Much has been made of international human-rights lawyer, Amal Alamuddin’s decision to take the name of Clooney, following her marriage to the actor, George. The world is still divided into those who do and those who don’t take their husbands’ surname, with a venn-diagram central portion who put both names together. Cute.
It made me remember that moment when I got married and took my (now ex-) husband’s name, and how wonderful it was to state it proudly on every bit of paper, and in every situation. Hello, I’m Mrs Mudie.
I know what you’re thinking. How do you say that? It’s east-coast Scottish: pronounced Mew-dee. Every time I went anywhere or made a phone call involving stating my name I inevitably had to do two things: a) correct their pronunciation from ‘Muddy’ or ‘Moody’, and b) spell it out: M. U. D. I. E.
At first, I rather liked the novelty of it, but it soon became tiresome. Especially when I received a letter to ‘Mrs Nudie’. But we laughed about it, and all the variations on pronunciation and spelling just became a fact of life for me.
During the final year of my marriage and my push for independence and freedom I began to realise that I’d lost something of myself. Part of that self was to do with my name. The only situation I’d not changed my name in was work, and at the time, my career was burgeoning. I was working on movie tie-in publishing, getting a name for myself on the conference circuit and making my mark in the world. The person doing this wasn’t Mrs Mudie – she was very much Lisa Edwards, and still is. She was who I wanted to be.
When I became single I wanted to change my name back so badly, but there was a period where I was waiting for the divorce to come through, where I had to remain with my married name while the paperwork was completed. I went on holidays, alone, as Mrs Mudie, bought a flat as Mrs Mudie and paid my bills as Mrs Mudie. How weird to still be her and yet doing all of these independent things.
I finally changed my name back last year and it felt so good. One of my favourite bits in Sex and the City is when Carrie loses her precious ‘identity’ necklace with her name on it – the one she wears throughout the series. She is with a man whose ego – his life, his work, his needs – threaten to subsume hers and the moment is poignant. And then comes the joy of rediscovering the necklace in a hole in her vintage purse – marking the moment when she comes out of this unsatisfactory relationship to find herself again. Fairly obvious stuff, but it always makes me very happy when I watch this scene – I know how delicious that feels.
There are still a few moments when the odd bit of mail comes through from a company that still has my old name and they hit me like a tiny electric shock. Oh yes! That used to be me! I have loved getting my real name back again. Edwards. It’s such a Welsh name and I am proud of it. My grandmother’s name was Dilys Myfanwy Edwards, and I always say you can’t get much more Welsh than that (although I don’t know her maiden name – but I’m betting it was Jones, Roberts, Thomas or Davies).
I’ve recently been typing up my father’s attempt at writing a memoir – he didn’t get very far, but I loved all the names in the first part of the story – Welsh names aren’t hugely varied so the Joneses and the Roberts’s feature heavily. There’s even a Mrs Roberts the Shop, like something out of Under Milk Wood. I like that my name comes from a small pool of names that are an immediate regional identifier – of course I’m Welsh.
People ask me where I got my Twitter name from @Redwoods1 – this comes from the fact that my full name is inevitably pronounced Lisa Redwards, because there are two vowels together in Lisa Edwards so it’s easier to put an R in there when you say it out loud. Redwoods then became a bit of a nickname for me on a holiday during my final months as a married lady. I’d gone away on the spur of the moment with two work girlfriends to San Francisco. It remains one of the best things I’ve ever done – we’d decided to go during a wine-drinking session after work, and put our plan into action (I still can’t believe the company let all three of us managers go). For part of the trip we stayed in a gorgeous cabin in the forest in Sonoma. After visiting various wineries by day, we lounged outside in the hot tub, drinking Corbel sparkling wine, surrounded by Redwood trees. ‘Redwoods!’ one of my friends exclaimed. ‘Lisa Redwoods!’ The name stuck, not least because of my reddish hair.
That holiday was a turning point for me. Redwoods beckoned – the woman who wanted to experience the world as an independent person, who wanted to get on a flight to SF without thinking about it and end up in a hot tub in Sonoma with two girlfriends, a gay couple and a load of sparkling wine, smiling up at the trees.
So here I am.
Because I can.
Why do we care so much when women change their maiden names?: