It wasn’t until I was in high school that I really noticed I didn’t have a father. That isn’t to say I thought I did before then, that I would come home thinking he was there somewhere hiding, or working, or away, ever constantly coming back home to me, but it was around that time when I was growing up, learning to drive, liking girls, and becoming a “man,” that the absence of who was supposed to be “the man” in my life became ever more readily apparent. It may or may not be coincidence that simultaneously he was expressing interest in meeting me, for the first time since I was a baby.
Now, I’m not going to talk about that extensively–I’ve done so quite a few times already–but I have to set that part of me up for this post to make sense, and I want it to make sense, because as I’ve tried to explain my reasoning to family members and friends, I’ve encountered more confusion than I would have expected over the decision I chose to make, that decision being this:
I changed my last name.
I can pretend all day long that it was for this reason or that reason, but the driving impetus behind the decision was what I began this post by referencing: my dad. And I forgive you if when you hear my reasoning you believe my decision was out of resentment or anger–I would think the same thing–but it wasn’t. My dad, by and large, and this is going to seem harsh, means little to nothing to me. As a human person, he is valued, he is loved, and I wish him the best, but as my dad, as my father, as the man who should mean something to me, he actually doesn’t because he never earned it, and for me to expend energy disliking a man that never valued me enough to stay would be a waste of energy on my part. That doesn’t include the fact that I have many male figures in my life who actually did and do see value in me, who saw me as a kid, as a loser teenager and an irresponsible adult and stayed; I would imagine it to be a disservice and a mode of disrespect toward them if I pretended he meant nearly as much to me.
So how did we get here?
Well, it was during college that I decided to change my last name. There wasn’t a moment that caused it, or something that propelled that thought into existence, but with the prospect of adulthood on the horizon and everything associated with it: a career, a wife, kids, etc., I knew that my last name, the one I’d never been attached to, the one I’d never been proud of or excited to carry on, may be due for a change. And I never thought much of it. College came and went and I found that it was a much harder decision to make than you’d think. Given the option to decide on a new name seems exciting, but when the possibilities open up before you, it’s quick when you realize that your options are virtually endless–and what was at one point exciting becomes a bit more terrifying.
What if they think the name is stupid? (Who is “they?” I don’t know.)
What if I regret it? What if this is only a stage and I’ll get over it one day?
What if I’m wrong?
So I made a decision, call it smart, call it lazy, to wait until I met my wife to decide, that way if the name was incredible, the two of us could take pride in beginning our marriage under a new banner. If the name was awful, well, I had someone else to blame. And when I met Abbie and marriage seemed like a real and tangible thing on the horizon, the topic of the last name came into play, and it was up to us to decide.
The process wasn’t easy. We dinked around with family names, made up names, names we’d found in the phonebook, and names from TV. Some stood out, most were pretty bad, but nothing really ever stuck–except for one name: Monroe.
Abbie and I, before we were engaged, before we were really digging into the idea of changing my last name, latched onto the name Monroe. It had the conciseness she wanted, the little bit of something different I needed, and it wasn’t so off the wall, so different and weird, that people would wonder what the hell were we thinking.
At the time of my writing this, the appeal for the name change is being sent off to a judge. A couple of weeks from my writing this, I’ll have legally changed my name, and the reason I’m writing this, the reason I am posting this now is because it has long been the plan to have this out of the way a couple of months before the wedding so that things like our invitations would be able to have the new name on them. The need for this post is present too because some people I realize are not only unaware of the name we are changing to, but the fact that I have even been planning to change my name at all, (oops) and the last thing I would want is to leave someone confused because I never took the time to explain. Let me do my best to clear up any questions you may have.
Why the need for a name change? :: It isn’t so much that it was a need as it was a decision to begin my marriage, to begin adulthood, under a name I could be proud of and one I could teach my children to take pride in.
Cool, cool, but couldn’t you have done that with Mauldin? Couldn’t you have made it your own? :: Short answer? Maybe, but I didn’t have any interest in doing so. Mauldin is a name that I have no attachment to and is thus one I have no interest in carrying forward. To me, it feels like a chapter in my life. It was a great chapter, a chapter that was titled, but not defined by its title, and one that I need to move on from.
Okay–wait. So you made up the name Monroe, right? How does that have any meaning to you then? Why is that any different? :: The difference I feel like is Monroe is a name, though with no meaning to anyone else and no meaning to my family or my ancestry, that holds meaning to me and to Abbie and will continue to have meaning later on. The simple reason being that we came up with it together, we began this together, and are forging a future of our own into existence, and there’s pride to be taken in that.
Why not choose a family name then? You could take pride in a number of those but still have the satisfaction of it changing. Why not? :: This is probably the most controversial answer, but–I just didn’t want to. I mentioned earlier that it is a big decision to change your name to something new, but it is also a big opportunity, and the reality was I didn’t like the sound of any of my family names paired with mine or Abbie’s. Monroe sounded better, I liked it, so we went with it. Yes I made it up, and yes I could have gone with a family name instead. But I didn’t. Oh well.
Last one. How does your family feel? Didn’t you take that into account? :: Family to me is not in the name. I know that there are families connected by a lineage that stretches back for generations, but that isn’t the case here. Sure, there are names in my family that date back a couple of hundred years, but I grew up the only Mauldin and was still a part of my family. Names have mattered less to me than I think they do to most people and it was for that reason that I didn’t think much about changing my name to something new. My family, surprisingly, was less than excited and had opinions of their own. I’ve taken those opinions to heart, but at the end of it all, it wasn’t their decision and choosing a random name that just happens to be a part of my line would have made me no more a part of my family than I ever was before.
I realize some of you reading this may have a few more questions. And I also realize that some of you may not have cared this much about my changing my name, but for everyone reading this, I hope this post cleared up the majority of any questions you may have had regarding why I am changing my name, what the name is, and what to expect (on the very limited subject of our last name) come our wedding day.