The DMV just opened. Danny drove to be one of the first people in line. I was of course running on Gina time and arrived about 5 minutes late. I saw Danny standing and talking with the lady at the counter. "Danny, I made it!" I said with a smile. He downplayed my late entrance since he appreciates prompt arrivals. The woman at the counter greeted me "Congratulations! This is exciting!" Danny and I both smiled at each other.
I turned to Danny, "I still don't know what I want to do." He stood there with a look that insinuated I must figure this out really soon because we were currently standing in line to sign our marriage certificate.
I asked the woman at the counter about the name changing process. "If I change my name, do I have to get a new license, passport, professional diploma, etc?" She said yes. Surprisingly we had the nicest DMV attendant who has ever existed. She continued to inform me about the name changing process and how when she got married she was a little afraid of the name change at first, but then afterwards she was really glad she did it. I was trying my best to listen and hold my composure. I pinched my otherhand with my nails as hard as I could just to hold back my tears. In that moment I was reminded of my daughter, Aria, and when she feels incapable of controlling her tears. I was not finding clarity by waffling back-and-forth. Time was ticking, and I was asked to write my name on the envelope as I wanted it to be after marriage legally. LEGALLY!
"Ok, I'll keep my last name." I picked up the pen and began printing G-i-n-a O-d-e. I stopped. I crossed out the O-d-e. I changed my mind. "No, I'm changing it to Wolchansky." In the moment as I was writing O-d-e I felt an energetic distance between Danny and I. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what that was, but when I started writing 'Wolchansky' I felt a sense of closeness between us that I simultaneously loved and feared at the same time. I finished writing my new name "Wolchansky" on the envelope. I felt myself holding back even more tears. Danny mentioned a couple times, "Are you ok?" "You don't look the best." At this point, I couldn't say anything or else I would start messy crying. I turned to him and asked if I could leave and return the books to the library down the hall. The lady overheard me and said I needed to stay to hear the following directions. All I wanted to do was be alone and cry the cry that so badly needed to come out.
Finally we were done. Danny asked if he could give me a hug. I said no; I couldn't even make eye contact. We returned the library books and we walked down the steps to the exit of the building. Poor Danny. He was in a more celebratory mood than I. I wish I could have been there with him, but I couldn't ignore my raw feelings. We had planned to meet for coffee afterwards, and as I walked to my car I couldn't help but begin my release. I sat in my car and cried. I cried and cried. I asked myself what I was feeling, and the confusion that I had been having started to show itself a little.
It didn't matter how much I waffled back-and-forth I knew I just had to make a decision. Leading up to this day I had been reading personal stories and watching YouTube videos about changing your name and what that means in the 21st century. I understood all of the different perspectives on the topic which kept me in this place of confusion. Usually I can educate myself on a topic and can develop an opinion without too much confusion, but this was something I had a difficulty with.
Remaining Gina Odermann was a decision revolving around the identity I created the first 35 years of life. I was proud of Gina Odermann and what she accomplished on her own. I built an identity, became a professional and made accomplishments under this name. Not to mention my recent LLC was named "Gina Odermann LLC." Changing my name would be a reset and a restart to the next chapter. I was scared that changing my name would be closing the door to that fiercely independent part of me.
I always imagined, though, that I would change my name when I got married. There is something comfortable and romantic about sharing the same team name with Danny. By getting married I choose to travel life with Danny and make decisions with him, so why not share the same team name? Danny has already bought our whole crew a house where Aria and I both dwelled. Danny wholeheartedly supported the sale of my business and my decision to slow down on the work front until after the baby, until it “feels right” for me. None of that support has felt like it has a string or condition attached. There is something about that kind of partnership that I have never felt before, and a name change seems to embody that energy. I like both the risk and security and in that.
The traditional meaning of taking a man's surname is quite outdated. On one hand, it is attached to the paternal system of power that is well overdone in our society. Taking the husband's name also has a meaning of ownership attached to it. So apparently Danny will own me after the wedding instead of my dad? That just defies every cell inside of me. So when considering those belief systems, I completely subrscribe to keeping my maiden name. On the otherhand, I didn't grow up feeling like my mom was my father's property. I never pondered the meaning that deeply as a child either. My mom was very much her own being, and there was something symbolic about my mom and dad sharing the same last name that bonded them in a way that their differing opinions and choices did not always do.
...there was something symbolic about my mom and dad sharing the same last name that bonded them in a way that their differing opinions and choices did not always do.
Becoming Gina Wolchansky has so many unknowns attached to it which feels a little daunting. Considering the statistics on marriage and divorce there is a small fear of "what if this doesn't last?" Confidently, I bet a little higher on our partnership than the average, so I choose to jump two feet into this and changing my name seems to be part of that. There is something exciting to me about creating a new identity. I accept the challenge to build Gina Wolchansky into an identity that embraces both individuality and partnership. Somewhere deep down I may have some fears that I may not become as proud of Gina part two, but that is also what helps motivate me to keep on going in life.
I realize that this decision is extremely individual, based on what a name means to someone. I knew I had to make a decision and get behind whichever decision I was going to choose. When I decided on Wolchansky, I felt an indescribable bond and an undertone of love between Danny and I. That was enough for me to bet on. I grieve the Odermann identity with gratitude, but knowing there is something new and worth investing in is worth it for me.
There is no right or wrong decision. In my friends’ eyes I may be “wrong,” but that’s ok; they'll still love me. There is always the option to changing both the bride and groom’s last name to something completely new altogether. That seems more equal but felt like a logistical nightmare to us considering Danny has two existing Wolchanksy children. Hyphenating is also a very common option. Both hyphenating or changing my middle name to reflect my maiden name feels cumbersome, but it is definitely a great solution for many. I may end up using Odermann for business purposes, so it is not all black and white for me, just legally.
For those of you actively moving the feminist movement forward, thank you. Did you change your last name when you got married? I would love to hear those stories.
For those of you sitting on the fence, I empathize and wish you clarity. Either way you are just as lovable with any name you choose.