I am trying on the idea of changing my name. After 35 years living legally as Marjorie Elaine Orellana, or, in my professional life, in a hyphenated state (without actually using a hyphen), as Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, I am preparing to cut off the last six syllables of my public persona, and privilege my given names, not the ones I inherited or married into: Marjorie Elaine. To make “Elaine” sound a bit more like a surname, I’m leaning toward Marjorie E. Laine. That rolls off the tongue easily; I could gloss it as Marjelaine or Marjolaine (which happens to be a lovely herb).
I had thought my choices were to continue to walk the world as Marjorie Elaine Orellana (my legal name) or to file for an official reversion to my “maiden” name (Marjorie Elaine Faulstich), returning me as the person I once was: the sixth child and third daughter of Anna Marie Walter and Charles Nicholas Faulstich. But this left me feeling tugged between two poles of patriarchy that no longer served my life. I’m not sure I would know how to re-become Margie Faulstich. Nor would I necessarily want to.
In dropping Faulstich, I mean no disrespect to my own father. In fact Charles Nicholas was the only person who ever called me Marjorie Elaine. Choosing to be Marjorie E. Laine is about connecting with my father, in my own unique way, and with my self: a version of myself that holds some continuity with the past, while offering a fresh way to move into the future. (Though I must admit, there is a part of me that is declaring: “Fuck the patriarchy” – something little Margie Faulstich would never have dared say.)
It’s not a simple thing to change a name that I have used professionally and personally for so many years. I see this as a time of transition, and take inspiration from those who have made much more complex transitions, such as between gendered identities. I will have to petition for the legal right to be Marjorie E. Laine; pay a fee; be prepared for reactions from – and confusion among – colleagues, families and friends; figure out how to change the domain name and master-head for this blog (something I’ve attempted, and was stymied by – so it may have to remain as is), and a gazillion other things. It’s possible all of that will feel too daunting. I may just take the path of least resistance and remind myself that a name is…just a name. My name does not define my character, and it can never name all that I am. A surname is a tag to mark some ties to other people. (Indeed, a reason to remain Marjorie Orellana is to mark my ties to my own children; but I trust that our bond does not depend on our names.)
I have written several longer versions of this announcement, elaborating on my thought processes, and reflecting on the meanings and histories of names. (Did you know that Faulstich loosely translates as “Lazy Bones?” Or even worse: “Putrid Wound”? There is some hidden history there that bears exploration, and perhaps some very old wounds to heal. Just how did all my “Lazybone” family members gain such reputations as hard workers, who always do more than their share? )
Sharing drafts with a few friends and family members, I have been inviting responses. Reactions have helped me to consider things I want to examine further. I am sure that work will continue as I try on the idea of becoming Marjorie E. Laine, and see how the world responds to her. So while I am not looking for opinions about whether or not I should make this change – that’s something I need to decide for myself – I welcome your thoughts about names, choices, and life transformations.