Mrs. Nicholas Foley
When my parents got married in the early ’80s, my dad’s mom- quite vocally, not a fan of her own Polish maiden or married names- suggested combining my parent’s last names into the nice, ethnically-ambiguous “Wizman.” On the flip side, the artist formerly known as my maternal grandma was a traditionalist, and pretty much up until the end of her life, addressed all greeting and thank-you cards to “Mr. and Mrs. Blaine Wisniewski.” It always really annoyed my mom, who had, admittedly, changed her last name, but not her first.
For a year now, I’ve been mulling over my own name options. To be honest, though, it’s been on my mind since I first had to fit my name at the top of homework assignments. Saddled at birth with an inscrutable first name and vowel-laden, 10-letter surname, I often longed for the day that I could switch part of it out for something short, sweet, and- best of all- phonetic. Bonus points if its starting letter fell within the first half of the alphabet. I remember, as a child, styling myself in my mind as “Katie Louisiana” (or Casey Louisiana, depending on the day), which was just about the most elegant and American-sounding name I could imagine (Louisiana, to me, was the more glamorous version of my middle name, Louise. Kids, amirite?).
So when Nick came along, with his 5-letter last name, it was just another mark off the Dreamboat Checklist. We could be The Foleys- how simple and refined!
I daydreamed about how neat all my government forms would look, with all those extra blank, pristine boxes.
I fantasized about finding a pre-fab keychain or magnet in a tacky souvenir shop. It would just say “Foley”- no need to get a “Wilson” and scratch out the l and o and add in the rest in tiny scrawl on the edge.
I imagined myself in glamorous adult recreation programs, perhaps a ceramics class or decorative glass-blowing seminar, with the teacher calling my name ALMOST at the beginning of roll-call. “Foley?,” she’d inquire casually and assuredly, not needing to stumble over any extra i’s or w’s. “Here!” I’d say, with a breezy air and an easy confidence, and we would all laugh. Oh, how we would laugh.
I always assumed I’d figure out the right name option when the time came along- changing was appealing, but more out of convenience than anything else. But when the time to consider it actually DID come along, I became a bit more reticent. I realized I didn’t want to toss Wisniewski out into the cold- perhaps I’d hyphenate, or relegate it to middle-name status. Maybe I’d be Kasia Foley legally and Kasia Wisniewski professionally. Maybe Nick would throw Wisniewski into his name somewhere.We joked about simply switching names- Nick Wisniewski and Kasia Foley. Or Mr. Kasia Wisniewski and Mrs. Nick Foley (pouring one out for you, G-Ma). Simply put, there were options, and I liked the idea of having a new name- a family name- to commemorate this momentous life-change.
There’s only one problem. I’m just not Kasia Foley.
Every solution seemed clunky. Using only “Foley” was off the table for me. Wisniewski-Foley sounds kind of terrible. And it’s 15 letters-long. No. Thank. You. Most importantly, though, I just simply couldn’t imagine changing the name I’ve had for my entire life. When I tried to envision myself signing something as Kasia Foley, or Kasia Wisniewski-Foley, or whatever weird thing I would come up with, it felt inauthentic. I also LITERALLY JUST got a new driver’s license a couple weeks ago, and it cost $60. But there was still this part of me that wanted to represent our new “team” status to the world.
It all started to stress me out in a major way.
I would say to Nick, at least once a week, “What should I do about the name?” His reply was always the same: “I don’t know. Whatever you want.” I would then proceed to hem and haw, out loud, while Nick did his best to talk me down. Then one day, instead of listing all the options for the millionth time:
“I’m not going to change it.”
And just like that, the stress went away. I love Nick, but I don’t need to have his name to prove we’re a team. We’ll be the Foleys, but we’ll also be the Wisniewskis. Ultimately, I think it comes down to what makes you feel comfortable and right. If you love the idea of changing your name, do it. It you don’t, don’t. For me, sticking with Wisniewski just felt right, and I haven’t needed to give it another thought.
I also REALLY don’t want to get a new driver’s license.
So the other day, as I spelled my first AND last names for the clerk at Utrecht for the millionth time, I smiled to myself. Although I still occasionally fantasize about those blank boxes and super-sweet keychains, this is MY name, and I’m in it for the long haul.