Weeks into our engagement, I recall wanting to be the most sympathetic fiancee I could be. Dorsett had chosen me, and I her. We were going to make our own covenant together to spend the rest of our lives together. But this was and is the 21st century after all. Dorsett had her own thriving photography business. She had a passionate connection to her family tradition and Clark legacy. How insensitive would it be of me to ask her to change her name? I had to respect that. And who was I, a mere graduate student, studying social ethics of all things, to ask her to do such a life changing thing. Change your name? These marriage rituals really were out of date I decided.
So I said as much, reinforcing that she should keep her name. She looked at me with disbelief. “Don’t you want our family to have the same name?” she asked.
“Of course… but…”
“Don’t you want our children to have the same last name as their mom and dad?” (Resolute)
“Yes, but you know, misogyny…”
“What?” (Growing impatience)
“You know, patriarchy…”
“Oh get over yourself, Preston. I love you, and I want your name.”
What kind of love was this? She wanted to change her name. This wasn’t a keeping up with tradition or succumbing to a system that subjugates. For those that see the name change that way, all the more respect to those who keep their names or to men who take their wives’ names.
But for Dorsett, this was about her love for me. Not convention.
What makes someone change their name for love? We men can barley fathom. Abraham fathomed. With face bowed to the almighty love to whom all tongues will confess and bow, Abram (exalted ancestor) becomes Abraham (ancestor of multitudes). And after 99 years of hearing “Abram” and after 90 years of hearing “Sarai,” now with days numbered, knees worn, they become new again.
It’s a covenant. And therefore a change. We are the promises we keep and break. They should change us.
How old is too old to change?
Never too old.
Can we be prepared to have our names changed by a love that captivates us and changes us at a fundamental level of our being? Yes.
Can it happen in days when we are counting down more than adding up? Yes.
Because such a love aids us to look back, but it is always moving forward, enchanted by what is ahead even more than what is behind.