I got my first paycheck the other day and it had only one last name. There was no hyphen anywhere to be found. I filled out all my paperwork with all three names, but in the end I only got two. Someone suggested I ask for it to be changed since it’s my legal name. Here is a secret though, my hyphen is a fraud.
Way back in the day when I was planning a wedding, my sweet fiance, who never made a single demand past picking his sweet white dinner jacket (thanks for that mess, Gonzaga) looked completely hurt when I shared my thoughts of keeping my name. I was shocked, as he was a pretty progressive dude. When I dug a little deeper he made a convincing enough argument for me to take his name. When it was time to change it on all official documents, I made my maiden my middle name and his name my last.
Then I was back at my job for about three days when I realized I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t lose my last name, as it was my identity for so long. So I hyphenated, and as far as anyone was concerned, that was my official married name. It soon became my identity with people referring to me as all three even in casual speak, as if it was all one single name. One year my students even abbreviated it to just the initials and I even liked the ring of that.
Then I had kids and the kids went to school and I had to start using my name over and over and over again as a mom and here I am eleven years later thinking it’s just too much of a pain in the neck to keep the Ritz. It doesn’t translate well over the phone. I ALWAYS have to spell it out to people. Because it’s a hyphen people just drop the middle name anyway so what is the point?
It’s funny, professionally I’ve never had a problem with it. No one has ever dropped the Ritz or even given me a hard time about having two names. In fact, I get compliments on it more often than not. Of course, they always come after they see it written. No one ever hears it right.
“I’m sorry did you say, Cristie Rizzing? Was that Riking? Oh, Cristie Ritzing? And there’s my personal favorite, Cristie Whiskey. (Maybe I’ll just change it to that!)
As a mom, my maiden name is dropped like a hot potato, and when referring to us as a family, it never even comes up.
So, what does it matter really? More importantly, why don’t I care at all when I used to care so much? I thought Ritz was my tie to my dad-a man who had been gone forever. I felt like Ritz defined me and made me funky and original. And King? Well, there are millions of them and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be completely absorbed in to the brood.
But lately, in what has become a new phase of life, I’m starting to think Cristie King has a nice ring to it. I’ll always be a Ritz and for sure my girlfriends from college will call me Ritz until the day I die no matter how many surnames I add to the end. My new friends will refer to me as Mrs. King even if I had never changed it from go, because they’re largely parents of my childrens’ friends and it’s just easier if the moms match the kids. I know, I’m guilty of this myself.
At grad school, I’m just King. It is weird seeing it in print, but I am trying it on for size. Maybe, with age I’ve realized the name doesn’t so much matter when choosing who you are.
After all, for the last eleven years, the name that has mattered most is neither Ritz nor King, but Mama and that one stands alone.