I didn’t know I was attached to my last name until it came time to change it.
It’s this way with most things, isn’t it?
I’ve been married for 318 days, 315 of which I’ve been Heidi Kurpiela, a name that I’ve pronounced two different ways my entire life: Ker-peel-ya and Ker-peel-a.
I always give people these two options when they ask me how to pronounce it. I’m not sure which is right and which is wrong and it doesn’t much matter as long as you spell it with a “pie” and say it with a “peel.”
Kurpiela is a German name with Polish origins, the result of blurring boundaries between two countries from which my people hail. Other than my Dad’s immediate family, I have no known relatives with this last name in the United States. Three years ago, Facebook introduced me to a whole new brood of Kurpielas in Canada, but after sending a series of messages back and forth with one of them, I’ve yet to find a common ancestor.
This is unfortunate considering how much I love Canada.
I didn’t think much about my last name until 10th grade, when I overheard two senior girls whispering about it in band class.
“Excuse me?” I asked them.
“Heidi Kurpiela,” they replied.
“We like the sound of your name. It has a ring to it.”
I had thought they were gossiping about me.
My senior year, when I penned my first front page newspaper story, I remember the editor asking me how I wanted my byline to appear.
“Heidi Kurpiela?” I dumbly replied. “How else would it appear?”
“You don’t want a middle name or middle initial in there?” He asked.
I told him it wouldn’t be necessary. A middle name or initial would just crowd things.
During college I worked at a small bookstore in the mall. Whenever I stocked fiction, I would wistfully scan the section with my fingers, making a space for my imaginary novel somewhere between Barbara Kingsolver and Wally Lamb.
Some novelists would kill to be shelved two rows down from Stephen King. I was born with this privilege.
Many women change their name in stride. In the weeks following their nuptials they run the name-change gauntlet with efficiency and ease and nary a complaint. I applaud these women for rolling with it as their mothers and grandmothers rolled with years ago. I guess I’m not so accommodating.
I’m an obstinate feminist with a procrastination streak, and sometimes an obstinate procrastinator with a feminist streak. Either way I’m obstinate, which explains why I took 315 days to change my name.
I over-analyzed it.
I thought about whether or not my husband would consider taking my name, something I knew other couples had done. I thought about tradition and simplicity. How keeping my maiden name would just complicate things. What name would our kids have?
I thought about how it wasn’t fair that I had to wait in line for an hour at a social security office to change my name, followed by another hour at the DMV to get a new license, followed by numerous phone calls to credit card companies, car insurance companies, health insurance companies …
I thought about the fact that with no brothers or male cousins in this country, my name would fade into obscurity.
I thought about every woman I know with her husband’s name. I wondered if they had similar reservations and if so, had they voiced them? I wondered if I was the only bullheaded wife on earth.
But none of these thoughts brought me satisfaction.
I felt like I had two identities, a bowlegged newlywed straddling two last names, bucking the system to no avail.
Joe said it didn’t matter. He said he’d love me whether my last name was Kurpiela or Flying Purple People Eater. So after 318 days of marriage, I made a decision.
I walked into the Social Security office in downtown St. Petersburg and changed my name to Flying Purple People Eater.
I changed it to his.
When my new card arrived in the mail Monday, I slipped it into my wallet, drove down to the DMV and changed it on my driver’s license as well.
When Joe got home from work I told him it was official, that I had finally changed my name.
He looked at the license, turned it over in his hands.
“No hyphen?” He asked.
“Just Bardi?” He asked.
“Yup, but there’s one stipulation.”
He raised his brows.
“When I write, I’m Heidi Kurpiela. For everything else I’m all yours.”
PS. The photo above was taken near the coast of Oregon during the pug’s cross-country road trip three years ago. I was in the middle of nowhere, somewhere between the Umpqua Forest and Coos Bay. I had stopped to fill up our water bottles from this rock that was drizzling spring water. The rock was covered with names, initials and graffiti, so before I hit the road I added my own little declaration. ♥