Becoming Marjorie E. Laine

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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).

downloadI 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 b7db2a1357be94fc8c63aa9c330ad266person 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.

8 Comments

  1. Such an interesting post and a topic I have also contemplated myself only going back to the idea that MY last names still come from men. The only thing I can think of doing is, as you probably have thought of as well, is finding a sense of agency in owning “my chosen” name–as it sounds you are doing. I was “Suzanne Garcia” and when I got married I became Suzanne Garcia (middle name) Mateus. Someone suggested I hyphenate my name in publications so that others would know I am Latina cause apparently “Suzanne Mateus” doesn’t have a Latinx ring to it…I guess. I LOVE my Latina identity so I considered it appropriate. I now go by Suzanne Garcia-Mateus (though not legally) and somehow, for me, that sort of agency of choosing to use both satisfied the tension I was experiencing in taking on someone else’s name. If I could, I’d go back in time and whisper into my parents ears and ask for a more “Latinx” first name, like Susana.

    • admin

      March 3, 2019 at 1:59 am

      Thanks so much for responding, Suzanne. Yes, names are so complicated. I changed my name to Orellana when I got married at age 22, because that’s what my sisters had done, and my mother, and most of the women I knew in a sort of pre-feminist era, or at least, in my working class community. Orellana also sounded so much nicer to my ear than “Faulstich” did; and no one ever knew how to spell it, or pronounce it, or make sense of it. Foster? False…stick? Fallstitch? But I used it in my professional life for the opposite reason as you did – to make sure that no one thought I was trying to pass myself off as Latina. I could say a whole lot more about that…and indeed that’s some of the stuff I am thinking about: pride and shame and the history of names, why “Faulstich” is such a derogatory name in German…patriarchy, women, hyphens…Much much more to think about!

  2. I can see you have put so much thought into this decision, this act of self creation. I know you don’t want opinions, but I love it. I love you. I take issue with the notion that little Marjorie Faulstich would not have said, “fuck the patriarchy!” With support, she would have. Then, as now, I have your back, dear friend.

    • admin

      March 3, 2019 at 1:51 am

      Dear dear Mary: Thank you for this message of support. I hear your response as just that – a response – not the kind of opinion I am wary of – i.e. when people tell me what THEY think I “should” or shouldn’t do, based on their own belief systems. And yes, I think of our friendship groups – all those smart women – as little feminists in the making. Thank you for your love and support, then and now. <3

  3. Concepcion Monreal Valadez

    March 5, 2019 at 4:58 am

    Thank you Margorie, for inviting our thoughts on the name issue. I began grad school one year after divorcing the father of my children. My Stanford Ph.D. degree lists me as Concepcion M. Valadez-Love. My kids questioned why I was still using “Love” as part of my name. They sent me the signal that should drop the hyphenated part.
    My UCLA academic faculty card includes my middle name, which was my mother’s maiden name.

    • admin

      May 14, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      Thank you so much for writing and sharing, Concepción. I somehow missed seeing your reply until now. I am gathering lots of “name stories” – it seems most people have one! I love that you have your mother’s maiden name as a middle name. So does my brother: he is Robert Walter Faulstich. I was always a little jealous that he was the one sibling who got to have her name! <3

  4. I truly appreciate your reflection and deep thought into this subject. As a teacher it is important to me to ask children what they want to be called rather than assume or impose a name that is incorrect. Through the years these students have in fact made decisions about switching their name. This profound reflection is a beautiful reminder to be open to the possibilities and reality that we are all growing and evolving. Thank you

    • admin

      May 14, 2019 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks so much, Elena, for taking the time to write a comment.
      I’ve decided to let the decision sit and brew for a bit – I’m on pause. I BOTH recognize the importance of names, and all they encode (histories, family, culture, personal and collective identities)…and, on some level, know that it’s all a social construction, and can never capture all of who we are, where we come from, what we represent. And that our decisions about what feels right – what allows us to grow – may be different at different points in our lives. And that’s ok. As an educator, I too try to honor the choices students make, and what each person wants in terms of their names, pronunciation, gender pronouns and more. I also try to remember that we are all imperfect humans, so if people mix up or confuse or miss-spell or mispronounce my name (as often happens, with all of my names!), that’s all ok too. We are all growing and learning – how to create the conditions to allow for growth is a wonderful pedagogical challenge.

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