At the end of Judy Garland’s final big film, A Star is Born, she calls herself Mrs. Norman Maine. It’s supposed to be her crowning moment, when she puts her real name and her stage name aside and takes her husband’s disgrace and (spoiler alert) recent suicide as her identity, even as she’s finally gained stardom.
Her line, like the movie, fell flat.
I no longer think it proves your submissiveness or your godliness to call yourself by your husband’s full name with a “Mrs” tacked to the beginning. And I don’t think you need to change your last name into his to prove your loyalty.
I, however, did change my last name.
My husband and I are a team. I’m the sparkle, he’s the wit. He has an old, wise soul, and the face of Huckleberry Finn. I am the Hispanic–Polish woman he married who has a desire to please and a desire to lead pulling her into any conversation.
Almost everything about our lives is shared, almost to the Sheldon and Davy Vanauken extent. We co-parent, co-manage, co-visioneer. We co-design and co-decorate. We always vacation together and share several, but not all hobbies. We co-run a non-profit we co-founded seven years ago that takes us on the road, behind a shared pulpit, in front of conferences, camps and schools.
My husband edged himself nearer the dark lines of his spotlight to make room for me.
I did not know they made guys like him.
But changing my name to his still wasn’t easy.
Mainly, because my husband wanted me to do what I wanted. He refused to weigh in one way or the other. This was to begin a pattern that would eventually move me out of complementarian and patriarchal belief into egalitarianism and feminism. My husband’s freedom was a highway to knowing God more fully and following Jesus as a woman, not a little girl.
But at the time this freedom felt illicit.
I had to decide. And to make matters more complicated and exciting, my husband considered changing his last name, too. His reasons are a part of his story and not mine. So during our whirlwind, three months engagement, we both considered taking a new last name to usher in this new season of our marriage.
That would have been pretty cool, I think. My name would would have “rung out” better if we had, but in the end he didn’t. I think his belief in redeeming old things came into play here.
This meant I could either keep my maiden name “Taylor” or replace it with his “Fincher.” Or I could also remove my middle name “Grace” and replace it with my maiden name making me “Jonalyn Taylor Fincher” (which I didn’t like the sound of ) or I could hyphenate as Mexican families and my Spanish grandfather encouraged me to do “Jonalyn Taylor-Fincher.” Or I could save the hyphenation for my children.
I chose to remove my maiden name and replace it with my husband’s. It wasn’t the obvious choice.
Growing up I invariably had to repeat, spell and enunciate my first name (no, not Jolyn, JON-a-lyn). This made my easy “Taylor” sort of a relief to arrive at. When introducing myself I wouldn’t say my last name because people rarely never got past my first. Taylor also rounded out the light “lyn”, the hard “a” and “or” were satisfying to roll out.
So leaving “Taylor” for “Fincher” didn’t make the most sense if I wanted to see my name in lights.
Still I gave it up. And now I find myself spelling both first and last names, several times. The funny thing about “Fincher” is the more you emphasize the “Fin” the more people mistake it for “Vin.” You just can’t emphasize an “F” and have it carry.
It did not sound better to change my name.
And even with the Name Changing Kit my husband bought for me, it was not easy.
You have to get new everything: Social Security card, Driver’s License, credit cards, email, etc, etc. It’s a pain in the patooshkie.
Still, I did it. And at the beginning it felt like a step away from who I was.
It took years of being called “Mrs. Fincher” by students and seeing my name in print and on books. I think I kept my name “Jonalyn Grace Fincher” for the first 5 years as a way to hold onto two words that still felt like “me.”
But I know somewhere, slowly, the balance tipped.
Last week, I read aloud a cursive name on an old watercolor “Jonalyn Taylor.”
And for a split moment, I didn’t know who that was. It was a girl from long ago, a girl who was determined to let men lead without speaking her mind, a girl who wanted to be used rather than enjoy God. It was another age, an outdated epoch, a season that I’m glad has ended.
Posted for and with The Last Name Project