Identity, that’s what. Ever since my divorce I’ve thought about my last name from time to time, and what it meant. Mississippi had some archaic divorce laws in 1995 (and still does for all I know). They mostly worked in my favor so I decided not to buck the one regarding returning to my maiden name. To begin with, my original petition would have been denied making the whole thing more drawn out and there was no assurance that the judge would grant my request. The prevailing judgment was that “it is in the best interest of the minor children if their mother’s last name is the same as theirs”. What? Took a minute but then I got it. If my name was different then people would immediately know that either the boy’s parents were divorced or I was an unwed mother. Both of which were still something of a stigma with teachers and conservative Christian households.
If I had used my maiden name professionally, for publications etc, I would have been granted the name change. Since I hadn’t, it was going to be an uphill battle that didn’t seem worth it. Quite honestly, my identity has always been more wrapped up in my first name than my last. And my maiden name didn’t really fit. I just wasn’t that starry eyed young woman anymore. I did ask “What happens if I get remarried?” “Oh, then it’s ok because you’ll be married (no longer a threat to the American family)”. Seriously? There’s nothing hypocritical about that? I rolled my eyes, shrugged my shoulders and moved on.
So what would I do? Legally changing your name is the biggest hassle there is. Guys just can’t appreciate it. And at this point, I don’t fancy taking on someone else’s name; subsuming my identity in theirs, again. My ex-husband’s family name has an interesting history. They are descended from 3 brothers that came from Germany in the late 1600s. Their name, however, appears to be Italian not German. Millions of Italian Belli’s in the US and abroad.
There are about 200 families in the US that are descended from these 3 brothers; one of whom was Melvin Belli, Attorney to the Stars. The prevailing theory is that the name was corrupted from Bailey. Having just come back from Italy and heard it pronounced correctly, I have to agree. The Italian “e” is close to the “ai” diphthong and the accent is on the first syllable not the last, as it is in English. It was the same in Paris. It was a treat to hear the syllables roll off the Italian and French tongues.
The American pronunciation of both my first and last name often grates on my nerves. For once I felt like my name really belonged to me; both first and last. I’ve tried the new pronunciation a couple times since I returned to the states and it feels right. I always have to correct Americans that see my name written down, anyway, so why not use the right pronunciation instead of the bastardized American one? After all these years, I think I’m ready to take ownership of my last name and make it mine.