it, a bit of a teacher's pet perfectionist. I like reading the books before I take the class, and getting ahead of the ball before it starts rolling. So I've decided, in the spirit of my anniversary with my beloved today, and in honor of my Irish family roots — I'm making the change now.

Yup, starting today I've decided to be "Alison Leigh Lilly." It'll give me some time to practice my signature. I can try on my new name like the pair of shoes you get for your wedding, the ones you're supposed to wear to your dance classes so that come the Big Day they'll be all broken in and you can dance like a demon all night long without getting blisters — except, of course, that we're not taking dance lessons. And I won't be wearing shoes at my wedding.

It's also a practical career matter, and I am if anything a practical career woman. (She said seriously. No, seriously, you guys! Why are you laughing?) Though I've put this blog on semi-hiatus for the past several months, the career opportunities keep rolling my way, and really, I'm sick of worrying about having to send out notices and new bios six months from now when we finally get around to getting hitched. A stitch in time saves nine, they say. So from now on, my "professional" name is transitioning from "Alison Shaffer" to "Alison Leigh Lilly (née Shaffer)" so that, six months from now, I can drop the "née" and get on with my day.

I am totes serious, you guys. So serious that I've made a Facebook page. Yeah. That serious. You should check it out.

In fact, you should hop on over and tell me your stories about how you "claimed your name." And maybe share some advice about how long I can expect the slip-ups and stumblings to last. Because I gotta say, breaking a twenty-seven year old habit may not be easy. I'm going to need all the help I can get. So next time you see me, lend me a hand with a friendly wave and a "Why hello, Alison Leigh Lilly! Lovely day!"

Together, we'll get there.

1 comment:

  1. I think its sweet that you are taking his name, even if you didn't plan on taking it from the beginning. It just goes to show that life never does as we plan. Even if those plans happen years beforehand. I remember growing up I couldn't wait to take someone else's name. My last name was French, and not the good sort either. Its the sort that rhyme with the worst of words and got me a lot of teasing growing up. But my husband's name I found is derived from old Irish heritage from those who blew the horn for war. Which I am very delighted to say, I was happy to take. It was far better than my maiden name.
    And honestly, your maiden name is nice (and far better than mine was) but there are plenty of Shaffers in the world. Not many Lillys at all. So I think if I was in your shoes that idea alone would make me all the more happy to take it. So congratulations and feel free to message me. We're friends on Facebook, but I'm not sure if you ever really saw that. :/