This piece was originally published on November 5, 2013 on Mother Thoughts as a response to the JWA Last Name blog series.
To be perfectly honest, I can't stand when someone asks for my full name on the telephone. Not only do I have an unusual first name (with an atypical spelling), I also have an unusual and hyphenated last name, and I end up saying something like this: "Okay, my first name is Adena, A-D-E-N-A, and my last name is Cohen-Bearak, C-O-H-E-N, hyphen, then B as in boy, E-A-R-A-K. Got it?"
Being based in Boston, the Red Sox are a pretty big deal. I’m not a sports fan, but I get the allegiance. (And, I get that that the Red Sox Nation is an important part of our city’s identity—feel free to ask me about the fireworks that kept me up late last night following the Red Sox World Series win.) Which is why I found a statement I heard at a wedding last weekend particularly illuminating.
The bride, a New Yorker and Yankees fan, was marrying a Boston Red Sox fan. During the toasts her sister shared, “it is easier for someone in our family to change their last name than to change their sports team.” Marriage and the decision to change, not change, hyphenate, combine, invent, or otherwise alter one’s last name is a controversial one.
Ken and I talked about our names for a long time before we got married. He always said he wanted everyone in our new family to have the same last name—particularly when we had kids. And I would say, "Okay, you are always welcome to be a Garcia." I said that as a joke, but I really meant it.
I've worked long and hard to create Mimi Garcia. I often joke, "It's a good brand and I've worked hard to make it. I don't want to change it."
Changing my name is a choice that I can make. I can keep my name if I want, or change it, or come up with something entirely different. By deciding to take my soon-to-be-husband’s last name, I am naming a particular moment in my life, my transition from single to married. I am changing my name, not because that is what I am expected to do, but because I am signaling a unified partnership, as we are both helpers to each other. Adam isn’t naming me, like the birds and the beasts. I am claiming the power to name myself.
Last week, the New York Times reported the most popular baby names, noting that there were "few baby Baracks, but Emmas abound." "Emma" has bumped "Emily" out of the No. 1 spot as the most popular baby name for girls. The article mentions that "Emma" has been in the top 10 since 2002, and also ranked in the top 10 in the late 19th century. Hmm... the late 19th century, you say?
Our favorite Jewish cookbook extraordinaire, Joan Nathan, has invited an old friend to the Hanukkah table. In an article in today's NY Times, she shares with us the colorful -- and flavorful -- memories of babka in its original and contemporary varieties.
An article in last week’s New York Times Magazine about unisex or “gender-fluid” names caught my interest. I’ve always liked names (and playing with their spellings), and I happen to have one of those gender-fluid names myself.
It’s a thrill for me to see artist Joan Snyder listed among this year’s recipients of MacArthur fellowships, the “genius grants” that honor and advance the work of exceptionally creative thinkers and doers. Joan Snyder greets me each morning as I begin work. A copy of her print, “Our Foremothers,” occupies the wall opposite my desk. A collage of names of all the women in the Bible as well as women in her own family, the print is a visual metaphor for our work at the Jewish Women’s Archive.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Names." (Viewed on March 1, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog/names>.