Saturday, September 29, 2012

I have chosen Wisely


Aly & I are getting married in a week and I, Lance Armstrong, am going to become Lance Wisely.

There are a number of reasons for this.  (Seven, apparently.)

1) Changing my name represents transformation to me.  Armstrong and Wisely already have their own connotations as a word or word group, but my family name also carries meaning to me from my personal experiences.  Much of that is negative - my father in particular emphasized physical strength and intimidation, was full of bluster, sexism, racism, and a deep lack of concern for anyone but himself and those he considered to be, at that particular moment, extensions of himself.

I do not wish to be him, and to me, becoming Lance Wisely carries that meaning, as well as the lifelong quest for knowledge and wisdom that I'm happy to be defined by.  Wisely embodies who I want to be, and Armstrong doesn't.

2) I'm a little tired of having a famous name.  It does make self-promotion a little easier, so it's not all bad.  Everyone does make the same 3 or 4 clever jokes at the checkout counter, though.  It was cute for about 5 years.

3) Aly left this choice to me.  She was willing to change her name if that was what I wanted, and largely indifferent to which choice I made.  In fact, if she had a preference, I'm not sure what it was, and I've asked several times.

This disarms a lot of things in my brain that would normally interfere with a decision like this.  Competitiveness, control issues, masculine identity, and so on.  Not framing the conversation as a conflict is a big part of creating a space where I'm emotionally capable of making choices that aren't reflexive.

4) Related to #3, my culture disapproves of this sort of thing.  When someone tells me what to do, my reflexive response is:

Fuck you, culture!  Honeybadger doesn't give a shit!  (It isn't an accident that I work for myself.)

5) Less reflexively, there's a gender norm here that is worth breaking.  Women sometimes change their names, and sometimes don't, and sometimes hyphenate or something.  Men generally don't change their names; it's still a little taboo.  That is going to start conversations, and those conversations are going to be about gender roles.  Most of them are going to start with some version of an attack on my masculinity, and present an opportunity for me to challenge those assumptions.

6) It's the more interesting choice.  What will happen if she changes her name to Armstrong?  Nothing, mostly.  That's what lots of people do; it's expected.  What will happen if I change my name to Wisely?  Shit, man, I'm not sure.  That's kinda uncharted.  At minimum I'll have those gender conversations, as well as a bit more insight into what it has been like for women to change their names.  It's something that has provoked a lot of soul searching - your name is your identity, after all.

7) I want to be an example of freedom from these expectations to my children.  You can't tell kids that gender norms are bullshit when you're happily living them.  I don't care what my children do or don't do with their names if they marry, but I do want them to feel comfortable discussing all of the possibilities with their spouse.  Are we going to have individual names or a family name?  What would that family name be?

It's a small piece of what real equality sounds like.

The change is going to be inconvenient in a lot of ways - so many accounts and contacts to change names with. Plus, I own a business!  The complications should be temporary, though, and these other aspects will be present for a lifetime.  Fortunately NC is one of a handful of states that will let a man change his name in a steamlined fashion when getting married.  I'm already wishing "streamlined" meant "with a magic wand."

1 comment:

  1. Good for you guys! I hope all goes well with your wedding and you have many, many happy years ahead of you. :3