Diana K. McLean: What’s in a Name?

Fall '10 TOC

p>The name feels strange on my lips. I say it out loud to myself sometimes, when no one else is around to hear. It hasn’t been mine for over eight years. Eight years and two days between our vows, when your name became mine and mine became part of my past, and the day you told me you were leaving.

When you left, I wanted your name to go too. It will never be all the way gone; our son bears it and he will grow up with me. He asked once if he could change from a Serquina to a McLean too. I explained that I was born a McLean and was just going back to the first name I ever had. At seven, that was enough explanation for him. He said, “Well, then since I was born a Serquina I’ll stay one.” That’s fine. His middle name is Burke, my mother’s maiden name, so his name, like him, is equal parts you and me and the unique mixture that is him.

I try out my new/old name, even though it hasn’t changed legally yet. First on Facebook. Then on a byline or two. Now, on anything I can change without the final divorce decree. I’m hungry to have it back, eager to feel fully myself again. Hard to imagine I was this hungry to be a Serquina once. No, not once, twice. First in high school, when I doodled variations of it on my brown paper book covers: Diana Serquina. Mrs. Diana Serquina. Even Mrs. Chuck Serquina, which makes me cringe now as I see the complete erasure of self in a wife adopting her husband’s full name with only a so-called honorific before it. I was never Mrs. Chuck Serquina, your property, but was happy to be Diana Serquina, your wife.

After my first divorce, as I filled out the paperwork to change my name back to McLean, I swore I’d never take a man’s name again if I remarried. It was only because of those high school doodlings that it felt right to take your last name, when it turned out to be you I married the second time around. Now I regret that sentimental impulse.

It has been almost three months since you left. I’ve been trying my name on for probably two and a half. It feels like an old sweater that has been forgotten in an antique trunk for years...half-familiar, comforting and yet not completely comfortable. It just needs a little breaking in, though, and it will be mine again, resurrected, the way the me that got slowly buried under the weight of the long downward slide of our marriage is now being resurrected.

What’s in a name? A life. A new life. Everything.

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