Question: Dear Luise: Could you shed some light on genealogy for me? I have a friend whose son plans to shorten his last name. He says it’s for convenience sake, since it has a very unique and difficult spelling. She’s all upset because she feels he is dishonoring his deceased father and his roots. I know there are many last names that have been changed through the years for various reasons, but I’ve never been very interested in the process or the reasons behind it. So now I’m finding it hard to understand why she is so concerned. Her son is grown, in fact he’s middle aged, and he has no children. Can you give me any insights on this? Thank you, Paula
Answer: Dear Paula: It sounds like your friend is having a bit of a problem determining where she ends and he son begins…a very common dilemma. She may be feeling like he doesn’t want to be connected with his roots, of which she is obviously part, even if the name was her husbands. (That’s an assumption, of course.) It’s no easy trick to have our kids become separate individuals in our eyes.
Those who are into numerology think that a given name is an intricate part of the destiny of each and every person. Families also can be extremely attached to a last name and study genealogy very seriously. We look for identity and we look for “tribe” as an important part of that. To some, a name change represents denial or even rejection of part of the whole of who we are. Serious stuff.
I don’t agree. When I was divorced, I changed the spelling of my first name and made up a new last name. I admit that I was older and my family was gone, which made it easier. No toes were being stepped on. But, to me, it was symbolic. I felt I was at a turning point and I wanted to celebrate my new beginning. That was twenty years ago and I’ve never been sorry.
Kudos to you for giving your friend a shoulder to cry on. A good listener can often see us through troubled waters. Beyond that, the sooner she understands that there is nothing she can do about it, and that it isn’t about her, the sooner she can move on. Her name is her business…and he grown son’s name is his. Blessings, Luise