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What's In A Name?

April 15, 2013 - Liz Skoczylas
For 26 years, my last name has been Skoczylas.

Now, in 26 days, it will be changing.

I think that these days, more and more women are opting to keep their maiden names, or hyphenate to take on their husband's name while still maintaining their identity. Growing up, I always said I was going to marry a "Smith" or a "Jones" and get rid of my last name, which no one could EVER say or spell. However, now that the time is almost here, it's actually getting hard, as I realize I am going to be giving up a part of my identity.

For the last 26 years, whenever people look at my last name, one of the immediate follow-up questions is usually "what nationality is that?"

Skoczylas is a Polish last name. Growing up, I could always confidently say I was 100 percent Polish. I have joked my maternal grandparents were "straight off the boat" from Poland, following World War II. My paternal grandparents also came from Poland, generations before them.

Few of my friends growing up could identify with only one nationality. Typically, they were Italian-Greek-German-Swedish-etc. However, in my family, we had our roots in Poland. In fact, I still have many family members living in Poland, several of whom I met when I visited a few years ago.

Traditions have always been huge in my house. Every Christmas Eve, we celebrated "wigilia" with my grandparents. Now that they are gone, it is celebrated at my parents' house. Easter is another holiday, where we had traditional Polish foods and customs.

From what I can find, the tradition of changing a woman's name after marriage comes from one of several places. One suggestion comes from the bible, where women lose their identity, becoming "wife of." Another suggestion says that a woman had her father's name at birth for proof she was his child, and the name changed with marriage for security. The third suggestion I found says that a woman changes her name for inheritance reasons, that she becomes "property" of her husband after marriage.

For the last 11 months, I have made several jokes about whether I'd be changing my last name. I've said that Nick plans to take MY last name in marriage. I've also said I plan to hyphenate my name -- can you imagine THAT on my byline?

I've asked Nick a few times what nationality his last name is, and he always tells me he doesn't know. While our Polish roots have always been important in my family, nationality is apparently something that wasn't brought up as often in his. After doing some online research, I've found his last name is of Swedish origin.

Deciding whether I wanted to change my last name has honestly been one of the biggest struggles of the wedding process. On one hand, I'm established as Liz Skoczylas. People may not be able to say it or spell it, but they know it when they see it. On the other hand, the thought of having children and deciding their last names, should I choose to keep my last name or hyphenate, could be confusing to them as they grow up. And, let's face it, my hyphenated name would never fit on a driver's license. Even now, my license says Skoczylas, E N.

While I don't like the idea of "belonging" to Nick -- and the word "obey" won't be found in our wedding vows, by the way -- there IS a sense of belonging to the family. If and when we have children, they will share the same last name we have. We will also let them know that they are "Polish -- and stuff" when they learn about nationality. When I take on Nick's last name, he will also take on my family's Polish traditions -- which he is already embracing with open arms. Honestly, I think it's the food and alcohol, but hey, I'll take it.

The only place I won't take on his last name is in my career. Readers won't have to look for a different byline, because I will still be Liz Skoczylas in print. As a reporter, there are times we all spend long days and long weeks at work. And, I would like to leave career-minded Liz Skoczylas in the office when I go home to my new husband.

So, in 26 days, I will officially go from being a Miss to a Mrs. I guess I better get to practicing my new signature.

 
 

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