4 min read

Wait, did your name change?

Names are important, this blog covers a little bit of why I (currently) choose to go by my middle name instead of my legal surname.
Wait, did your name change?
Photo by Jon Tyson / Unsplash

Names are such an interesting concept; they carry meaning in different ways to different people... and I get asked about my name a lot, so I thought it was about time to write a blog to try and explain myself.

In preparing to write this blog, I read a great article that sums it up much better than I could about "Why are names important?" by Irina Berdzenishvili.

Our names are an incredibly important part of our identity. They carry deep personal, cultural, familial, and historical connections. They also give us a sense of who we are, the communities in which we belong, and our place in the world.

For many, they don't have to think too much about it. You can accept the name given to you at birth, and for the most part the surnames you are given too. They tie you to your family, your upbringing and more.

So, why change your name?

I can't comment on the changing of first names, or any of the implications that go with that as that's not something I have experience of (and, it wouldn't be my place to do so). I like my first name, despite it being a "Boomer" name and everyone assuming I'm twenty years older than I really am until they actually meet me.

However, I do unfortunately have experience dealing with changing my last name. A few years back, I got married and as a woman in Western society, I took my husband's surname and didn't think much of it at the time because it was just what most women do, particularly in Northern Ireland. The statistics show that over 90% of women in the UK take their husband's surname, a tradition that stems from patriarchal history, where the woman essentially becomes the man's possession (yuck).

If you're interested in reading more about this, there are many articles on "Why do women still change their names?" and the idea is not a new concept, so I don't think I really need to go too much into it.

I separated from my husband about a year later for reasons I won't get into on the internet, and even though it's been a couple of years and we are now divorced I still have his last name. So where I legally have to (for work, driving licences, passports, etc.) you'll still find that surname referenced.

I chose not to return to my maiden name for more reasons that I won't go into on the internet but considering the importance of names, it's for strong enough reasons that I would prefer to be stuck with a name I'm not fond of rather than return to another name that I also have feelings about.

So... if names are so important, what am I going to do about it?

Changing your name isn't necessarily hard, in the UK you can do so by deed poll. The problem, however, is that it's just really inconvenient and time-consuming. Even if you are diligent and try to change your name everywhere you'll inevitably miss something (here's looking at you, PayPal, who still has my maiden name set and won't change it for I don't know what reason).

At some point in time, I played with the idea of picking my own surname and some of my friends came up with... questionable suggestions (no, I am not legally naming myself Donna Dadonna, or Donna Desirable). Due to other things going on, and it not being that pressing of an issue has led me to be paralysed by options and just... leaving my name as it is.

So for now, where a surname is generally expected, but not legally binding I prefer to use my middle name "Alexandra", as technically that is still my name.

This can cause some confusion, particularly in my work Slack as sometimes the SSO integration will set it back to my surname, or when promotions and things are mentioned my legal surname will be used. However, I will always change it back to my middle name when I notice, as I'd rather my work be remembered with my own name and not my legal surname.

It's also fun when your friends are writing wedding invitations and they ask, "what surname do you want on the invite?" and I have to try and explain myself, so... now I've got a blog to do so in more detail than I usually offer. 😅

Where surnames aren't enforced I'm just "Donna", which I very thankfully managed to claim a great domain name to that effect.

Bonus: I have a collection of powerful women GIFs with my name on them.

I do plan to legally change my name to Donna Alexandra someday, which would mean I could drop the surname that I don't want and reduce some confusion but until then, I have this blog to try and explain myself.

If I've sent you this blog in response to a question about my name changing, I'm sorry for the confusion. Thank you for taking the time to ask, I appreciate you!

If not, and you've made it this far anyway, thanks for taking the time to read my rambles. I also appreciate you!