Mrs. B

With the pandemic pushing our wedding to the following year, I find myself with more time to contemplate about changing my last name. I used to think that it’s a straightforward decision. When I was a little girl, innocent of coverture laws and the administrative pain of amending legal documents, I thought it was boring to be a boy and be stuck with the same name for life.

Now a grown woman, I take stock. I ‘m a child of a troubled marriage. Also a witness to a few other unions I wouldn’t wish on anyone. In some instances, the married name stayed on even when the vows collapsed. Could be due to steadfast hope or just out of practicality. There are those who changed their names to a new beau’s. Can’t remember anyone who reverted back to their maiden names. And here I am, despite dark histories and memories, waiting to tie the knot. Thinking I’ll fare better.

One thing is settled. For the purposes of this blog and other writings I’ll release to the world, I will remain Leah Ranada. I’ve been writing long before boys and men (could be a pain to tell the difference) came to my life. My thoughts, my stories, they come from a place even those dearest to me cannot find. An individual space I strive to make vast enough to take in the world and for but one mind to roam freely.

Then why not make it the same for everything else?

I don’t hate my family name, despite having endured some teasing at school. The grenade about to explode. It’s a nice sounding name otherwise. Easy to spell over the phone. “It’s like Canada but with an R.” The fiancé doesn’t have a preference. “It doesn’t matter to me.” He means it—he’s good at speaking his mind. I am truly free to keep my last name. Only, I don’t feel liberated by clinging to one I didn’t get to choose. At least being Mrs. B and the other half making it possible represent choices I made.

I’m still that girl who likes the change, eager to start something new.

But, but I look at the mirror. “Leah Beckman?” My reaction is a bemused Nge! It’s a strange sound with a weird fit against the face looking back. I’m also aware of the colonial frisson, that perception towards Pinays adopting a Western name. Makes me rethink a bit. Some would see me as sosyal. Social climber, perhaps. A few years ago, when my sister returned from a vacation back home she taught me a term learned from the ever-so-merciless Manilans: success story. No one is hurling at my direction, but I’m already coiled with a defence. “He’s only three-and-a-half years older. We have many things in common. And I’m financially independent too.” Hay.

I’m still months away from the big day. Plenty of time to swing back and forth. At the moment, my tabled decision is to take the hyphenated route. Seems like a win-win (haha) scenario.

8 thoughts on “Mrs. B

  1. Most of my married friends chose the hyphenated route too! Either that, or they kept their maiden names. It seems quite unpopular, at least among the women that I know, to completely drop their maiden names hehe.

    You raise a very interesting point re: choice. Oo nga naman, it’s more empowering to go with the name that you choose, not the name that you’re born into. Plus our maiden names are from our fathers pa rin e, so minus feminist brownie points din ‘yun. Charot hahaha.

    Tungkol naman sa “success story” — hayyy. Ganyan yata talaga, ‘no? Filipinas (Filipinx??) are fetishized to this day, and it’s emblematic of bigger issues on class, race, and gender. Hopefully it gets better for the next generation of Filipino women and other women of color.

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    1. That nothing/no one is holding me back from keeping my name made me realize that, you know what, I’m not that attached to it. Siguro may kinalaman din sa disempowering elements in my upbringing. But it’s not a “good riddance” feeling either. The name served me well and the new name doesn’t entirely fit. Okay na nga siguro yung hyphenated.

      As for the success story, it’s a lot to unpack. I’d catch knowing looks from Tita/Manang types when we’re out together and I wonder if it’s a “congratulatory” look or they just think we’re cute, ehehe. Nobody wants to be stereotyped, but unfortunately stereotypes arise from harsh realities that we may or may not be experiencing as individuals.

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  2. Upon the dissolution of my marriage I reverted to my maiden name and I will never release my name again, to or for anyone. Today, the bigger question, should one choose to have children, is whose name shall they bear. Yours? Your partner’s? A hyphenated surname? Marriage is future – generational – even in dissolution. And so, whose name will one’s children’s children bear? Theirs? Their partner’s? A triple hyphenation? A surname has weight. It traces lineage. It holds a story. Your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great point. At this time I don’t seem to mind the children (if they come) taking his name because I’m adopting it as mine as well. But then the marriage breaks down (unromantic thought, but hey) and then what? I’ll revert to Ranada, of course. In the event of a toxic divorce, I hope I have the forbearance to fully accept whatever name the children want to keep. Of course, easier said than done.

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