What’s in a name?

I am a rather sentimental person. I attach heavy meaning to things. Due to that, my name has considerable meaning for me- it is part of my identity. I have always felt that way. Which has provided a complicated history with my designation. My first name is Aaron- an unlikely spelling for a female. Throughout my life I have had teachers seat me as a male in seating charts, strangers ask me if my parents wanted a boy, and most recently I had a contractor state that I have a boy name- as if it defies the laws of nature.

As a child, I resented my name. I resented the assumptions it gave people. The boldness in which people felt they were entitled to ask rude questions.

I tried to go by my middle name for a while. I stopped after a year. I told my mother it was because it was too long to write out- the excuse of laziness no one would argue with. Looking back with an adult’s perspective, I think it is because it didn’t feel like me. I didn’t fully identify with that name. It was only a part of me.

My parents chose my name carefully. They recognized the weight of a name. The importance of how a person can be shaped by a moniker. I was named after Aaron, Moses’s brother. My parents believe that he was a great man with admirable qualities. Their intention was to name me after a person with strong character, integrity, and a compassionate heart, in hopes that I would embody those same traits. Luckily for me, they believe that I have personified the qualities they prayed for 33 years ago. I pray daily that I continue to live up to the name bestowed upon me.

As an adult, I have come to love my name. I identify with the juxtaposition of my masculine first name and feminine middle name. My family uses both names, as they were always intended to be combined. Used interchangeably at any given moment. I am Aaron Michelle. That is how I identify. That is the name in my email signature at work. It is how I sign letters. It is who I am. This interesting mix of masculine and feminine. I love makeup and feeling like the most elegant version of myself in a ball gown. My father and I build furniture together. I worked in construction and miss it dearly. I am nurturing and a mother, through and through. I am crass, but I can be gentle and kind. I can fit in at high tea as easily as I can on a job site.

But my name now provides a new conundrum for me. At least part of my name. My surname to be specific. I took Moose’s father’s name when we got married. I delightfully left my maiden name behind. A name that was far more complicated to hear over the phone than it should have been. But I abandoned that name for more than just acquiring a new one that was effortless. I relished in the symbolism of taking on my partner’s name. Of creating a new family- the two of us- and eventually the three of us. I felt like shedding my maiden name was the natural evolution to the woman I had become. My identity had changed. I was no longer the same woman. I was now a wife. A life partner. Half of a whole.

I am no longer part of that whole. And I am no longer the woman that existed then. I have evolved into someone new. I have grown. Matured. Expanded. I am more than I was when I took on this new name. I am stronger. More confident. Happier. I am a mother, a best friend, a business protege, a risk taker (sometimes). I am my own whole. My name doesn’t feel like home anymore. It feels foreign when I speak it. But my maiden name no longer feels appropriate either. I am not either of those women.

To some people, this dilemma probably seems silly. Maybe the emphasis I put on my name in relation to the person I am is strange. But it is my contemplation to have, regardless of what others feel.

I spoke to my mother about this several weeks ago. She was kind and listened to me, though I don’t think she fully understood how I felt. She was supportive of my process, regardless. And she had good points. I may no longer share a life with the man that was my husband, but I do still share that name with my son. I am still his mother. That makes my name a strong part of my identity. This new identity as caretaker, protector, and home for a tiny human exploring the world.

I began writing this weeks ago. Sometimes I just have to get the words out of my head, in hopes that they will stop swirling around. That maybe if I write the words down- process the thoughts- clarity will come. It didn’t. Not right away at least. Actually, the determination I longed for was my aunt’s last gift to me.

My cousin contacted me while drafting my aunt’s obituary. A task I cannot imagine having to execute. Something I am sure I will have to do one day- but a thought I do not dwell on. As she was constructing the synopsis of my aunt’s life and character, she asked me what I wanted my name to be stated as. My maiden name or my current legal name. I stared at the options on my phone. The text message she sent, putting my choices into the world in black and white. And still, neither felt right.

They feel like past skins that I have shed to become the person I view every morning in the mirror.

Yet, they were integral to this person. They are a part of my history that I cannot- and don’t desire- to turn my back on. A decision had to be made. She was waiting. And then the blanket of resolution settled over my weary spirit. I didn’t have to choose. I didn’t have to compromise with one or the other. I could be both. I am both. Hyphenating was the only logical answer. One that feels right. It feels like the most accurate identity to reflect the current location on my journey. And not a moment too soon, because you have to declare those decisions in the divorce decree. I have to obtain permission from the man that cast me aside to alter my name- my identity. A barbaric system to say the least, but it is the reality none-the-less.

Nine years ago, I anxiously awaited the paperwork to legally amend my name, the manifestation of the life altering pledge I made before my friends, family, and God. Now, I have the same anticipation to receive paperwork to revise my name, yet again. I look forward to presenting the world with Ms. Aaron Michelle Platt-Baker with honor. Lawfully unwed and whole, having found her footing in the world through the fires of adversity, change, uncertainty, and triumph. Comfortable in her identity as a woman, mother, friend, daughter, and human. Ready to explore the universe around her and share her perspective, experience, and joy with her son. She embarks on a new journey, filled with trepidation and confidence.




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