Therapy after divorce can take many forms – alcohol, travel, salsa dance lessons, plastic surgery, Zoloft, “OK Cupid” hook ups, sleep, leased sports cars, parasailing, watching tons of TV, going to the gym, giving up the gym – all come to mind.
But – for women, especially – what about a name change?
I was reading a piece on author Cheryl Strayed, who wrote a best selling memoir I didn’t read called “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail.”
Turns out Strayed isn’t her maiden name, or her married name. She was born Cheryl Nyland, and after getting divorced at 26, found herself at a cross roads.
“I realized I wanted to change my name, and this was the time to do it. I felt really clear about it, and my clarity deepened as I pondered it for months. I began searching for a new name by making lists of words that meant something to me or sounded good with Cheryl. I tried some names out for a few hours or a day, but none of them seemed right until I landed on Strayed.”
I have to agree: Cheryl Strayed is a cool, slightly edgy name that makes you wonder. Sounds totally made up, and it is – in a good way.
Many women, of course, don’t take their husband’s last names when they marry. But for those who do, divorce presents a real conundrum/opportunity: do you hang on to your ex-husband’s last name or do you go back to your maiden name? To me, going back to your maiden name seems like the no-brainer answer: why would you want to associate yourself with a man and marriage that didn’t work out?
And yet it’s not that simple.
Sarah Flink, born Sarah Severson, 35, is an adjunct professor at John Jay College in Manhattan.
After her divorce at 29, she “needed a new centerpiece around which to build a new identity. Clearly, I didn’t want to keep his name, but when I thought about my maiden name, Sarah Severson, it sounded all wrong, like trying to put on a coat that didn’t fit. It literally felt like that girl didn’t exist anymore.”
The girl is gone. Guess you really can’t go home again.
Flink, however, unlike Strayed, didn’t go with a word that sounded cool – hey, nothing against “Flink” – sounds like the last name of a side character in a Jerry Lewis movie, and sometimes you just want a little Jerry Lewis spaz out to brighten your day.
Flink went with her great grandparents’ surname. “For a while, I experimented with the idea of nonfamily names, but they seemed arbitrary, and the idea made me feel completely rootless.”
Flink and Strayed – one woman reclaiming a neglected past, the other erasing all traces of it – reinvention and slate cleaning can take many different forms.
Jane Marie Golombisky, a twice-divorced blogger and radio producer, simply decided to drop any and all past third names.
She’s now Jane Marie. Period. (frankly, I think it’s kinda working for her)
I didn’t take my wife’s last name, nor she mine, and we’re still married, so I don’t have much of a basis for reinvention, plus I’m not big on parasailing, BUT – my parents didn’t give me a middle name, so I always draw a little dash “-“ on the part of forms that ask for “middle name.” So maybe there’s an opportunity here. “Gustavus” is nice. So is “Robustiano” (my grandfather’s first name). And I do like “Nick.” And “Vince.” Something to think about. “Zed?” “Ellipsis?” “Tomas” with a long “o?”
Sadly, my first choice was taken…
…ah, who am I kidding? I’ll stick with “-”