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Family Matters Blog: Blogger Takes Name-change Leap

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2011 – After three years of marriage and hours of contemplation, I finally took the leap and changed my last name at work.

I must admit I agonized over the decision. I had changed my name before, in my prior marriage, and that was a heart-wrenching decision too. As a writer, my name is an integral part of my professional identity -- to myself and to others -- and the idea of changing it seemed akin to assuming another persona.

In today’s Internet-laden world, names have gained a higher level of significance than ever before. Now that it’s “all out there” on the Web, names have become a gateway to a person’s successes, shining moments and even disastrous failures. Employers can quickly “Google” promising prospects to see if their resumes are a true reflection of their abilities, and potential girlfriends or boyfriends can do a quick search for dirt before delving deeper into a relationship.

For writers, along with many other professions, a name is a way for people to connect with their work, and a way to have their voice heard and associated with who they are.

I told my husband before we ever tied the knot that I had no intention of changing my name. “I’m a writer, and people won’t know who I am if I change my name,” I told him incessantly. Ever mellow, the idea seemed to bother him less than me.

But two years ago I had a baby with my husband and wanted our names to match on the birth certificate, so I changed my name to Sanchez everywhere but at work. This, of course, resulted in an identity crisis of sorts. At doctor’s offices and dentist appointments, I’d walk in and could never remember which name I had given them. “It’s not under Wilson? OK, try Sanchez.”

It got so confusing that I finally threw up my arms and conceded. A few days ago I, very painfully, asked my colleague to change my byline to Sanchez. For people who don’t know me as well, this unleashed a torrent of “congratulations on your marriage” comments. I responded that I got married three years ago, but thanks anyway. “Better late than never,” I told them.

Several women told me that they, too, never changed their name for fear of losing their professional identity, and I completely respect their decision. I still have a few twinges about mine. I just hope that my professional standing remains intact, and that people will still know that I remain the same Elaine even under a new moniker.

Just a short while ago, I wrote Wilson on my byline yet again and quickly backspaced and wrote Sanchez. And I realized that in the process of changing my name I’m not deleting who I am at work, I’m just adding the richness of my life outside of it.

If you’ve struggled with a similar issue, please don’t hesitate to share.

You also can check out Family Matters on Facebook and Twitter.


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