Tuesday, May 28, 2002

With the wedding just over a week away, I just wrote my new name for the first time, recording it for a mailing list. And I'll admit, it was a little startling: Nathan Kloostra Bierma. (My wife's birth name will become her and my middle name.) The name I've had since I arrived as a pink raisin at the Duke U medical center, the name that was on my kindergarten desk, my high school trophies, my college transcript--now it's split up and transformed, the most familiar set of words I've known are strange and new. It's something of a metaphor of the meshing our two lives in general.

But of course, this cognitive dissonance is exactly what half the population--the female half--has dealt with for hundreds of years, and recent attempts to inject some balance into society, i.e. the women's lib movement, are still not as far advanced as to prevent the awkwardness a woman faces in the milestone of marriage: changing such a foundational symbol of your identity simply because women were second-class citizens for all of human history, and in many ways still are. As an article at the wedding site The Knot, in a useful treatment of this issue, says: "The evolution of women's roles aside, society still expects you and your husband to have the same last name." As I wrote recently in the Det. Free Press, my wife and I are facing a lot of weird old-fashioned ideas as we scrape out a more balanced view of family in the 21st Century. It can be disorienting for the man as well as the woman.

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