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    Wild by Cheryl Strayed

A maiden changes her name

30 Jul 2010

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.

“Yes?”

“We like the sound of your name. It has a ring to it.”

I blushed.

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.

Just kidding.

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.

“Nope.”

“Just Bardi?” He asked.

“Yup.”

“You sure?”

“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. ♥

20 Responses to “A maiden changes her name”

  1. 1
    Rebecca Says:

    Love this. I haven’t really thought about this but I feel like I will be VERY attached to my maiden name when I get married.

    Jeff’s last name is Rose, and my middle name is Rose. My name will be Rebecca Rose Rose, which is pretty darn cool. I’ll probably keep my maiden name for writing, as well.

  2. 2
    RO Says:

    Oh lady-no need for me to really comment since it’s been a hot topic for us these days..but I’m glad you made a choice. Less to fret about you old hen.

    (spoken like a true Mrs. herself)
    (PS-now everyone will think I’m Italian)

  3. 3
    Hintzillotti Says:

    I love this post. I know the whole name-change debate has been bugging you. Congrats on officially becoming Mrs. Heidi Bardi! I salute and admire your bravery to take the plunge.

    God help me, I’m still Hintz professionally and Hintz-Lanzillotti at home. My name alone takes up two lines on our checks.

  4. 4
    Ricci Says:

    Love it. I’m so glad you’re keeping your byline.

    And, FYI, I’m doing the same. I basically have to change it legally, otherwise when I travel across international borders with coffee-colored babies who have a different last name, people will think I’ve kidnapped them. :)

    BUT.. for all things journalista, I am (and will always be!!!) Ricci Shryock.

  5. 5
    Angel Says:

    Oh boy. You know how I feel about this one. However, Jonathan is becoming more resigned to the fact that I am NOT changing my name when we get married. His big thing is he doesn’t want to “have to explain to people why I didn’t take his last name.” My answer: don’t. It’s a personal choice and nobody’s business but ours.

    And, FTR, Heidi Bardi is adorable and has great rhyming-ditty potential.

  6. 6
    Heather @ Alis Grave Nil Says:

    I changed mine (from Scott) to Partington because I thought it sounded so much more exciting. I didn’t think about how much effort it would take to fit it on a check signature line.

    I love that you’re such a proud graffiti artist, you posted a pic of your crime online.

    We have all kinds of name changing stories in our family. Several generations back, my mom’s ancestors did the thing where the guy took the girls’ name because the name was going to die out. Funny how a small decision by two people can influence generations.

    For the record, Flying Purple People Eater would have been cool too. Just imagine the attention your kids would get in school!

  7. 7
    Heelya Says:

    Ah Heid! I’m glad you took the plunge. I share the pain of abandoning the Kurpiela name. I do not share the byline aspect, but as a teacher it will be weird when I hear students calling me Mrs. Festa (or at least I image I’ll be Mrs. Festa in the next couple years, lol.) It saddens me that there will be no more Kurpiela’s in the U.S. I almost feel guilty about it. Ah, let’s just hope PK doesn’t marry. Lol!! Just Kiddin! Hey, I actually had a dream last night that PK was in the hospital having a baby! Seriously- popping out some bastard child. Ha! Good thing it was just a dream!

    p.s. I say my name both ways too… Kur-peel-and Kur-peel-ya. Erh! Nobody knows how it’s correctly said- so why should we care.

  8. 8
    Sara Says:

    Like you, I didn’t know anyone, other than my relatives with my last name. Then Facebook came along and I found a girl with my exact same name! I added her as a friend….only to be rejected. Imagine my horror. A disgrace to MY name.

    Anyway, call me old fashioned, but I’d be the girl running to change my name after my wedding. I think it’s sweet as pie.

    I’m happy you’re a Bardi now too. Imagine you’re cute Christmas cards!!

  9. 9
    Sara Says:

    Also – what are you going to do about Cubbie’s name?

    It cracks me up on my vet bills when my pets get my last name. Especially since my last cat’s name was Steve. Though, my most recent foster…I made her last name up myself. Remember Winnie Cooper? I miss her.

  10. 10
    Roberta Says:

    Wow, that’s a big step!

    Actually, never having addressed you by name in person (ahem), I’ve always thought of your surname as: “Kur-pee-ELL-a”. I kinda like that.

  11. 11
    Misty Fallon Says:

    I’d like to share 2 thoughts…1)My cat has a last name. It’s on his adoption papers from the SPCA. His full name is “Maximus Decimus Meridias Fallon”. 2)Well, you could always go the “trendy” way when it comes to naming your future child…something different, ya know? How about “Kurpiela Bardi”? (Personally, I think it could work for a girl…)

  12. 12
    heidi Says:

    Rebecca: Rebecca Rose Rose is beautiful. I love the name Rose.

    Ro: Your freckles will always make you Irish.

    Hintzillotti: I love your morphed last name. It’s so catchy, I often think it’s your real name.

    Angel: I JUST figured out what “FTR” stands for.

    Heather: If you ever find yourself in Oregon between Coos Bay and the Umpqua Forest, look for the Joe rock. If you find it, please photograph it. And thank you for not abbreviating “for the record.” :)

    Heelya: I couldn’t think of a better last name for you than Festa.

    Sara: A long-lost relative would never reject you on Facebook. To hell with the bitch. Hey, we’re not friends on Facebook, are we? Also: Cubbie’s name is hyphenated: Cubbie Kurpiela-Bardi. He too has a Facebook page. WINNIE COOPER! You’re adorable.

    Roberta: Thank you for adding a fourth syllable to my surname. It sounds Icelandic.

    Misty: That’s a helluva a pompous name for a SPCA cat!

  13. 13
    heidi Says:

    OH, and Ricci: Your “coffee-colored baby” comment caused me to spit my coffee out. Your little girl is going to be the prettiest little girl on earth. Is your last name Ndaw now?

  14. 14
    Addie Broyles Says:

    Love reading about how you came to your decision about the name! In the end, I kept my maiden name and Julian (and his as-yet-unborn brother) are hyphenators. It helps that Ian’s last name (Knox) is short and sweet.

    I’m the last of the Broyles clan, and Ian was really supportive of honoring my dad (he’s really the patriarch of the name due to an effed up childhood of never really having a father). It’s a tough decision that doesn’t seem to be getting easier with each generation of feminists who fall in love and get married. :)

  15. 15
    Misty Fallon Says:

    Pompous? Maybe. But it was given to him because I like the movie “Gladiator”. However, it is much more suitable now if you judge the validity of the name by comparing it to the cat himself…he weighs about 25 lbs or so, and I swear he is of cliche’ British descent. He often gets this look in his eyes and an aura about him that instantly makes you think that he’s saying, (cue uppity-british accent) “Oh, goodness. When will these silly humans just leave me to nap in peace? And you there, boy, will you puh-lease refresh my litterbox? I need to tinkle.”

  16. 16
    Rojerio Says:

    Now you still have that Shelf below Stephen King reserved!

  17. 17
    Tabitha (From Single to Married) Says:

    Good for you – bold move! And I don’t know if everyone else had similar reservations, but I know I sure did! I went back and forth about what I was going to do since I didn’t get married until I was 36. I mean that was practically an entire life spent with my maiden name, changing it was a big deal. So I ended up keeping it and just tacking my new name on the end. Makes for a very long name and one that I only use for “official” purposes. I use my husband’s name as my new last name for everything else. It was surprising to me just how easy it was to adjust to that new name after all. Well, if you can look past the fact that no one can pronounce it. (still don’t know why that is… it’s English for Pete’s sake, it’s not that hard.)

  18. 18
    Tam Says:

    Loved this. I even shed a tear!

  19. 19
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  20. 20
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