This year, one of my birthday cards from a relative was addressed to 'Rosie Wright'. I furrowed my brow when I saw it, not out of annoyance - I understand that a lot of people just assume I would have changed my name - but out of a sort of sensation of out-of-place-ness; like having someone else sit in your favourite chair, or move things around on your desk.
"I don't know this person," I thought. I wondered what Rosie Wright might look like, and who she might be. I imagine Rosie Wright as an older, slightly plump lady wearing an apron and gathering apples for a crumble (a Google search reveals lots of normal looking Rosie Wrights - yoga instructors, solicitors, journalism students, make-up artists - no apple gatherers to see here). None of them are me though. It is like learning a new language - I try and make my mouth form it but it feels unfamiliar. I feel like I don't know that person. She doesn't feel like me.
Those of you with an unusual surname might understand how strange it would feel to part with it. Though 'Tapping' is far from 'out there', it's still a surname you don't come across very often. Any childhood nicknames always centred around my surname - Taperoo, Tapdancer, Tap Tap Tapping, and so on. (Even some of my adult nicknames - R Tappz, Taps - all seem to revolve around my silly surname!) Your surname quickly becomes a part of your identity. What would happen to my nicknames, if I changed my name? Would I get new ones? Would they feel like me?
To me also, my surname also feels like family. Sharing the same surname as my parents and my brother makes me feel proud. Being at home with the other 'Tappings' gives me a warm, safe, comfortable feeling, and though you don't need the same surname to feel like that, somehow there's something about it that makes me feel closer to them. My Dad works in a similar industry to the one I work in, and at work when people occasionally ask if we are related, it makes me swell with daughter-ly pride. I know that Tom is my family now, but whilst we don't have children and aren't planning to have any in the near future, I still feel like Tom and I are a couple, and my parents and brother are my family. I still have my parents' home phone number as 'home' in my phone and it's where I naturally feel I want to spend Christmas, and visit around my birthday. I just haven't quite grown into the idea of having a new 'family' yet.
Even very superficially, I sort of like it that when you Google my name, my various social media accounts dominate the front page (not very security conscious, me). I've always been comfortable using my surname, and Rosie Tapping feels like blogger me, Twitter me, LinkedIn me, and so on. I always fancied writing a novel one day, and I have this daydream that my old teachers and people I went to school with will see my book on the shelves of Waterstones and instantly know I finally achieved my dream of being a writer. (I'm way too egotistical to have a pen name!)
Because I was so keen to hold on to ‘Tapping’, I did ask Tom if he would consider double-barrelling our names into Tapping-Wright, or Wright-Tapping, but he didn't like the idea. In a way, I felt like his stubbornness on that issue gave me more of a free pass to be stubborn about not giving Tapping up completely! My brother is also called Tom so him changing to my name is out (not that I think my Tom would have given it a moment’s consideration!) I even suggested merging our names – Wrighting? Tapwright? But this was met with similar disdain!